Entering Russia without a visa is out of the question. A visa is a sticker in your passport on which the dates in between which you can enter or leave Russia are shown.
What do you need for such a visa?
You can decide: handing in the documents directly at the consular department of the embassy or arranging a visa with the help of the ‘Visumbalie’.
The consular department of the embassy is open for visa requests on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10.00-11.00h, only by prior appointment and on the condition that the person who requests the visa or his authorised agent shows up in person. To make an appointment, use this link. With our invitation your visa will be for free.
De Visumbalie is a commercial company which arranges your visa quickly and with much ado. They will charge you 30 euros a person for the procedure.
The standard visa procedure takes 1 week. This means that your passport will stay at the consulate during this week!
If you wish to stay in Russia for three months, then please note that there has been a slight change in the visa procedure: the validity of a three month visa has been shortened to 89 days. Bear this in mind when booking your flights.
In St. Petersburg you can find ATMs all over the place and you can withdraw rubles, but sometimes dollars and euros as well, with a Maestro of Visa card. Your bank will charge you some money for it though: two euros per transaction. In many shops it is possible to pay by bank or credit cards. Often you will be asked to show your ID when attempting to pay this way. Money can often be exchanged at banks and a lot of exchange bureaus can be found in the city as well. It’s not advisable to take a lot of rubles with you from your home country.
At the airport and at the train stations money can always be withdrawn. The exchange rate of euro to ruble changes almost every day. Nowadays you’ll receive around 80 rubles for an euro.
At the airport you can order a taxi at a taxi stand. It is recommended to take an official taxi. A trip from the airport to the city centre will cost about 900-1000 Rubles. A cheaper (and not much more complicated) alternative is to take a taxi bus or a bus to a subway station. The bus stop is located at the very exit of the airport terminal. The closest subway station is called ‘Moskovskaya’. From this station you can take a direct train to station ‘Nevsky Prospekt’. A taxi bus will cost you (including luggage) around 100 Rubles, a bus around 50 Rubles. From ‘Moskovskaya’ a taxi to the centre costs about 700 Rubles.
Bear in mind that carrying heavy luggage around in the subway is not comfortable, especially during peak hours.
Upon arrival in Russia you have to register yourself within 1 week if you plan on staying more than seven working days in the same town. If you booked a trip with accommodation, this will most likely be arranged for you upon arrival in the hotel (or eventually, cruise ship) where you’re staying at. Otherwise, we can also arrange your registration in Saint Petersburg.
In public transport you can choose from a wide range of varieties in St Petersburg. One can travel by subway, bus, trolleybus, tram, taxi, taxi bus (also called marshrutka) and waterbus.
The subway consists of an extensive network and is a very handy means of transport. It has five lines and multiple interchange stations. All lines have their own colour, which you can’t miss as it is displayed practically everywhere. For a trip by subway one can buy a special card for multiple fares or use metro coins (so called ‘zhetony’), which cost 35 Rubles each. These ‘zhetony’ are valid for one fare, regardless of the distance travelled.
Both bus and trolleybus have set routes across the city, with the trolleybuses covering mostly just the centre. On the side of the bus a sign indicates where the bus is headed and which stops it will make. All routes have a number. A fare costs just 30 Rubles. This has to be paid in cash at the ticket inspector, who walks up and down the aisle of the bus.
The tram is very reliable, but unfortunately, doesn’t cross the centre of the city. Travelling by tram isn’t exactly fast and a fare costs 30 Rubles.
There are plenty of taxis roaming the streets of St Petersburg. In comparison with the other modes of transport, taxis are rather expensive. Usually, travellers opt for other alternatives.
The marshrutka is a form of transport which is unknown in The Netherlands. The marshrutki are little buses with about 12 seats. Marshrutki, like buses, have set routes and a line number. A fare costs about 40 Rubles. It is a very common means of transport in St Petersburg. The marshrutka has many set stops, but one can ask the driver to stop at any given point along the route. Note: the marshrutki never stop along Nevsky Prospekt.
It is common practice to raise your hand alongside the road in order to have a random driver take you to your destination for a reasonable price. Guaranteed: within a minute multiple cars will stop for you. Russians themselves often use this form of transport and negotiating about the price is part of the experience. Usually at night, when other public transport has either closed or stopped, these and ‘normal’ – more expensive – taxis are the only ways to reach your destination quickly. It should be noted that, at night, it is unadvisable for women, who are travelling by themselves.
In summertime the city is swarming with tourists. During this period pickpockets are very active, mostly at the exits of the subway stations alongside Nevsky Prospekt, in the subway itself and at other crowded places. Be cautious especially when travelling in a group, for then you are very recognisable as a tourist. Always keep your wallet and passport in an inside pocket in your jacket, or in a ‘moneybelt’, which can be worn underneath your regular clothing. Furthermore, just as goes for other cities, don’t walk alone at night in dark alleys.
In Russia, as in the Netherlands, one should at all times be ready to show identification when asked by the police. Sometimes the police randomly check tourists’ registration, often trying to earn some cash by claiming something is wrong. When the police for whatever reason try to take you to their station, it is advisable to call your country’s consulate. We recommend you to store the emergency number of your consulate in your phone, so you can ask for assistance should you get into trouble.
At the Netherlands Institute there is a small cafeteria. Close by the institute you can also find plenty of little shops where lunch can be bought, or cafeterias where, for a couple of euros, you can enjoy a decent lunch.
Groceries are no problem either. Supermarkets can be found all over the city, and, although they tend to be smaller than their European counterparts, you’ll find everything you need. Well-known chains of supermarkets in the centre are Diksi and Pyaterochka. Outside of the centre you’ll find, amongst others, Metro, Perekryostok, Lenta, O’Key and Karusel. Prices for Russian food tend to be slightly lower than in The Netherlands. However, imported food from Europa is noticeably more expensive.
In the evening you can cook at home, of course, but eating out isn’t expensive at all. Run-of-the-mill restaurants usually charge around 8-10 euros for a good meal. Cheaper restaurant chains, such as Chaynaya Lozhka (‘teaspoon’) and Teremok, which serve special Russian pancakes, exist as well. Western restaurants, such as McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut are also well represented in St Petersburg.
You won’t be bored at night in St Petersburg. You’ll find a lot of theatres in the city where you can enjoy ballet, opera, concerts or plays. The most famous theatre is the Mariinsky Theatre, but the Mikhaylovsky Theatre and the Philharmonic always have a splendid program. Tickets can be bought in advance at ticket booths which can be found at nearly every subway station (except for the Mariinsky, which has its own ticket office). Buy the tickets in advance, because theatre is very popular in Russia. Some theatres (such as the Mariinsky) charge double the usual ticket price for tourists (and other foreigners who don’t have a work permit or Russian student ID). Furthermore, cinemas are abundant in Russia – you can find about ten of them along Nevsky Prospekt alone – but they rarely show movies with subtitles, although this happens more and more (for instance in Dom Kino, Angleterre or Aurora).
St Petersburg also has an impressive amount of cafes, bars and night clubs. Up-to-date information about the best clubs of the moment can be found in the St Petersburg edition of the ‘In your pocket’ guides, accessible and available for download here: http://www.inyourpocket.com/russia/st-petersburg