Planning a trip to Russia on the whole and St. Petersburg in particular, it is important to be equipped with all sort of practical tourist information.
Visiting Russia on business or leisure, planning of the free time is always difficult: there’s so much to see and do. But it’s easy to find information on landmarks, museums, entertainment and even all sorts of accommodation in the Internet.
The most important practical points are visa questions and safety issues. In out Tourist Information section we’ll cover:
Western visitors often arrive full of apprehension having heard of stories about the Russian Mafia and crime. However, if you compare the situation in Russia today and 20 years ago, it is much safer and quieter now. If you compare Moscow and St. Petersburg to any other major city I the world the security situation is very similar.
Any densely populated city can be dangerous, if you do not take the usual, common sense precautions. It is not wise to take chance acquaintances you meet on the street back to your hotel room, to wander about the city if you’ve had one too many, to wave large wads of money around and so on.
Petty crime should be the only concern for tourists, and, indeed, pickpockets are your biggest threat. Unfortunately, they can be found everywhere from streets and public transport to museums and famous landmarks. The reason for that is a stereotypical notion that many Russians have about foreigners: they believe that all visitors from abroad are fabulously rich. So, simple rules should be observed, such as not displaying money, carrying cash in a concealed money belt, not buying from street vendours, and keeping passports, tickets and all valuables in the hotel safe whenever possible. Cruise visitors who have their passports on them during the tour time are recommended to make use of concealed belts for passports too or leave the valuables in the car/van guarded by the tour company’s driver. Don’t forget to note credit card numbers and bank phones – just in case you have to call them to block the cards. Avoid the “gypsies” who occasionally group on some central streets, begging.
Tourist Information Offices
Travelling in Russia can be an adventure. If you are on your own you should be able to speak Russian. Failing that, it would be best, at least for some time, to join a tourist group or hire a local guide, who will introduce you to culture, traditions, history and provide everyday survival info.
In St. Petersburg Tourist Board set up a number of Tourist Information Offices located close to most visited sights and museums. If you happen to get lost or need assistance, look for a booth or an office with a blue “i” sign. One of such information points is a glass booth next to the Hermitage on Palace Square, another one is at St. Isaac’s Cathedral.