St Petersburg Travel Guide
BasicsTime: Russia covers many time zones. Local time in Moscow is GMT +3.
Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are standard.
Money: The official currency is the Rouble (RUB), which is divided into 100 kopeks. Most major international credit cards are accepted in larger establishments. Currency can be changed at banks, bureaux de change, and hotels. ATMs are widely available in major cities. It is hard to get roubles outside Russia and travellers are advised to take good condition US Dollars or Euro notes to change once there.
Currency Exchange Rates
Language: Russian is the official language. Some people speak English, French or German.
Entry requirements for Americans: United States citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required.
Entry requirements for UK nationals: British citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required.
Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadian citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required.
Entry requirements for Australians: Australian citizens must have a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required. Those passengers with an APEC Business Travel Card valid for travel to 'RUS' if traveling on business do not require a visa.
Entry requirements for South Africans: South Africans must have a passport valid on arrival. No visa is required for a maximum of 90 days.
Entry requirements for New Zealand nationals: New Zealand nationals require a passport valid on arrival. A visa is required. Those passengers with APEC Business Travel Card for travel to 'RUS' if traveling on business do not require a visa.
Passport/Visa Note: Valid visas in expired passports or other expired travel documents are not accepted. Visitors must carry ID at all times whilst in Russia. An Immigrant Card will be issued on board the aircraft or on arrival. All visitors staying for longer than seven working days must register with the Federal Migration Service upon arrival; if staying in a hotel, the hotel will arrange this, otherwise you can find the forms to fill out at a post office and post the forms to the Federal Migration Service. Anyone travelling on a tourist visa must hold vouchers from the hotel or travel agency. Passengers are required to hold return/onward tickets and documents required for the next destination. Exit permits are required on departure. These are usually issued with the visa, or can be obtained at hotels not less than two days before departure. Passports must be valid for period of intended stay. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Travel Health: Travellers to Russia are advised to get vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, to be up to date on vaccinations for tetanus-diphtheria and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), and to consider vaccinations for typhoid, rabies and Japanese encephalitis if they are long-term travellers and/or spending time in rural areas. Drinking water should be treated; bottled water is readily available. Local state medical facilities are of a low standard, however, and visitors are strongly advised to have full insurance for medical treatment and accidents should they require private care. Blood transfusions should not be performed in Russia, due to uncertainties concerning the blood supply. Essential medications and supplies may be limited.
Tipping: Hotel bills in the large Russian cities usually include a 10 to 15 percent service charge. If no service charge has been added a tip of at least 10 percent is expected. City Guides and their drivers also expect a small tip and tipping in bars and nightclubs is common.
Climate: St Petersburg's climate is mild, though unpredictable. Winters are cold (November to March), with freezing winds and snowfall, and temperatures that average between 16°F (-9°C) and 26°F (-3°C). Temperatures sometimes drop lower in January and February, which are the coldest months. June to August is usually the warmest time of year, though temperatures are still relatively low and average in the mid-60s Fahrenheit (about 20°C) at most. Summer tends to be the most popular time to travel to St Petersburg.
Safety Information: Though Russia is generally a safe country in which to travel, visitors should be vigilant and watch out for pickpockets and street crime, and should be particularly cautious on the metro and buses. Moreover, travellers must insist on seeing official identification from police officers. Political protests often end in violence and detention and visitors are advised to avoid all street demonstrations and political gatherings.
Local Customs: Photography of anything to do with the military, strategic sites, or the airport, is prohibited. In Russian Orthodox churches, women are advised to wear skirts and cover their heads with a scarf. It is a legal requirement for visitors to carry passports for identification; copies are not sufficient. Russia has a poor LGBT rights record, and same-sex couples should exercise caution.
Business: Russian business is conducted in a fashion similar to Western countries but with some subtle differences. Russians are business-minded so it is not generally necessary to form personal relations with business colleagues; however, developing a good network of resident associates is a good idea. Dress is formal and conservative and on greeting a good firm handshake and direct eye contact indicates strength. Business cards are exchanged and it is advisable to print a Cyrillic translation of your details on the alternate side. Business hours are generally from 9am to 6pm from Monday to Friday.
Communications: The international access code for Russia is +7. Hotels, cafes and restaurants offering free wifi are widely available. As international roaming costs can be high, purchasing a local prepaid SIM card can be a cheaper option.
Duty free: The following may be imported into Russia without customs duty: 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco products (over 18 years), 2 litres of alcohol (over 21 years), perfume for personal use, gifts up to the value of US$10,000. Tourists must complete a customs declaration form, to be retained until departure, allowing for the import of articles intended for personal use (including currency and valuables) which must be registered on the declaration form. Additionally, 250g of caviar per person may be exported, with a receipt proving it was purchased at a store licensed to sell it to foreigners and a licence from the Ministry of Economic Development. Any items or artwork that might have historical value, like icons, maps, coins or paintings, have to be registered with the Ministry of Culture before departure, which usually involves a 100% customs duty fee.