Dos and Don’ts

Greetings: Smile please and don’t be afraid of the trademark Petersburg sternness—it’s easily overcome. Try out a few words in Russian, it can bring results.

Walking: Walk when you can, in fact be prepared for long walks. St. Petersburg is a city ripe for exploring on foot; the straight streets are dissected by waterways so it’s hard to get lost.

Attire: Dress up and you’ll fit in anywhere in the city, especially when heading out to a concert, restaurant, or the theater.

Panhandlers: Resist the urge to give money, food, or other items to the children and adults who beg for handouts throughout the city, especially in public parks. One good deed could result in your being hounded by a horde of beggars or relieved of your wallet by professional pickpockets.

Tipping: Tip 10-15 percent—depending on service—at mid-range and upscale restaurants. Taxi drivers receive a flat free agreed upon in advance, so no need to tip.

Manhole Covers: Stay alert when walking or driving for missing or dislodged drain covers. The city is notorious for its ill-fitting and absent municipal drain coverings, so it’s wise to avoid stepping on a cover or grate even if it appears to be secure.

Phrase Book

Zdravstvuyte: Hello. Pronounced ZDRA-stvooy-tyeh

Do svedaniya: Goodbye. Pronounced das veh-dan-ya.

Bolshoye spasibo: Thank you very much. Pronounced as written.

Pozhaluista: Please. Pronounced paz-hal-usta.

Kak dela?: How are you? Pronounced as written.

Piter: Local slang for the name of the city.

Pitertsy: Citizens of St. Petersburg.

Aprashka: Apraksin Dvor shopping center and market.

Gostinka: Gostiny Dvor shopping mall.

Publichka: Russian National Library.

Petropavlovskaya Krepost [Russian Bastille]: Peter and Paul Fortress.

Yeliseyskie Polya Peterburga [Champs Élysées of Petersburg]: Kammenoostrovsky Prospekt.

Sharlemani: The railings at the southern end of the Summer Gardens designed by Louis-Henry Charlemagne, a popular rendezvous point.

Kresty: Infamous prison on Arsenal Embankment where many political prisoners were held, especially during the Stalinist years.


About St. Petersburg and Russia

  • Photo: Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul

    St. Petersburg

    Get travel tips, see photos, take a quiz and more with National Geographic's Ultimate Guide to St. Petersburg.

  • Photo: The colorful onion domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral


    Explore Russia through facts and photos, related features, a country map, and more.

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