Nuts-and-bolts information to plan your trip, plus a checklist of essentials to include when you pack and a list of links to local media
Entry Requirements: U.S. citizens need a valid passport and tourist visa to enter Russia. A written invitation to visit from a Russian citizen or organization, or proof of pre-booked accommodation (available for a fee from travel agents or hotels) is required to apply to the Russian Consulate for a visa. For visa assistance visit www.visa-russian.ru or www.russianvisa.org.
Visa Registration: Upon arrival, you’ll need to complete an immigration form. Customs will check this form and return part of it. Within three working days of arrival, you must register. If you stay in a hotel, it will do this for you. If you stay in private accommodation, agencies around the city can complete the paperwork for you for a fee.
Security: Like any big city be aware of your surroundings and keep track of your valuables. Be on guard for pickpockets in areas popular with tourists.
Time: St. Petersburg is eight hours ahead of U.S. eastern standard time.
Money: The currency of St. Petersburg is the ruble. For current conversion rates go to OANDA Currency Converter. www.oanda.com/convert/classic
Phone Calls: The area code of St. Petersburg is 812. For phone calls to St.Petersburg from within Russia, dial 8 812 7-digit phone number. For phone calls to the city from outside Russia, dial your country’s international access code 7 812 seven-digit phone number.
When to Go: St. Petersburg’s climate is best described as maritime. It can be humid the year-round. The high summer temperatures of 70ºF (21ºC) are often mitigated by sea breezes. It’s frequently sub-zero and snowy during winter. There can be a chill in the air in the fall and spring.
Getting There: American and Canadian tourists will most likely reach St. Petersburg by air. No airlines, however, offer direct flights between the city and North America. You’ll have to take a connecting flight from one of about 30 European or Asian cities. You will arrive at Pulkovo 2 airport, ten miles (16 kilometers) south of the city. Alternatively, you might travel by sea, arriving at the passenger terminals on Vasilevsky Island and the Neva embankments. There are also decent rail and bus connections, particularly through Helsinki. All terminals are served by public transport.
Getting Around: St. Petersburg has an excellent transportation system. Using the underground, buses, trolleybuses, trams, and minibuses, you can access virtually any point in the city cheaply and reasonably quickly. Pay a few rubles on board the street transport. Pricier but entertaining are the water taxis. If you have a taste for independent exploration off the beaten track, buy a transport map in a newspaper kiosk or bookstore.
Tips: “Dress as you would at home.”—Victor and Jennifer Louis, authors, Insight City Guide: St. Petersburg. Pack both comfortable and dress clothes. And since the weather is changeable, take layers and pack a windproof raincoat or jacket.
Passport/Visa: You’ll need your passport and a Russian visa before you even step on a plane heading for St. Petersburg. And if you’re arriving by land or sea likewise be sure to arrange your visa well in advance.
Proof of HIV-Negative Status: For those staying longer than three months you’ll need a recent HIV-negative certificate.
Footwear: Stout waterproof shoes or boots good for walking are a necessity, particularly fall through spring.
Headgear, Coat, and Gloves: Be prepared for the cold anytime from late October to mid-April. Fur is acceptable in St. Petersburg.
Insect Repellent: The mosquito season usually runs from August to early October. Be prepared and save money by bringing insect repellent from home.
St. Petersburg City
Official portal of the St. Petersburg city government. http://www.saint-petersburg.com/
Website designed for visitors, with useful information on services, events, accommodation, nightlife, excursions, and sights. www.petersburgcity.com
A fine first stop for visitors; packed with general travel information, maps, events, and contact numbers. www.saint-petersburg.com
Handy historical overview with helpful links to museums. www.nevsky-prospekt.com
The Encyclopaedia of Saint Petersburg
A huge detailed and relatively reliable resource about the monuments, people, and life of the city. www.encspb.ru/en
St. Petersburg in Your Pocket
Guide to hotels, restaurants, cafés, nightlife, and events that also appears in paper form. Useful information on sightseeing tours, handy tips on getting around, and some features of the city’s life. Train, bus, and flight information. Expat contacts. www.inyourpocket.com/Russia/city/st_petersburg.html
St. Petersburg Environs
Revealing, downloadable historical maps of the city and its surrounding area. Everything you need to know about current and upcoming exhibitions in the city’s galleries, museums, palaces, academies, and exhibition halls; in Russian, with useful links. newsartspb.ru
Where St. Petersburg
A comprehensive, free monthly guide to restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. Extensive listing of events throughout the city. Feature articles on cultural life and local personalities.
St. Petersburg Times
Solid, useful newspaper. Published twice a week it covers local, national, and international news. Provides listings and reviews for restaurants, clubs, films, and cultural events. Free copies available in most of the city’s restaurants, cafés, hotels, and museums. www.sptimesrussia.com
St. Petersburg International Business Association for North-Western Russia (SPIBA)
The free newspaper of the St. Petersburg International Business Association for North-western Russia. Comprehensive coverage of the region’s business news and informed political commentary. www.spiba.r
Free monthly English-language color broadsheet with loads of features that is also on the Web. www.nevanews.com
Continually updated English-language online resource covering local, national, and international news. www.stpetersburgnews.net
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.