Sankt Petersburg is known as the most beautiful city in the whole Russia. And it’s hard to disagree with this statement. Peter, as it’s called by locals, it’s a place that quickly impresses with its class and stylish look. After a walk through the main street in the city – Nevski Prospekt you will find out what we mean. Have a look how to organize your trip to Petersburg in the easiest and most effective way.
How To Get In Petersburg
VISA TO RUSSIA
Citizens of most countries need to apply for a visa to visit Russia. It means that you must go through the whole traditional process: prepare all necessary documents, leave them in the embassy/consulate of Russia in your home country, pay a fee and after some time pick up your passport with a Russian visa inside.
The good news is that if you want to visit only Petersburg, you can easily obtain a special e-visa online. This permit allows 53 nationalities to travel to Petersburg and the surrounding Leningrad region without applying for a Russian visa and it doesn’t require having any invitations, confirmations or other additional documents – just fill in the application on the website. It’s valid for 30 days, but allows you to stay in Petersburg for up to 8 days. What’s more, this e-visa is free of charge! It’s a perfect and very convenient idea to visit one of the most beautiful parts of Russia, especially if you plan to visit Finland or Estonia on the way. By the way, similar e-visas work for short trips to other regions of Russia, like Kaliningrad Region and Far East.
Most of tourists visiting Petersburg arrive there by plane landing at the Petersburg Pulkovo airport. The downside of this option is that there are very little cheap flights available. Although Petersburg is well connected with many of popular cities in Europe and Asia, routes are mostly served by traditional, more expensive carriers. The cheapest flights to Peter come from many European capitals and are operated by WizzAir and Ryanair.
Domestic flights turn out to be cheaper, but as a foreign tourist it wouldn’t be a solution in most cases for you. Sometimes when you visit countries bordering with on the way, it would be better to cross the border overland and take a domestic flight from some nearby Russian city to Petersburg. It will let you save some money for sure.
OVERLAND FROM OTHER COUNTRIES
Getting to Petersburg overland is also a good idea because it’s very easy to reach the city from nearby countries.
The best way to reach Petersburg overland is from Helsinki – the capital city of Finland. You can take a high-speed train called Allegro and cover the distance in just 3.5 hours. The fare starts from €29 OW, but remember to book the tickets online way in advance because the prices always go up closer to the departure date.
There are international buses from Finland, Estonia, Latvia and even from Belarus and Ukraine, but the rides take too long to consider this option. On the other hand, prices can be quite appealing though.
OVERLAND FROM MOSCOW
When you go to Russia, it’s certain you are going to visit two main cities of the country – St. Petersburg and Moscow. Good news! Although the distance between the cites is big (700 km/ 430 miles), the train connections are fast, frequent and comfortable:
Daylight train – They are high-speed trains that complete the route in only 3.5-4 hours. The ticket costs about 2000-3000 RUB ($30-$45).
Overnight – It’s a great option when you don’t want to waste time on riding during the day and save some money on accommodation. You have many types of trains to choose – from modern trains with luxury compartments to old-school vehicles with bunks in open sleeping area. Usually you depart at late evening and arrive at your destination in the morning – around 8 hours in total. The cheapest tickets go for 1000 RUB ($15).
All tickets you can book in advance online on official website of Russian website.
FROM AIRPORT TO THE CITY
If you arrive to Petersburg by plane and would like to get to the downtown, the easiest way is to take a marshrutka (minibus) and then the metro. Firstly, turn right when you leave the arrival terminal and after a short walk you will see marshrutkas waiting for passengers. Number 39 is what you should take. It costs 40 RUB ($0.60) and after 35 minutes you will arrive next to the Moskovskaya metro station. Then take the line 2 to the city center.
How To Get Around Petersburg
Metro is the fastest and most convenient way of visiting Petersburg. This system is well-developed and has 5 lines that can get you to all important places in the city. The ticket is basically a token that you insert at the the gate when you enter the station and then you can use the metro for any ride you want. Token costs 45 RUB ($0.70).
Most important metro stations:
Admiralteyskaya – Hermitage, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral
Nevskiy Prospekt – Church of the Savior on Blood, Kazan Cathedral, Nevsky Prospect
Novokrestovskaya – Krestovsky Stadium (Gazprom Arena), Lakhta Center
Ploschad’ Vosstaniya – Central Station
Moskovskaya – to/from the airport
When you reach the downtown of Petersburg and would like to visit main attractions of the city, you don’t really need to use any mean of transport. Most of the popular spots can be reach on foot.
What To See In Petersburg
One of the most known and biggest museums in the world. It consists of a few historical building and the most important is Winter Palace – the residence of Russian Emperors. By the visit there you can understand Russian history, see lots of exhibitions and get to know many art masterpieces. The whole area is huge, so plan to spend there at least a couple of hours + even one hour for standing in the long line to buy the tickets. In high season Hermitage is always really crowded. Tickets cost 700 RUB ($11) for all-inclusive package and 300 RUB ($5) if you want to visit only part of the museum. A good option is to book your tickets online, but it’s a bit more expensive than getting a paper ticket at the ticket office. Kids and students enter for free, but still must stand in the line to obtain free tickets. The entry is free of charge on every third Thursday of each month for all visitors.
CHURCH OF THE SAVIOR ON SPILLED BLOOD
It’s one of the most beautiful churches in the world.
SAINT ISAAC’S CATHEDRAL
Another wonderful church in Petersburg
And another :)
The main and the most glamorous street in Petersburg. Souvenir shops, various restaurants, museums, grand buildings and most of the spots mentioned above can be found there. You should have a walk along this street and feel the atmosphere of Petersburg’s elegance.
Sleeping, Eating, Safety & Other Tips
Although Peter is a big and extremely popular city, accommodation is affordable, even for budget travellers. Cheapest private double rooms cost $9-10 and bunks in beds in dorms go for at least $3-4. In high season the prices usually increase, but still won’t hurt your wallet.
If you want to eat like a local and try some traditional Russian dishes, the best way is to visit Stolovaya. This is the type of old-school Soviet-style canteen that serves only traditional Russian cuisine. There are many of them in the city (even in the downtown), so you will easily spot them. Types of served food, quality and prices may vary a bit from one place to another, but some standard things are the same – the most famous Russian dishes are always available, like Borscht or Chicken Kiev. Also, Stolovaya restaurants provide the cheapest dinners you can get – around 300 RUB ($5). Keep in mind these places are so popular in Russia that sometimes you can hardly find a free table.
Petersburg is a safe city, especially in the comparison to popular big cities from Western Europe. Russians are very friendly and are willing to help tourists. Just follow common sense and you will be fine.
English is not widely spoken in this country, so ability to have a basic conversation in Russian would help you a lot. Remember that Russian language has its own alphabet (Cyrillic), so if you don’t know the letters, you won’t be able to read anything.
Weather! The nightmare of both locals and tourists! During winter the temperature falls below the freezing point. In summer you can expect heavy rains and strong winds. Be prepared!
Although you can pay by card in most of places in Petersburg, it’s always a good idea to have some cash. You can exchange money in many places around the city or withdraw rubles from ATM.
How Much Does It Cost? (per person)
Flights Kaliningrad-Petersburg: $40
Train Petersburg-Moscow: FREE (with a Word Cup match ticket) – normally at least $15
Transport: $3 a day
Accommodation: FREE (couchsurfing) – normally at least $9-10 a night
Food: 600 RUB a day ($10)
Entrance tickets: FREE (free entrance or free tickets)
TOTAL (for 2 days): $66