Some Helpful Information about Saint Petersburg
Trip Start Feb 05, 2006
33Trip End Jun 30, 2006
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BEFORE YOU MAKE ANY PLANS, GET A VISA
You always hear those terrible stories about Russia and getting a visa. Mostly, they are not true. People tend to channel the bad news only. Don't worry about it too much. It's really not a big deal, especially if you only want to go there as a tourist or a student. Of course, it's a lot of paper work, but there are people who can help you.
You will need an invitation in order to get a visa. There are tourist agencies on the web who can do both for you. It will cost you around 40€.
check out those sites:
Visa to Russia (for non-Germans)
Visa Russland (for Germans or people who want to go to Russia from Germany)
after you have got your visa, or at the same time, you should try to find a cheap flight...
How to get to Saint Petersburg Cheaply
Of course, there is an international airport in Saint Petersburg. You can fly there with expensive airlines such as Lufthansa, Finnair, SAS..., you can always fly with Pulkovo. A Pulkovo flight from Frankfurt to Saint Petersburg costs around 400€ (both ways). There is another way to get to Saint Petersburg for about 200€ (both ways).
First, fly to Riga, Latvia, with Ryanair or EasyJet. The flight takes approximeatly 2 hours. The prices for the flights start at 20€. You should definately BOOK EARLY!!!.
From Riga airport go to the Riga main train station by bus. Check out the beautiful city on the way. Then take the train from Riga main train station to St Petersburg. You can find the schedule for the train from Riga to Saint Petersburg on the website of the Latvian Rail. The train takes about 12 hours from Riga to Saint Petersburg and costs ca 15€. Trains are leaving once every day (night train, leaves about half past seven).
You can also fly to Tallinn and then go by bus from Tallinn to Saint Petersburg. You can read more about this in the Tallinn Entry. The bus drive from Tallinn to Saint Petersburg takes about six hours with the express bus. It costs around 25€. You will have to wait one or two hours at the border, but it would be the same thing with the train from Riga.
Maybe the Tallinn option is the better choice, because the bus ride is shorter than the train ride from Riga and Tallinn is a smaller city than Riga. You may find your way around easier in Tallinn.
Both ways, you will be dropped at a metro station in Saint Petersburg. Therefore you will be able to go anywhere in a jiffy (I found that word in an old dictionary).
Communication // Getting a Cell Phone
If you want to have your own cell-phone, there are several options. The biggest phone companies are Megafon, MTS, Beeline and Tele2.+
In general, you have to pay if somebody calls you from a land-line phone outside Saint Petersburg, i.e. Moscow or Berlin (roaming). This can be very expensive.
When you want to buy a SIM-card, bring your passport and all your registration and visa documents. They will ask you for it. Maybe you are lucky and a Russian friend can register a SIM-card for you. It will be much easier this way.
Tele2 is by far the cheapest company. If you are outside the city centers, however, you wont have good reception. More probably you wont have reception at all.
I think Beeline is the best choice. They have something like a contract which allows you to receive calls from "outside" for free. Thus, your parents or friends can call you on your mobile and you don't have to pay 5 dollars for 10 minutes in order to talk with them.
Beeline also offers internet through GPRS or WAP. If you have a cell phone with a modem and a notebook computer, you can go online, using those two. The price for this is 0,22 cents (USD) per Megabyte. I think it's ok. It's enough for chatting and writing emails.
You can check out the Beeline website: www.beeline.ru.
Using a Cell Phone in Russia / Saint Petersburg
If you want to call outside, you should use + instead of 00. For example, if you want to call a German number from your cell phone in Russia, you should dial
If you dial 0049 162... it simply won't work.
There's some really wicked places in Saint Petersburg. What's really bad about them is that they are so expensive. You come to Russia and think: "Hey, at least I gonna save some money, coz my room's gonna be cheap." But it's really not like that. If you want to live cheaply, you really have to look around.
For longtime stays there is the Saint Petersburg real estate market. Some of it is online, another part you can find in the newspapers.
In general, real-estate agents ask for a huge commission (one or two monthly rents). Rents are really high. I have some friends who found an apartment and didn't have to pay a commission fee. It's all negotiable, I guess.
I can give you the recommendation, but I can't garuantee for anything. The agent's name is
(from outside russia) +7 812 970 07 96 or +7 812 955 58 82
(from inside russia) +8 812 970 07 96 or +8 812 955 58 82
You always hear a lot of dreadful things about the registration. Actually it's not that complicated if you know how to work the system. First of all, you need to register 3 days after you arrive in Russia. Weekends and holidays are not included in those three days. So if you arrive on a Saturday, you have to be registered only by Wednesday.
You can get the registration from several places. A lot of people choose to go to a hotel and let them register you. Some of the hotels or hostels charge a lot for a registration. It can cost you up to 40 Euros.
There are some legal offices that can do the registration for you. The advantage is that this is completely legal and official and also not so expensive (maybe 10 or 15 Euros). The disadvantage is that most of the people in those offices don't speak so much English. You can try your way through there anyway. They are all highly educated and some of them can understand what you want without speaking you language. There's such a legal office on Nevsky Prospekt. I tried it myself several times. The address:
Nevsky Prospect 92
Tel: 327 9997
If you walk down Nevsky Prospect, coming from Gostinij Dvor, walking towards Moskovskij Vaksal, walk on the left side. Walk until you see MANGO (the clothes store). Turn left before MANGO. There is a little side-street leading to the Imperija Prava office. Hope this is helpful to you.