General Information of Saint Petersburg
Best time to visit Saint Petersburg
The average temperature during summer is +22 °C.
The best time to visit Saint Petersburg is June, during the famous "White Nights" of Saint Petersburg. Durint this time, there will be a "White Night Festival" , which is roughly during mid of June till early July.
During this "White Night Festival" , the sun sets only for a brief period of twilight, and the streets stay alive around the clock. There would be an annual International Arts Festival, which consists of a series of classical ballet, opera and music events and includes performances by Russian dancers, singers, musicians and actors, as well as famous international guest stars. There would also be a massive celebration during this period, which is known as the "Scarlet Sails celebration", which celebrates the end of the school year. There would be more than 1 million participants, most of whom are students from thousands of schools and colleges, both local and international.
Starting May, there would be performances known as "Stars of the White Nights" in the world famous Mariinsky theatre, which ends in July. The "Stars of the White Nights" (Музыкальный фестиваль «Звезды белых ночей») is a series of classical ballet, opera and orchestral performances at the Mariinsky Theatre and the Mariinsky Concert Hall, as the essential part of the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg. During the festival, there are daily evening performances at the Mariinsky Theatre (either ballet or opera) and almost daily evening performances at the Mariinsky Concert Hall (either classical concert or opera-in-concert). Usually evening performances start at 7 pm. In addition, sometimes there are morning or daytime performances as well, that can start either at 12 am, or at 2 pm or at 4 pm.
Early autumn is beautiful, especially when the leaves start to fall. The place is less crowded, and accommodations are easier to find. But the weather is variable, and there might be rain which comes and goes. It is strongly advisable to carry an umbrella with you at all times. A windbreaker should suffice during early autumn.
Winter & Spring
Winter is cold, as Saint Petersburg is very near the arctic circle. During peak winter, temperature could reach a minimum of -35 °C. Tourists are few, accommodations are abundant. Unless you are planning for some winter activities furthur north, touring at this time is not advisable.
Spring is quite cold in Saint Petersburg, fluctuating between -15 and 0 °C. The ice would start to melt, hence the muddy streets.
How much would I spend for a day in Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is relatively cheaper than Moscow. 3 room apartments along Nevsky Prospekt (the main street) can be rented for around 4000-5000 Roubles per night. (As of 2011). Hotels and budget hostels are abundant.
Food and beverages are almost of the same price as Moscow. On average, 10$ per meal should suffice for a simple meal.
Excursions and Day trips
Many daily excursions around the city, or day trips to Petrodvorets or Tsarskoe Selo (Pushkin town) are available from the Kiosk booths along the main street Nevsky Prospekt, and Metro Gostini Dvor.
Some of the excursions pick you up from your hotel, and others will meet at an agreed time at the kiosk.
Excursions prices varies depending on which excursion you choose. Longer trips to outskirts usually cost more. Most of the trip prices range between 300 - 1500 Roubles per person. The price offered are the same with most Kiosks.
Not all tours have guides that speak in english, so ask if the tour is in english before you purchase the tour.
Crime and Danger
Pickpocketing and other petty scams in Saint Petersburg are fairly common in tourist areas and the metro.
Beware of pick pockets along Nevsky Prospekt (from personal experience). They are highly professional. My bag was opened and I did not feel a thing. The theif however, was kind enough to return my bag which contained my travel documents, via a passerby (which could have been his friend). All the money, however , was gone.
There are many tourists information booths around Saint Petersburg and its much easier to travel around in comparison with Moscow. English language more commonly understood here.
Additional advice on personal safety in Saint Petersburg!
- Do not carry a lot of cash with you.
- Avoid travelling alone at night.
- Always bring along your passport, visa and migration card wherever you go.
- Have the number of your embassy inside your phone for emergencies.
- Be extremely careful with your belongings especially along Nevsky Prospekt (the main road) and Gostini Dvor Metro station.
- Avoid the metro on football nights or places where there are a lot of football fans (Zenit Saint Petersburg)
Passport, Visa, Migration card and Registration
It is compulsary to bring along your Passport, Visa, and Registration wherever you go. Lacking one of these could result in a fine up to 2000 Roubles (usually just a bribe). Lacking a passport could get you into jail (temporarily) or a higher bribe fine.
Every foreign visiter needs a visa to enter and exit Russia. Visa types are differentiated into
- Tourists visa
- Business visa, multiple entry (3 months, 6 months, 12 months)
- Student visa, multiple entry (duration determined by the institution)
You would require proof of health insurance and you would need to certify that you are HIV negative
It is obligatory to be registered within 3 working days, which doesnt include saturday or sunday. (as of 2010). This rule is currently being changed, and has been proposed to be up to 7 working days (as of March 2011). This registration process could be done with any hotel, tourists agency or hostels. Day count would be restarted if you leave the city. For example if you stay in Moscow for 3 days and fly to Saint Petersburg for another 3 days, then back to Moscow for 2 days, you should not need to register.
Please double check the latest law regarding registration to be sure.
Upon entry, you will be required to fill up a small form, which is your migration card.
You will have to keep this migration card with you at all times, and it is needed to exit the country.
The electrical socket is 220 Volts AC, 50 Hz. The sockets are double round-pin plugs. It is almost impossible to find a 3 to 2 pin converter in the shops. So bring one to avoid the unnecessary trouble.