Getting around St Petersburg
St Petersburg is well served by trams, conventional buses, trolley buses, metro trains and marshrutnoye taxis (minivans, also known as marshrutka). Although vehicles may be rather run-down, the system is cheap and effective. Note that St Petersburg sprawls for miles around the centre and there can be long gaps between stops; if time is of the essence, use the metro.
Bus and marshrutka stops are indicated by bus shelters or a blue-and-white sign depicting a bus mounted on the building closest to the stop. It's usually simpler to look for the crowd of people waiting expectantly by the curb. For conventional buses, you should buy a ticket (talon) from a kiosk or the driver and validate it in the machine when you board. Marshrutka charge a fixed fare which should be handed to the driver when you embark.
Trams and trolley buses run on similar routes to conventional buses. Stops are marked with signs on lampposts, or sometimes with a ‘T' hanging from the electric lines. The tickets are the same as those used on the buses.
The metro or St Petersburg Metropoliten (tel: +7 8800 350 1155; www.metro.spb.ru) is fast and efficient, though stations are widely spaced out. Station ticket booths sell single-journey tokens (zheton) and 10-journey magnetic cards, which should be deposited or swiped at the machines at the top of the escalators. You can also use preloadable smartcards, available at all stations.
All the names in the metro system are in Cyrillic, so a metro map with English translations is essential. Stations are identified by large blue ‘M' signs, which light up at night. Note that metro interchange stations have a different name on each line.
St Petersburg's ageing fleet of Volga and Lada taxis (marked with the letter 'T') can be flagged down in the centre or booked through Petersburg Taxi 068 (tel: 068 or +7 812 324 7777). However, meters are unreliable and fares are generally agreed by negotiation before departure. Predictably, prices are inflated for foreigners - it takes some bargaining to reach a reasonable fare.
Many local car owners supplement their income by acting as informal taxi drivers, but it is almost impossible to negotiate a fare or destination if you are not fluent in Russian. For safety reasons, you should never get into a vehicle that contains anyone other than the driver.
Potholes, chaotic driving conditions and the dreaded traffic police all serve as a serious deterrent to driving in St Petersburg. Self-drive car hire is rarely available, though it is possible to hire a car with an English-speaking driver.
Street-side parking is generally free, but it is banned along Nevsky prospect. Keep an eye out for signs indicating other restricted areas. Outside upmarket shops, hotels and restaurants, uniformed attendants can watch your vehicle for a small fee. As elsewhere, never leave valuables or luggage on display in your car.
Almost all hire cars come with a driver. The main providers include Astoria Service (tel: +7 812 570 5462; www.astoriaservice.ru), Avis (tel: +8 800 250 1213; www.avis-rentacar.ru) and Hertz (tel: +7 495 775 8333; www.hertz.ru).
Bicycles are available for hire from Rent Bike (tel: +7 812 981 0155 or +7 812 907 6409; www.rentbike.org) and other cycle tour companies, but be ready for heavy traffic, poor road surfaces, and a lack of awareness of cyclists amongst drivers. Theft is also a problem.