Travel to St Petersburg
Flying to St Petersburg
British Airways operates direct flights from the UK to St Petersburg. Flights from the USA or anywhere further afield usually involve a stop in another European capital. The warm summer (July to August) is peak season. Prices plummet in winter, but so do the temperatures.
From London - 3 hours 20 minutes; New York - 10 hours 50 minutes (including stopover); Los Angeles- 13 hours 50 minutes (including stopover); Toronto - 11 hours 35 minutes (including stopover); Sydney - 22 hours 45 minutes (including stopover).
Travel by road
Driving in Russia is best avoided. The roads are poorly maintained, petrol stations are few and far between and local drivers have a reputation for making reckless and risky manoeuvres.
With signs hidden, non-existent or in Cyrillic script, it is easy to unwittingly commit a traffic offence and the officers of the GIBDD (State Inspection on Safety of Road Traffic) are notorious for supplementing their salaries by fining foreign drivers for alleged traffic violations, even where no offence has occurred.
If you do decide to drive, you must carry your passport, an International Driving Permit and the licence from your home country, plus translations of these documents into Russian. The minimum driving age is 18 years, but many car hire companies will only rent to drivers over 21.
It is possible to enter Russia overland from Europe with your own car, but you must carry your vehicle registration documents and make a customs declaration promising to take it out on departure. You need third-party insurance covering the whole of Russia, available at the border or in advance through Ingosstrakh (www.ingos.ru/en).
Traffic drives on the right, speed limits are 60kph (37mph) in cities, 110kph (68mph) in outlying areas and 120kph (72mph) on highways. It is illegal to turn left on many main thoroughfares.
Emergency breakdown services
UMA Autoclub: (tel: +7 812 329 5777).
The main bus terminal in St Petersburg is Avtovokzal 2 (Bus Terminal 2; tel: +7 3852 617 979; www.avtovokzal.ru), naberezhnaya Obvodnogo Kanala 36, near the Ligovsky Prospekt metro. Buses run regularly from here to Moscow, Novgorod and towns within the Leningrad region, though trains are more convenient.
Luxexpress (tel: +7 812 441 3757; www.luxexpress.eu) runs international bus services from Baltic Station (near Baltiyskaya metro) to Riga, Tallin , Vilnius and Helsinki, while Ecolines (tel: +7 812 409 9410; www.ecolines.ru) has services to Riga from Vitebsk Station (near Pushkinskaya metro), as well as buses to Minsk, Kiev and Odessa.
Sovavto (tel: +7 812 702 2550; www.sovavto.ru/eng) has buses to Helsinki and Turku, departing from the Park Inn - Pulkovskava hotel, near Moskovskaya metro.
Time to city
From Helsinki - 5 hours; Moscow - 9 hours 30 minutes; Berlin - 21 hours.
Travel by Rail
Trains in Russia are generally safe and reliable, and rail travel across this vast country is more comfortable than you might expect, though the carriage interiors can seem a little dated. On longer services, dining cars serve snacks and drinks including alcohol, as well as complete meals, but hours are erratic so bring your own drinking water and a light snack, as well as toilet paper.
It is possible to travel to St Petersburg from most European capitals via Warsaw, Berlin , Helsinki or Moscow. For domestic travel, there are at least five highspeed Sapsan trains daily between Moscow and St Petersburg, plus slower overnight trains that bring more romance and nostalgia to this classic journey. Long and shorthaul trains also fan out across Russia and further afield to Central Asia.
The main railway stations in St Petersburg, are: Moskovsky vokzal, Nevsky Prospekt 85, for trains to Moscow and Novgorod; Baltiysky vokzal, naberezhnaya Obvodnogo Kanala 120, for trains to Poland and the Baltics; Vitebsky vokzal, Zagorodny prospekt 52, for trains to, the Ukraine and southern cities; Finlayandski vokzal, Ploshchad Lenina 6, for connections to Helsinki; and Ladozhskaya vokzal, Zanevsky prospect, for trains to Siberia and the far north and east of Russia.
There are three classes of overnight accommodation. Expensive spalny vagon (or lyuks) carriages offer two-bed compartments, but most travellers are happy with the four-bed compartments in kupé class carriages. Dormitory-style platzkartny carriages offer berths in six-bed compartments along an open aisle – this is how most Russians travel, but the lack of privacy may put off international travellers. Note that compartments on overnight trains are not divided by sex - lone female travellers are best off travelling with a companion. Daytime trains may offer tickets for seats (sid) rather than sleeping berths.
The main rail operator in Russia is Russkiye Zheleznye Dorogi (www.rzd.ru), but information is mainly provided in Russian, with limited information in English. A more useful source of information on train classes, ticketing and timetables is www.seat61.com, which includes a step-by-step guide to using the Russkiye Zheleznye Dorogi website.
From Helsinki - 4 hours 40 minutes; Moscow - 4 hours; Riga - 16 hours; Minsk - 13 hours; Vilnius - 18 hours; Kaliningrad - 25 hours.
All the stations are central, but different stations serve different destinations, so be sure to check which station you train will be pulling into. There are metro stations close to all the train stations.
Travel by boat
From April to September, international ferries run to the St Petersburg Passenger Sea Terminal on Morskoy Slavy ploshchad, close to the Primorskaya metro station. There are services to Germany,Finland and Sweden, but routes and operators change frequently, so consult a local travel agency for the latest information. Ferry Centre (tel: +7 812 327 3377; www.paromy.ru) is a reliable operator.
In summer, cruises to Moscow and other destinations within Russia leave from the River Passenger Terminal on Obukhovskoy Oborony prospekt 195, near Proletarskaya metro station. Contact the St Petersburg Tourism Information Bureau (tel: +7 812 242 3909; www.ispb.info) for information on routes and operators.