Personal Observations, Saint Petersburg
The main function of banks seems to help with currency exchange. You can find banks everywhere.
We have tried many banks, but the most friendly and professional for English-speaking people is the Austrian "Raiffeisen bank." Everyone speaks English there and understands normal customer service.
The most frustrating bank is the Sberbank, the state bank of Soviet times. They are eveywhere, are slow, inefficient and always make mistakes. Just to put some rubles in an account can be 5-10 minutes if there is no line.
You have to keep all your receipts and be prepared to be there for hours sometimes for one simple transaction.
Fondest memory: http://www.raiffeisen.ru/
They have a number of branches inSt, Petersburg:
Branches in St. Petersburg
Finding Internet access to check e-mail, send a fax, off-load pictures and so on is simple in St. Petersburg.
The two biggest clubs on Nevsky Prospect, Cafe MAx and Quo Vadiis can help with a wide variety of business services.
Costs are usually about $3 hour, 60-80 rubles an hour. Some less central clubs can be 50 rubles or $2 an hour.
Quo Vadis Nevsky Prospekt 76. http://www.quovadis.ru
Cafe Max Nevsky Prospekt 90/92, metro Mayakovskaya. 812-273-6655.
24 hours. http://www.cafemax.ru
Cafe Orange at Pik Center, Sennaya Metro has a nice Internet club for 80 rubles and hour and often live music in the evening.
Fondest memory: Free wi-fi is starting to spread
Free wi-fi on the 4th floor of the PIK center at Sennaya Ploschad
City Bar, see other tip, has free wi-fi
The Pulkovo I and II aiports are said to have free wi-fi Internet, but we did not try it yet.
Most signs in Saint Petersburg are in Russian Cyrillic Alphabet only. Learning how to romanize (transliterate) the Cyrillic letters to phonetic English will go a long way to understanding where you are. :)
Here is an old sign for the Kanal Griboedova. The main canal leading to the Church of our Saviour on the spilled Blood. Can you read the sign? If not, see my next tip, Cyrillic Transliteration :)
Starting in 2007 Russia introduced the 5,000 ruble note.
Now the paper money coms in 5000, 1000, 500, 100, 500 and 10 rubles.
The dolalr has fallen in value against the Ruble and the Euro for several eyars now, in fact since the Euro was introduced.
Check teh current conversion rates:
Yahoo Currency converter
5000 rubles = about $200
1000 rubles= about $39
500 rubles = about $19
100 rubles = about $4
Fondest memory: Russian coins come in 5 ruble, 1 rubles and then kopeks, 50, 10 5 and 1 kopek.
100 kopeks = 1 ruble, so the kopek is really small in value, about 1/30th of a penny.
Favorite thing: Even if you do not intend to learn Russian for your short trip to St. Petersburg, try at least to learn the Kyryllic alphabet. It is not that difficult and will greatly help you to decipher street or place names and get a general idea where you`re heading.
Favorite thing: The Russian currency is rubles which are broken down into kopeks. The exchange rate for rubles to US $ or Euros is very good, however you will find that many shops that tourists frequent charge either US $ or Euros for their goods. This is pretty much a rip-off because you can likely get the same items at a less touristy shop for about half the price. However, many museums and attractions also charge admission in US $, and there is nothing you can do about it. If you want to exchange US $ or Euros into rubles there are many places you can do so, but you will need to show your passport.
There are some really pretty and friendly cats in this city. Sometimes they come right up to you and most of them are very dusty and don't look very white anymore. But there are some real gems among them. Some of them belong to someone and others just get feed by passerbys. I discovered these beauties when I took a walk with local member yos_moes.
This also applies to dogs, which can roam the streets in packs. Luckily they have always been friendly.
It was quite interesting to see the plaques and relief sculptures still in place around St. Petersburg. I saw these vestiges on several bridges and buildings while touring on the bus and was curious about how the Russian people felt about Lenin today. We asked this question of our tour guide, and she replied strangely we thought. She said, "We don't think anything about him. That's in the past. He's part of history that's all." It almost seemed like an answer that a Russian might given when in fear of uttering the wrong answer during the Soviet era, or have I seen too many movies.
Other likenesses of Lenin have been torn down or removed in Moscow I thought, but perhaps St. Petersburg would like to remember the man who once lent his name to this city!
Sometime after the Revolution of 1917, the city's name was changed to Leningrad.
Favorite thing: You can record your digital pictures onto CD\DVD in "Yarkii Mir": Nevsky, 6 (metro "Nevsky prospect"), Nevsky, 148 (metro "Ploschad Alexander Nevsky"), Kamennoostrovsky, 4 or 55 (metro "Petrogradskaya") or in State Hermitage. Other photo, digital and video servises. Their site http://www.ym.spb.su/index.php?qw=shops_v is only in Russian.
When you are here in St. Petersburg, you will feel more home if you get some of your countrymen of friends here. To get friendly help for you, when you are a new commer, you can visit the ISA's website at http://isaspb.narod.ru and they have a yahoo group where you can post message and you will get the reply. I got my country people and was happy to see them. So, I travelled as a local, cheap and comfortable. try this!
Fondest memory: Hermitage, Nevsky, International environs, Local cafes (Typical russian!).
I honor the International Students Association there. Architecture and Girls.:)O
As is the case all over the world, McDonald's has free, clean bathrooms in multiple locations throughout St. Petersburg much better than stopping by the 7 ruble portapotties that you can find scattered throughout the city.
If your conscious bothers you about using the bathrooms and not patronizing the restaurant, order an ice cream cone for 6 rubles, it's still cheaper than the portapotties and you got an ice cream cone to boot :-)
You can get around by train, metro or buses - even small mini bus in SPburg.
We took the metro to move around; it costs a mere 8 rubles per ride, does not matter how far as it is based on per entrance. They uses a token for the ride, and you can buy a bagful to avoid having to queue for tokens.
SPb metro system is much smaller, and less touristy s in Moscow. It has only 4 lines opposed to 11 in Moscow.
Of the 4 lines, the red line, Line 1 is the most impressive and interesting to look at. There are nice stained glass decoration, or mosaics murals, sculptures that reflects the area...say it is near the se, you will see boat patterns etc
Whatever it is one thing for sure you will notice how deep underground the Russians metro are. And how decorative they are. It is a good place to keep warm during the harsh winter as well.
The trains arrive every 2 odd minutes.
When you are waiting for the train, you can see two digital clocks , one to show the time and the other tells you when did the last train just left.
Favorite thing: Everybody (well, almost!) likes receiving letters - I certainly do, though there are other, more modern and efficient means of communication - e-mail, phone, and such like. However, if you simply like getting letters or if you need, say, the originals or paper copies of some documents sent to you while you are on the move, you can use the poste restante service. Your best bet is to use the American Express service, which is available for free to clients - you should hold either their card or travellers cheques. They are reliable and present in all major cities.
Returned back to Pieter after spending weekend out at Pskov and Puskin etc. Unfortunately missed the train back to Petrozavodsk. Did not fancy the idea of trying to get some accomodation. So we decided to walk around the city for several hours till the next train. But first a meal in a 24 hour cafe, wonderful food, we killed an hour or two just chatting, laughing , joking. Then Midnight came and it was my birthday. Walking down the streets of Pieter hand in hand, all the people around us, the buildings going past. Window shopping, Then on to the Rock and Roll club where we spent several hours, dancing, drinking, chatting. Afterwards onto the train station Ladoshskaya to catch the train. We met a friend who was going out to Germany before we boarded our train Home. Travelled 1st Class because we needed the rest LOL, although we could not afford the bed linen LOL but at 100 pyb no chance.
Fondest memory: Hell i miss everything about this city, it has so much there it is hard to single anything out, the shops, the food, the customs, the art work, the buildings, the way of life. The sheer zest of the city even at ungodly hours of the morning.
Favorite thing: The second of St. Petersburg's great squares is named for the ill-fated Decembrists' revolt. On December 14, 1825, a small group of reformist officers entered the square at the head of their troops in order to prevent the Senate from ratifying the accession of Nicholas I. Unbeknownst to the officers, the Senators had anticipated such an action and had already taken their oath to the Tsar in secret. Although the reformers thus found no Senators in the adjacent Senate building, they did run into several thousand loyalist troops who had been called into action by the Tsar. The rebels were attacked, captured, and soon afterward executed or exiled.