Taxis, Saint Petersburg
Guidebooks tell you that on arrival, you should get your taxi from the official taxi desk in the airport arrival hall, where the agent will give you a paper saying how much it will cost to your destination. When we went to that desk, there was a man standing in front of it, in addition to a woman seated in the booth, and he was wearing a suit, official looking cap and badge. When we asked for a taxi, he immediately provided a driver who escorted us to a taxi. When I asked what the fare would be, the driver said in English, "Taxi meter" and seeing one installed in the car, I accepted that. Well, the meter must have been rigged because the ride, halfway to city center (to the Park hotel) cost us about $180 US (paid in rubles), more than double what hotel staff said I should have paid.. We tried to pay by credit card, but he appeared to try it and said it wouldn't work. Tried my wife's card and a debit card and he said they wouldn't work, so we paid in cash. He even gave us a stamped receipt! Lesson learned: step around the man standing in front of the official taxi desk and deal with the woman inside who is supposed to give you two copies of a written number which is what you pay and you give a copy to the taxi driver.
Do not hire a taxi near the airport - the men offering a taxi will charge you a double or three times price. You can do this by a small taxi desk inside the airport, they inform about price. Say, from the airport to Vassilyevsky ostrov it costs about 800 rubles, while our friend was charged 4 500 last week (16.04.2010)
I had a very positive experience with a taxi driver in St Petersburg:
I contacted him by email, he is prompt in answering emails and sms. I made with him an appointment to show us (me and my wife) St Petersburg and the environments of ST Petersburg. He told us a lot about St Petersburg and its history. He was very puctual in the appointments we made. Also for the payment we had no surprises. He is not only a professional, but also a very kind person. I can strongly recommend him.
His name: Leonid Seleznev
Tel: +7 911 925 0810 ( this is also his cel phone)
The Velotaxi concept was born in Berlin and has spread to over 35 international locations including St. Petersburg and Moscow.
Look for them in the summer months near Nevsky Prospect and Gostiniy Dvor, Sadovaya street and Sennaya metro for a lower price than automopbile taxis.
Both kind of taxis in St. Petersburg, regular taxi with the 'taxi' light on the top and the Private Vehicle taxi, do not use meters. It is easy to get a regular cab if you have the restaurant or the hotel telephone one for you. It is best to find out how much they charge for your particular destination before agreeing to the use of the cab. We found out that tourists are charged an outrageuos price and it goes up even more after a certain time at night (even during the white nights), and when it is raining. They're quite expensive for the short distance that we had use them. The least we paid was 300 Roubles ($12.76) for a little over a 2-mile trip, and 500 Roubles just because it was raining.
At night, there is no transportation service in St Petersburg. So basically your only option is the taxi. Or at least that I thought:)
Local taxis could be extremely expensive. I have paid over a 100$ to get from the airport to the city center.
However the Russians have sorted this out. A lot of old Ladas and Volgas stroll around the streets at night doing undercover taximetry. Just wave your hand and in less than 2 minutes somebody will stop.
You should be able before you get in to negotiate your fare. Everything I knew was "Dva Sto" -> Nevski Prospekt (200 Roubles) or if I believed I was closed "Sto Pidise" (150 Roubles). Of course as any activity of this kind you can get in small troubles, but on the large scale most of the private taxi drivers are just trying to make some extra cash to improve their living, nothing wrong about that in my opinion.
I was satisfied with their services, therefore I thought of giving this tip:)
Cruise ships dock on one part of the Neva River not far from the centre of the island which is the avenue called Neskiy Propeckt. We spent three days in Saint Petersburg on a cruise ship and took taxi's into town. The notice board on the cruise ship said that a cab would cost $20 US. When the cruise ship steward called the cab company to order the taxi, she also told them that I was a native speaker. All you have to do is step outside the ship in the harbour, climb up the cement stairs to the road and either flag down a passenger car or a cab. The cash value of the cab ride is about $100 rubles or $3.00 US to downtown St. Petersburg.
If you do not know Russian and you do not have somebody near you who knows Russian, than you have only 2 possibilities: either walk to everywhere or arrange an expensive car from the hotel.
In fact transportation is very cheap in Russia but as i said because of language barrier you are not able to bargain for taxi or you can't find your way with Kiril alphabet inside Metro. Its a nightmare. As you do not understand Kiril alphabet, they do not understand your address written in Latin alphabet. So you have to pay a lot to pre-arranged cars or walk until you are dead.
Walking option is not working much in Moscow as it a very big city.
For a taxi, you just have to raise your hand near the road than somebody stops. You have to say the address and than bargain for the price with the driver. Thanks God i got Russian friends near me most of the time so i didn't had any problem but i can't imagine myself withou them :)
Like in Moscow, you won't wait more than one minute to get a cab, all you need is to make a sign you want a ride and any local driver will stop and give you a fair price for your destination, if you're foreigner it won't be that fair, but you can always try to negotiate, I don't speak any russian so all I did was pointing in the map my destination and writing down how much I was willing to pay, it kinda worked!
Marshrutkas are the saving grace of St Petersburg. They cost marginally more than a bus, cover the same routes as the busses and are much quicker and far more comfortable. They range from vans like in this picture all the way up to huge busses and are privately owned.
Though the metros are quick they only go certain places and by the time you take a 15 minute escalator ride up/down and wait for the next metro, a marshrutka can whisk you where you wish to go more quickly.
Bookstores have books that publish the 1,000s of routes but at that time where in Russian only.
Arterial roads are in a very good condition but in bystreets potholes are spread all over.
Traffic is hell in St. Petersburg - it seems there was a kind of competition between drivers. As soon as the traffic light turned from red to yellow everyone jumped on the gas pedal. Suddenly the crossroad was swathed in a black cloud of exhaust fumes and drivers run at breakneck speed, side by side with millimeters of separation to the next traffic light. And there the procedure repeated.
Car. Driving a car in St. Petersburg is a complicated task. You can find it risky - for example, it is posible for seven cars to stand next to each other in front of the traffic lights even if there are only four lanes. Or you cannotice that cars turn left from the last lane on the right. Or you can notice someone who will suddenly stand in front of you without giving a sign. And if you're female, you will take even more risk!