All tourists visiting Russia must have visas (EU, US citizens), vouchers or invitations.
The cheapest way to obtain such a document (For Poles only !) was to buy it in an exchange office in Terespol (on the Polish and Belorussian border) for 20PLN (app. 4 USD - prices as at June 2003
And you could fill it in yourself ! However after joining Polna to European Union this travel tip is unfortunately not valid.
When you cross a Belorussian and Russian border do not be afraid of any passport controls. There were no any controls !!!
Taking the train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg is a relaxing journey especially if you spend the extra money to ride first class. There is a huge difference between the two classes with elbow room, service, larger toilets, cleanliness, and being sure there won't be animals riding in your car.
Food is not included in any of the fares and the menu is rather plain. Consider bringing your own food.
The trip takes five hours and is quite scenic at times and culturally interesting, taking you through both upscale towns and slums.
For those of you heading North from St Petersburg (Murmansk,etc) The trains now leave from Ladoshskaya Station, and not Ploshad Vostania. So dig out your metro maps and locate the station. It is a upgrade to the existing station, very new and very very clean. ;-) Toilet prices are 6 roubles and there is a large waiting area as well as electronic notice boards detailing ticket availability and train times
Women who take the train alone in Russia often buy a berth in a plazkart wagon, or common wagon. Mostly families travel there, and
lone travelers. It's an opportunity to meet with people, to share with them a meal, to talk and it feels safer to be among many people than in the confinement of the kuppe, or the four berths compartment. Taking a berth in a Kuppe can be safer to put away your bag and it is usually cleaner than in the common carriage. The only thing is that you may not fancy your neighbors. For example many soldiers travel in 'kuppe' as they have free rail tickets. Their jokes and stories about the war are interesting but the soldiers tend to get fast too drunk and noisy. However Russian women traveling alone often ask the conductor of the wagon to change compartments, and an arrangement is usually found.
My date suggested we visit her grandmother in Viborg one Sunday. The train trip would be three hours there and three hours back. Cool, said I. After all, isn't Viborg the kind of laid back place that even the arch-sloth Oblomov moved to?
After meeting her at Finlandski Vogzal we got the tickets and got onto the train. I had desisted from using the loo at the station thinking that I'll take a leak on the elektrishka.
Imagine my shock when the brunette says that there are no toilets on the train. Furthermore the cattle class we were on had wooden slats for seats, and my bladder bounced around at every jolt in the three hour journey to Viborg.
A schoolboy error was committed on my part, hence this tip to encourage travellers not to exercise their bladder control, but to wee before long journeys on trains without weeing facilities.
St Petersburg has direct air links with most major European capitals and airlines, many offering several connections each week. There's a departure tax of around US$11. Domestically, you can fly just about anywhere you want, but only a few times a week in some cases. Air service is best between St Petersburg and Moscow.
St Petersburg has one bus station serving Tampere, Vyborg, Pskov, Novgorod, Moscow, Novaya Ladoga, Petrozavodsk and many smaller destinations. Many short and long-distance buses also leave from outside the Baltic station.
The main international rail gateways to St Petersburg are Helsinki, Tallinn, Warsaw and Berlin. The city has four stations, all south of the Neva River, except the Finland Station, which serves trains on the Helsinki railway line. Moscow Station handles trains to and from Moscow, the far north, Crimea, the Caucasus, Georgia and Central Asia; Vitebsk Station deals with Smolensk, Belarus Prague, Kiev, Odessa and Moldova; and Warsaw Station covers the Baltic republics and Eastern Europe. Baltic Station, just along the road from the Warsaw Station, is mainly for suburban trains.
Foreigners can legally drive on almost all of Russia's highways and can even ride motorcycles. You'll need to be 18 years old and have a drivers' licence, along with an International Driving Permit. On the down side, driving in Russia is truly an unfiltered Russian experience. Poor roads, inadequate signposting (except in St Petersburg's centre) and keen highway patrollers can lead to frustration and dismay. Motorbikes will undergo vigorous scrutiny by border officials and highway police.
Pulkova-1 and -2, respectively the domestic and international airports that serve St Petersburg, are 17km (10mi) south of the city centre, about a half-hour taxi ride and about an hour by public transport (metro plus bus).
Though less majestic than Moscow's, the St Petersburg metro leaves most of the world's other undergrounds for dead. You'll rarely wait more than three minutes for a train, and the clock at the end of the platform shows time elapsed since the last train departed. Taking the metro is the quickest and cheapest way around the wider city.
The best way of getting around the city by road is by bus, trolleybus (an electric bus) or tram. Each require payment of an inexpensive talony (ticket), which are sold in kiosks at major interchanges, by hawkers at the train stations, and often in strips of 10 by drivers. Driving a car or motorcycle is definitely not wise - roads are gnarled, road rules are strange, and the traffic cops are empowered to stop you and fine you on the spot. Oh yeah, they can also shoot at your vehicle if you don't heed their command to pull over.
Oh, any transport is good from Moscow - not a long distance. We used to go to St. Petersburg for a weekend - by train, by car. It takes only half an hour to reach it by airplane.
Definitely, metro! The city is big, do not try to overestimate your strengths - distances are long.
Getting in and out of town depends upon where you are arriving from. Anyone who is going to be in Moscow or another Russian city first will be coming in either by train or to the national airport. Those of you who come in from Western Europe will be arriving at the international airport. Taxi fares from the airport into town range from $10-20, depending upon the mood of the driver. Negotiate the price up front. You'll be surprised at how small the airport is for a city of over 4 million people. It looks more like a Greyhound station at times. When leaving Piter, DO NOT BE LATE FOR CHECK-IN. Just because it looks small enough that you could arrive half an hour before your flight, don't even try it. They are very strict about that 2 hour check-in time prior to your flight leaving. If anybody hassles you on the way out of Russia for having rubles, tell them you are going to spend them in the duty free shop that is located in the departure lounge area.
The metro system is fantastic and very efficient. Go to this link to see a map:
Taxis can be hailed almost anywhere. Rides within the city should cost no more than $5 (150 rubles). For those who are adventurous, on Nevskiy prospekt there are minivans that go up and down the street and over the bridges to some museums on Vasilevskiy island that you can ride for around a dollar. Just look for the bus stops and wait for the little vans packed with people to come by.
From Moscow, take the train from the northbound station (name escapes me). The rates were cheap. It's nice because you leave at around 11:00PM and arrive early the next morning, say 8:00AM. It's a nice swaying old world train experience, with the smell of coal burning, etc. The toilet is nasty though with all the urine which splashes to the floor, so bring shoes or slippers.
I wrapped a wire coat hanger around the door handle to the sleeper car because there were rumours of break-ins, being gassed, etc. I had no problems the 4 times I went however.
Take the Metro, it's dirt cheap and beautiful. Also, walk everywhere when possible, such a beautiful downtown area.
We took the RED ARROW train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. At First I was skeptical about taking a over night train, but it turned out to be a great way to get from city to city.
The train leaves at 11:00 pm and arrives at 7:30 in the morning. I also thought was interesting was that in communist beliefs there are no class systems, so instead of calling first class and second class sleeper cars they were called hard & soft.
We dished out the extra few rubbles and got a soft sleeper car. I recommend you do the same. NOTE: The trains leave on time. Eleven o'clock means eleven o'clock.
From the train station we took a taxi to ower hotel (about $7.00 USD) We road in a car that looked like it was used in the SIEGE of LENINGRAD during The World War.
After that we used the metro to get around. The metro is eazy to use (only 4 lines).
You can take the train from Helsinki to St Petersburg.
This routes are not part of the Europe Rail System and also don't give you any discount......but anyway
Duration of the trip.....7 hours
departing 7:00 hrs....arriving 14:00hrs or
departing 16:00hrs....arriving 22:00 hrs.
cost of the ticket in 2nd class.....39.69 Eur
like a $33.00 dollars.
There are daily trains from Finland which takes just about 5 hours to arrive to St Petersburg, the trip was very comfortable.
We took the overnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. We upgraded to a first class sleeper car (only Kelly and I in the sleeper). It was a fun experience and a great way to see the country side.
St. Petersburg is well-connected to the Baltics, Scandanavia, Moscow, and the rest of Russia via railroad. [photo: Moscovskii Vokzal (Moscow Train Station) - St. Petersburg, Russia]
To get from St. Petersburg to Peterhof, it´s the best way to use the 'electrical'. It´s the urban train system there with electrical locomotives.