When To Go
July and August are the warmest months and the main holiday
season. They're also the dampest, it might rain one day in
three. So if you want to avoid the crowds and the rain, try
May-June or September-October. In early autumn, you can pick
mushrooms and berries. Although winter is bitter, theatres
open, the vodka comes out, buildings are warm and the snow
is beautiful. Spring is slushy,and muddy.
Street crime against foreigners is a problem in Russia's major
cities. Muggers favour underground metro areas, overnight
trains, stations, airports, markets and tourist attractions,
and have been known to break into locked and occupied hotel
rooms. As in all big cities, visitors should be neither too
paranoid nor too careless. Avoid travelling in the Chechen
Republic, Dagestan, North Ossetia, Ingushetia and Kabarda-Balkar
(including the Elbrus region) and its border areas. These
areas are unstable in the aftermath of the Russian/Chechen
war. The biggest danger to travellers is kidnapping, although
some travellers have been killed in Chechnya.
All visitors require a visa. Visas must be obtained before
departure and require a Russian sponsor (either a tour company,
hotel or individual). Business visas require an official invitation
from an authorized source as well as permission from the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs. Visitors staying more than three days
must register their visa through their sponsor (its a
good idea to bring a photocopy of your passport, as this might
take several days). Check the dates on visa before travel.
Diphtheria, encephalitis, hepatitis A and typhoid are some
of the health risk that travelers face. Make sure you take
the necessary precautions.
There are 11 time zones in Russia; Moscow is GMT/UTC plus
Pulkova 1 and 2 are respectively the domestic and international
airports that serve St Petersburg.
The best way of getting around the city on 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.
It is customary to shake hands when greeting someone. Company
or business gifts are well received. Each region has its own
characteristic mode of dress. Conservative wear is suitable
for most places and the seasonal weather should always be
borne in mind. Smoking is acceptable unless stated otherwise.
The currency is Rouble (Rbl) = 100 kopeks. Notes are in denominations
of Rbl1,000,000, 500,000, 50,000, 10,000, 5000, 1000, 500,
200 and 100. Coins are in denominations of Rbl100, 50, 20,
10, 5 and 1.