Saint Petersburg is Russia’s second-largest city and one of the main reasons tourists go to visit Russia.
It is located on the Neva River, at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea and founded by Tsar Peter the Great
It was actually called Saint Petersburg (Peter’s city) for a while, but in September 1914, its name was changed to Petrograd, then to Leningrad, and finally in 1991 back to Saint Petersburg.
It was also the capital of Russia for a while. This city is filled with history, but Saint Petersburg is also one of the most modern cities of Russia, apart from being its cultural capital.
It also has a couple of Unesco World Heritage Sites, like the Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments.
And of course, don’t forgetothe Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world.
Warnings & Dangers in Saint Petersburg
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Generally speaking, Saint Petersburg today is safe as much as other countries in Europe, despite its problematic history with criminal activity in the 90s. However, if you’re planning on traveling to Saint Petersburg, keep in mind that you should always keep your guard up and remain aware of your surroundings, just in case.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
Generally speaking, transportation in Saint Petersburg is safe, but you should bear in mind that kidnappings have been known to happen, mostly in unlicensed taxis, so be careful when hailing one on the streets. Keep in mind that the most dangerous areas where small crime tends to occur are the underground walkways, called “perekhods”. Only use official services like Yandex Taxi, Uber or Gett taxi.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
Pickpocketing is very common in Saint Petersburg, and surprisingly it is mostly performed by groups of children. Pay attention to your belongings, don’t leave them in plain sight and be especially careful in crowded places like stations or near tourist attractions.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : LOW
Saint Petersburg isn’t particularly susceptible to natural disasters. Some blizzards and snow storms are possible during winter which can affect the traffic and delay your flights. During winter, be prepared to face the below freezing temperatures.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
The situation improved drastically, when it comes to kidnappings and muggings. Generally, never accept free drinks or food when you’re in a club or a bar. Drink spiking and then attacking and robbing the victim have been reported on numerous occasions.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
After the recent terrorist attack in the subway in St. Petersburg the probability of this situation happening again is high.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
There are many scams in Saint Petersburg, usually performed by children trying to distract you and then steal some money from you. Never talk to strange kids on the street. Also, you should avoid playing street gambling games.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women are generally safe in Saint Petersburg, though you should avoid finding yourself alone in clubs or bars, and of course apply all normal precaution measures like avoiding remote and poorly lit streets and areas.
So... How Safe Is Saint Petersburg Really?
Saint Petersburg, like the rest of Russia, experienced a rise when it came to crime rates during the 1990s.
Violent crime, as well as petty crime and scams have increased, but the biggest part of the violence was within the criminal groups themselves, and it didn’t affect foreigners that much.
However, it decreased since the 90s, so right now, for tourists, major cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg aren’t more dangerous than any other European city, they’re even less so.
When it comes to the authority officials, you should keep in mind that they usually don’t speak English, so be understanding if someone doesn’t know how to communicate with you.
Speaking about the officials, don’t ever try to bribe them: you will be charged with bribery.
Bear in mind that if you are a member of LGBT community, there is no reason to avoid Saint Petersburg altogether but you should refrain from any public displays of affection.
As of June 2013, “homosexual propaganda to minors” is prohibited, which basically means that any discussion of gay rights or homosexuality issues in the presence minors is punishable by law.
While you walk around Saint Petersburg, you might encounter police officials that may demand to see your papers to check if you have been registered within 7 business days of your arrival into Saint Petersburg.
You shouldn’t have any problems with this, because if you stay in a hotel then you are automatically
registered and will be handed a confirmation paper.
- Visas - Most countries do need a visa in order to enter Russia, and if you’re a U.S. citizen you must possess both a valid U.S. passport and a bona fide visa issued by a Russian Embassy or Consulate. None of the nationals that do need a visa can acquire one upon arrival, so make sure you apply for your visa in advance. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
- Currency - Russian ruble is the official currency in Saint Petersburg. ATMs are widespread throughout the country and credit cards are accepted everywhere.
- Weather - Saint Petersburg has highly continental influenced climate characterized by warm to hot and dry summers and extremely cold, freezing winters with temperatures as low as -30°C – sometimes even lower, with heavy snowfall.
- Airports - Pulkovo Airport is an international airport serving Saint Petersburg, Russia. It consists of one terminal, Terminal 1 which is located 23 km south of the city centre.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we advise getting travel insurance when traveling to Saint Petersburg, because it would cover not only medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.