St Petersburg, Russia
Saint Petersburg, Russia
St Petersburg, Russia Saint Petersburg Reviews
Experiences of a Brit in St. Petersburg Apr 06, 2013
I travelled to St. Petersburg from London via Helsinki in early 2013.
The requirements for a Brit applying in London are (i) the completed online form, (ii) a passport-size photo, (iii) your passport, and (iv) a tourist voucher/invitation. This means you need to request an invitation from your hotel before applying for the visa, which in my case meant I had to book the hotel before getting an invitation. It is not necessary to book flights before applying. The invitation took two weeks to arrive (by email), and then I submitted my documents at the processing centre in London, to be processed in 5 working days. 5 working days really means 10 calendar days, so overall getting a visa took nearly a month.
I entered Russia using the Allegro train from Helsinki Central Station. There was no check-in process at the station. Before reaching Russia, my passport was checked by Finnish staff and later by some Russian police. I had to fill in an entry card, and retain an exit card in my passport (which was used when I left Russia by plane). The train stopped at the Russian border, and then at Vyborg, where a gang of customs inspectors boarded the train and announced that the train was now a "controlled zone". My passport was checked a third time, and my bag was searched briefly, and then we arrived at Finland Station in St. Petersburg.
As a Londoner, I didn't find St. Petersburg very expensive. For the price of a pub lunch you can eat extremely good quality food there. The nightlife seems to consist of small "bohemian" bars around the market area next to Nevsky Prospekt metro. I got to visit Pushkin by getting a train from Vitebsky Station and asking for a ticket to "Detskoye Selo". It's not very easy to see which train to get or which station to get off at, unless you can read cyrillic, so give yourself plenty of time! Once in Pushkin, I got a taxi to the palace (200 rubles).
Catherine Palace - ticketed, photography allowed except in Amber Room
The Hermitage - ticketed, photography allowed with additional ticket, facades under restoration in early 2013
Cathedral on the Spilled Blood - ticketed, photography allowed
Smolny Cathedral - ticketed, photography allowed, possible to climb tower
Peter & Paul Cathedral - ticketed, photography allowed, under restoration in early 2013
Kazan Cathedral - free, photography apparently not allowed
St. Nicholas Cathedral - free, photography allowed
St. Isaac's Cathedral - ticketed
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White nights in St Petersburg Jul 14, 2011
Just about booking a holiday for Russia? The White Nights (Beliye Nochi) in St Petersburg are not to be missed, but you will unless you plan to be there between June 11th-ish and July 2nd-ish. Beautiful sky at night after a never ending day,... may I also suggest a midnight boat trip to enjoy the sights on both banks of the Neva?
Feb 11, 2007
took Paul to St Petersburg, Russia in November 2003. It was his birthday/Christmas present. It had been a destination we both always fancied, and whilst looking through the Sunday Telegraph travel section, we saw a tour company advertising trips. After looking into that deal and then independent travel, we decided to go it alone!! So we booked our flights out of Heathrow, direct to Pulkovo airport with BA. Traveling from Belfast meant connections but we are well used to that now! Another web search along with the aid of a guide book (TIME OUT ST PETERSBURG) found us our hotel – a reasonably priced local hotel Pulkovoskaya.
Also required for trips to Russia are a visa – we had to send our passports along with forms and photos off to the Russian embassy in Edinburgh – something l was not too happy about doing but everything ran like clockwork. I would advise doing this a good 4 weeks at least before travel and be aware that the visa costs approx £30. Details are available on the web.
So on 8th Nov, intrepidly we set off – having been up from 4.30am to get our Heathrow connection at 6.30am! Things began very well!! I met an old friend on the BMI flight from Belfast City to Heathrow, she was one of the cabin crew – she upgraded us to business class – a fantastic way to start the day!! Bit too early to hit the champagne though!! Whilst transferring to our Russian flight we saw Sir Trevor McDonald wandering around Heathrow!!
The flight took us just over 3.5 hours. I was slightly anxious about passport control – but it ran smoothly – the clerk simply stared at me sternly for 10 seconds, and let me through!!
We got a taxi bus to our hotel – at the snip of cost of 12 roubles (there are approx 44 roubles to the pound).
Our hotel was huge – massive big impersonal thing. Efficient to say the least, but staff lacked character and personality! Do not expect the Russia folk to go in for small talk or give a friendly smile! Our room was decent with roomy bathroom, twin beds, television and fridge. There was a view over the victory monument – tribute to the world wars. We were staying on a bed and breakfast basis and l must admit the morning breakfast buffet was indeed a lot better than l expected!
It was cold – probably not as cold as usual because every where was experiencing such a mild patch – but boy it was still cold!! It didn’t snow whilst we were there, but the wind chill made it feel very cold! It was also very grey and overcast with it staying dark until 9am and the sun setting again around 4pm. Buildings though were well heated and inside l was often too warm, and had to peel my layers off!
There was a metro station 5 minutes wander from our hotel, and we used it constantly, our guide book had a map of the metro in it with both the Cyrillic lettering and English lettering, so we could find our way about! The metro was very efficient and took us to all the destinations required. The price again very cheap at around 10 roubles a pop.
Eating in St Petersburg l thought would be an experience but l have to admit the food was very good. There was an excellent range of foods, and l did enjoy the Russian food. The beetroot soup was excellent, lots of chicken dishes with potatoes. I must admit l did not attempt the caviar – but all of the restararunts had it on the menu! Again we found the guide book invaluable it directing us to eateries.
The city itself, must have been once very very beautiful, now it is somewhat rough around the edges, but the decadence and elegance of the buildings is still evident everywhere. Every corner you turn, there is something to take your breath away, whether it be the fantastic Church on the Spilt Blood, with its mosaic domes modeled on St Basils in Moscow, to the towering golden dome of St Isaacs Cathedral. I loved the blue and white Smolony Cathedral, which was rather out of the way, and after a good half hour walk from the closest metro – I found it covered in scaffolding!! Most disappointing! Then there’s the Hermitage which you could spend a week visiting and not see a quarter of the treasures within. The breathtaking pillars outside the winter palace of the men holding the building are tremendous – the detail in the sculpture is so intricate. I loved the Egyptian antiquities, and not for the squeamish you can come up close and person with an embalmed mummy!! To see the originals of such painters as Da Vinci is phenomenal also, to think that the old master painted something so long ago and l have viewed it, in its original state is amazing!!
Something you must watch out for should you visit, the 2 tier pricing system, if you are not Russian, expect to pay a lot more for entrance fees to the sites. Unless you are fluent in the local language there’s no point in even trying to scam your way!! Also lots of places require you pay an entrance fee, and if you use your camera a fee is charged and if you use a camcorder an other fee is levied! Be warned sight seeing can prove expensive.
I loved St Petersburg, for the history and atmosphere, the buildings and culture. I do not want to offend, but we miss the fact that no one would enter into a conversation, or have a chat, or offer a stranger a friendly smile. But then again lm Irish and this is a way of life over here to chat to strangers and smile at everyone in the street! Would we go back again? Yes definitely, but we would travel to Moscow too, there’s an overnight train apparently, that leaves St Pete and you wake up in Moscow.
We could not have done with out the guide book for the metro map if nothing else, St Petersburg is not as popular a destination but if you check in WH Smith or Waterstones, or try Amazon, you will come across the latest versions. A few helpful web sites include:
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