Advance Planning

Three months before Get working on your visa. Book hotel rooms for the White Nights.

One month before Book hotel rooms during the rest of the year, Mariinsky and other theatre tickets during the summer months.

One week before Buy your Hermitage ticket online and print it out. Add useful apps such as Google Translate and Yandex Taxi to your smartphone.

Resources

  • Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/russia/st-petersburg) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveller forum and more.
  • In Your Pocket St Petersburg (www.inyourpocket.com/russia/st-petersburg) Excellent local guide.
  • Visit Petersburg (www.visit-petersburg.ru) City's official tourist information site.
  • A-a-ah! Listings for cool places and activities in St Petersburg.

Top Tips

  • St Petersburg is a huge city, so don't try to bite off more than you can chew: stagger your sightseeing and allow plenty of time to take it easy and watch the city go by.
  • Get a metro smart card if you're going to be using the metro a lot. You'll save money and queuing up for tickets.
  • Take advantage of deals such as the Hermitage's two-day ticket, which allows you access to all its sites over 48 hours, or the Russian Museum's four-palace ticket that does likewise over three days.
  • Search out discount deals at restaurants Monday to Friday between noon and 4pm for excellent-value lunches.
  • Learning the Cyrillic alphabet repays the effort tenfold and you'll be able to understand more than you would otherwise. Some basic phrases in Russian go a long way.

What to Take

  • European plug adaptor if you're travelling from outside mainland Europe
  • Anti-mosquito spray or tablets (May to September)
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Clothing for all weather: temperatures vary massively
  • Sunglasses for both summer and (surprisingly bright) winter

What to Wear

Clothing is very important to Russians, many of whom are surprised at how sloppily foreigners dress. Shoes are considered of particular importance, so it's a good idea to keep yours clean. That said, Russians remain quite casual and you'll rarely be expected to be in smart clothing outside the theatre and good restaurants.

Pre-departure Checklist

  • Arrange your visa and check the entry and exit dates on it.
  • Inform your bank if you plan to pay for things or take money out on cards in Russia.
  • Ensure your travel insurance includes coverage in Russia.
  • Book tickets online for the Mariinsky Theatre if you want to see a specific ballet or opera.