Despite the local traffic being still in the learning stages about basic respect for cyclists, this is a great way to get around this huge and flat city.
- Some youth hostels and bike shops, such as Rentbike and Skladnye Velosipedy, hire bikes for as little as R500 per day.
- If you're keen to do a lot of cycling, bring a helmet, bike lights and a good lock from home, as these are hard to come by.
- Velogorod is a handy bike-sharing system with 56 stations across the city. You'll need to use the website or download the app to hire one of its bicycles.
Bus, Marshrutka & Trolleybus
Buses, and particularly marshrutky (minibuses), are a very handy way to get around the city and they tend to cover routes that the metro doesn’t, making them essential for certain parts of town. Most travellers find taking them a bit daunting, however, as there’s little signage in English. On both buses and trolleybuses, you get on and then pay a conductor; the fare is R40.
Marshrutky can be flagged down anywhere along their route (there are no bus stops for marshrutky). Open the door yourself and jump in, then once you’ve taken your seat you pay the driver (pass the money via your fellow passengers if you’re not sitting within reaching distance); the rates are usually posted on the inside of the bus near the driver. You’ll also need to request the stop you want – usually announcing to the driver the name of the street or the place you’re going to shortly before you get there. Alternatively, when you want to get off, simply say (or shout!): ‘AstanavEEtye pazhalsta!’ ('Stop please!') and the driver will pull over as soon as possible.
Car & Motorcycle
For something a little different, you can rent vintage cars, including retro Soviet models such as Chaikas and Volgas, from Retro v Mode. Rates start at around R1500 per hour and drivers can also be arranged.
The St Petersburg Metro is a very efficient five-line system. The network of some 70 stations is most usefully employed for travelling long distances, especially connecting the suburbs to the city centre. New stations are being added and it's possible that the one at Teatralnaya, next to the Mariinsky Theatre, will be operational by 2020.
Look for signs with a big blue ‘M’ signifying the entrance to the metro. The flat fare for a trip is R45; you will have to buy an additional ticket if you are carrying a significant amount of baggage. If you wish to buy a single journey, ask for ‘adin proyezd’ and you will be given a zheton (token) to put in the machine.
If you are staying more than a day or two, however, it’s worth buying a Podorozhnik smart card (R60), which is good for multiple journeys to be used over the course of a fixed time period – for example, 10 trips in seven days for R355. Their main advantage is that you won’t have to line up to buy tickets – the ticket counters can have very long lines during peak hours.
The metro system is fully signed in English, so it’s quite easy to use, even for first-timers in Russia.
Taxi apps, such as Gett and Yandex Taxi, are all the rage in St Petersburg and they've brought down the prices of taxis in general, while improving the service a great deal.
Aside from the apps, the best way to get a taxi is to order it by phone. Operators will usually not speak English, so unless you speak Russian, ask your hotel reception to call a taxi for you. It also remains possible to flag down a random car in the street and negotiate the price, keeping in mind all security caveats.
Taxi 6000000 Has operators and drivers who speak English.
Tickets & Passes
- Transport in St Petersburg is very cheap. Single metro tickets cost just R45, while you will save even more by buying rides in bulk on a smart card.
- Marshrutka (minibus) costs vary: some charge flat fares, while others will charge you according to how far you want to go on their route. You always pay the driver directly.
- Trams, buses and trolleybuses all have conductors on board. They will come around the vehicle and sell you tickets, and can usually be recognised by a red sash they wear.
- There are no transport passes that are of use for short-term visitors.
- If you stay for more than a few days, it makes sense to buy a Podorozhnik smart card, which allows you to pay for all types of transport, except marshrutka.
Trams are useful in areas such as Kolomna and Vasilyevsky Island, where there is little else available.
How do I get to…? Как мне добраться до…? (Kak mnye dobrátsa do…)
One ticket, please. Один билет, пожалуйста. (Adín bilyét pazhálasta.)
Can you tell me when to get off for…? Подскажите, пожалуйста, когда мне надо выходить на…? (Podskazhítye, pazhálasta, kagdá mnye nada vykhodít na…)
Stop here, please. Остановитесь здесь, пожалуйста. (Astanavítyes zdyess pazhálasta.)
Metro line 1 Worth getting out at every stop between pl Vosstaniya and Avtovo to admire the very handsomely decorated stations.
Tram 6 Great for travelling between areas north of the river without going through the centre: connects Vasilyevsky Island with the Petrograd Side and the Vyborg Side.
Trolleybus 7 Goes from Smolny along Nevsky pr, over the river, along the Strelka and to the Petrograd Side.
- For ease of use, buy a Podorozhnik smart card (R60) from a machine or the ticket kiosk in any metro station and load it with prepaid journeys.
- Be aware that at interchange stations on the metro each station tends to have a different name.
- Even if you're staying near a metro station, check local bus, tram and marshrutka (minibus) routes, as these can often be more useful.
- When entering a metro station, be sure you're using the entrance (вход) rather than the exit (выход).
- When on the metro escalators, stand on the right and walk on the left.
- Do be sure to hold the metro entrance door open if there's someone behind you.
- Help others to enter and exit the often crowded metro carriages. If people ask you 'Vy vykhodite na sleduyushchey?' (Are you getting off at the next stop?), try to move aside to let them move closer to the doors, or confirm that you are. If impossible, walk out with exiting passengers, then walk in again.
- Inside the metro carriages, give up your seat to older or less able travellers when the metro is full.
- When getting on to a marshrutka (minibus), take a seat and then pass your fare to someone sitting between you and the driver, and they'll pass it along.
- If there's an empty seat on a bus and everyone else is standing, it's probably the conductor's seat, so don't take it.
Travel at Night
Public transport in St Petersburg shuts down some time after midnight, meaning that taxis and walking are your only options for getting around. There's also the issue of some bridges over the Neva River rising nightly between April and November. This means that if you want to cross the river late at night you need to plan accordingly. Now that there is the Western High Speed Diameter highway it's always possible to get from one side of the Neva to the other, although it will involve a possibly long taxi ride across this toll road.
From mid-April until late November major bridges across the Neva rise at the following times overnight to allow ships to pass through the city. It's rare that the Grenadersky, Kantemirovsky and Sampsonievsky Bridges over the Bolshaya Nevka River (connecting the Vyborg and Petrograd Sides) are raised and, if so, two days' notice is given beforehand. You can check the full, up-to-date timetable at www.razvodka-mostov.ru (in Russian only).
Because of the new fixed suspension bridges on the Western High Speed Diameter highway across the mouth of the Neva you will not be stuck either side of the river when the bridges go up. Note also that between May and the end of November the M5 metro line shuttles every 20 minutes back and forth between Admiralteyskaya and Sportivnaya stations between 1am and 3am on Saturday and Sunday and the eve of public holidays, creating an easy way to get between the islands and the Historic Heart.