Travel to St. Petersburg is safe enough. The city is no more dangerous than Madrid or Seattle, and according to the World Travel Awards rating, Petersburg is one of the best destinations in Europe.
There are many surveillance cameras in the city. High-resolution cameras with recognition and data analysis were installed before the World Cup 2018 in Russia. The system allows recognizing faces and car numbers in real-time. Cameras are able to detect the danger of emergency situations. Video surveillance network covers the entire transport infrastructure, including the metro. But be careful, there is no video surveillance in the subway cars, and pickpockets take this advantage.
The Ministry of the Interior maintains several law-and-order forces, all of them armed and with a high profile on the streets. Foremost are the regular police, is in dark blue uniform with red bands on their caps, or jumpsuits and parkas in shades of blue. You can find policemen at the metro stations. Not all of them speak English, but they are obliged to help you in case of an emergency.
The emergency service can be reached by dialling:
01 – fire department
02 – police
03 – ambulance
There is also a combined number, 112
There is an English Tourist Helpline in St Petersburg, which should also be able to provide assistance.
Despite the fact that St. Petersburg is a safe city, there may be situations that can ruin your vacation. We have compiled several tips to help you avoid some problems.
Take care among the crowds on Nevsky prospect and in the metro. Pickpockets can be avoided by not carrying money in open pockets or displaying large sums of money in public. Your bags should be kept apart from foreign currency and credit cards. It is advisable to carry a small sum of money for purchases and to keep the rest in the hotel.
If you do have property stolen, you will need to report it to the local police station for insurance purpose. Take all your documents including passport, visa and migration card with you. You may also be asked to write a statement. In this case, ask your hotel for assistance or call the Tourist Helpful – they should be able to help provide the interpreter.
The best way to get a taxi is to use Uber. It is very cheap and safe enough. However, sometimes drivers may not park where you are waiting for them. But this is 3 out of 10 of these cases – you have to look for the car on the application map. Drivers usually won’t speak much English, but just hand over the money on arrival – you don’t need to tip.
Be cautious about taking taxis late at night, especially near bars, clubs that are in an isolated area. It’s always best to call a taxi or use Uber rather than get on the street if you are alone and don’t speak Russian.
There are always a lot of cars on the streets of St. Petersburg, especially during the White Nights, when a huge number of tourists come to the city. Traffic is heavy and many motorists act like rally drivers, swerving at high speed to avoid potholes and tramlines. Be careful when crossing the road. And by the way, you don’t really need a car in St. Petersburg because public transport is cheap and efficient.
If you’re going to be in St. Petersburg longer than a week you should consider renting a self-contained apartment to save money and enjoy more privacy than a hotel. But really cheap accommodation is hard to find in high season. The most frequently used variant is when you pay a fee to a real estate agency whose task is to find an apartment for you and deliver information about you to an apartment owner. Sometimes, when comes the time for a meeting with the owner it somehow happens that the owner disappears and doesn’t respond to calls.
If you book through an agency that also provides visa support, your registration should be handled automatically. But be sure to verify that this is so. There have been instances where agencies failed to follow through with the paperwork, landing their clients on a bureaucratic nightmare.
Most apartments in St. Petersburg have a sturdy, often steel-plated, door with two or even three locks, while the door from building or yard onto the street may be locked by a device which requires you to pinch in a code.
You shouldn’t be daunted by Russia’s long winters. In St. Petersburg temperature falls to around -10ºC, between November and late March. The city is well equipped with an army of snowploughs and street cleaners.
But the more snow falls the worse. Because mostly snow ploughs transport piles of snow from place to place. It is better to come when winter isn’t very snowy. Although the snow-covered St. Petersburg is beautiful.
Icicles are a dreadful danger. Be careful on narrow roads – every year several people die from falling ice from the roofs of buildings.
- Keep a distance from the buildings with icicles, unfortunately, these are almost all the buildings in the historic centre
- It is best to travel by public transport or taxi, and if this is a sightseeing tour use a bus or a personal driver. The fact that the walking tour is cheaper is a mistaken impression.
- Note that sturdy footwear, warm layers of clothing, hats and scarves are a must
Is it safe to drink tap water in St Petersburg?
Drinking water in St. Petersburg is not very good. Of course, nothing will happen to you during the weekly voyage, but it is better to avoid drinking tap water, especially without boiling and filtration. Although the city’s water supplier, Vodokanal, insists that the water in St. Petersburg is safe to drink.
It’s probably safe to accept tea or coffee at someone’s house, and all restaurants and hotels have a filtration system. Bathing, showering and brushing your teeth cause no problems at all.
Vodka is the national drink which is produced from grain, usually wheat. Normally served chilled, it is drunk neat in one gulp, followed by a mouthful of food, such as cucumber or mushrooms. Taste isn’t a prime consideration: what counts is that the vodka isn’t bootleg liquor. At best, this means that buyers find themselves drinking something weaker than they bargained for. At worst, they are imbibing diluted methanol.
Ordering any alcohol in the bars and restaurants of the city you risk nothing, except for the known harm to health from alcohol.
Shops in the city centre also sell more or less worthy strong alcohol, the main thing is not to take the cheapest. As a rule of thumb, avoid anything costing less than 150 rubles for a half-litre.
Mosquitoes and ticks
St. Petersburg’s waterlogged basements are an ideal reservation for mosquitoes, present throughout the year in most buildings and particularly noxious in summer. The best solution for a good night sleep is to buy an anti-mosquito device that plugs into an electric socket, which is sold at local pharmacies and supermarkets.
More seriously, forested areas such as the Karelian Isthmus near St. Petersburg are potentially infected with encephalitis-bearing ticks during May and June. Locals take care to cover their head, shoulders, and arms at this time of the year when walking in forests, so you should do the same. If you find a tick on your body, press around its neck with tweezers, grab it and gently pull outwards. Avoid pulling the rear of the body or smearing chemicals on the tick, which increases the risk of infection and disease.
How big are your chances of something happening with you in St. Petersburg? If you will be attentive, close to zero.
It is safe to book a private tour and explore St Petersburg with a guide. We recommend you following tours that show you the beauty of our city.
Animators in life-size puppets
Pseudo-animators in full-size puppets walk around the centre of St. Petersburg all day, making a festive mood for passers-by. But these scammers can spoil the impression of your visit to the city. Favourite cartoon character offers to take pictures with tourists, but after a few frames it turns out that this is not free. Needless to say, they have no right to demand money from you for pictures.
The shamelessness of animators has no boundaries, and sometimes they become dangerous not only for the tourists’ wallets – but also for your life. If you had a mistake to take a picture with one of these gentlemen, first you will be asked politely for money. However, if you offer a modest amount of money, it can cause aggression and provoke a conflict.