This post will be the first in a series of posts that serves to be a guide to fellow backpackers on a budget. With a bit of luck, this can help you out when you plan your trip to understand accommodation, budgets, sites and general life on the road.
Saint Petersburg is an awesome city and there really is no reason to break the bank whilst you explore it.
Getting to the city:
You can catch a taxi but where’s fun in that? Nothing like trying to navigate your way through a public transport system with only 2 hours’ sleep in the tank to invigorate you! A taxi will cost you 1500 Rubles, but if you get onto any public bus from the airport, it will take you to the nearest metro station (Moskovskaya) for a grand total of 60 Rubles (30 for you and 30 for your luggage – don’t think you can talk your way out of it – Russian bus drivers will SHUT you down).
The metro costs 35 Rubles for a trip anywhere in the network – you literally go through to a self-service terminal and buy either a travel card or individual tokens. I opted for tokens as I can buy as many or as few as I need on the day. Easy. The self-service machines have an ‘English’ option too so you won’t battle too much.
The main railway station is also centrally located and connects Saint Petersburg to Moscow very easily.
You have a million options here, all ranging extremely in terms of price. If you want to do the McDonalds/Burger King thing – you can but I’ll judge you for it!
There are street food vendors on most main roads but they really only sell pastries and meat sandwiches (‘doners’).
Canteen style eating is big here – and it’s great for 2 reasons: The food is extremely well priced – $5 can buy you a really good home cooked meal and a bottle of water. Second reason is the restaurant is laid out as a canteen so no language barrier to deal with – just point at what you want!
A sneaky beer after 20 kms of walking every day was in order. You’re spoilt for choice again but beware of stopping at a bar near the tourist hotspots – they’ll rip you off like there’s no tomorrow. I opted for a spot on the upper end of the main street (Nevsky Prospekt) called Tarra Brooch – cold beer for 200 Rubles. Done. You may need 5 after the walking.
I opted for the hostel route –there are a million options out there. I recommend looking on Booking.com or Hostelworld and filtering your results based on review score and location to the city centre. You’ll be walking a lot in St Petersburg, no need to add kilometers to your day if you can help it!
I was disappointed with my hostel – the ratings misled me. Not all 9.2 ratings are 9.2 ratings – as a suggestion, maybe have a look at who exactly is commenting and rating? I’ve got a feeling the owner of this spot was getting his friends to write nice things for him. I’ll recommend the good ones but I’m not going to stick my neck out for this one.
What to see:
You’re spoilt for choice here. This city has it all – sites, history, museums, parks, palaces, etc. Your only limiting factor is time. I had 4 days so I opted to focus on the main attractions (which meant I had to deal with the world and his dog – Saint Petersburg is also a cruise liner terminal city and I think every cruise liner in the world was there when I was!).
Seriously, try be clever and avoid the massive crowds – nothing like a screaming Japanese tour guide waving an umbrella around whist you’re trying to admire the priceless collection of Rubens in the Hermitage.
Lucky for you, most of the main sites are centrally located within the city centre and can easily be reached with a short walk.
The big attractions are:
Church of the Resurrection of Christ (but more commonly known by its catchy name – Church on Spilled Blood. Entrance will set you back 250 Rubles (about USD4 but I’m writing this at the time of Brexit so it could be anything really – global markets are a horses arse – thanks Boris).
Saint Isaac’s Cathedral – 400 Rubles
Hermitage – 600 Rubles (don’t buy online – the website conveniently charges you in Dollars at more than double the price under the guise of no queues). I bought my ticket through one of those booths outside the entrance and didn’t queue for a minute. Also linked to the Hermitage is the Small Hermitage and the General Staff Building.
Peterhof – entrance is 700 Rubles but you will need to catch a Hydrofoil there for a return ticket price of 1300 Rubles. The hydrofoil leaves from the Neva River side of the Hermitage and leaves every 30 minutes.
(On this note, another palace that is quite a crowd puller is Pushkin, but having only had time for 1, I opted for Peterhof)
Kazan Cathedral – free entrance (yes please).
Winter Palace, Alexander Column, Palace Square and Admiralty House – all free with the exception of Admiralty House. You’ll be inside the Winter Palace if you go into the Hermitage – they’re linked.
Peter and Paul Fortress – head there if you can stomach another museum/monument.
Do you need a St PeterburgCard?
This is one of those tourist cards that, for a price, gets you into numerous museums and attractions for free.
I’m an accountant/bastard banker, so please forgive me in advance. I did the sums and a 3 day card would have cost 4200 Rubles. This will probably work out amazingly well if you want to go to all the museums and jump on all the hop on/hop off buses out there. For me, 2 massive museums in 4 days and I was enough. Noticeably absent from the list of attractions covered by the card is the Hermitage, which, in my opinion, is one of the worlds greatest collections. I’m still blown away by it.
My budget for the 4 days:
Accommodation: 2600 Rubles
Food and drinks: 2500 Rubles
Sites: 3250 Rubles
Metro and buses: 365 Rubles
Total for 4 days: 8715 Rubles ($133 or $33.25 a day)
To download this article and the user-friendly map from GPSMyCity, click here.
Happy travelling folks!
Cheers for now