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Travelers Advices

Where to stay in St Petersburg?

For once I will start an article with a confession. Well, no need to be that excited. I’m not living in St Petersburg and I’ve only been there 3 times (still better than nothing right?). That’s why this article will be shorter than the one on Moscow, and more tourists oriented  than for expats. But I am still writing it so it will be as good as usual. Thing is with St Petersburg, the city is smaller than Moscow, less expensive and absolutely stunning. That is why you can afford living in the very center, where the city is truly active, or in very trendy quarters.

 

Nevsky

Where?

Nevsky is the heart of Petersburg. It’s a big boulevard with lot of shops, restaurants, cafés and historic sites. Nevsky links all the major sites and places of St Petersburg’s city center. You can not do more central.


Why?

Of course for its location. But also because Nevsky combines all the main sites of St Petersburg. This quarter is perfect for both tourists that can find a reasonable and comfortable accomodation in the very heart of the city, and locals that will have all activities, shops, restaurants and cafés in less than 15min walking.


What to do?

St Petersburg main sites such as the Ermitage, Christ the Savior on the Spilled Blood, St Isaac, Our Lady of Kazan cathedral, the Russian Museum…

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New Holland

Where?

The New Holland quarter is located in the city center, on the West of Nevsky and St Isaac cathedral.

 

Why?

The New Holland quarter is one of my favorite. It previously was a prison and so not such a good quarter to live in. But the prison closed and the quarter renovated. As a result, it became a trendy quarter with many small restaurants and shops!


What to do?

Visit and eat at the Bottle (Botilka) that is the former prison, transformed in a very nice place with cafés en shops.

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Want to book a tour? Check this out!

 

Vasilievsky Island

Where?

The Vasilievsky Island is on the opposite side of the Neva, right in front of the Admiralty.

Why?

The Vasilievsky Island is a newly renovated quarter not far from Petersburg very heart. As a result it’s a very convenient, comfortable and trendy part of the city. Great to stay there if you plan on discovering the city, but also the current life of Russians living in Petersburg!


What to do?

Despite the proximity of the main touristic sites, you can should visit the spit of the island and the Menshikov Palace.

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Want to book a tour? Check this out!

 

Summer Garden Quarter

Where?

The Summer Garden is located on the east of St Petersburg very heart, on the banks of the Neva.

 

Why?

Although the beauty of the garden itself, this quarter of St Petersburg hosts many historic famous and unknown sites and palaces. Plus, the quarter is also a very trendy one with backstreets hiding delicious restaurants and cafés but also nice shops for hipsters (but like the good ones).


What to do?

In this quarter I highly recommend the famous Summer Garden and Russian Museum of course. But if you want to discover something different, unusual, you must visit the St Ann’s church, a church/theater that burnt some years ago…

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Travelers Advices

Taking the Train in Russia?

Russia is big and one of the best way to travel across this huge territory is to take the train! If you’re full of clichés, and I know you are, you would think that taking the train in Russia is horrible and difficult. Spoiler: you’re wrong. You might face lot of difficulties while in Russia but trains are definitely not one of them. Trains are always clean (even if some of them are super old) and one time (super impressive to be honest). So if you’re traveling across Russia, I would definitely recommend you to take the train.

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But taking the train in Russia, you must obey to certain rules. Like not official rules but more officious and cultural ones. More, you should try to know a bit more on Russian trains (as you did with the subway).

The Russian railway company is RZD. It has three main categories of trains, the high speed trains (those with which you’re doing St. Petersburg-Moscow in a bit more than 3 hours), the regional trains and what I would call the “normal” night trains.

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You also have a third category made of special trains (transsiberian…), but well these are really special. Regional trains are working as in many countries: you buy a ticket at the station, and seat in the train. The only special thing is that they are well-organised seller within the train so if you need something don’t worry, you’ll be able to buy it. Back to normal night trains, you have 3 classes:

  • The First: two very comfortable beds, common bathrooms and toilets, air conditioner, linens, meal, travel kits… Very nice and comfy but expensive.

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  • The Kupe: a bit like the first but with 4 beds, which means that you’ll meet people! And also, you don’t have a meal. No you don’t. So you must think about it. The kupe is a good way to travel as it’s very clean and comfy, but you also have the experience of meeting people.

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  • The Platskart: my favorite! And it’s quite a surprise since I’m kind of a prince that only likes good, comfortable and of a high standards things. The platskart is basically a dormitory. An old one. But for the price it’s amazing. You have linens and hot water at your disposal (and a toilet of course) and you meet the real Russians. It’s safe and to be honest it won’t be your best night of the year but we can sleep very well. I highly recommend it!

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If you’re traveling in either kupe or platskart, you have some rules to follow. Indeed, beds are separated by a table, common to all the 4 passengers. Therefore, when arriving in the train, people use to seat in the under bed…even if it’s not theirs. No matter if you’re sleeping on the under or upper beds, the under ones are considered as seats when not sleeping. That’s why usually people make their bed late and enjoy the first hours of travel to eat, drink tea or discuss. After a bit of time (you have to feel these things) the ones with the upper beds make their beds. Ones they’re ready, they often stay in them even if it’s quite early. It allows the ones on the under beds to make their bed and go to sleep if needed. In the morning, the staff will wake you up. You usually have to undo your bed and let your linens to a side of the train.

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All is easy and very well-organised! Traveling across Russia is an amazing experience that will allow you to discover its stunning landscapes, fastly cover huge distances and meet the real people. So jump on the next train and let see where it goes!

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Categories
Travelers Advices

Taking the subway?

Some days ago I told about how the Moscow subway is beautiful (want a guided tour? Click here!) and how wonderful it is to have free internet access. But now I realise that I didn’t explain you how to actually take the subway! So here it is… and enjoy the ride (from 5.30 am to 1.30 am)!

Dreamstime © - Moscou - Métro - Komsomolskaya (3)

On the contrary to many countries, taking the subway in Moscow and St Petersburg is a very convenient and comfortable way to travel across the city. Indeed the cities are so big that taking the subway is often a necessity. However, as for everything in Russia, distances between two stations can be huge… so stay awake and keep in mind that walking 15 minutes to get to the nearest station is absolutely normal in the city center.

Dreamstime © - Moscou - Métro (4)

First you need to know where you are, where is the nearest station and where you go. To that end, you really (but like really really) download the official apps. Up to you to choose between Yandex Metro and Yandex transport (my favorite) but download one of them! Thanks to them you’ll always find your way and avoid unnecessary detours.

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Then you need to enter the metro (and pay of course). Since Russia is hosting major international events, some employees of the subway speak a bit of english. So two options for you to buy tickets: the gentle and funny woman at her desk, or the machine (they “speak” perfect english). Being a bit afraid of people (and even more of Russian grannies) and never sure of my perfect Russian (real reason is, I hate people), I always go to the machine. But up to you!

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At this point you have three options:

  • Single ticket (Единый): it costs 55 RUB (0.9 USD) and it is available for only one entry. Once you entered, you can stay the time you want and go where ever you want.

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  • Two-rides ticket (Единый): it works the same as the first one except that you can enter the subway twice. It costs 110 RUB (1.8 USD).

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  • Troika card (Тройка): the troika card is a transportation card on which you can put how much money as you want. It’s the most convenient way to use public transports (it works for both the subway and buses!) if you use them more than occasionally. There is no date of availability and you only have to pop it up when you don’t have anymore money. Moreover by using the Troika you save money as using public transports only costs 36 RUB (0.6 USD)!

Side note: the troika card costs 50 RUB (0.8 USD), and can only be bought at a counter (sorry)

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So now that you’re in the subway, you must act as Russians. Please do. For you and also for me (yes I hate people that misbehave in the subway). So here are some basic rules:

  1. Walk fast, please. And if you want to admire the ornaments, stop on a side.
  2. In escalators, stay on the right. Or go on the left only if you’re not stopping.
  3. Let your seat to elders, children, bearing women, or (if you’re man) to women
  4. Stay close to the door only if you go out at the next stop.
  5. The station before your stop, go closer to the exit door.

Thank you. And it will prevent you from any Russian grannies assault (beware, they’re quite intolerant and violent).

Dreamstime © - Moscou - Métro (3)

To finish this very long post, I would advise you to always check your directions and especially when you want to go out of the subway. Choose the wrong exit and you’ll find yourself about 1km away from where you wanted to be! To help you, many indications have recently been translated in english… or at least in the Latin alphabet. In addition, the voice in the wagon indicating stops and directions are different according to where you go! If you go towards the center you’ll hear a male voice, on the contrary if you leave the center, it will be a female voice.

After reading this it can seems scary but trust me it isn’t. Russian transports and especially subways are very comfortable, clean, safe, fast and you almost never wait! So let’s go!

 

Want to book a guided-tour? Check out Tsar Visit!