Saint Petersburg Part 1: 19 Things Not to Do
One day, I will take a trip from Saint Petersburg to Athens. I have no idea what the logistics would involve but I took a course on eastern European history once and I would just love to see the landscape, architecture, culture… for myself, fist hand.
With Saint Petersburg on my list, I was thrilled when Ed Ryder of Visit Saint Petersburg, a provider of private guide services in Saint Petersburg, approached me to provide information for my blog. Aware that Saint Petersburg is no Kansas, I asked for more than just what to do. I asked for what not to do as well. Here’s the latter. Please return tomorrow to read the former.
- Don’t be tempted to buy an antique, or anything that looks just a little bit old, or anything which might be perceived as having “cultural value.” Example: If you buy a World War 2 medal at a flea market and attempt to take it out of the country, you will be arrested and thrown in jail if they catch you.
- Leave your GPS device at home. You could be arrested if you are caught with one: http://vladivostok.usconsulate.gov/acsgps.html
- If you are visiting Russia for a short time, then avoid buying art — because you need to get art certified as being culturally insignificant to have a smooth pass through customs, and getting the proper documents takes time and know-how.
- Avoid bringing a lot of prescription medication into Russia. It is best to bring proof that your prescription medication was lawfully obtained.
- Avoid drinking water from the faucet. Don’t even brush your teeth with it. Use bottled water only. It is widely available. If you drink tap water, your vacation is at risk of being ruined.
- Avoid bringing currency into Russia that is torn in the slightest way, or that has any creases or unoriginal ink markings. It is best to order new money from your bank a few weeks before your trip. Seriously, it must be in *like new* condition. If you bring worn-out beat-up money into Russia, you won’t be able to exchange it. Imperfect bills are worth LESS and might not be exchangeable at all.
- The rules of the road are different in Russia, especially in big cities like Saint Petersburg. The reality is — they will run you over and consider it to be all your fault for getting in their way. Never assume that a driver will stop for you when crossing the street.
- During the cold months, don’t walk close to buildings. Falling icicles seriously injure and kill far too many people each winter in Saint Petersburg.
- Don’t rent a car. It is risky to operate a vehicle in Russia, partly because of the threat posed by corrupt police officers.
- Do not establish eye contact with a police officer. Don’t point your camera at them. Don’t do anything to invite a dialog with them. Many people — tourists and Russian citizens — have been shaken down (robbed) by police officers.
- Do not keep a wallet in your back pocket. Like most big cities, Saint Petersburg has its share of pickpockets and purse snatchers.
- Do not get drunk in Russia. It makes you a much easier target to those wanting your cash and credit cards.
- Avoid gypsies completely. If a bunch of gypsy kids surround you and begin trying to go through your pockets, throw them aside and continue walking away.
- Don’t buy souvenirs from street vendors. The pricing and quality is better elsewhere.
- If you see a wallet on the sidewalk, leave it there and keep walking. There’s going to be some drama if you pick it up and you might lose the money in your wallet as a result.
- Always avoid gatherings of protesters or demonstrators. The outcome is predictable — there will be a heavy-handed police response.
- Avoid “skinheads,” especially if you are not Caucasian. They have been known to attack non-whites.
- Avoid gatherings of soccer fans, especially if the local team just lost.
- Avoid overnight sleeper trains to Moscow. Take the faster and nicer business-class express trains instead. It’s much easier to get a good night’s sleep in a comfortable, private hotel room with a clean toilet than on a cramped, too-short bed in a train compartment that lacks air conditioning — which could also have hard-partying and loud-snoring Russians in it who might take your valuables when you doze off.
Despite the negatives, Saint Petersburg remains a very exciting and worthwhile destination. Tomorrow you can read about the top 15 things to do in Saint Patersburg.