Something to calm the nerves?

Dec 28th, 2004, 07:27 PM
  #1  
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Something to calm the nerves?

I am taking my first trip to St. Petersburg, Russia and am rather nervous about it. I've read so many articles that portray Russia as an unfriendly place to go. Is this true? Are there really as many criminals and pick-pockets there as described on so many travel websites? How about the going through customs in St. Petersburg? Is this a long and tedious process? I would greatly appreciate anything that anyone can relay about their trip to Russia - something to ease my nerves? Thank you.
ThomasTPA23 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2004, 08:35 PM
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Hi Thomas,
I have been to St. Petersburg twice. Once with a small tour group and once on a cruise (three days in St Petersburg). Both times I had a guide. The cruise had exceptional tours but was expensive (I know this depends on what each of us thinks expensive is) but worth it. You do not say how you are going (group or alone). St Petersburg is wonderful and has great "side trips" as well. My first trip was about 8 years ago and the people were not outgoing and seemed not very friendly but the last trip (I think about three years ago) everyone wore bright colors and was much friendlier. I would secure a guide especially if you do not speak or read Russian. Just use caution and good sense. I remember I was told to secure a cab from a hotel and not just get in one on the street. I loved this city. The art alone in wonderful. And so full of history. Happy travels!!
mimipam is offline  
Dec 28th, 2004, 10:54 PM
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Vodka? Well, you are going to Russia!

Just kidding. Rest assured, you will be fine. My aunt and uncle live in Moscow and if I were to compare the 2 cities, I would take St. Petersburg anyday. Aside from its beauty, the city atmosphere is wonderful, with a French, cosmopolitan flair (the city was laid-out by French engineers and architects), and the Hermitage Museum is not to be missed.

Russia itself is not portrayed as a "happy" or friendly country (read: open here); however, there are still very many nice people. They do not have an open look or smile on their face (as most Americans do) and they do not acknowledge one on the street with a smile or salutation. It takes them much longer to warm up to strangers and acquaintances. This seems true of former Eastern bloc countries and their inhabitants, as my sister has experienced the same in Berlin with former East Berliners she has met over the years.

In general, Moscow is far more frenetic and packed with people than St. Petersburg. The busses and Metros in Moscow are handy places for pick-pockets to hang out. However, I never felt that feeling in St. Petersburg. I have not gone through customs in St. Petersburg, only Moscow's (which, again, I am sure is more rigorous). Enjoy yourself and have a good trip.
Huitres is offline  
Dec 30th, 2004, 04:32 AM
  #4  
P_M
 
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It was my observation that the Russians do not yet understand the concept of customer service. But who can blame them, after so many years of Soviet rule they never learned that in a free enterprise system, people will buy from you if you treat them well. I did notice that the street vendors were more friendly than workers who get paid the same whether you buy or not. I think this is getting better with time, but they are not all quite there yet.

Regarding pickpockets, yes they do exist in Russia because the people are poor. But if you use the same common sense while traveling anywhere else in the world, you s/b OK.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to St. Petersburg and I'm sure you will do the same.
P_M is online now  
Dec 30th, 2004, 06:15 AM
  #5  
 
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St Petersburg is a fantastic experience - but the travel is not as easy as in western or central europe. The tourist infrastructure is not nearly as well developed yet, english is not as widely spoken (and the cyrillic alphabet makes sounding things out harder) and - as mentioned - customer service is still not widely understood.

BUT - there is nothing to make you nervous - just a little extra prep work involved.

You need to be preared to deal with all this. Also, you should at least learn the basics of the cyrillic alphabet. But - given a little extra work - the rewards are more than worth it.
nytraveler is offline  
Dec 30th, 2004, 07:16 PM
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Don't worry about your trip to Russia. Although keep your eyes open and beware of your surroundings. Watch for the pick-pocketers they love to target the tour groups on the metro, try to stay away from metro during rush hour. The gypsy kids along Nevski can be a problem, don't be attracted to them. I have seen tourists stop and try to me nice to them, meanwhile they pick your pocket, watch out for pickpocketers in doorways. Watch out for the drunks.

For customs be aware what the procedure will be. Make sure that you have filled out your emigration card before you get to the first desk, wich will be the imigration post. Once you have collected your luggage you go through customs, just walk through the green exit, unless you are filling out a customs declaration. You will find ATM for Russian rubles in the area before customs.

For more information, have a look at WayToRussia.Net Guide To Russia at
waytorussia.net
Garfield is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 04:30 PM
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MNP
 
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I just LOVE Russia.
I agree that their customer service skills aren't the greatest, but I also have to say the Russian people are some of the friendlist people I have met. I have formed long lasting friendships with many Russians. My one tip is to not be scared or nervous about Russia, Especially Petersburg. You will enjoy it more this way. Simply use the same amount of caution as your would while visiting any city.

Enjoy it, Russia is such a magnificant and wonderful place!!!
MNP is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 04:44 PM
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I remember the passport control officers were VERY serious, businesslike ...NO smiles. They were kind of scarey.

BUT, they were very kind and warm to any children going through ...a big smile and a friendly welcome for every child.

The biggest problem we encountered in the streets were extremely aggressive souvenir sellers. Sometimes they followed us down the street. If you are not interested you must say NO very firmly.
suntravler is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 05:26 PM
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i went to St. Petersburg, on a cruise, 3 years ago. It is a city of extremes, i think. extremely poor, and extremely wealthy. the buses had bare springs on the seats--no fabric at all. the people do not smile, and they do not make eye contact. although the cold war is gone, there were armed military on some streets. we went with a local guide, as arranged by the cruise lines. the guide was extremely knowledgeable, although, not friendly at all---just all business.
the art works are fabulous there--the largest collection of art work on the EARTH--but it is kept in buildings that are NOT climate controlled, and the Hermitage, had ceiling leaks. The tour guide had to bribe the clerks and guards, at the entrance to the Hermitage, and other museums, for our group to get inside, although we had paid for tickets. Just their way of doing business.
Our cruise ship (Princess lines) had a generator break down, while we were in port in st. Petersburg. the Russians would "rent" us a generator, but it would take hours to get it to our ship. We had boarded the ship, to depart, when it was discovered that the generator on the ship had "died". the Russians would NOT let us de-board the ship, and shop/eat/explore, and there were hundreds of us, that would have liked to gotten off the ship again, to spend money. and believe me, the russian people could use the money. but, the powers that be, would not negotiate with the captain of our ship, and therefore, we sat in the dark, with only cold things to eat, as there was no power to cook food.
It was just an interesting concept, of how another culture lives. I would go back in a heartbeat, but it would have to be with a guide, that somehow, had been checked out, as knowledgeable, spoke english, etc.
as mimipam wrote, the people did not wear bright colors. we encountered a number of very elderly women, standing outside of museums, etc. they would not say a word, but stand quietly, looking at the ground, with their hand out (by their side). they were poorly dressed, in worn shoes, and holes in their sweaters, with scarves on their heads.
the guide admonished us, for wanting to give these very elderly women, some money. the guide later explained, that after the cold war was gone, and the people there had no knowledge of free enterprise, it left the elderly very poor.
She said a number of the elderly, say 6 or 8, would live in a one bedroom flat, due to the high cost. they would pool their money, to be able to pay for food AND heat. seems during the cold war, they were given subsidies, and had their homes paid for. without those subsidies, they were starving. it was really sad to see.
I felt very safe the 3 days we were there--but we always had a guide. it is an extremely interesting city---go and enjoy.
at least that was my experiences....
surfingmomma
surfingmomma is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2005, 05:52 PM
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where did my reply go?
surfingmomma
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Jan 2nd, 2005, 06:36 PM
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as a native Texan--i can say that in Texas, lots of people have smiles on their faces, and acknowledge others on the streets.
it does happen.
surfingmomma
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Jan 3rd, 2005, 08:25 AM
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Just got back from both Moscow and St Petersburg. I did a fair amount of research on the web by just reading all the web sites and Fodors. I had no issues. Like any big city, people are not going out of their way to greet you and wish you a wonderful travel as they might do at some tourist location here who wants your money. Customer service is not good or great but you have to just sit back and enjoy. Of course, I got back to the airport in the US and experienced the worse customer service I have ever seen. Never saw it that bad in Russia. But overall, do you research and it is easy. You can ride the Metros until they close with no problems.
Subway_Scoundrel is offline  
Feb 21st, 2005, 01:26 PM
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I can put you in touch with a wonderful man in St. Petersburg who can act as an "escort/interpreter/bodyguard" for all or part of your stay there. He is not a trained guide, but as such his fees are far less than a guide. Guides typically charge $70-80 a day, and this man charges $30. His name is Andrey, and he is a minister of a small Christian congregation there, a perfect gentleman, speaks excellent English. We used his services last year and it was a wonderful experience......we were essentially seeing the city "on our own," but with "insider help"...Great!
Email me if you would like to contact Andrey. [email protected]
marybethcl is offline  
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