Regardless of the kind of traveller you are, beyond the fact that you have spent the whole year saving to finally reach that destiny that you have always loved and even though you have all the money you need to do what you want, you better spend it in an intelligent way; it does not mean that you have to waste it.
What do we mean exactly? We mean that you should spend your money on things that are worth it. That’s why we have made a list with some tips to enjoy your stay in Saint Petersburg in the best possible way. And whatever money you got left, go spend it on some vodka. Drinking vodka in Russia is definitely a must-live experience.
The fact that something is expensive does not guarantee that it is going to be good
Nowadays, with all the changes that the tourism has suffered and the new ways of travelling, if there is one thing that never changes, that is the existence of opportunists, people who take advance of the traveller’s ignorance and of tourists in general. You will probably find an impressive variety of prices for a single trip or for a single dish. And having the money to pay it doesn’t mean you should. On many occasions (we would say that most of them) something being expensive does not mean automatically that is has the best quality.
That is what happens in restaurants. I am one of those who eat at street stalls with the worst possible appearance, but you don’t need to go that far.
When you are finally walking around Saint Petersburg, going down the beautiful and interesting Nevsky Prospekt avenue or walking around the grandest galleries or shopping centres, you will notice that they are full of restaurants offering typical Russian food. They will try to attract you with posters in English and by advertising exclusive promotions for tourists. The truth is that those restaurants aren’t usually very authentic. That happens in all big cities: everything that is advertised as exclusive for tourists is normally the least local. You know that everything is designed for entertaining foreigners who want to experience the local culture.
But all of that is actually prepared on purpose. If you really want to see the local culture and eat like a Russian, then you have to go away from the touristic places and go into a restaurant with the menu written only in Russian and choose what you are going to eat just because the name sounds beautiful. If you are walking around Nevsky Prospekt, just venture into the streets that intersect with it, because there you can find a great variety of small Russian restaurants that offer all kinds of local dishes. Moreover, this is a business area, so restaurants usually have executive menus at midday for office workers.
And the same for when you want to drink good vodka. Vodka is an important part of the Russian culture and, as such, we have to try it. There are many pubs and bars that offer different kinds of vodka at exorbitant prices, but especial for tourists.
My recommendation: go to any small or little inconspicuous bar full of Russian people. Dot not let yourself be fooled by the place’s appearance, Russians like drinking good vodka; the difference is that they pay it at a local price and they don’t pay a surcharge for the decoration or the atmosphere of the places that have been prepared for tourists.
Free walking tours
This new kind of walking tours on the different big cities of the world has improved very much the offer of this kind of tour. A few years ago the offer was not so extensive and, generally, only travel agencies offered them and at a quite high price.
Free walking tours are normally provided by students of tourism of history teachers who want an extra income.
The idea is that you give a tip to your guide at the end of the tour. It’s not obligatory (that’s why they are called free tours), but take into account that they have spent hours of their life to inform you and take you to the most beautiful places of the city. The good thing is that, if you really didn’t like the tour, you can just not pay, something impossible with an agency because there you have to pay beforehand.
Moreover, those tours offer many options inside a single city. In Saint Petersburg, you have walking tours that take you around the city centre, another tour exclusively about metro stations and another one about the most interesting buildings. You also have the possibility to choose a tour that is fully explained in Spanish.
Saint Petersburg is probably one of the better connected cities of the world. Well, I’m not going to set fire to myself for that because I still have many places to visit, but among all the cities I have visited, Saint Petersburg is definitely one of the best ones for exploring it on your own, without having to take taxis or spend lots of money.
Not only most of the important monuments are close from each other or within walking distance, but also every attraction has a metro station or a bus stop near it. You don’t have to walk more than four blocks to reach the most important monuments and historical buildings because you can reach them using just public transport.
You don’t always need to pay a ticket to enjoy something unique.
One of the strongest aspects of Saint Petersburg is that it is an incredibly eye-catching city. So when you go out of your accommodation to go to the supermarket or to buy some sweets, the buildings that you are going to see will leave you amazed. Moreover, during weekends, the second most important city of Russia also has street markets and fairs with food and handicrafts open to the public.
Saint Petersburg keeps imposing buildings from the soviet era that will make that stroll around the city something unique; but even so we recommend you to visit some of the museums and cathedrals which do have an entrance fee. Here you will find some of the most important and historic churches in the world.
Although you have to pay to go in some of the museums, some others have free entrance once a week. That day depends on the time of the year. We advise you to check promotions and free entrance days at each museum’s website.
The Hermitage entrance is free every first Thursday of the month. Remember that because it is one of the most expensive museums (but it is still worth the price).
The entrance to Peter and Paul Fortress in free every day. There are a few small museums inside it that are not free, but you can decide if you want to pay them in that moment.
The entrance to both the Battleship Aurora and the most important churches (Kazan Cathedral, St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral, and Vladimir’s Cathedral) is totally free.
Another of the things that you can enjoy for free is attending an Orthodox mass or even to listen a chorus live. You can do it at any church that is not a museum. It’s a unique experience that will help you discover the Russian culture from inside.
We hope that those advises will help you manage your finances in the best possible way, that you can expend it in good trips and that you don’t waste it in little things.
Where to change money in Russia
You will need Russian roubles to travel to Saint Petersburg. You can change your money in that country with Global Exchange. Check their branches location in the following map: