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Safety: Traveling to St Petersburg is generally safe. Tourists are unlikely to be victims of crime, apart from petty theft. Always carry your passport with you for identification and immediately report any incident to police. Try to avoid groups of beggars or gypsies and guard your valuables. As in any country, tourists should use common sense and avoid wandering alone in deserted places. Women traveling alone report few problems compared to similar sized cities in Europe and North America.
In recent years efforts have been made to eliminate the risk from pickpockets who used to plague the city center. Reports of thefts of wallets and purses have dropped dramatically in the last 2 years. As a precaution it is advisable to not carry a wallet in an exposed back pocket. The most serious threat to visitors is traffic. Drivers are not used to giving the right-away to pedestrians so cross streets with care and make sure cars are stopped before using a crosswalk. Driving overall has improved a great deal in recent years but do not expect the same adherence to rules of the road as in your own country.
Racism: Unfortunately still alive and well in St Petersburg. Please bear this in mind if you are of black or Asian origin.
Health Issues: Medical facilities range from modern world class to not much higher level than 3rd world. Citizens of EU countries should bring their medical coverage card because most of Europe has cross-coverage agreements with Russia to honor the national health coverage of the visitor's home country. The newer ultra modern and well equipped hospitals such as Medem at 16 Marata near Nevsky prospekt are accredited by major U.S. health insurance companies for payment in full. A common type of visitor to St Petersburg is the Medical Tourist who can have procedures that are very expensive in their home country done under superior conditions in St Petersburg for a fraction of the cost of back home. Dentistry is also sought by foreign visitors due to the remarkably low cost and quality care. It is a good idea to purchase comprehensive medical insurance before arriving in Russia or any other country you visit.. English and European languages are spoken in most clinics and hospitals. The American Medical Center on Moyka Embankment, Medi Elite on Nevsky Prospekt, Medem Hospital and others accept foreign insurance.
The water from the tap passes international standard tests for health but few visitors drink it due to rumors from years past when the city was a major industrial city with all the contaminants that entails. A new modern state of the art water treatment plant in the city center has brought the levels of purity up to high levels. The water does in places, traverse 100 year old pipes so it might have an off taste. All hotels and most cafes and restaurants have water filtration systems that produce good tasting water. The locals use water for cooking and tea but prefer juice, beer and mineral water over plain water. However, it is not recommended you drink the tap water. Bottled water can be purchased cheaply from any store in Russia, and this can be used as a substitute.
Food Safety: In general St Petersburg enjoys a good reputation for quality food which dates back to its founding in 1703. The first court chefs were European and a tradition of variety in cuisines was almost unique in Russia. A common worry for first time visitors is the safety of food and cleanliness of food preparation areas. Overall these are very good. The public health department inspects restaurants often, much more often than in the west. Stories of food caused illnesses are very rare. Any cafe or restaurant that looks interesting to a visitor is probably quite safe to dine in. The majority of newer restaurants have been foreign national cuisines with Japanese, Georgian, Italian, Chinese, British pub fare, Indian, Middle Eastern, French, American, Latin American and many more are common. Most of the pests that plague warmer climate restaurants seem to be rare in St Petersburg so seeing rats, flies, cockroaches and ants is not likely.
Restaurant prices are similar to Europe or the U.S., and seem to be getting higher every year making St Petersburg less than a bargain city for visitors. There are exceptions for low cost tasty food however. One popular alternative to more formal restaurants is the Blini stand. They are small enclosed kiosks on sidewalks or near metro stations that cook thin buckwheat pancakes to order with a wide variety of fillings from cheese and meat to strawberries or caviar. Most are filling and tasty for 40-60 Rubles each. However, you should be aware there is no running water (ie. no hand washing for employees) in these types of establishments. There is also fast food including Subway Sandwiches, KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Carl's Jr., in addition to the Russian versions which usually serve Russian traditional soups, Blini's, and Russian salads.
In summer 2012 a new cafeteria opened in the downtown of St. Petersburg - Market Place. Its menu includes a wide variety of courses: soups, salads, grilled meat and fish, desserts, drinks etc. Prices are pretty cheap and there are some offers like combos and lunchtime. The cafeteria is situated opposite the Kazansky Cathedral. It is a three storied building with coffeshop on the second store (also pretty cheap). Interiors are pretty modern and nice. This place is probably one of the best in the city in combination of price and quality.Coffee shops are mushrooming around the city and are generally filled with young people. A very popular destination for vistors and locals alike are the many British or Irish style pubs that are popping up everywhere. Some are rather nice and all feature pricy imported beer. A visitor knows they can find familiar languages being spoken in these establishments so they have become a home away from home for visitors and ex-pats as well as for locals. The most popular include Shamrock Irish Pub, Mollies Irish Pub, Dickens, the Office, Telegraph, The Post Office, Liverpool, Bulldog, a new one called Churchill's, and dozens more.
For fans of Sushi, every corner seems to have a cafe or restaurant serving Sushi now. Along Nevsky prospekt there are 8 currently with more up every side street. Restaurants tend to be a little more expensive in the city center, not because of tourists but because of the extremely high rents. Most city center cafes and restaurants have English menus. Tourist think they cause higher prices but the majority of visitors to these restaurants are locals and everyone pays the same prices.
It is always cheaper to buy food in food stores and cook yourself. If you have to do this you should know about places where to buy food. It is important for those who cares about combination of price and quality. It is common to buy food in chain supermarkets that are mushroomed around the city.
Diksy (Дикси), Pyatyorochka (Пятерочка), Sem'ya or 7ya (Семья или 7Я) - $
The cheapest chain food stores with low quality food. What is safety to buy there: some dairy products (pay attention on expiration date), seasonal vegetables (cabbage, carrots, beet, some others) and fruits (apples in summertime), cereals, beverages, food with long expiration terms. Don't recommend you to buy fresh meat, chicken and fish there.
Perekrestok (Перекресток) - $$
Middle class chain food store. Bigger variety of food and better quality. Here you can buy any kind of food. But be attentive with expiration dates on dairy products, cheeses, meat, chicken, fish etc. Better choice of fresh vegetables and fruits.
Vladimirsky passage (Владимирский пассаж), Stockmann (Стокманн) - $$$
The most expensive chain food stores in the city. The great variety of food. Quality is perfect. Normally there is a bakery and section with already prepared courses. There you can find food from all over the world. Clean, careful, friendly, light.
Market (Rynok = Рынок) - $$$
There are some markets that normally have a lot of private sellers selling vegetables, fruits, nuts, spices, meat, fish and chicken. The quality is good. And the best option is that you can choose what you want. There is no self-service and vendors usually don't speak English. Sometimes even Russian as they are immigrants from ex-USSR republics. Anyway it is a good idea to buy fresh meet, fish, chicken, some kind of cheeses, sausages, milk, cottage cheese there. Also the greates variety of spices in the city.
24hours shops (24 Часа) - $$$$
The worst places to buy food as prices are super high and quality of food is normally low. But these shops are spreaded all over the downtown (where you can hardly meet a cheap chain food store) and they work 24 hours a day (as normal food stores work 9am-11pm). If you can avoid these shops do it. If not be ready to spend a lot of money for low quality food.
Some food you can meet in the food store of any kind. And its price will vary according to the kind: the more expensive food store the bigger price is.
All local residents buy food in these food stores, that's why you can be calm about your health. If you had a chance to cook local food together with a local resident you can ask him\her to show you around these food stores and buy food together to know how to choose rightly.
Transportation: Transportation in St Petersburg is plentiful, with many options available. The most common are the metro and taxis which can be found around the city.
A very important factor for any tourist to note is that the wearing of a seatbelt in Russia is not mandatory. Most taxis do have them but you do not have to wear them.
Taxis, as with all cities, can look to rip off tourists - especially if there is a language barrier between yourself and the driver. It is customary in Russia for one to state their destination and then agree a price with the driver (or the taxi rank supervisor, if booking at a kiosk), before the journey begins. It is strongly recommended that you use reputable booking kiosks, or ask your hotel reception, to arrange your transport. Flagging down a taxi by the roadside is possible however can be risky if you do not speak good Russian. One should note that in Russia hitchhiking appears to be common, and so it is important to check the vehicle is indeed a taxi before entering.
Cultural Life: In Russia, smoking is permitted inside buildings. Many venues offer a "non-smoking" area, but some venues do not and allow guests to smoke whever they are. It would be wise to check the policy before smoking; ash trays are provided at tables in these areas.