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Is it safe to explore St Petersburg on your own without guides?

My wife and I have 3 days in August visiting St Petersburg on a Silversea cruise ship and I would love to go out walking both during the day and at night. My wife has been told you should not go out on your own, that it is dangerous. Is that true?

Posted by
4686 posts

It's perfectly safe - I spent 2.5 days alone in St. Petersburg in June 2016 and was out walking alone even late at night. St. Petersburg is kind of a rowdy town with people out late, having a good time, but I still felt quite safe there. People were friendly to me and I could have had more than one conversation had I spoken Russian (few people there spoke English). In fact, I'd say St. Petersburg is one of the more friendly towns I've visited. Just use common sense, and keep an eye on your belongings. Be very wary of pickpockets as you would in any other European city.

But the question is - will you have a Russian visa? If not, you may not be allowed to go around by yourself - you may need a guide. I visited on a ferry and was able to spend 72 hours there visa free (staying at a hotel) completely free to explore on my own, but I believe the rules are different for cruise ship passengers.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you. Yes I have applied for russian visas for both my wife and I. They are not cheap and was worried I wasted my money if it wasn't safe to explore independently.

Posted by
5637 posts

We never felt unsafe walking about St. Petersburg, day or night. Where did you get that idea?

Posted by
4686 posts

I would have thought it would be cheaper just to hire guides than to apply for Russian visas for only a few days, though I guess if they are multiple entry you could go back within the next few years.

Posted by
5700 posts

My husband and I are Olds. We have been to St. Petersburg twice. The first time we went for 9 nights and rented an apartment and managed everything on our own except for hiring a guide to take us to the Catherine Palace which was money well spent for the convenience. Other than that we mostly walked including fairly late at night back from ballet at the Mariinsky. At one point we got sort of lost and some helpful Russian strangers with almost no English to our almost no Russian managed to provide useful directions to get us heading back in the right direction. We went to the Hermitage 4 times and had no trouble arranging visits to the Church on Spilled Blood, the Russian Museum, the Faberge Museum, and a canal tour. We never felt at risk.

On the second trip we took a river boat from Moscow to St. Petersburg and added days on each end and so spent 5 nights in Petersburg and again managed most of it on our own. We did hire a car to take us to the Peterhof Gardens and then took the hydrofoil back.

Be pickpocket proof of course. And use city smarts. Cruise ships cater to the frightened and discourage independent touring partly because they are selling very expensive tours. We loved St. Petersburg and it is easy to navigate, very walkable, and we didn't feel threatened. We did not book any of the optional tours from the cruise ship and ended up spending far less for similar experiences and were much happier with the experience than our friends from the cruise who opted to let the cruise take them to the Peterhof and so forth.

Posted by
3226 posts

Even if you use a tour guide, you must have the visas to enter the country.

There is an exception if you arrive via one of the ferries. You can stay about 3 days but must also use the tour company they choose. No visa required provided you also leave on the ferry within the window of time allowed.