St Petersburg Travel Information
Russia covers many time zones. Local time in Moscow is GMT +3.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are standard.
Russian is the official language. Some people speak English, French or German.
Travellers to Russia are advised to get vaccinations for hepatitis A and hepatitis B, to be up to date on vaccinations for tetanus-diphtheria and MMR (measles, mumps, rubella), and to consider vaccinations for typhoid, rabies and Japanese encephalitis if they are long-term travellers and/or spending time in rural areas. Drinking water should be treated; bottled water is readily available. There is a reciprocal health care agreement with the UK entitling citizens to free health treatment in hospital. Local state medical facilities are of a low standard, however, and visitors are strongly advised to have full insurance for medical treatment and accidents should they require private care. Blood transfusions should not be performed in Russia, due to uncertainties concerning the blood supply. Essential medications and supplies may be limited.
Hotel bills in the large Russian cities usually include a 10 to 15 percent service charge. If no service charge has been added a tip of at least 10 percent is expected. City Guides and their drivers also expect a small tip and tipping in bars and nightclubs is common.
As with travel to many Western countries, there is a risk of terrorism in Russia, but the risk is low in the well-trodden tourist destinations. Visitors are advised to be vigilant and to watch out for pickpockets and street crime; visitors are advised to be particularly cautious on the metro and buses, and should insist on seeing official ID from police officers. Political protests often end in violence and detention and visitors are advised to avoid all street demonstrations and political gatherings.
Photography of anything to do with the military, strategic sites, or the airport, is prohibited. In Russian Orthodox churches, women are advised to wear skirts and cover their heads with a scarf. It is a legal requirement for visitors to carry passports for identification; copies are not sufficient. Homosexuality is frowned upon and public intimacy between gay men should be avoided.
Russian business is conducted in a fashion similar to Western countries but with subtle differences. Russians are business-minded so it is not generally necessary to form personal relations with business colleagues but developing a good network of resident associates is a good idea. Dress is formal and conservative and on greeting a good firm handshake and direct eye contact indicates strength. Business cards are exchanged and it is advisable to get a Russian translation of your details on the alternate side. Business hours are generally from 9am to 6pm from Monday to Friday.
The international access code for Russia is +7. Public phones are good for local and international calls; they take phonecards, which can be bought at newspaper kiosks and post offices. Phone booths in airports and major hotels usually take Amex or Visa cards but are generally much more expensive than street phones. Mobile phone coverage is extensive in towns and cities, but can be limited in some remote areas. Internet access is available at internet cafes in major towns and cities.
The following may be imported into Russia without customs duty: 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarillos, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco products (over 18 years), 2 litres of alcohol (over 21 years), perfume for personal use, gifts up to the value of US$10,000. Tourists must complete a customs declaration form, to be retained until departure, allowing for the import of articles intended for personal use (including currency and valuables) which must be registered on the declaration form. Customs inspections occur. 250g of caviar per person may be exported, with a receipt proving it was purchased at a store licensed to sell it to foreigners and a licence from the Ministry of Economical Development. Any items or artwork that might have historical value, like icons, maps, coins or paintings, have to be registerd with the Ministry of Culture before departure, which usually involves a 100% customs duty fee.
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