St Petersburg Travel Information
Electrical current is 220 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 have up-to-date vaccinations for hepatitis A, tuberculosis and typhoid fever (long-term travellers), as well as medications for travellers' diarrhoea. There is also a risk of tick-borne encephalitis in rural and wooded areas, particularly in the Ural and Siberian regions. HIV/AIDS is on the increase. Measles outbreaks occur. 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 include a 10 to 15% service charge; otherwise 10% is usual. If a service charge hasn't been added at a restaurant, a 10% tip 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; visitors are advised to avoid all demonstrations.
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 with subtle differences. Russians are business-minded so it is not necessary to form personal relations 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's 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. When calling Russia from abroad, the initial zero on the area code must not be omitted. The outgoing code is 8 followed by 10 (a second tone should sound after 8), followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 81044 for the United Kingdom). City/area codes are in use, e.g. 495 for Moscow and 812 for St. Petersburg. 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 phones work in most large towns and cities. There are numerous local operators using GSM 900/1800 networks, each covering relatively small areas. Internet access is available at Internet cafes throughout the 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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