advertisement

By Plane

All international flights into St. Petersburg land at Pulkovo-2 Airport (tel. 812/704-3822 for Pulkovo-1 [domestic flights] or tel. 812/704-3444 for Pulkovo-2 [international flights]; www.pulkovo.ru), which is friendlier and more manageable than Moscow's Sheremetevo-2 Airport. Pulkovo also has the advantage of a 2003 renovation that opened up the halls and lightened up the atmosphere, making the long lines for security and passport control much more tolerable.

Use of luggage carts is free. The airport money-exchange booths offer poorer rates than downtown; a better bet are the airport ATMs, which give rubles at the official Central Bank exchange rate. Internet access is available. The arrivals hall has an information desk with English-speaking personnel, car-rental desks, and airline ticket offices.

Tour groups won't have to worry about transfers to and from the airport, which is 16km (10 miles) south of the city limits or about a 45-minute ride to the center of town. If you're an individual traveler, arrange a taxi in advance from Pulkovo-2 by calling the official airport cab company at tel. 812/312-0022. Otherwise, you can negotiate a ride upon arrival. Official cabs are often scarce, and charge about 800 to 1,000 rubles to Nevsky Prospekt. Official cabs are either yellow or have TAXI written in big letters in English and Russian. The ubiquitous independent cabbies rarely go below 1,300 rubles for the same trip. Public bus no. 13 takes you to the Moskovskaya metro station, south of the city center. Tickets are just 18 rubles, purchased aboard. No trains serve the airport.

Domestic flights into St. Petersburg, from Moscow for example, come into the neighboring Pulkovo-1 Airport (tel. 812/704-3822). The facilities are similar to those of Pulkovo-2, though more basic. Taxi service is the same as at Pulkovo-1, and public bus no. 39 takes you to the Moskovskaya metro station. To book your transfer by Internet, go to www.saint-petersburg.com/transfers/index.asp.

By Train

It's worth mentioning, entering St. Petersburg by overnight train from Moscow is one of the most romantic things you can do in Russia. The Moscow-based trains arrive at, appropriately, Moskovsky (Moscow) Station, right on Nevsky Prospekt, within walking distance of several major hotels and adjacent to the Ploshchad Vostanniya and Mayakovskaya metro stations. The official taxis in front of the station set their own prices, which are invariably higher at the train station than elsewhere in town.

Another easy train connection is from Helsinki, 5 1/2 hours away (plus a 1-hr. time difference). The trip ends at St. Petersburg's Ladoga Station (Ladozhsky Vokzal, Zanevsky Prospekt 73; tel. 812/436-5310). Taxis from there to Nevsky Prospekt cost about 600 rubles. Three daily trains run to and from the Finnish capital, both stopping in Vyborg to clear Customs.

From Poland, Germany, and the Baltic states, trains arrive at Vitebsky Terminal (Vitebsky Vokzal), metro station Pushkinskaya, 52 Zagorodny Prospekt. If you are entering Russia from a European Union member country, you will need only a Russian visa. But if you enter through Belarus or Ukraine, you will need transit visas for those countries. Be aware, too, that rail passes that serve the rest of Europe do not include Russia.

By Bus

A few tour companies offer bus tours to St. Petersburg from Scandinavia on top-class Finnish coaches. From Helsinki the ride takes about 6 hours, including the long stop to clear Customs. Ordinary, nontour buses, which are cheaper than the train, are also available to and from Helsinki. If you travel on your own, you must take care of your Russian visa yourself. The road from Helsinki is relatively well maintained, unlike many others in the region. Buses arrive at St. Petersburg Bus Station (Avtobusny Vokzal; 36 Naberezhnaya Obvodonovo Kanala; tel. 812/766-5777).

By Boat

Many Scandinavian cruises include a stop in St. Petersburg, at the major commercial port 20 minutes north of the city center, at 1 Morskoy Slavy Sq. (tel. 812/322-6052; metro: Primorskaya and Vasileostrovskaya). Minibuses to the metro (K-47, K-128, K-129, K-183, K-273, K-310, K-349, K-359, and K-690) run frequently and cost around 25 rubles.

Most cruises include an organized bus trip to the center. This is the most convenient option, since the metro is a long walk and the minibuses are often overcrowded. The official taxis serving the port charge more than elsewhere; expect to pay about 500 rubles to Nevsky Prospekt in the city center.

By Car

A few intrepid travelers come to St. Petersburg by car from Finland. Not including the long lines for Customs and document check at the border, the 370km (230-mile) drive from Helsinki is about 6 hours. Once in St. Petersburg, head straight to your hotel and settle the parking question. It's easy to park in St. Petersburg, since nearly any sidewalk or embankment is fair game, though underground garages are extremely scarce in this city built on swampland. It's harder to guarantee secure parking, however. Existing maps in English do not indicate one-way streets or other crucial driving details, though the Russian-language pocket-size Atlas of St. Petersburg Roads (Atlas Dorog Peterburga) is quite useful. Traffic in St. Petersburg has gone from a trickle to a substantial rush-hour event over the past decade. Be sure to have all of the car's documentation in perfect order, as the ever-hungry traffic police will quickly spot and fine any infraction. Renting a car with a driver is easier and often cheaper than driving on your own.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.