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American Express -- The main local office is at 23 Malaya Morskaya, Business Center "Belye Nochi" (tel. 812/326-4500). It's open from 9am to 6pm and will cash traveler's checks. In the U.S., call tel. 800/221-7282.

Business Hours -- Businesses generally operate from 9am to 6pm. A few stores and businesses still take a lunch break between 1 and 2pm. Some shops are closed Sunday, but museums and restaurants are generally open. Several restaurants and bars are open 24 hours.

Currency Exchange -- Every St. Petersburg hotel, many restaurants, and all major streets have exchange booths (obmen valyuty), many of which are open 24 hours. They're well-guarded, reliable places to change cash. Rates are better than in most banks, and they're competitive, so shop around. Most don't charge a commission. Make sure your U.S. bills or euros are new and untainted, since crinkled or pre-1995 bills will be rejected. Exchange booths have a sign out front with four figures: the buy and sell rates for U.S. dollars, and the buy and sell rates for euros. To exchange other currencies, try the bigger banks, or the exchange booths in the underground walkway at Gostiny Dvor.

Dentists -- For international-standard service, try Dental Palace, Bolshoy Prospekt 79 (tel. 812/346-1951; www.dentalpalace.ru), or Stoma, 163 Nevsky Prospekt, (tel. 812/717-5770).

Doctors -- For Western-standard medical care and English-speaking staff, try these private clinics. They'll help you deal with emergencies, allergy attacks, or general health problems. Their services are expensive and may not be covered by your insurance company, so be sure to check with your insurer before you go.

  • American Medical Center St. Petersburg, 78 Naberezhnaya Moyky (tel. 812/740-2090; www.amclinic.ru).
  • Euromed, 60 Suvorovsky Prospekt (tel. 812/327-0301).
  • Scandinavia, 55a Liteyny Prospekt (tel. 812/336-3070).

Embassies -- St. Petersburg has consulates for many countries, though the embassies are in Moscow.

  • United States: 15 Furshtadskaya Ulitsa (tel. 812/331-2600).
  • Britain: 5 Ploshchad Proletarskoi Diktatury (tel. 812/320-3200).
  • Canada: 32 Malodetskoselsky Prospekt (tel. 812/325-8448).

Emergencies -- In case of fire, dial tel. 01; for the police, dial tel. 02; for an ambulance, dial tel. 03. For legal advice, dial tel. 065.

Holidays -- During holidays, St. Petersburg's commerce slows down but doesn't shut down. Many museums and restaurants remain open. Check with your hotel concierge or call the establishment to make sure it's open.

Hospitals -- Most Russian hospital employees speak little or no English, except for the top doctors. These are some of the bigger and relatively reliable hospitals:

  • Regional Medical Unit no. 20, 21 Gastello Ulitsa (tel. 812/708-4810)
  • City Children's Hospital no. 1, Avangardnaya Ulitsa (tel. 812/735-1207
  • Mariinsky Hospital no. 16, 56 Liteyny Prospekt (tel. 812/275-7310).

Internet -- Most hotel business centers offer online access, though at steeper rates than the Internet cafes popping up around the center of town. Try Quo Vadis, at 24 Nevsky Prospekt; or Café Max at 90/92 Nevsky Prospekt. Both are open 24 hours. Café Max also has a branch inside the Hermitage Museum.

Newspapers/Magazines -- The twice-weekly English-language newspaper The St. Petersburg Times (www.sptimes.ru) is the best and pretty much only worthwhile source of local news and entertainment listings in English. The International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, and other international publications are sold at the chain hotels and some of the Russian hotels, but not at city newsstands. The many bilingual guidebooks offered free at hotels and tourist offices are good for listings and museum reviews. For Russian speakers, Vedomosti, Kommersant, and Izvestia newspapers are the most respected; Afisha Petersburg is the best weekly magazine for entertainment, dining, and shopping advice.

Pharmacies -- St. Petersburg has an ever-growing number of pharmacies, called apteka, many of which are open 24 hours. Look for a blue or green cross. Check with your hotel concierge for the all-night pharmacy nearest you.

Police -- Call tel. 02.

Post Office -- The main city post office (Glavny Pochtamt) is at 9 Pochtamtskaya Ulitsa (tel. 812/312-8302).

Restrooms -- St. Petersburg has far too few public restrooms for its size, and the ones it has are odorous and often no more than a hole in the floor. A recent phenomenon is the vans parked at tourist sites such as Palace Square with portable toilets inside; these charge a small fee. Bring toilet paper everywhere. In a pinch, dive into any hotel or restaurant restroom.

Salons -- St. Petersburg residents make salons a part of their routine, and you can find the simpler parikmakherskaya (barber shop/hair salon) or the more elaborate salon krasoty (beauty salon) just about anywhere. Quality and prices are higher in the center. If you've got a night on the town, two central places to try (for both men and women) are Prestige, 56 Naberezhnaya Moiki (tel. 812/314-7521), and the fancier Adamant-Caprice, at 90/92 Nevsky Prospekt (tel. 812/272-7514).

Taxes -- Stores and restaurants include VAT (value-added tax) of up to 18% on the list prices of store and menu items, though many hotels do not include it in their listed rates. Ask if you're unsure. VAT is not refundable upon departure as it is in some European cities. St. Petersburg has no sales tax.

Pay phones: St. Petersburg is phasing out its token-operated phones for card-operated ones. The token-run ones rarely work and should be avoided. Cards for the other phones can be purchased at any metro station and many hotel kiosks in Moscow or St. Petersburg. Not all phones accept all kinds of phone cards, and not all phone cards allow international calls. The most common is Petersburg City Telephone Service. Most cards and card phones provide instructions, though very basic, in English.

Time Zone -- St. Petersburg is in the same time zone as Moscow, 3 hours ahead of GMT from October to March, and 4 hours ahead during daylight saving time. That means it's usually 3 hours ahead of London, 8 hours ahead of New York, and 11 hours ahead of San Francisco. Russia switches to daylight saving time a week earlier than Europe and North America, and reverts to standard time a week earlier, too. To check the current time from any fixed-line phone, dial 065 (Russian only).

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.