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by Ruth Murdoch  |  October 2018  | St Petersburg, Russia

The final blog in the series about St Petersburg is where you will find about hiring a guide, how much they cost, if it’s compulsory and what a guide will do for you.

You will also learn some facts about St Petersburg, the history and a little about the sad and interesting past of this beautiful city.

Then to the nitty-gritty of how much our three-day trip cost, including links to booking agencies, mistakes we made in buying advanced tickets, and how much each of the tourist attractions cost.

To Hire A Guide or Not

As you may have already read, if you’ve been following this series, is that hiring a guide in St Petersburg used to be compulsory.  The requirement to be chaperoned these days has been made redundant and you are free to wander the streets by yourself.  However, with a short 72-hours or three days to visit such a vast and full city, if you wish to gain the most from your limited time then my recommendation would be to find and pay for a guide.

Why A Guide?

I had chosen a guide on the last day for two reasons, one, because I wanted to venture further out of the main city centre and would need to navigate public transport or find a guide with a car, two, because we could be dropped off at the ferry without the hassle of finding the shuttle bus somewhere in the city that the ferry line makes available.

I also have an inquisitive mind and tend to ask lots of questions.  So having a guide on the last day gave me a chance to sort out what I wanted to know and make the most of his knowledge and expertise.

How Much Do Tour Guides Charge?

As you would expect, the prices for guides vary and can start from as little as US$15 per hour upwards.  I expect that the Russians are expecting Americans to visit, hence quoting in US dollars.  One American family I spoke with on the ferry told me they paid €500 for a guide for three days.  I found this to be a little excessive.

Not all guides have a car, so think about what you want from your guide before investing in one and choosing the right person who is best for you and your circumstances.

Some guides will just drive you around, and not give much of a commentary like we experienced for the night light tour (we had a taxi driver who drove around the city at night).

Then you can pay for an agency guide, someone who is registered with the various attractions and is given priority over things like skip the line benefits.  With these guides you will be paying for the agency as well as the guide, so obviously expect them to be more expensive.

Then there is the type of guide we hired.  He is a private guide without any of the extra agency costs.  Be prepared when hiring a guide like this to pay for his entrance ticket also (however at local prices, not tourist prices).  Our guide had an identity card to prove he had residency.  We paid our guide €25 per hour which included his car (a new Mercedes ML350 4WD) and his fuel costs.

What Will A Guide Do For Me?

There are different options and different types of guides depending on if you are in a group, are a couple, or a family.  If you want someone to set your itinerary, collect you from your hotel each day, show you the sights, and deliver you back safe and sound then that can certainly be arranged.  You would possibly be best to use an agency guide for this purpose.

Or you can ask a guide for suggestions if you don’t have the time or inclination to do the research yourself.

Then there’s the option we chose.  Given I had extensively researched and set our itinerary for what we wanted to see and do, I didn’t think it was necessary to have a guide for the first two days because everything was in close walking distance to our hotel.  On the last day, however, the attractions were further out of town and I didn’t want to negotiate with local transport, purely for the fact that we had limited time.  Plus we wanted to be dropped back to the ferry terminal rather than having to lug our bags around the city to find a shuttle bus that had been pre-arranged.

Our guide was very knowledgeable and had been previously recommended to me by others who had used his services.  For me, a guide will give you much more information than you could possibly get yourself and make the short timeframe and investment of a three day visit even more enjoyable.  Plus you can ask questions and if you are anything like us, you will have about a million of them.

I suggest you Google the options and see what type of guide suits your circumstances and budget.  There is a lot of information available online.

Or else, I’m happy to share our Guide’s details if you like the sound of him.  Just email me here and I will be in touch.

Interesting and Historical Facts of St Petersburg, Russia

Saint Petersburg has changed its name throughout history more than most.   Originally known as St Petersburg, Nicholas II decided on 31 August 1914 to rename the city Petrograd as he felt that the name sounded too German like.

Then on 26 January 1924 Petrograd was renamed Leningrad after Lenin’s death.

It remained Leningrad until communism ceased in Russia on 6th September 1991, when the name changed back to its original St Petersburg.

There is also a St Petersburg is Florida, USA, so when booking your ticket just make sure you have chosen the right country!

St Petersburg was founded upon a swamp in the 17th Century.  With little sunlight, which hasn’t changed today, it was said only cabbages and turnips would grow there. It was forbidden to fell trees for fuel, so hot water was permitted just once a week.

As we drive around the guide is giving us lots of facts and figures about St Petersburg that I find rather interesting.  Here’s what I recall:

  • St Petersburg is just 315 years young (by European standards that is apparently young).
  • St Petersburg is named after St. Peter, not as many assume by Peter the Great who founded this city and who also founded the Russian navy.
  • Peter the Great studied shipbuilding in Amsterdam and wanted to model St Petersburg on the city of Amsterdam.
  • There are 65 rivers in St Petersburg with 500 bridges, 12 of which are drawbridges and go up every evening (between 1.30am and 5am) to allow for ships to pass underneath.
  • The Trinity Bridge, which spans across the Neva river, was built by the builders of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
  • This city used to be the capital, until 1712 or 1718 (depending on which source you read or hear) when the capital then changed to Moscow.
  • The population is somewhere between 5.5 and 6.5 million (official stats are difficult to come by apparently).
  • In 1862 Russia sold Alaska for $7.2M because it needed the money after the war against Turkey.  Russia only later discovered Alaska was rich with oil.
  • During the second world war every second person living here died, mainly due to starvation. We learnt that sadly people were supplementing their meager food rations by boiling up wallpaper and leather into their soups and were making bread from sawdust and cardboard.
  • The average life expectancy for a male in Russia is 60 years of age. (Many factors are involved in this including war and the hard physical work undertaken by many men who work in the countryside, even today).
  • Russian slavery was only abolished in 19th century.
  • The mainstay of St. Petersburg is shipbuilding, nuclear icebreakers, and of course tourism.
  • St Petersburg is also called the ‘Venice of the North’ due to its many man-made rivers (or canals).

How so many buildings survived the bombing of the Germans is a testament to the creativity of the citizens who camouflaged important buildings with nets to prevent them becoming targets.

I for one am grateful for this foresight so that I can stand here today looking at the marvelous architecture that makes this city incredibly unique.

 

Our Costs for a Three-Day Visit to St Petersburg Russia

Before looking at our expenses you must know that we are traveling full time in our motorhome so every cent we spend is considered carefully.  You may not need to be so cost conscious.

Below are our costs, including related expenses, eg parking our motorhome safe and securely for the time we were away.

Everyone, including us now, raves about the food in St Petersburg which is AMAZING and oh so cheap, so make sure you dine out regularly.  We didn’t have time to stop for lunch (breakfast kept us going) and we packed our evening meal (some sandwiches) on the first night on the ferry to help reduce costs.

We also didn’t purchase a lot of souvenirs simply because we don’t have the capacity for such luxuries.

You can get further information on each expense in the notes table below.

Here are our costs…

NotesExpense CategoriesCosts
*(unrelated expenses, see notes below)
1Camping Ground for Motorhome Storage68.00
2Food211.12
3Alcohol39.98
4Haircuts *34.00
5Pharmacy *24.92
6Souvenirs17.99
7Attractions & Entertainment (incl. guide & taxi)519.90
8Ferry382.00
9Accommodation Puskha Inn Hotel328.87
Totals€ 1,626.78
1Rastila Camping,
GPS coordinates are N 60º12'24'' E 25º7'16''. The cost was €17 per night x 4 nights
Book here
2Three dinners average price €48, dearest [and least impressive] was on the ship @ €65. We took sandwiches for the first night on the ship to reduce costs.

Three breakfasts, average €22, dearest was on Ship €30, hotel €20.40

Note we didn’t eat lunch at all (didn't have time and breakfast was ample)
3Drinking out twice €29.60 [average €14.80]

€24.10 on ship on trip over was expensive
4Cheap for two haircuts on the ship (male €14 and female €20)
5Cheap place for prescription medicine (we had the script with us)
6Scarf €4.50 and small Russian Doll set €13.49 (called Matryoshkas). These dolls are the most recognised symbol of Russian tourism.
They are a set of traditional dolls (its origin dates back to 1890) that are hollow, and in each doll there is another and another, typically five is a common number but they have been made up to 75.
7Church of Spilled Blood €6.38 (250 RUB)

Hermitage Museum US$34.90 (€30.05). Here is where we made a mistake. We ordered the tickets online (because the research suggested this was how we could avoid huge queues). However at the end of August there were not any queues and we could have purchased tickets inside the gate from electronic kiosks. We suggest you think about the time of year you are visiting and if it’s the height of summer (July and beginning of August) then this might be worthwhile, however outside of these times we suspect it’s not necessary to pay extra. The Hermitage Museum has a number of separate entries and we didn’t ever see people lining up to go inside.

St Isaac Cathedral €9.56 including Guide's entry (at local rates)

Peterhof Gardens €26.14 including Guide's entry (at local rates)

Seaman's Church FOC – great value

St Nicholas Cathedral – FOC – we like this price

Swan Lake Ballet €279.92 To book go here http://www.GetYourGuide.com

Taxi to and from Ballet and night lights sightseeing €17.85

Guide €150 (paid in Euros, €25 per hour including vehicle)

One of the best guides I’ve come across that helps you buy tickets and to learn about the schedule is here. I wish I’d come across this before our trip.
Also if you need an extended visa, the process is here in simple to understand language.
Visa and other Resources
8Shuttle €25ea (mandatory), 3 hour bus tour €45ea (optional), Ferry €121ea includes ‘pet’ (standard) cabin 98m2 (small but adequate). To book your tickets from Helsinki Visit here
9Pushka Inn Hotel is located at Moyka river embankment, 14, Tsentralny District
We booked two nights in standard room and were given the only room with a bath (oh what a luxury). Great location, very central to the city and attractions. Would definitely stay here again. We booked using Booking.com
Or book direct here

A Work Of Art

Faberge Eggs

Matryoshkas (Russian Dolls)

Other Blogs in this Series on St Petersburg, Russia

Follow my series of blogs below to find out how we filled in our three days in St Petersburg and more…

Introduction To St Petersburg, Russia includes how we arrived into St Petersburg and from where, about the 72-hour visa-free visit, motorhome parking in Helsinki, Finland, Currency, Internet, Water, Our Expectations and Top Attractions

Day 1 St Petersburg includes the Ancient Sphinx, Rostral Columns, St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral, Isaakievskaya Square, Kazan Cathedral, Church of the Savior on Blood

Day 2 St Petersburg –  includes The Hermitage Museum, Swan Lake Ballet, and photos of St Petersburg by Night

Day 3 St Petersburg – you are reading now, includes Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Peterhof Gardens, Kronstadt Naval Cathedral

Summary: Hiring a Guide, History and Interesting Facts, and Costs – you are reading this now.

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