5 Handy Hints for Living in St. Petersburg
Thinking of coming to St. Petersburg? The beautiful Northern Capital is bursting at the seams with culture, history and art. With so much to explore, it’s worth getting to know the practical ins-and-outs of living here! I’ve put together 5 handy hints for life in St. Petersburg to help you truly get to know the city.
1) The Bridges
St. Petersburg isn’t called the ‘Venice of the North’ for nothing! Built on swampland, the city is spread over more than 30 islands, the biggest of which is Vasilyevsky Island (Васильевский остров). Although the weather here never lets you forget St. Petersburg’s marshy origins, one bonus of the islands are the beautiful bridges which connect them to each other. From the small footbridges crossing the canals to the larger ones that span the Neva, the city is full of bridges. It is important to remember that during the summer months the big drawbridges open up to let boats pass. Tourists and Russians alike watch the huge bridges split in two during the White Nights (Белые ночи). Make sure you’re on the right side of the bridge before it opens, as they normally stay up for a few hours. Find out the opening times of each bridge online to check that you won’t be stranded!
2) The Metro
The metro is one of the best ways to get around the city quickly and cheaply. A token for a single journey costs 45 roubles (about 60p), and you can also buy a reusable metro card. These can be topped up in the stations. The metro map is fairly straight-forward but it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the exits and entrances and find out which stations are connected to each other. De prepared for a long trip down! Thanks to its canals, the St. Petersburg metro is one of the deepest in the world and an escalator ride takes a few minutes. Take it from me, you don’t want to try walking up them! Also, most stations close at around 1am, so if you’re out later than this you should book a taxi.
3) Drinking Water
Don’t be shocked if your hot water has a slight brown tinge to it! Here in St. Petersburg the water pipes are very old and prone to erosion, causing the brownish colour. This water is fine to bathe, shower and wash your hands in, but isn’t suitable for drinking. As well as the antiquated water pipes causing impurities, the city’s water actually comes from the nearby Lake Ladoga (Ладожское озеро). The lake itself is stunning but its water is less appealing – it contains high levels of metal and parasites. To avoid getting ill, you should always boil your water before using it or just buy tap water. Bottled water is pretty cheap in St. Petersburg and every corner shop sells large bottles. Some locals also have filtered taps installed, which purify the water and are safe to use.
4) The Weather
Growing up in England, I’m used to all types of weather. So St. Petersburg is truly a home from home – it’s not unusual to start the day off under a thick jacket and then be strolling in the sun by the afternoon. In April, we had summery days followed by thick snowstorms! You’ll need a warm coat and snow boots in winter, when the temperature is regularly below freezing and thick ice covers the ground. However, bring your sunscreen as it can get up to around 25 degrees in the summer months. Rain is a constant threat thanks to the city’s marshy climate, and the wind from the Baltic Sea can make it feel a lot colder than it is. My advice is to wear lots of layers just in case the weather suddenly changes, and always carry an umbrella with you!
5) Hot Water
The three words ‘no hot water’ are enough to strike fear into even the most seasoned traveller. In St. Petersburg, the hot water supply is turned off for 2-3 weeks during the summer. Most houses and flats in the city get their heating and hot water from central providers and these have to be maintained once a year. However, it isn’t as bad as it sounds! In the middle of summer, the weather is usually very warm here so a hot shower is the last thing you’ll feel like doing. If you’re desperate for some hot water, the sun warms the pipes during the day, so the later you have a shower the more chance there is of (slightly!) warm water. Also, you’ll be told when the hot water’s going off – most locals try and plan their dacha visits around this time. Cold showers also have a range of health benefits, from curing acne to easing stress, so that’s one positive!
I hope these hints have told you a little bit more about life in St. Petersburg and will allow you to make the most of your time in the city. Are there any more useful tips for living here? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to take a look at the Liden & Denz blog for more information about living in St. Petersburg!
This post was brought to you by Tilly Hicklin, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz, St. Petersburg.