Russian Buses and Маршрутка
The most comfortable and efficient way to get around Saint Petersburg and Moscow is definitely the metro: it’s the fastest and easiest way for tourists and people that don’t know very much the city; in addition some metro stations are surprisingly beautiful, as real palace. But if one travels only underground he or she will miss part of the city. It’s true that Russian buses and trolleybus, not to mention маршру́тки (marshrutki), usually don’t give a good feeling to visitors but as soon as they start to use them, the system turns out to be very simple and efficient as well. I started to travel by marshrutki and buses to visit places out of Saint Petersburg as Peterhof and Pushkin, and to go and welcome my friends at the airport and I found it so easy and less expensive that I wonder why I didn’t do it earlier.
So then, why should one travel by Russian overground public transports since they are so slow compared to taxi or the metro?
First of all they are a cheap way to get around the city: buses and trolleybuses are even less expensive than the metro, only 28RUB. Next to this in almost all the buses the names of the stops are announced and in the trolleybus the stops are shown on an electronic board. Besides, by those means of transport you can get much closer to your final destination than by the metro. And what’s more, with those transports you will have the chance to enjoy the beauty of Russian cities as well as their authentic other side.
You can recognize buses and trams or trolleybuses and their stops because they are marked respectively with the letters “A” and “T”. They all have a conductor that sells tickets on board and in case there is none you can ask the driver for them. You have to pay the ticket by cash so it’s better to have with you some coins or small notes. In addition they have card readers so you can pay with the same electronic card you use for the metro. However the conductor usually checks your card again.
But there is another special transport in Russia marshrutka or маршрутное такси “marshrutnoe taksi”. This can be similar to a bus or a minibus, but most likely is a minivan. They are marked with the letter “K” followed by the number of the bus. They travel along fixed routes and usually connect metro stations and those ones to the suburbs of the city. They don’t have official stops: they use the buses’ ones, but they can stop everywhere to let you off. This possibility makes everything more difficult because you have to know more or less where to stop the marshrutka. However, to go to the main touristic places as Peterhof the driver usually stops anyway. In case you want to get off, you have to ask or shout at the driver “остановите пожалуйста” (ostanovites pozhaluisto). Eventually, since marshrutka are privately owned minivan, they are a little bit more expensive than public transport, (30-70RUB) and the price of the ticket depends on their route. You can pay only by cash and you should give the money to the driver when you get in or after the bus leaves.
Finally, when you decide to take a bus or a marshrutka I recommend you to ask the driver or who’s inside if it’s the right one, just saying maybe the name of the place you are going to, as “Peterhof?”. Sometimes it’s easy to find the right bus and mistake the direction and also in this way the driver will know when you want to stop and most likely warn you when you have to get off. Then my last advice is don’t be afraid of traveling by overground public transport and marshrutka because you may find it an easy way to get around the city, and above all traveling by marshrutka will be a true Russian experience!