The St. Petersburg climate is similar to Scandinavia. In the short summer (mid-June to mid-August), temperatures can reach 30° C. The winters are generally cold and temperatures can fall below minus 20º C. The position of St. Petersburg on the Gulf of Finland tempers the summer heat a little, and in autumn and winter produces a cool breeze. Moscow’s climate is continental: cold in winter and hot in summer.
Moscow and St. Petersburg are CET + two hours. Summer times are the same as in Western Europe.
The standard voltage is Russia is 220 volts. Unearthed Western European plugs with two narrow pins fit Russian sockets. An adapter is required for Swiss three-point plugs and German earth contact plugs.
The following are not working days in Russia: January 1 and 2 (New Year), January 7 (Orthodox Christmas), February 23 (Day of the Defenders of the Motherland), March 8 (International Women’s Day), May 1 (International Labour Day), May 9 (Victory Day – End of Second World War), June 12 (Independence Day), November 4 (Day of Reconciliation and Accord) and December 12 (Constitution Day). When a holiday falls on a weekend, the next weekday is generally a day off.
No general rules exist, or at least none are followed. Most shops and businesses open from 10 am and close in the late evening. Many food shops and restaurants are open 24 hours. Exchange bureaux usually close at 8pm. Many shops also open on Sunday.
Western European mobile telephones work in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Calls abroad from Russia by mobile telephone are extremely expensive. Both cities have plenty of Internet cafés and there are computers available in both Liden & Denz schools. Personal laptop computers can be connected up to the Internet in our wireless zone.
Euro, US dollars and other currencies can be exchanged everywhere. Exchange rates for Euro and US dollars are usually higher than for the other currencies. Banknotes should be as new as possible and in good condition, as notes that are worn, torn, have been written on or are otherwise marked are not accepted. There is no need to bring notes in small denomination. Students should be aware that they will not be able to change any money without a passport (or a passport copy stamped in the Department of Visas and Registrations) in most currency exchange offices.
Please note that despite inflationary tendencies the only accepted form of payment in Russia is the Rouble.
Although crime has become a problem in post-Soviet Russia, foreigners in Moscow and St. Petersburg have nothing to fear provided they behave as they would in any major European city. Common sense rules. Negative reporting about Russia is often wildly exaggerated. And when complaining, as many Russians do, about the growth in crime, it is worth remembering that the Soviet Union was one of the safest countries in the world and crime has risen from a very low level. Below are some basis safety tips.
Out and about: Only carry with you what you need for the day or evening, i.e. enough cash, and credit cards only if you plan to use them. Otherwise, leave them at home. In Moscow you should always carry your passport with you. In St. Petersburg, a copy will do.
Pickpockets: Keep a close eye on your possessions at all times and especially in restaurants and cafés. Bags and mobile phones are stolen even in the smarter places with security guards.
Taxi rides: Private taxis are a popular form of transport. If you decide to take a tchastnik (private driver), ask yourself three questions: 1. Is the driver sober, is he alone and can you agree the destination and price with him? If the answer is “yes” to all three, you can get into the car with an easy mind. Of course, this fast and flexible form of transport still has its risks, but experience suggests that it is riskier to walk home alone along dark streets than to take a taxi along the same route. All the same, we do not advise women to take a taxi ride alone.
Nighttime police checks: The Russian police have a dubious reputation, particularly when it comes to separating helpless foreigners from their money during so-called police checks at night. Nighttime revellers are advised not to walk around alone after midnight – and definitely not in a drunken state. If a police control arrives, stay calm and polite and do not hand over your cash.
Important telephone numbers:
- Fire service: 01
- Police: 02
- Emergency medical treatment: 03