Finally I set foot in the biggest country in the world! The moment I learnt that Philippines is one of those 53 foreign States that was granted an e-visa to enter the Russian Federation, in the territory of Saint Petersburg and the Leningrad region, I booked a flight right away! Bucket list checked.
Getting an e-visa is fast, easy, convenient and free. An e-visa is issued within 4 calendar days, including weekends. There is no need for any invitations or confirmations. Just fill in the application form on the website. Also, there is no need to visit the consular agency during its business hours. The website works 24/7. The best part of it, you do not need to pay for anything to obtain an e-visa. Fantastic, right?! But be reminded to review the terms of the free e-visa being offered by the Russian government to Filipinos. The e-visa is only valid for a maximum of eight travel days and is only available to those traveling for tourism, business, and humanitarian purposes. The visitor entering Russia through St. Petersburg with an e-visa, allows you to enter and exit only through that city. If your connecting flight is through Moscow, yes you read it right, even just a connecting flight, make sure you obtain a Russian visa otherwise you will be stopped in your local airport and barred from boarding your flight to St. Petersburg. You cannot fly to St. Petersburg via Moscow because you will not be allowed to pass the border control in the Russian capital. The bottom line is simple: read the rules carefully, plan accordingly and enjoy your trip!
Travelling in Russia is generally very safe. Russia is not that scary at all. Meaning of course that travelling to Russia is as safe as visiting any other European country. Large cities like St Petersburg are especially safe for travellers both during the day and at night. Also, remember that Russia is not the most expensive city in Europe. So when choosing a restaurant, taking a cab or buying souvenirs be mindful of what the prices should be. The best way is to ask locals for recommendations, or perhaps to have a quick browse on the internet to prevent any monetary disappointments.
St. Petersburg is an endlessly rewarding place to travel. I fell in love with the city. I have so many thousand little stories including my tips but here’s a few I can share with you…..From Russia with Love!
St Petersburg, the second largest city in Russia, known as the ‘City of the Czars’, offers a fascinating glimpse into Russia’s historical relics.
I. Visit churches (Catholic and Orthodox)
- Catholic Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria. The very first on my list of places to visit. Oh, how can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I attended a Sunday Service in Russian Language and that didn’t dissuade me from attending mass. It is still the Holy Eucharist. It is the oldest Catholic church in the Russian Federation, and the only church with the title of basilica. It is located on the Nevsky Prospekt and is a part of the Archdiocese of Moscow.
- Church of the Resurrection, also known as the “Savior on Spilled Blood”, was built in memory of Alexander II who was assassinated in 1881 at the site where the church now sits, the reason why it is called “spilled blood”. The church stands in the very place where a bomb was thrown into his carriage by a young man who opposed the Tsar’s reforms. It has a similar façade to St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow and its peculiar multicoloured exterior makes the church stand out. It works mainly as a museum. Services are held here, but only on weekends and church holidays.
- Kazan Cathedral, one of the city’s most famous landmarks with its instantly recognisable semi-circular colonnade with 96 columns. It is a cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church, a replica to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
- St. Isaac’s Cathedral . The interior is adorned with gold trim, mosaics and paintings. The cathedral that currently functions as a museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day of that saint.
- Russian Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church. This small but beautiful church is worth a look though it’s not a major tourist site and obviously not as large and impressive as other churches in St. Petersburg’s central city. I stumble upon this place, a 20 or 25 meters off of Nevsky Prospect.
II. Hermitage Museum
The second-largest art museum in the world, a museum of art and culture in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The main collection of the museum is in the so-called Main Complex, consisting of five interconnected buildings: the Winter Palace, the Small Hermitage, the New Hermitage, the Great (Old) Hermitage and the Hermitage Theater. The people of St. Petersburg call this great complex as the Winter Palace, since it is the main building and the one appears in all photos and postcards.
Tip: Skip the long queue. Tickets can be bought on the same day of the visit at the ticket offices or at the automatic machines (in which case the museum is accessed through the main door of the Winter Palace) or in advance on the museum’s website.
III. Nevsky Prospect
It is St. Petersburg’s main avenue and one of the best-known streets in Russia. It also the city’s central shopping street and the hub of the city’s entertainment and nightlife.
IV. Avtovo Station
For the beauty and splendor, check out Avtovo. I wonder if I have arrived at a subway stop or at a palace. You have to take long escalators to go all the way down. This resulted in the average depth of St Petersburg metro being the deepest one in the world. I swear, I regretted that I turned back to check how high it was, oh, my knees were wobbling with fear. Hehe! Anyway, the metro in St Petersburg is not just a means of transport. It is also renowned for the beauty and the architectural ingenuity of its stations.
V. Peterhof Palace
As the saying goes the same for all travellers to this grand city, that most of the best attractions are actually outside of the centre. Peter the Great not only founded St. Petersburg, he also established the magnificent series of palaces and gardens along the Gulf of Finland, called Peterhof.
The most convenient way to get to Peterhof is by taking the hydrofoil, a jet-speed boat that travels across the Gulf of Finland, from the city centre to Peterhof. The hydrofoil takes you directly there. However, there were fewer daily crossing in October during the winter schedule. So, if you’re bold enough to communicate with the locals, just take the train and minibus. It takes approximately 40 minutes to get there. Tip: Before you begin your journey, please check your calendar, as Peterhof is closed on the last Tuesday of every month.
VI. Watch drawbridges
When coming to St Petersburg seeing the drawbridges at night is an absolute must. I recommend to take a boat trip, it will give you a romantic feel. You will see right in front of your eyes, the bridges raising their wings. You can also go to Palace Bridge, one of the most popular locations to watch the bridges go up over the Neva River.
VII. Bronze Horseman
The most famous statue of Peter the Great was immortalised as the Bronze Horseman in the epic poem by Alexander Pushkin. With his horse (representing Russia) rearing above the snake of treason.
VII. New Holland Island
It is a historic triangular artificial island in St. Petersburg Russia, dating from the 18th Century. As the locals say, the buildings looked very similar to the ones in Amsterdam back in the 18th Century, thus the name of “New Holland” was given to this triangular island not far from the Neva River. Peter the Great used it as a naval port, but mostly for timber storage.
VIII. Visit Shopping Malls
Galeria Shopping Mall the largest, the most famous and visited shopping mall in the very heart of St. Petersburg at the intersection of the main city’s avenues – Nevsky and Ligovsky.
The Glass Passage. A stunning arcade with a glass roof which gives you the impression of air and light. A passageway which connects two busy streets, Italianskaya St. and Nevsky Prospect.
Nevsky Center Shopping Mall is a seven-story shopping mall, one of the largest in Saint Petersburg.
IX. The Mikhailovsky Theatre
If you love opera and ballet, St. Petersburg is for you. Watched Mozart’s opera – Die Zauberflöte (Magic Flute). Fantastic!
X. Singer House
Dom Knigi (Singer House), also known as the House of the Book. St. Petersburg’s largest and most famous bookshop. You can also purchase affordable and nice souvenirs from there.
XI. Food Binge
Travel and food, they go hand in hand. Travel without food is nothing and trying out different cusines is a must on a to do list.
Terrassa, one of the city’s most stylish restaurants. Situated in one of the trendier districts of St Petersburg, provides a stunning view of Kazan Cathedral. The restaurant is elegant. The food is a blend of fusion cuisine and traditional European. Highly recommended!
“Cчастье” – Schastye or The Home of Happiness is located in the hotel “Angleterre”, near the Alexander Garden. A restaurant with great food and quiet and elegant atmosphere. Highly recommended!
Teplo, meaning “warmth” in Russian. It is a popular restaurant in downtown St Petersburg. A cosy small restaurant with a charming atmosphere. Reservations are usually required, so call ahead. The food is nice but quite average in my opinion.
Marketplace is a high end self-serve canteen concept with many dishes cooked freshly on the spot to order. Highly recommended!
Teremok is a popular fast-food chain in Russia. The chain primarily specialises in Russian traditional dishes such as blini, pelmeni, kvass and borscht. Must try when in Russia.
Pyshechnaya, Classic soviet donuts. Must try but don’t expect a fancy ambiance.
Zhelateriya Slivki. Gelato shop inside Galeria Mall. Good place to have a little gelato or perhaps cup of latte and a pastries on the side after a tiring day. They have a good service too.
Tonyc Bar . The restaurant has an extensive menu, worth a couple more visits to try the items.
Starbucks. It is everywhere it has become synonymous with coffee throughout much of the world. Though Starbucks St. Petersburg ranked one of the most expensive Starbucks in the world, you can’t help but go and get your caffeine fix.
XII. Cooking Lesson
Most of the time, the magic happens in the kitchen so before leaving St. Petersburg. I immersed myself in the culinary techniques and traditions of Russian cuisine. So let’s go vegan – the cooking class showed us how to prepare : Hichini, Oladushki, Buckwheat Casserole, Borsch and Russian Salad.
Some other tips:
- Upon arrival, it is better to purchase a SIM card than relying on wifi (personal or public). Simply go through customs and enter the main lobby. Turn left and there are three full mobile stores inside the main area that sell sim cards, phones, etc. The staff speaks English and can take care of the entire transaction in less than 10 minutes. I chose Beeline which gave me 14 days of up to 30gb 4g internet and local calls for just $11 and it will take only few minutes for it to be activated.
- Download in advance, a taxi app called Yandex. Through this taxi app, you can book the cab anytime, according to your need and take services at affordable price. Easy to travel around St. Petersburg.
- You’ll often see actors walking around in eighteenth century clothing dressed as Catherine the Great or Peter the Great in major tourists spots, such as Palace Square or St Isaac’s Cathedral. They will offer to take pictures with you. Do ask about the price first so as to not be disappointed later.
4. Google Translate. Always useful. Get app on your phone.
I hope this helps. Now go and enjoy your trip of a lifetime and create beautiful memories that will last forever…From Russia with Love!