Yes, I have a current pre-occupation with St.Petersburg, and assuming that you are planning a trip to Russia: you should too. It is White Night season over there and arguably there’s no better time to visit Russia’s second city; a title that unfortunately makes it sound like a consolation prize. Perhaps “alternative capital” would be a better appellation.
Anyway, as promised: prices for “things” – only as a rough guide, mind you. The careless can spend massively over the odds on even relatively lowbrow items and services, whereas the streetwise get to pull remarkable financial coups out of thin air.
How to be streetwise in an unknown city (or country)?, well that’s a tough one. Consulting local knowledge is the obvious choice – assuming that those you ask are not trying to scam you themselves.
If you have taken an interest in the language and culture beforehand then perhaps you have an online language partner with whom you have a rapport, even a friendship. Now you are getting closer to the kind of insider knowledge that you need. Not a quick fix then, but as someone once said: “There’s no shortcut to experience”. Sometimes (often) it’s worth putting the hours in.
At the time of writing, exchange rates look like this: 100 (Russian) RUBles = 1.36 EUR, 1.06 GBP and 1.56 USD.
So when I hear that a regular cup of coffee may cost 100 RUB, then it’s pretty clear that it’s an almost negligible expense; and great news for caffeine addicts everywhere. Without too much thought, we routinely pay three times that amount here in the UK when we wander into a high street chain. High street coffee really is a racket, let’s face it.
Also, on the small end of the pricing spectrum; sample prices for (extreme) basics look something like this:
Bread loaf (nothing special): 45 RUB
Metro ticket: 35 RUB
Rice (market, 1Kg) 65 RUB
Eggs per dozen (market) 73 RUB
Potatoes (1Kg, market) 37 RUB
It’s worth noting that I’ve seen quoted prices for water as low as 40 RUB for 1.5 litres, but there are certain instances where you really don’t want to buy the cheapest, right? Would you buy the cheapest bulletproof vest, for instance? Probably not.
Also, unsurprisingly: you can expect to pay more in upmarket stores than on the market – just like everywhere else. I also favour prices that are a little over the odds when budgeting (just in case). It’s worth considering food markets in fact, for something authentic, as described in the Savoured Journeys blog:
“Our gastronomic tour continued with a visit to two of the city’s top food markets. These type of markets were set up in the Soviet Era and have continued today as an easy way for locals to buy and sell produce and goods. They are housed in large, non-descript buildings with very little fanfare. There are dozens of vendors at each selling all types of produce, meats, spices and dried fruits”.
Moving on to a non-prison diet, things still remain eminently affordable. A meal (eating out) has quite a range, from say; 330 RUB in a burger chain, to 520 RUB in a modest, reasonable restaurant, and perhaps 1100 RUB for something a little more upmarket with 2-3 courses. That’s still pretty good though at £3, £5 and £11 GBP respectively. Now, if you plan to eat in tourist-central St. Petersburg: Nevsky Prospekt and the like, then you can double everything for starters (no pun intended) and work upwards from there.
Beer (domestic, per half litre): 71 RUB
Beer (import, per half litre): 160 RUB
Wine (mid range, per bottle): 400 Rubles
Well, those are the kind of beer prices that are likely to see you in hospital, if you are a UK resident. I can’t stand the stuff personally, but I digress. Without doubt, the cost of daily living in St. Petersburg -from a Westerner’s perspective- is a boon for the wallet, without sacrificing quality. You can have it all! For other travel benefits take a look at this article on the Positive Health Wellness site.
We’ll wrap this up next week. Drink sensibly.