Is St Petersburg safe for tourists?
Many people wonder if St Petersburg is safe for tourists. I am sure that you will feel very welcome and safe here, but just as any major tourist destination we have problems with pickpockets. Unfortunately there are quite many of them and they are very professional .Pickpockets may “work” in the streets, in the main museums like the Hermitage or in Peterhof and in public transport. And they look like ordinary people. So what do you need to do to be safe in St Petersburg?
Unless you are on a cruise, don’t take your passport with you when you go out, and just leave it at the hotel. You can make a copy of the main page and carry it with you. Most likely you will never be stopped by police (they may stop you in the metro if you have a big backpack or suitcases, if this happens, just open them when they ask as they have increased the security measures in our metro). If police decides to check your passport, just show them a copy, but usually they won’t ask for documents. If you are on a cruise, you need to carry your passport with you, but make sure to put it in a very secure place.
If somebody stops you in the street offering souvenirs, don’t pay attention and don’t stop, that person may be distracting you while his friends behind you will check your pockets or backpack. The best idea is to put all the valuables in a money belt.
When you are in public transport or in a busy room of a museum, keep the bag in front of you. Do the same when you are standing on an escalator in metro.
This tip is for men who are using metro in St Petersburg – before you enter a train, check who is standing behind you. What I describe next is not a common practice, but I have seen it several times happening only to men at the busiest stations. Sometimes when you start entering a coach, several men jump right after you and block you in such a way that you can’t move while one of them is checking your pockets. Then they jump out of the train at the next stop. When this happens, you can’t understand what is going on at the first moment because a crowd of people (ordinary, not pickpockets) is also entering the coach. Pickpockets don’t beat or want to injure you, they just block you. So the bottom line is – check who is standing behind you, also it’s generally safer to enter a coach in the beginning or in the middle of the crowd.
Don’t take a taxi in the street – in 99% of cases they will charge you much more compared to what you would pay if you just called a well known taxi company. St Petersburg is not New York, we don’t have taxis everywhere and usually we order them in advance (or use Uber now).
Police is useless. If something is stolen, it’s gone forever. Everything you can get from them is a paper for your insurance company (and you will get it after lots of hassle).
I hope that these tips will help you to feel safe in St Petersburg!