Traveling to St-Petersburg and not sure what to expect in terms of expenses? Than you are on the right place - this post is for you! As many of you know by now I moved from St-Petersburg to Germany 11 years ago, but still visit my home city on a regular basis. Whenever I get asked whether it is expensive to travel to St-Petersburg I always answer...
This doesn't mean you have to cancel your tickets and start looking for a new travel destination. No. Let me explain.
For an westerner with a regular income who comes for a weekend trip to St-Petersburg most of the prices seem reasonable or cheap - they are either similar or lower to the ones in Berlin or Madrid. But if you go into details you will soon realize that there is something wrong with the price-quality-income equation. This is spread all over the country, but we are going to talk about St-Petersburg in this post, so let's stick to it.
Most weekend visitors don't bother, but if you are planning to spend some extra days or heading on a longer trip through Russia or planning to stay for work budget is a good topic to think about.
Average prices: As a tourist you will find out soon enough that your lunch meal at a nice café or restaurant costs about 25-30 Euro (for 2) and that a cup of average coffee costs almost 2 Euro. Which is not out of this World, right?! But if you dig in deeper you will see that the food portions are small and not to stay hungry you'd need to order more than 1 dish. You will also notice that if you want to have a beer with your food or a glass of wine the price will rapidly raise over 30 Euro. It won't pass by you that not all the things which sound good on the menu taste as good as they sound (leaving apart availability).
So basically starting on a regular price level your bills raise as soon as you want something extra. Please also keep in mind the exchange rate hence it tends to jump up and down for the last couple of years.
Here are the average prices for food and services. For more detailed information hear to the Numbeo web page.
A box of milk - 1 Euro
Bottle of water - 80 Cent
6 Pack eggs - 80 Cent
1 kg bueberries at the market - 4 Euro
Meal mid-range restaurant without alcohol - 25-30 Euro
One night at a hotel - 90 Euro
One night BnB - from 50 Euro
Transportation costs are very cheap but this is simply because the system doesn’t work properly – in Russia highly skilled doctor may get the salary of a beauty parlor worker. An average transport ticket costs about 80 Cent.
Museum and theater tickets are 3 times more expensive for foreigner than for the locals. You need to have a calid Russian passport to buy those, so there is no way around.
Quality issues: But if I'm paying good money, doesn't it mean that I get high quality products? No, not really. Unfortunately after all the economy troubles and food sanctions of the last year the quality of food products drastically dropped down.
This said, try to avoid going into very cheap eateries and follow the recommendations of the locals.
Locals: I have mentioned in the very beginning that the price-quality-income equation is not correct in St-Petersburg and in Russia in general. And here are some statistics why I believe this is true.
The average salary in St-Petersburg is 40-45.000 rubles (600 Euro). If you own an apartment monthly utility costs are about 7000 rubles (100 Euro). If you don’t own a place you are screwed – half of your salary will go for paying the rent.
Intellectual properties are not valued as such and hard to handle jobs are not worshiped. That’s why you will find all the possible services from taxi drivers to farm workers offering their services for extremely low prices. A taxi ride through the city costs about 15 Euro (and it’s a more than 6 mln inhabitants city) and 1 kg of handpicked blueberries at the market costs 250 rubles (4 Euro).
I can go on like this, but I think you get my point. What looks affordable in the beginning soon turns into a game of quality vs. income.
Conclusion: If you are a short term visitor than your budget won't have a whole in it, all you need to pay attention to avoiding cheap places. If you are planning to stay or going on a long term traveling through Russia than you might want to consider self-catering option, which is far more reliable in terms of money and quality, especially if you go on land where you get produce from farmers directly.
If you want more informations - just drop me a message or write a comment below.