What is it like to live in St. Petersburg as a foreigner?

Question by uhr2kraft: What is it like living in St. Petersburg as a foreigner?
I am an American who would like to go to school there for music. Any advice would be great; food costs, rent, Concealed weapons permits, common scams, anything!

Quick answer:

Answer by Владимир
As an American, you will not be getting any weapons permits, trust me. St Petersburg (and Moscow) very expensive in all regards compared to many many other Russian cities. Also, about police stopping you in public to check your documents. This will generally only happen to you if you present yourself as an obvious foreigner, if you’re easily visually identifiable as foreigner, expect to be hassled somewhat frequently.

Read all the answers in the comments.

Add your own answer!


  1. Priscilla Duck says

    It is a beautiful city. If you speak Russian you will have a fantastic experience. If you do not speak Russian and do not plan to learn any, I would not advise you to go at all. If you can’t speak the language or read Cyrillic you will find it very difficult to navigate around the city or to deal the the multitude of bureaucracy that is life in Russia.

    As a foreigner, expect frequent police spotchecks and always carry your passport and visa. Be prepared to call the embassy if they say your documents aren’t in order – this happens with some regularity.

    If you go to study, your university will probably organise accommodation – they do not like foreigners to live on private housing because of the high risk of burglary and mugging if people realise you are a ‘rich American’. Renting an apartment can cost anywhere from $ 100 a month for a place way out in the suburbs to $ 2500 for a really nice pad in the centre. Get your uni to sort this out for you – give them a budget and they’ll arrange it, if you don’t want to stay in student accommodation.

    If people see you are a foreigner, they will automatically try to double or triple the price of whatever it is you are buying.

    Don’t drink the water, it’s really badly polluted. Stick to bottled.

    Your weekly groceries bill should be around $ 60.

    A monthly metro pass costs less than $ 20.

    Bring cash rather than traveller cheques and credit cards.

    You will not be allowed to carry a weapon.

    The most common scam (apart from mugging) is someone drops a wallet on the ground in front of you, you pick it up and call them. They then accuse you of stealing a few hundred $ $ and call the police. Sometimes a policeman is in on the scam, usually an accomplice is dressed up as a policeman, and they persuade you to give the money back rather than go to the hassle of visiting the police station.

    The people are amazing once you get to know them (again, you need language skills). They may seem a bit brusque at first, but give them time, most have the most wicked sense of humour imaginable.