Like any big city, St. Petersburg has some seedy sides, but you’ll steer well clear of those as you set out to see the main attractions. Even so, before disembarking your ship, you may be warned to watch out for pickpockets and petty thieves. Tourist guide Dmitry Ruchkin told The Avid Cruiser that St. Petersburg’s reputation isn’t deserved and that crimes against tourists are rare. The local English-language newspaper reported that St. Petersburg had 792 registered crimes against foreigners last year, compared to more than 30,000 in Paris. Of course, it should be pointed out that Paris receives considerably more international visitors each year than does St. Petersburg.
During my two visits to St. Petersburg this year and last, St. Petersburg certainly felt safe — or no less safe, I should say, than any city of 5 million or more. I even walked Nevsky Prospect past midnight on two occasions and never felt threatened or intimidated.
What may be intimidating for foreigners, however, is the language barrier and the alphabet, Cyrillic, making signage virtually unreadable for Western eyes. The city is working to put on a “friendly interface” for tourists, but it’s slow in coming. You won’t find an abundance of signage guiding you to the major attractions or friendly policemen who speak English, but you will find well-equipped tourist information centers in highly touristed areas as well as volunteer students who roam the streets as “City Angels” to help tourists.
You need not worry about any of this, of course, if you follow our advice: Get a guide.