Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
This section covers just the basics on traveling in St. Petersburg, Helsinki, and Tallinn (for
additional information on traveling in Scandinavia, see Rick Steves' Scandinavia ). You'll
find free advice on specific topics at .
Travelers to Russia Need a Visa
If you're going to St. Petersburg, you will need to arrange for a visa well in advance of your
trip (unless you're arriving on a cruise ship or the St. Peter Line ferry, and are planning to
pay for an excursion). Getting a visa is expensive (figure at least $250 per person) and a
hassle (filling out long bureaucratic forms, then mailing your application—and your pass-
port—to the Russian embassy several weeks before your trip). Your first step is to carefully
read the “Russian Visa Requirements” sidebar on here .
Russia uses the ruble (abbreviated R or RUB): 33 R = about $1. To roughly convert Russian
prices, divide by three and drop a zero. Finland and Estonia use the euro: 1 euro equals
about $1.30. To roughly convert prices in euros to dollars, add 30 percent (€20 = about $26).
Check for the latest exchange rates.
The standard way for travelers to get euros is to withdraw money from a cash machine
(ATM), which are called bankomat in all of these countries; ATMs are often labeled
банкомат in Russia and Otto in Finland and Estonia. Use a debit or credit card, ideally with a
Visa or MasterCard logo. Before departing, call your bank or credit-card company: Confirm
that your card(s) will work overseas, ask about international transaction fees, and alert them
that you'll be making withdrawals in Europe. To keep your valuables safe, wear a money
Dealing with “Chip and PIN”: Much of Europe is adopting a “chip-and-PIN” system
for credit cards, and some merchants—particularly in Finland—rely on it exclusively.
European chip-and-PIN cards are embedded with an electronic chip, in addition to the mag-
netic stripe used on our American-style cards. This means that your credit (and debit) card
might not work at automated payment machines, such as those at train and subway stations,
toll roads, parking garages, luggage lockers, and self-serve gas pumps. Memorizing your
credit card's PIN lets you use it at some chip-and-PIN machines—just enter your PIN when
prompted. If a machine won't take your card, look for a machine that takes cash or see if
there's a cashier nearby who can process your transaction. The easiest solution is to pay for
your purchases with cash you've withdrawn from an ATM using your debit card (Europe's
ATMs still accept magnetic-stripe cards).
Smart travelers use the telephone to reserve or reconfirm rooms, reserve restaurants, get
directions, research transportation connections, confirm tour times, phone home, and lots
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