If you are planning a trip to Saint Petersburg on a low budget but don’t want to miss a thing and still make your trip special, this guide will give useful hacks on how to save money and make the best of your travel.
Having been famous as a residence of Tzars and high society, Saint Petersburg nowadays has a wide range of budget hotels and hostels located in the very heart of the city. The most evident accommodation type for those who do not want to splurge on lodging is a hostel or a mini-hotel where you can find separate economy rooms.
Soul Kitchen Hostel is often referred to as the best hostel in Saint Petersburg because of its design, service, perfect marriage of modern interiors and beautiful historical building, and cozy atmosphere in the air.
Prices in this location start from 900 RUB per night for a bed in a shared room; there are also separate standard rooms with amenities, but their rates are comparable with a night in a 3-star hotel. The great advantage is its location: only a 10-minute walk from the famous Hermitage and the very heart of the city: Nevskiy prospect. All the most significant sights can be easily reached on foot or metro in minutes. This is also a thing to pay attention to when choosing accommodation for a budget trip: you will save a lot on public transportation! Among the center-located decent hostels, there is also BEDANDBIKE hostel (which has its own bike rental service), Woody Backpacker Party Hostel, and Graffiti L hostel.
The look of the city (palaces, historical buildings, modern boutiques) can give an impression that as a tourist you will have to open your wallet wide to have the best experience, but actually, this is not true. There are quite expensive admission fees to such museums as Pushkin and Peterhof and if you are not a part of the tour, it will be difficult for you to buy the entrance tickets to these places on the spot due to huge lines. However, Savior-On-Blood Cathedral, Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Isaak Cathedral, and its splendid colonnade with a breathtaking view cost from 300 RUB for a ticket and are very popular with tourists who value exploring architecture and history.
Saint Petersburg has its Guest card — a card which combines the best museums pass and public transport pass. It costs from 3 990 RUB for 48 hours and allows you to save up to 30 percent for entertainment and city transit.
Finally, Saint Petersburg itself is a gem of architecture and beauty. If you are lucky and the weather is fine, you can just think of a just strolling around the city with small stops for taking selfies and having a cup of coffee for a takeaway. For instance, here is a walking route idea: start at Anichkov Bridge and take a wander down Nevskiy prospect where each house is a piece of art; make a photo of Catherine the Second monument of your way and reach Kazan Cathedral. This Cathedral was built to remind a Saint Paul Cathedral in Rome and looks really monumental. As soon as you get your fill of the view of it, continue your trip right towards Savior-On-Blood Cathedral. Don’t miss the magnificent Zinger House on your way! You can not only make a great selfie near it but also purchase souvenirs in the Book House — probably the oldest bookshop of the city located in Zinger. You have reached Savior-On-Blood Cathedral — and you now only in five minutes from the Palace Square and Winter Palace. After a refreshment on the Fontanka embankment (Be careful! It can be windy near water!) just mobilize the rest of your energy to visit Saint Isaac Cathedral and climb its stairs to enjoy the greatest panoramic views.
If you cannot accept the concept of posh nightclubs with super-pricey checks and a luxury atmosphere, then go straight to locations chosen by the locals. Among them is the vivid Rubinstein street full of pubs and cafes suited to every fancy; Golitsyn Loft housing with bars, cafes, shops and galleries looking like a small town inside the city. One of the favorite places of Russian youth is the Etagi loft project — it is also a complex of shops and cafes but it also features a sky deck on a safe roof where you can have a picnic, take a part in one of the regular events (like mulled wine festival) and meet the sunset. The price for the roof entrance varies from 150 RUB to 250 RUB depending on the day and time.
You may probably have dinner on a fancy restaurant terrace with a view once, but if you are on a budget this will not be your everyday choice. In order not to spend a fortune on daily food, you should take a look at fast-food restaurants first — and they are not only McDonald’s or KFC! There is a good chance for you to taste Russian local fast food cuisine in such places like Pirogovyi Dvorik (they serve Russian piroshki — small hand pies); Brynza where you can taste Chebureki (deep-fried turnovers with different fillings) and some traditional hot meals; Teremok with its signature blini (Russian traditional pancakes). You can also try using Russian stolovaya — a cheap self-service dining room where you can purchase a lunch of 3 courses and a dessert for a price from 200 to 400 RUB. The biggest chain of such cafes is called Stolovaya №1, located on Nevsky prospect, 5; Nevskiy prospect, 25; Ligovskiy prospect, 42 and other addresses in the city center.
Finally, don’t forget to taste pyshki — a variety of Russian doughnuts but with a lighter structure. The oldest historical café where they serve pyshki is located on Konuyshennaya street, 25 (Nevskiy prospect metro station). You will become immersed in the Soviet cafeteria atmosphere and surprised when you see the price: a cup of coffee or tea costs 30 RUB, 1 pyshka — 14 RUB. Make sure you have cash with you.
To travel around the city with the minimum expense, you should, of course, learn how to use public transportation in Saint Petersburg. It is not that hard, but you should have in mind some tips.
The best way to save money on it is to buy Guest Card which includes transportation services: bus, tram, metro, trolleybus. If you buy a ticket separately, it costs 40 RUB for ground transport for one trip and 45 RUB for a metro trip. There is also a card called Podorozhnik — you can refill it with a certain amount and pay for transport with it receiving a 20 percent discount. This card can be bought in the metro tickets office.
Buses always have their routes written on signboards outside of them but they are usually written in Cyrillic which can be of course a challenge for foreigners. As an alternative, you can use Uber, which is widely popular in Saint Petersburg and doesn’t cost much.
To get to the suburbs of Saint Petersburg, you can buy tickets to suburban trains (sold on railway stations); to get to Peterhof you must use Baltiyskiy railway station; for Pushkin and Pavlovsk — Vitebskiy railway station. Their price varies from 60 to 80 RUB for one way depending on the distance. The other option to get to the suburbs is Marshrutka — a private minibus that stops on demand. If you have to get off earlier than the final stop, it may also be quite difficult to ask for a stop if you don’t speak Russian.
To travel from Saint Petersburg to other cities and save money on this trip, you can use 3rd class train tickets. They have 54 beds in a carriage: 4 beds in an opened compartment on the one side and 2 beds opposite of them. It is not really comfortable, but it helps you to make your trip more budget. Finally, Saint Petersburg offers bike rental self-service stations.