St. Petersburg’s pickpockets can leave you without money and passport just before you’re going to board a train, thus making your trip impossible or almost impossible, guides warned through social media. The pickpockets use the way how Russian railway stations operate, that is security checkpoints which you must pass to enter a station.
One St. Petersburg guide shared her negative experience at the Moskovskiy vokzal railway station (in the photo above), the point where trains to Moscow, including Sapsans, and many other destinations depart from.
Belongings of one of tourists she served were stolen when he was getting through a metal detector, established at the entrance of the station. Walk-through metal detectors were installed at all airports and railways stations across Russia after the terror attack at Domodedovo airport in January 2011.
The theft was carried out in a classical way: the tourist put all his luggage onto a conveyor belt and started to get through the detector. After having finished the clearance process, he discovered that his valuables had gone. The guards said in a response to the guide’s answer that they had not seen who had stolen the things as it’s not their duty to keep an eye on travelers’ luggage.
This kind of pickpocketing is well known across the world and often heard of at crowded airports, but is new for St. Petersburg. Most thefts are perpetrated near major destinations such as The Church on the Spilled Blood, in the Hermitage and other places of mass interest. Incidents at railway stations have not been often heard of, if at all.
It’s now difficult to say which way local pickpockets tend to use at St. Petersburg’s railway stations: with someone who purposely holds the line, while his accomplices grab things, or not. But that’s of no great importance as the recommendations in order to be able to prevent this from happening with you are the same in any case:
— put your belongings on the conveyor belt only when you are the next person in line to walk through a metal detector; by the way, at Russian railways this procedure is very fast, you needn’t put your shoes off or anything like that. You needn’t even take your laptop out of your bag;
— when traveling in a group, get someone of your companions walk first to keep a lookout on others’ things;
— take all your money, documents and tickets with you, not in a bag.
What to do in Russia if you were robbed just before your train leaves?
There is a common recommendation that in any case when you don’t know what to do about your rail trip you should contact the train’s chief. In Russian, it is начальник поезда (nachal’nik poezda). It’s up to him what to do with you.
We exactly don’t know what and how he must do in this situation and think there is no a unified approach for such situations. First of all, he will check your name in passengers’ list, and it will be good if you can show any identity document. If you have companions, it will also help a lot. In the situation we have described with the group of tourists, one of which was robbed, the guide used a mess when boarding and managed to push the victim into a train, while conductors were busy with checking documents of other passengers.