A British website Londonweekly.net published an article for football fans willing to visit St. Petersburg during the FIFA World Cup 2018 that will be held in a year. A scary thing called «What Europeans should be running scared of in St. Petersburg during the Confederations Cup and the World Cup: Truth and fiction» really contains both the truth and the fiction, but what’s considered the truth is often the fiction and what’s «fiction» is not that far from the truth. Scroll down for our comments on the most outstanding statements.
Generally speaking, St. Petersburg as any big city (and it has 9 million inhabitants contrary to what official guides say about 5 million) has some problems with criminality, flaws in tourist service, risks of terrorism, and some racism which, though, has not been heard of over recent years, and the biggest tourism threat — pickpockets who have been active throughout decades. We described main risks and dangers tourists face when visiting St. Petersburg in our post on how it’s safe in St. Petersburg.
Let’s have a look at what the British website says about what and whom you should be afraid of in case you do have guts to come here to attend football matches in 2018.
Don’t’ Drink False Vodka With Scally People In Kupchino
The London Weekly wrote: «Authorities are incapable of protecting foreign nationals from so-called scally people. Russia is one of the leaders on the number of domestic crimes, including beatings and killings with the use of improvised means. This is largely due to the low level of culture of those living in the country side and their addiction to alcohol».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. It’s difficult to link rates of crimes and consumption of alcohol with your safety here when watching Tratched Cottages by Van Gogh at the Hermitage and attending the Krestovsky stadium. We have not had any problems with scally people for many-many years, neither have we been forced to fight with drunk men in the streets. The same level of possibility can be applied to the statement that travelling to China will get you beaten by a hongweibing and a visit to Africa will bring a nice encounter with a crocodile. Yes, the crocodiles live in Africa, but just don’t go where they abound.
The London Weekly wrote: «Yet, an opportunity to be attacked rises on the outskirts of the city, in such places as Kupchino, Rybatskoye, Prospekt Veteranov, Pionerskaya and the like. Therefore, our advice is not to go outside the center of the city and stick to basic tourist itineraries».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. It sounds like the author heard many local jokes about the borough of Kupchino, and these jokes do exist, though have nothing to do with the reality. These our lines are written about 1 km away from Kupchino in another outskirt district of Zvezdnaya by a person who lived four years near Prospekt Veteranov and used to attend emergency courses in Rybatskoe without having problems with hooligans and anybody else there. Yes, shit happens, of course, but it happens in many big cities around the world, including London, and it happens in the center of St. Petersburg, too. Pionerskaya is a district that cannot be called an outskirt, let alone it’s near to the Krestovsky stadium where the World Cup games 2018 will be held.
The London Weekly wrote: «Try to avoid using the services of unofficial taxi cab drivers».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. Absolutely right, though some tourists seem to like paying hugely inflated rates to nonames. In St. Petersburg, many local taxi operators are active with Uber and Gett being also in place. Pay special attention to taxi fares from St. Petersburg Pulkovo airport.
The London Weekly wrote: «We strongly recommend not to visit other neighboring towns during your stay in the city too as the number of police units in those areas is going to be minimized. Nearly all police units from cities of Pskov, Novgorod and Vyborg will be redeployed to St. Petersburg».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. Do visit neighboring towns, especially Vyborg as many tourists do during the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 without reports on increased crime rates in these towns. Enhanced security measures were taken for St. Petersburg economic forums as well as G8 summit and other events like that, and no increase in problems has ever been detected. Lack of police forces due to their deployment in St. Petersburg and enhanced risks of being robbed is a theory that has not still been confirmed by practice.
The London Weekly wrote: «Stay away from natives from the Caucasus. It is generally believed that many Chechens and Dagestanis are aggressive and can therefore attack foreigners. We assure you that this is not true to fact. First of all, Chechens in St. Petersburg are well behaved individuals historically. They behave even better than Russians».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. We don’t have nothing against the author’s love for the Chechens and Dagestanis, though, we find it a bit exaggerated, but we have a question: how do you know that the men you meet in the streets or in a bar are Chechen or Dagestanis, and not Armenian, Azerbaijanis, Ingush, Uzbeks, Tajik or Kirghiz? Even to many Russians they look alike, despite the fact that the difference exists. We are just curious, why so much attention is paid namely to these two nationalities while so many other ones actually live here?
The London Weekly wrote: «It is worthy of note that St. Petersburg’s central mosque is located near Gor’kovskaya metro station. Every Friday morning, crowds of Muslims flock there for a prayer. One does not need to show up there in a state of alcoholic intoxication at such moments».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. We have never seen nor heard that the Muslims flock to the mosque every Friday morning and that appearing there with a bottle of vodka is dangerous. And a rather large Muslim population has actually never posed any threat, at least on a religious basis. Really, no serious religious conflicts have been detected for years. The warning by the author to avoid this place on some days can be explained by only great imagination 🙂
The London Weekly wrote: «Unlike Moscow, St. Petersburg is not a place where ethnic crime is commonplace, but such crimes do occur there on a regular basis. You can get robbed on food and clothes market places. Even if you are going to stay in an apartment with a kitchen, try to buy food in nearby supermarkets and avoid visiting Sennoy Market, Vladimirsky Market and other similar locations».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. While the remarks on ethnic criminality and a piece of advice to buy at big grocery chains look reasonable, we cannot agree that one should not buy food at Sennoy and Vladimirsky markets where we ourselves sometimes buy. Cases of robbery on these markets and places like that are not known to us, and the owners of the markets are interested in keeping them safe with security forces often being in place.
The London Weekly wrote: «In addition to markets that mostly belong to Azeri people, one can get robbed or rooked in shisha shops, karaoke bars and night clubs owned by natives of Azerbaijan and Armenia».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. You can get robbed at any club no matter what’s the nationality of its owner. Moreover, you can get robbed at any place and in any city, for example, in the center of Rome or Barcelona. By the way, open robbery in tourist places are not a common thing in Saint Petersburg, unlike in many other tourist European destinations. What’s right in the article is the reluctance of the police to make efforts to catch a thief or a robber, when it’s evident they have little chance in it. But that’s the thing that occurs everywhere, no matter if you were slammed in your face when going out of a night club in Tallinn or robbed when strolling in Lisbon (these are real cases).
The London Weekly wrote in regard to possibility of being killed in a terrorist attack: «Still, we do not recommend using public transport. If you have an opportunity, just walk or take a taxi. If there is no such opportunity, try to board last carriage when in the subway».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. For being consistent, one should always use a taxi in any European or American city as the risk of a terror act exists everywhere. In fact, the bombing in the St. Petersburg subway in April this year is just first since the Soviet times. The public transport in St. Petersburg is very safe with, of course, the possibility of another attack, perhaps, like anywhere in the world. By the way, read our post about taxi.
The London Weekly wrote: «Sanitary services and the police are one of the most corrupt services in the Russian system. One may easily come across expired food in small food stores. Always check expiry date and choose large retail food stores that try to avoid selling expired foodstuffs due to penalties».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. These are reasonable advises with a right accent on the corruption of the services. To tell the truth, expired food is not a big problem as it happens rare, though, of course, checking the date out is always useful.
The London Weekly wrote: «In Russia, one may come across counterfeit tobacco products and alcohol beverages in small stores. Try not to buy any alcohol but beer in them. Usually, a local police department has such stores under their patronage».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. Well, you might have a chance to buy a bottle of false vodka or wine somewhere in a Russian village far from big cities, but in St. Petersburg we’d give you the status of a desperately unlucky person if you managed to do that. As locals, we know some people who go to small shops to buy a bottle and drink beverages with their friends sitting on bench under the St. Petersburg summer night’s sky. We see them every weekend, say them hello when coming across in the street and they don’t look like zombies at all.
The word «counterfeit» is very often being used for alcohol that’s being sold illegally, without all the taxes having been paid off, but that doesn’t mean it’s of poor quality.
The London Weekly wrote: «One can get food poisoning after visiting small cafes and restaurants, whether it is just a small cafe or an ethnic restaurant of Chinese or Georgian cuisine. In most cases, they cook in conditions of deplorable sanitation and use expired or bad products for cooking. Cockroaches may be swarming in those kitchens, whereas one and the same oil can be used for a dozen of times».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. Another exaggerated threat without concrete examples and cases. Naturally, you can get poisoned at a small café. Just like at a big restaurant. Just like at any eatery anywhere. The passage about the cockroaches says that the author seems to have been to St. Petersburg a very long time ago. About 20 years ago, seeing them was an ordinary thing, but now a person who could meet one would be as unlucky as that one who purchased false vodka or whisky.
We visited both Chinese and Georgian cafes, including those in «dangerous» outskirts like Kupchino and Prospekt Veteranov and still have strengths to tell you that it’s OK, nice food and prices and no polonium in false vodka.
The London Weekly wrote: «Quite possibly, living conditions in small hotels or hostels may turn out to be unacceptable. They may have broken showers, no hot water or dirty bedsheets. Local residents may call the police at night if you listen to loud music».
The St. Petersburg Travel Guide comment. Locals will call the police at night if someone disturbs them which obviously is absolutely normal. Try playing a violin in the middle of the night in Germany, for example.
We cannot say anything about hotel service besides the fact that all people who came here to stay at hotels we know did not have any specific complaints about the level of service. But, yes, it’s «quite possibly» as much as running into a bear in front of the Hermitage.
For a having a complete picture of what’s the life in St. Petersburg is like, we’d recommend you to read interviews of foreigners who came here to live for some time and shared their views and experience with us. They are Jochem and Esther from Netherlands, Florian from Germany and Minna from Finland.
What We’d Add To The London Weekly’s Masterpiece
Two biggest threats exist in St. Petersburg for tourists, besides this awful 2017 summer with constants raining, winds and rather low temperatures.
Firstly, pickpockets. They exist, they active, they aggressive, and the police doesn’t seem to be willing to tackle them. Guides even know the pickpockets in face and warn their tourists to be cautious. That’s a problem, and the best advice here is to take all that well known measures to minimize the risk.
Secondly, political protests. They have happened twice this year, on March 26 and June 12 with more 10K participants which we have seen in person. They didn’t result in any violence toward other people or cars or shops or anything like that, but the problem is that some occasional bypassers were taken by police for protest actions participants and brought to a police department.
And, as we wrote, the weather. It’s a real problem this year. Take clothes, umbrellas and don’t forget to ask us if you need some more information instead of reading travel guides that are far from reality 🙂