From getting around the city to finding out where to network with other executives and entrepreneurs, here is what you need to know about doing business in St. Petersburg.
St. Petersburg. Photo: Lori Images
In St. Petersburg, business tends to be younger and more on the creative side and this shows in the options available to business travelers. With that in mind, we have assembled a list of tips from locals about what it takes to have a successful and enjoyable business trip in one of Russia’s most vibrant cities.
Arriving at the airport
Pulkovo Airport is the third busiest in Russia. Activity is centered at the new terminal and should be steadily expanding and improving over the next decade.
There is no express train to the center, although this has been discussed in recent years. Thus, your options if you are not being met are to take a taxi or public transportation.
There are official taxi stands in the airport and fares can be paid there in cash or with a credit card, or in cash when reaching your destination. Ask for a receipt in advance. It costs 900 rubles (about $23.50) for a car to the center, a bit more to the northern part of the city. For a more luxurious and hassle-free experience have St. Petersburg Transfer Service meet you. Airport transfers start at $57 and they can also arrange longer trips and tours.
One way to arrive in style is to order a GAZ Volga 24, the Soviet equivalent of a Mercedes, to pick you up. Fares are 2500 rubles (about $65) for up to four passengers. Order online from Wow Russia! Tours here.
Do not hail a taxi from private drivers in the terminal or on the street.
City bus numbers 39 and 39A (25 rubles or $0.65) and minibus K39 (36 rubles or $0.94) will take you to Moskovskaya metro station. From there it’s about a 25-minute metro ride to the center. Schedules can be found here.
It is possible to change your money into rubles, Russia’s official currency, at the airport, but if possible wait until you arrive in the center where you will find much better rates. Bank machines dispense rubles and sometimes dollars. Bankcards are accepted in most large shops and restaurants, and increasingly in some smaller ones, however, it is always best to have some cash on hand (including smaller bills), as some places such as the metro are cash only and card terminals occasionally do not work.
The center is fairly compact, although from one side to the other could take an hour by foot.
Uber, the popular European rideshare service, has recently come to St. Petersburg. Wheely offers similar services and Vezet taxi company comes recommended. Another luxury option is Easy Move. Private citizens will often fill the void for about 200-300 rubles ($5.20-7.80) around the center. Put your hand out palm down, agree on the price in advance and carry exact change.
Many buses go up and down Nevsky Prospekt (25 rubles or $.65), but they are usually very crowded. The metro system is among the finest in the world, with many stations moonlighting as museums to the city’s Soviet past. It is quick, dependable and safe (one token costs 28 rubles or about $.75).
Those that want to investigate the market further and network with a mix of expats and locals should get in touch with St. Petersburg International Business Association (SPIBA), a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing Russian and international companies together. The American Chamber of Commerce offers numerous workshops that aim to demystify doing business in Russia.
Finding a place to work
St. Petersburg has plenty of conference rooms to talk business with your partners. The Courtyard by Marriott West Pushkin Hotel has an entire floor of conference space and provides top of the line business amenities.
A co-working space is a good option if you need an affordable place to work for a few days or longer. They usually provide standard office equipment, a kitchen and dedicated quiet and meeting spaces. The largest in St. Petersburg is Zonaspace. Work Smart is another option that even provides secretarial services. Taiga has rooms for lectures and events.
A time café might suit your needs, where coffee, tea and treats are free, but instead you just pay for the time. These are probably more suited to more creative businesses and probably not appropriate for detailed negotiations. Miracle and Max Time Café are good bets.
For shipping and courier services, head to WESTPOST. In operation since 1995, it is a private and reliable postal service with American ownership.
Hiring a translator
St. Petersburg as a whole has made enormous progress in English-language proficiency in recent years. However, interpreters can come in handy when hammering out contract details. The following companies all offer a variety of services: Introducing St. Petersburg, Petersburg Interpreter and Russian Translation Pros.