5th January, 2011

Watch out in St. Petersburg!

Keep your money and avoid the hassle!

Unfortunately, a visit to a foreign city is sometimes also associated with unpleasant surprises. In St. Petersburg there are three main problems with which tourists are confronted again and again:

Perfected pickpocketing and police officers who use their authority to enrich themselves and people of non-European appearance may also be involved in dangerous conflicts with fascist skinhead gangs, which has battered the reputation of St. Petersburg already sustained.

Certain precautions, however, help to avoid unpleasant holiday experiences:

All places where are crowds are potential fishing grounds for pickpockets – these are mainly the Metro, Souvernir and other open markets. Do not underestimate their professionalism and their tricks: One bumps into you or spills something on you, while the other is using this moment of your distraction.

Leave important documents better at home and take only the money you need and keep it in body-hugging, lockable
bags! Take you backpacks better down in the metro also because in consideration for other passengers.

Pickpockets

Good visited cafes in the city center are also popular hunting ground for thieves: Here it is important not to leave jackets, bags and mobile phones out of sight. A special group of pickpockets are the Gypsy groups with hordes of kids. They demand quite aggressively charity and at the same time they might try to take your money.

Despite the prospective misery of these people from Central Asia never stand in their presence and keep pulling out your wallet – at best hand over some small change from your pocket while you are pasing by.

Once you feel hands touching you: Now the only solution is vigorously pushing them away, even if you need to be so hard on a child or a young mother. Threats and scream curses in your mother tongue make impression and can also prevent physical contact.

Police checks

It is recommend to be reserved towards police officers. Unfortunately you have to. Although their approach seems normal asking you for: “Documents, Drugs, Weapons?”. The first you must show, everything else will hopefully not be with you… The following strip-search has usually only one purse, to take your money. Stay cool in this situation and remove the big paper bills before they will do it in order to hand them over to the “drug control”.

In case of further trouble:

Get them clear that you now remember the number of their badge on the chest and say them the magic word “Prokuratura“. The prosecution is the supervisory body of the police and in such cases investigates quite good. Reporting of the incident – preferably to both, the prosecutor and your consulate in St. Petersburg – makes sense in order to put an end to this cases. However, based on my experiance, investigations have most likely only succeed if the victim does stay further two weeks in the city and has noticed at least a badge number and/or the license number of the patrol car.

Skinheads and hooligans

Given the potential racist thugs helps unfortunately only two things:

  • Go out of their way
  • Run faster than they