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Theft on streets of St. Petersburg

Texas
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Theft on streets of St. Petersburg

We are going on a 2-week Russian River cruise the end of May, starting in St. P. We've been told by the tour company to bring only 20-10-$5 fresh bills in U.S. currency with us for our optional excursions, hence we'll have more cash with us than we would normally have. I've been told by a reliable friend that there have been reports of locals walking up to seeming tourists on the streets, basically stating "give me your money, or..."

I've traveled widely, so am not nieve; I know a variety of ways to carry cash; however, I haven't been told before that I'm visiting a city where this seems to be common practice. Also, I don't think we have in-room safes on our cruise ship (tho I'm not positive). We don't plan to be out at night on our own, all the usual "safe traveler practices."

My question is--has anyone had experience with this on-street personal theft practice in St. Petersburg?

Thank you in advance for all your help.

Ottawa, Canada
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1. Re: Theft on streets of St. Petersburg

Hi Jane,

I've been in St. Petersburg for just over 2 months now and have never experienced that or even heard of that happening. I meet lots of other foreigners (I study in a program for foreigners to learn Russian) and I've only heard of two thefts. The first happened to a man who's around 50. He was getting off the subway around 5 pm, was surrounded by 3 men, who pushed him and grabbed his camera bag, then went into the wagon, just as the doors were closing. The second happened to a 35 year old man, who, late at night, when leaving a club, was stopped by the police for a document check. The police ended up taking his cell phone and a few thousand roubles.

I just carry my wallet in my purse, but I keep my purse tucked under my arm when I'm in crowds and I've never had a problem. I think that if you follow all your "safe traveler practices," you'll be fine.

Brasilia
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2. Re: Theft on streets of St. Petersburg

Hi, Jane

Street theft is a reality in St. petersburg. My father was robbed in a metro station -- I told him he should not carry his camera around his neck, but would he listen? But I haven't seem anything violent like you were told, just the street robbers that tend to try stealing in the middle of a crowd. So, keep your valuables hidden and be careful as you would in any big city.

Good Luck

Buffalo, New York
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3. Re: Theft on streets of St. Petersburg

Be careful on Nevskyi Prospekt and at the Metro stations. On a Sunday at 10am, 2 men stopped at the beginnig of the escalator leading up and started arguing. I bumped into them and so did everyone behind me. By the time I realized there was something wrong my wallet and my camera were gone. A security agent (or policeman) was next to the escalator, and despite telling him what happened (with the help of an english speaking lady who was next to me and had seen everything) and pointing to the 2 guys, he did nothing (At my hotel I was told that most security guards at the subway stations share the stolen money with the thieves). So be extra careful

Stuart, Florida
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4. Re: Theft on streets of St. Petersburg

My dad and i were there 2 weeks ago (May 22-27). I kept telling my dad he stood out like a bullseye with his bright baseball cap and very light colored jacket. Do you think he would listen? NO! I kept telling him to carry his wallet in his front pocket....do you think he would listen? NO. So of course we were walking along the street in Nevsky prospect when 3 guys started circling him tryint to sell him caviar. That was just a decoy to reach into his pockets and get whatever came out. Of course the wallet came out and it was so fast and they were so slick we didn't even realize what happend until a few hours later. THESE GUYS ARE PRO'S! We did a lot of waking around and a lot of metro and tram riding and never had any try to rob us but be aware of the pickpockets. Try to look as Russian as possible. Note, they don't wear baseball caps. As i side note I heared that a week later another tourist was pickpocketed inside the KFC at Nevsky.

USA & Altai Kray...
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5. Re: Theft on streets of St. Petersburg

In actuality, St. Petersburg is a rather safe city as world-class capitals go. It's not really a matter of being or not being naive, if you simply observe the commonsense precautions you would traveling anywhere else.

USA & Altai Kray...
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6. Re: Theft on streets of St. Petersburg

Prepare yourself beforehand by learning a little about the city and how to get around, and also familiarize yourself somewhat with the alphabet and written language, buy a good Russian/English phrasebook to help you recognize signs, etc. It is not difficult to find someone, particularly young adults, who understand at least some English in tourist places you are likely to frequent.

Enjoy your trip!

California
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7. Re: Theft on streets of St. Petersburg

My question is on taking US dollars. I will be going in July and have been told that it is against the law to do business in USD. But I have also been told to bring singles (new). What's the story.

Suzanne

USA & Altai Kray...
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8. Re: Theft on streets of St. Petersburg

You must pay for purchases using Rubles. U.S. money can be exchanged through banks or money exchangers. Banks, in particular, will only take new bills. The easiest way to obtain Russian Rubles is by using ATMs which are available almost anywhere.

St Petersburg Russia
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9. Re: Theft on streets of St. Petersburg

First off, your tour company is quite misinformed. Your additional expenses will be in Rubles. Twenties are not as appreciated even in exchange banks unless you exchange a lot of them. The $100 bill is the most common foreign currency for personal transactions but the Ruble has been so much more stable and increasing in value, even personal home stashes or transactions are now primarily in Rubles. All commercial or retail transactions are in Rubles. The dollar has taken a beating recently and is down to 25.45 to 1, down from 30 not that long ago. The Euro is doing well against the Ruble, staying up with the rapid rise that the Ruble has undergone in recent years.

Theft on the street. I have not noticed a rise but several people have posted on this forum that they witnessed or were victims of losses on Nevsky prospket.

If these cases are accurate in the methods employed, it would appear that a new strategy is being used, simply approaching an unaware visitor and opening their purse or grabbing loose cameras while walking by. Before it was the Gostinny Dvor metro car pickpockets and the bands of aggressive Roma women and children who were the threats but both of those have been pretty much stopped. 2 years ago, the police started rounding up Roma (Gypsies) and checking for visas and deported them since most were here illegally. The Roma women did not care of their victims were burly Russian men or naive tourists, all were powerless to defend themselves when a group of children and short women surrounded them and took everything not attached to their body. Luckily none of the thieves are violent, they were looking for crimes of opportunity i.e. loose cameras, gawking tourists, wallets in back pockets etc.

Most tourist do not realize Russians are carrying more cash then they are simply because until recently, credit cards and debit cards were not common, and no checks are used here. What makes a tourist more likely to be a victim is not more cash on them, it is that although trying to be careful are really careless with their possessions and wallets. Following a few precautions will reduce the "easy prey" classification.

It is a bad habbit to wear a wallet in the back pocket that will result in being a target in most large cities of the world except in the US were street crime is much more confrontational and violent, often involving a gun or a knife. Here they just want a fast low risk payday.

Carry a camera how it was intended, with the strap over the neck. Simple but avoided by tourists out of habbit.

Same with purses, positive latches and straps over the head mean being an unattractive for providing the easy payday.

One question never reasonably answered by tourists I ask is why they even carry a wallet. There is nothing in it that is needed or even of use in a foreign country other than a credit card and a little cash. Why risk losing SS card, credit cards, photos, drivers license, or whatever else people use back home in daily life?

I regularly approach tourists who look like they are advertising that they want to be victims of pickpockets but they are so wary of a stranger trying to talk to them they look as if I am about to attack them . That they are afraid of but not to afraid of being picked to follow common sense. No tourist or even ex-pat can "blend in" so it is not needed to do so, I can tell a foreigner, even if they lived here for 10 years, from 100 meters away so Russians can probably from 200 meters away. Thieves can probably tell from 5 meters away but they do not care of your nationality, a careless Russian would be a better victim by odds due to having more cash on them. They only care if one person stands out as unusually careless or clueless on a crowded sidewalk.

One recent poster commented that he was hit twice in 1-2 days but said he was "street wise". Not to seem too unsympathetic, I would believe that his street smarts are from his own neighborhood and he did things that made himself a very distinctive target standing out from the thousands of visitors sharing the same sidewalk and looked over by the same thieves. What did he project that was like a neon sign flashing "Take this"? A local or I could tell him by a mere glance most probably.

Money belts are not very effective, they advertise how much money you have, are difficult to get to and are not as safe as simply putting your few spending bills in your front pocket, and your passport, and one credit card. Women are used to taking 10 kgs of extra things, few needed during a day out in the city. Only a few of those "must-haves" are actually needed or likely to be used. Those backpacks are easy targets also, if you insist on wearing one, refrain from using crowded public transportation(mainly Gostinny Dvor Metro station) or flip it around to be on your chest during metro rides, besides that is good manners. A backpack sticking out is bumping into people and making it harder for you to manuver. When in front in a metro, you are more aware of its position and you will not block narrow isles.

Some items are not a lose risk such as shopping bags, no one seems to care what you bought. Small hand bags, hand held seem not to be targets, those larger bags over the neck are safe. Expensive cell phones are targets while people, foreigners or locals alike, if the person is mindlessly meandering down the street engrossed in their conversation which makes them an easy target. Distracted people never react fast enough to prevent any theft. Being obviously distracted, is the most attractive feature of a "opportunity thief".

West Midlands...
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10. Re: Theft on streets of St. Petersburg

Hi

I am off to Russia tomorrow, and was wondering if you could give me some advice, should we carry our passports with us, as I have read that you can get stopped and asked for your visa's. We will be in Moscow and St Petersburg. We are stopping in a hotel so hopefully getting the visa's registed wont be a problem.

All advice gratefully received lol.

Thanks