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I've had a pause in my travels for a few years and Lonely Planet's scams and warnings section seems to have disappeared. After some googling (finding the usual stuff to look out for) I still feel that I'd be better off asking for some pointers here.

I'll go my boat from Stockholm and I plan to stay in the city for a few days. Is it OK to visit a disco or a bar to talk to people? How's the general English level? If a woman talks to me and is friendly, should I expect to get a price tag shortly?

Anything would be of use. Googling for "travel russia st petersburg" brings way too broad variety.

  • As a general rule, the Wiki Voyage "Stay Safe" section on most cities is normally pretty good. Did you try reading that for your intended destination? Any questions after that? – Gagravarr Jul 5 '14 at 22:02
  • @Gagravarr Thanks! There was some good information in the article but I still feel like it's the general kind. It's good, of course, but not very specific to St. Petersburg. I'll be attempting to talk to the locals, for instance, and I'm not sure where the best location for such endeavor might be nor where it's easiest to find people who speak English. Targeting academic student areas might be a good idea but I might be outside of their scope age-wise (30+). – Konrad Viltersten Jul 5 '14 at 22:42
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    “Good places to eat real Russian food” is the type of open-ended question inviting opinions that are not really appropriate on this site. It would be better to focus on one question and try to make sure it is specific enough to be answered more-or-less objectively. – Relaxed Jul 6 '14 at 0:34
  • @Relaxed Agreed. My bad. I correct that to "a specific place or set of places" such that a common visitor is "supposed" to visit (like eating a baguette in the Eiffel Tower in Paris). Also, how about the meeting ground? That's the most interesting part for me at the moment. :) – Konrad Viltersten Jul 6 '14 at 0:40
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    @KonradViltersten I won't be able to answer, I am just trying to help you improve the question to bring it more in line with the style of the site as there is already a “close” vote (not from me…) I don't think a small change in wording is going to be enough, this is still way too broad and subjective and you have several questions in there. Just ask one (maybe the meeting ground question or the scam/warning one), possibly asking other follow-up questions separately. – Relaxed Jul 6 '14 at 0:44
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As the comments say there's some stuff in the 'Stay Safe' section on Wikivoyage.

And you're right there doesn't seem to be much other information on the internet, which is odd because I'm sure I found something before I went there a few years back. You may need to pick up a physical travel guide, I don't have mine to hand but I think there was some useful stuff in there.

Younger people will probably speak decent English, although they'll start with Russian unless your an obvious tourist. Anyone tourist facing will likely have some English. In general I never really had a problem without speaking Russian although, as always, it's useful to have to have a few phrases including 'I don't speak Russian'. Although I'll note that the time I did try to say something a little complex in Russian I was met with an uncomprehending stare ...

As for scams, standard common sense is a good idea. False or corrupt policemen are a problem, don't let them take your passport or anything else they can them demand money for. Similarly they may hit you up for a fine if you're caught drunk in the street (or anything else they can think of). I've heard of them taking someones wallet on some pretense or other and then sleight-of-handing money from it before giving it back. Again, I've no idea if these are real policemen looking to make a buck or outright fake scammers.

As well as the normal tourist risks there are more complex scams that usually rely either on the marks good nature or their greed and end up getting some (fake?) police involved. I got hit with a variation of the Money Drop scam in Moscow. But I was carrying next to no money and managed to get out of it just by playing dumb.

You can certainly talk to people in bars, although you may find people aren't as chatty as they are in other countries. Again, common sense, keep an eye on your drink, make sure you know what you're buying and how much it is -- pay per order if possible rather than running a tab, don't get dragged to some other place (or into a car) with people you've just met. Don't tell anyone where you're staying (for the obvious reason and because it gives them a rough idea of how well off you are), similarly be vague about when you're leaving and what you're plans in general. Avoid discussing anything that might be a hot button issue (politics, human rights and discrimination, religion).

Unless you're the sort of person that is regularly approached by attractive women then I would be suspicious if one does approach you. In fact, be wary of anyone that makes a point to approach you and talk to you, particularly if they have a good story.

Although you can certainly manage on your own I would consider getting a local guide for perhaps some of your visit, there are some places that you'll just never find out about without local help.

But I wouldn't be overly worried, St. Petersburg is reasonably safe if you're sensible and (in my opinion) there are much worse cities for scams in Europe.

EDITED TO ADD: And watch out for card skimmers at ATMs, which are reasonably common and people copying your card information in bars / restaurants. Pay cash or keep a good watch on your bills for a few months after.

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    I'm not usually approached by gorgeous ladies (let's hope my forte is in the personality not the looks, otherwise I'm screwed), so I'll be very cautious if a beauty falls in my lap. Or perhaps I should focus on talking to guys to avoid any misunderstanding regarding my intentions (I'm looking for a conversation with locals, not a date). – Konrad Viltersten Jul 6 '14 at 20:58
  • I can't actually ever recall being approached by working girls in bars in Europe (even in Eastern Europe or Russia). I've seen it a lot more in Asia. But I tend to hang on in cheaper bars so maybe I've just not been in the right/wrong place. I did manage to strike up a conversation with the locals in a couple of places in Russia so I think you'll probably manage. – SpaceDog Jul 7 '14 at 1:15
  • Cool, thanks. I don't mind talking to a working girl, of course. I meant that a student would imply a younger person, more likely to speak English (as apposed to a working person who might be a bit older, not having been exposed to the imperialistic tongue). – Konrad Viltersten Jul 7 '14 at 11:37
  • @KonradViltersten "Working girl" is a euphemism for prostitute. – Andrew Lazarus Oct 4 '15 at 22:12
  • @AndrewLazarus I'm aware of the expression, yes. My point is that I can talk to a person of any profession, including a working girl. In fact, it'd be conceivable for me to even pay for her company (as long as that includes a conversation but definitely excludes more intimate activities). – Konrad Viltersten Oct 5 '15 at 6:56

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