Arriving by Road
If you're arriving in the city by road, chances are you'll be arriving from another country. With excellent rail and air links between St Petersburg and Moscow and most other major cities in the country, there's no reason to hire a car unless you're looking for a real adventure, and the main road between Moscow and St Petersburg is notoriously poor and subject to extensive delays. But buses, marshrutkas and even taxis are a reliable and low cost way to get to and from St Petersburg and neighbouring Finland and Estonia, from where many locals take low cost flights to warmer climes.
The two main bus companies running between St Petersburg and Tallinn, Estonia (a RyanAir destination) are LuxExpress and Ecolines. The journey takes about six and a half hours, and cost about EUR 40 for a return trip. Buses run twice a day in both directions, once in the early morning and once late in the evening. Last time we took it, on a warm summer evening in late May, there were only two other passengers and the northern sky never quite got dark as we drove through the pristine countryside and forests of northern Estonia, along the shore of the Gulf of Finland. The buses are double-deckers, clean and comfortable, offer some refreshment opportunities, have a toilet, and some have wifi.
Ecolines also run buses to Riga, Latvia (11 hours), Kiev (17 hours) and Odessa (25 hours) in Ukraine, and to Warsaw in Poland (27 hours) via Minsk, Belarus (13 hours). Be aware you need a visa for Belarus even if only in transit, and these can be difficult to get. LuxExpress run direct buses to Estonia's second largest city and student capital, Tartu (6 hours) via the border crossing at Ivangorod-Narva. There are also connections to Kaliningrad and Berlin via Riga. Follow the links for full details.
There are also two companies running buses between St Petersburg and cities in Finland, albeit a different two companies. Sovavto has a single daily bus to and from Turku via Helsinki, and to Lappeenraanta. (Turku and Lappeenranta are both served by RyanAir). Finnord has two daily buses running between St Petersburg and Helsinki in each direction, tickets are around EUR 32 one way.
In all cases one of the great advantages of travelling by bus rather than a private vehicle is that you get to jump the sometimes significant queues which can build up at the border. The process can still take an hour or more as you have to pass through immigration of both countries and the bus has to be searched, but it's nice to know more or less how long the process will take.
Mitrofanjevskoe shosse 2-1, St Petersburg
tel/fax: +7 (812) 441 37 57
Podyesdnoy pereulok 3, St Petersburg
tel: + 7 (812) 325-21-52, + 7 (812) 314-25-50
Park Inn Pulkovskaya Hotel, Park Pobedy
tel.: + 7 (812) 740 39 85
fax: + 7 (812) 740 39 86
ulitsa Italisanskaya, 37, 191011 St Petersburg
tel: +7 (812) 314-89-51, +7 (812) 274-08-41, +7 (812) 314-70-58, +7 (812) 274-23-40
fax: +7 (812) 274-34-60