Bearing in mind the frequently dire quality of roads, lack of adequate signposting and keen-eyed highway police, driving in Russia may not be for everybody. To legally drive your own or a rented car or motorcycle in Russia, you will need to be 18 years or older and have a full driving licence. Technically, you also need an International Driving Permit with a Russian translation of your licence, or a certified Russian translation of your full licence. Rental agencies are not likely to ask for such documentation, but the traffic police are.
Russians drive on the right and traffic coming from the right generally (but not always) has the right of way. Speed limits are generally 60km/h in town, but usually there are no signs to say so. Limits are between 80km/h and llOkm/h on highways. Children under the age of 12 may not ride in the front seat, and seat belt use is mandatory.
Technically, the maximum legal blood alcohol content is 0.04%, but in practice it is illegal to drive after consuming any alcohol at all. This is a rule that is strictly enforced.
Left turns are illegal except where posted; you'll have to make three rights or a short U-turn (this is safer?). Street signs, except in the centre, are woefully inadequate and Russian drivers make Italian drivers seem downright courteous! Watch out for drivers overtaking on the inside; this seems to be the national sport. Potholes and jagged crevices are everywhere.
The State Automobile Inspectorate (Go-sudarstvennaya Avtomobilnaya Inspektsia; GAI) skulks about on the roadsides, waiting for speeding, headlightless or other miscreant vehicles. Officers are authorised to stop you, issue on-the-spot fines and shoot at your vehicle if you refuse to pull over.
The GAI also hosts the occasional speed trap: the St Petersburg-Vyborg road has this reputation. By law, GAI officers are not allowed to take any money at all; fines should be paid via Sberbank. In reality, Russian drivers normally pay the GAI officer approximately half the official fine, thus saving money and the time consumed by Russian bureaucracy.
St Petersburg has no shortage of petrol stations that sell all grades of petrol. The private company Neste (www.neste.ru) currently operates over 40 full-service petrol stations in and around St Petersburg. Prices for petrol at these stations may be slightly higher, but service is faster and major credit cards are accepted. See the St Petersburg Visitors' Guide Yellow Pages for listings of parts, service and repair specialists.
From May until November all major bridges rise at the following times nightly to allow ships to pass through, meaning you cannot cross the river during these times. Call §§ 326 9696 for more information. All times are am.
Bridge Up Down Up Down
Alexandra Nevskogo 2.20 5.10 Birzhevoy 2.00 4.55
Bolsheokhtinsky 2.00 5.00 Dvortsovy (Palace) 1.25 4.55 Finlyandsky 2.20 5.30
Grenadersky 2.45 3.45
Kantemirovsky 2.45 3.45 LeytenantaShmidta 1.25 2.45 Liteyny 1.40 4.45
Sampsonievsky 2.10 2.45 Troitsky 1.40 4.45
Tuchkov 2.00 2.55
Volodarsky 2.00 3.45
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