Metro

The St Petersburg metro (www.metro.spb.ru; S 6am-midnight) is a very efficient four-lined system. The network of some 58 stations is most usefully employed for travelling long distances, especially connecting the suburbs to the city centre.

Look for signs with a big blue 'M' signifying the entrance to the metro. The flat fare for a trip is R14; you will have to buy an additional ticket if you are carrying a significant amount of baggage. If you wish to buy a single journey, ask for 'odin proyezd and you will be given a zheton (token) to put in the machine.

If you are staying more than a day or two, however, it's worth buying a 'smart card', which is good for multiple journeys to be used over the course of a fixed time period. Smart cards are plastic cards that the machine reads when you touch the circular light. The prices of smart cards at the time of research were as follows: 10 trips/7 days R115 20 trips/15 days R220 40 trips/30 days R432

Getting around on the metro can be a bit of an adventure if you do not read Cyrillic. Metro maps in English are available in the tourist publications that are distributed around town, but they are not posted at metro stations. Furthermore, even if you do read Cyrillic, the signs in the stations are difficult to read from the trains.

Listen out for the announcements: just before a departing train's doors close, a recorded voice announces 'Ostorozhno! Dveri zakryvay-utsya. Sleduyushchaya stantsia (name of next station)'. This means 'Caution! The doors are closing. The next station is (name of next station)'. Just before the train stops at the next station, its name is announced.

A confusing aspect of the St Petersburg metro is that where two lines cross and there is a perekhod (transfer), the two stations will

CATCHING A CAR

Stand on practically any street and stick out your arm: you can be assured that sooner rather than later a carwill stop for you. Usually it's a well-worn little Lada orZhiguli, but it can be anything - a snazzier car, an off-duty city bus, an army Jeep with driver in camouflage. The drivers may be on their way somewhere, or they may just be trying to supplement their income. These unofficial taxis are the cheapest way to cover distances in the city centre.

So, you've stuck your arm out and a car has stopped. This is where the fun starts. You state your destination, say, 'ulitsa Morafo/'The driver looks away for a second and shouts back 'skolko?' ('how much?'). You bark back a price. If he's happy with that amount, he'll say, 'sadites!'('sit down!'), at which point you get in and drive off. If he's not happy with that price, a period of negotiation might ensue.

If you feel that the driver is trying to rip you off because of your accent, shut the door. If there's more than one person in the car, don't get in. And if the driver seems creepy, let him drive on. There'll be another car coming in a flash. At any time, you are welcome to give a gruff 'nyet!' and slam the door

Alternatively, the driver might not ask you for a price and just tell you to get in or not depending on whether he wants to go your way. If that's the case, at the end of the ride you pay him what you think the fa re was worth. If your ride is less than 10 minutes long, RIOOto R150 is acceptable. For a greater distance reckon on paying R200. The airport from the city centre should be between R400 and R600.

Asa bonus, often these drivers are very interesting characters you wouldn't ordinarily meet on yourtrip, and chatting with them about the potholes, how much better things were under the Soviets, their days in the army, how much you earn, Putin, Bush and Blair can be great fun.

have different names. For example, Nevsky Pr and Gostiny Dvor are joint stations: to all intents and purposes they are one and the same (you don't need to go outside to change), but each has a different name because it's on a different line.

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