Internet access on holiday is now often considered an essential. Many people love uploading pictures, updating their family, and being able to check on the news from back home when they’re on holiday. And, like any big city anywhere, it’s easy to find internet access and wifi in St Petersburg.
For most people, the easiest way to access the Internet is to take their own laptop or notebook PC with them. It’s easy to find a model that’s lightweight and portable, and using your own computer from home means that you won’t struggle with foreign keyboards. Many hotels, hostels and guesthouses have wi-fi, either in communal areas or throughout the property, so it’s easy to check your e-mail and Facebook before you leave in the morning and after you get back from sightseeing in the afternoon.
Alternatively, St Petersburg has a number of places where you can access free wifi, although usually these are bars and coffee shops where you’ll have to pay for a drink in order to access the internet. Rarely, you’ll have to pay a fee especially for internet access too. Shokaladnitsa or Coffe House cafes, which are a chain, all have internet access, and there are several other independent cafes which also have wifi. If you get stuck, then any hotel belonging to a large international chain, like Sheraton or Hilton, will usually have wifi in public areas. McDonalds also offers wifi in St Petersburg.
You can also access wifi in the airports, Pulkovo 1 and Pulkovo 2, as well as in the three main train stations; Moscow, Baltic and Ladozhsky.
Possibly the most pleasant place to use free wifi is in Peterhof Park. Just search for Wi-Fi Channel Obit and start browsing the web without any password, and at no charge. This is a special project mutually developed by Peterhof Museum and the telecom operator OBIT.
However, you may not wish to bring your own computer to St Petersburg, particularly if you’re only staying for a short length of time. Traditional internet cafes are gradually being supplanted by places that offer wifi, but there are still several places which have banks of computers. Café Max on Nevsky Prospect is the largest, and gives a discount to students. Other internet cafes in the city centre include Tetris, www café and Shangrinet. In each of them, you’ll pay around 50-60 roubles per hour for internet access. Café Max is the most expensive at over 100 roubles per hour, but it also offers copying, burning and other services that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. One of the cafes is located in the Hermitage museum. Just ask your St. Petersburg guide to stop at Cafe Max after your Hermitage excursion and take a couple of minutes sending mail to relatives. The drivers of Guide-Guru mini-buses will most likely have Wi-Fi onboard.
The final way to access the internet in St Petersburg is through your smartphone or Blackberry, which can either be used as a standalone device or connected to a laptop or notebook PC. If you intend to do this, then check that international roaming is activated on your phone before you leave your home country. You should also investigate charges for international internet access before you leave, particularly if you’re using your own phone rather than a business account. Using your phone to access the internet in Russia may be quite expensive.
You can also purchase local SIM card with a tariff that’s particularly geared toward Internet use. For instance, in St.Petersburg Megafon provider offers the universal tariff “Megafon-Online”. This prepaid tariff costs 200 rubles can be used for all kinds of Internet appliances at a cost of 1 rouble per megabyte., 200 Rubles prepaid. “Megafon Online” can also be used for telephone calls.
However you chose to access the internet, remember not to spend your holiday glued to your PC – St Petersburg is a wonderful city and there’s so much to explore!