The Marshrutka is a mini-bus taxi which follows a set route, and you hail it down like a taxi.
Privately owned, the Marshrutka is a commercial form of public transport which follows an urban set route that may or may not be same as a state bus route. You will see them quite frequently running in the streets of Saint Petersburg as they cover most areas of the city.
Being particularly affordable, fast and efficient, this kind of Russian bus has been the most popular form of transport among Petersburg residents and most of Russia since 1990.
Driven by migrants from former Soviet Republic, this means of transport is usually old fashioned and uncomfortable due to the lack of space between the seats. However, despite that they are considered a better alternative to buses, trolleys and trams for many Russians.
For foreigners, it's certainly advisable to take caution, though it can be convenient. Honestly speaking, for visitors like you it could be complicated and confusing to take one of them if you don't speak Russian. For your information there is a certain protocol to follow.
Therefore, unless there are no other forms of transportation available or unless you are with a tour guide or someone who speaks Russian, then make your life easier and take the Saint Petersburg Metro.
Still thinking of taking one of those Marshrutkas? If so read on...
Wondering how to go by Russian minibus? If so, learn more below.
All Marshrutkas run on a daily basis from 7 am to just about 11 pm. Usually they can carry up to 10-20 people and are able to stop anywhere, collecting and depositing passengers along the way for a fixed rate of 40 Rubles (around US$0.5).
The ticket price is roughly 20% higher than municipal transport, but they are definitely a good deal cheaper than an ordinary taxi.
You will recognize them by their small size and by the letter "K" in front and on the right side of the minibus. You will find the route numbers next to the signs of their main stops.
Unfortunately the signs are only in Russian, and very rarely in English (usually just for popular tourist areas).
To take one of them, just go near the road of the official bus stop and when you see a minivan stopping along the footpath, wave it down like a taxi and get in.
When you want to get off just ask the driver to stop in a loud and clear way (don't be shy, yelling out is the way). If you want to be more polite, then say "Ostanovite pozhaluista" (stop please).☺
When on board the minibus don't forget to pay as soon as you get in.
The price of the ride will be displayed inside and in the front of each minibus.
You can pay only in cash to the driver as soon as you get into the vehicle (Electronic travel cards or credit cards are not accepted).
Once you've paid, look for your seat (if it's not full) but avoid sitting at the very front of the cabin if possible, or you will find yourself passing money to the driver backwards and forwards throughout all your journey.
As for the bus, trolley and tram, you should pay only with small coins or small notes, otherwise you may not receive your change back. Also, if you are getting on one of these fixed route taxis at the
start of the route, you may have to wait a few minutes for the
cabin to fill up. For them, more people on board means making more money, so be patient!
Looking for a cheap way to go to the airport or downtown?
So, if you are looking for a cheap and alternative way to reach the St Petersburg Airport, and if travelling in a cramped space or in an uncomfortable way is not a big problem, then, you should take the popular fixed-route minibuses K39 from/to the New Pulkovo Terminal.
This Marshrutka goes to/from Moskovskaya metro station and to/from the Pulkovo airport every 15-20 min, and the price is the same as any regular minibus (40 Rubles, around $US0.5).
Although it is not advisable, for budget travelers taking a marshrutka could be the best bet for trips to the popular suburbs of the city (Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selo and Pavlovsk), as well as being the best-value way to get to and from the St Petersburg Airport at a cost of half the normal price.
However, as I said earlier the Russian language can be a barrier for you, so I personally don't recommend that you take this means of transport, unless you are in the company of a local friend, or a tour guide. Also, it can be quite a squash with more than the bare minimum of luggage).
To get around the city on your own I recommend you taking the metro, while for transfers from/to the hotel or for a trip outside the city I suggest you book with us.☺
Written by Davide C.