If you’ve got limited Russian language skills, make sure you download Yandex.Translate (iOS, Android) or Google Translate (iOS, Android). Both apps allow you to point your camera towards any text you see around you and translate it right away. This is a life-saver if there are no English menus in the cafe, or when trying to discern between sour cream and yogurt at the grocery store. These apps also translate entire web pages and even audio, so you can have a whole conversation with a Russian speaker via the app.
Getting around the city
Whether you want to jump on a scooter, bike, bus, metro, or taxi, there is an app for everything. During warmer days, you can rent a Whoosh e-scooter (iOS, Android; check also Molnia and URENT), or a SmartBike (iOS, Android) to get around the city. For a faster ride, grab a taxi with Yandex.Go (iOS, Android). Diving into the beautiful underground? Download Yandex.Metro (iOS, Android) to help you find the best route to your destination, and even get an idea of where you should board the train for a quicker exit. And, of course, the most important tool for getting around in Russia is Yandex.Maps (iOS, Android); not only does it give you real-time information on the locations of all buses, trams and trolleybuses, but it also shows you exactly where to find any obscure entrances to buildings and specific businesses. Trust me, this is a vital tool in St. Petersburg, especially when some large buildings have over 15 entrances!
For more information about public transport in St. Petersburg, check out our detailed article.
If you want to get takeaway or delivery from a nearby restaurant, your best apps are Yandex.Eats (iOS, Android), and Delivery Club (iOS, Android). Although neither are in English, a lot of the menu is shown in pictures which is a great help. If you’re thinking of grocery delivery, almost every store has its own app, but some common favorites with free delivery are VkusVill (iOS, Android) which delivers within two hours; and Samokat (iOS, Android) – which delivers within 30 minutes or less!
To get more information on food delivery in St. Petersburg, check out this detailed article.
Three very popular places for shopping online are Yandex.Market (iOS, Android), which offers products from its own stock as well as aggregates offers from other online stores, Ozon (iOS, Android), where you can literally buy everything including electronics and things around the house, and Wildberries (iOS, Android), where you can also buy mostly everything, although it’s mostly focused on clothing. All three have delivery points across the city, often a very short walk from your home where you can get things delivered for free.
The most popular messaging apps in Russia are WhatsApp (iOS, Android), VK (iOS, Android), and Telegram (iOS, Android). If you don’t have any of these apps, it’s worth getting them. WhatsApp is mostly used for chatting. VK is good for groups, pages, and chats, especially if you’re a student, and Telegram is not only useful for chatting with your friends or creating student groups but has many informative public channels with updates on life in Russia and the city you live in. With its in-built translation function, you can even follow many Russian channels and keep up to date with the latest news.
Finally, if you haven’t got a bank account in Russia yet, make sure you open one ASAP, and download the app. Most banks in Russia have excellent user-friendly apps. ITMO students and staff use Bank Saint Petersburg (iOS, Android) which has an excellent app in English. Also the Tinkoff Bank app (iOS, Android), for instance, has a great help chat feature, so you can manage your finances easily without having to visit an office or call anyone.