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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

St. Pete Road Trip: Nicer but No Faster

Last weekend I took a quick trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg by car. The last time I made the journey was about two years ago, and it was very interesting this time to see what has changed on the road and what problems you'll still encounter during the 700-kilometer voyage.

In the past there were several major problems for drivers who took the route. The first and biggest was gasoline. Two or three years ago I always took two 20-liter cans of gas with me from Moscow since getting fuel on the way was a big problem. There were many gas stations on the route but they were either closed or they sold very bad quality fuel.

Now the situation has changed and drivers traveling from Moscow to St. Petersburg by car don't have to worry about taking extra fuel along with them. There are many new 24-hour gas stations on the road and the quality of the fuel becomes better and better the closer you get to Russia's "second capital." There are also several private enterprises in Petersburg selling gasoline from Finland and this type of fuel is much better than the Russian equivalent. It's also slightly cheaper in St. Petersburg than in Moscow.

The second problem was the quality of the roads and unfortunately this problem still exists. The roads are terrible, particularly the stretch through Valdai Hills. Here there are only three lanes, making it very difficult to drive at speed -- there are too many slow-moving trucks. Altogether the trip will take you about 10 hours.

I always used to take food with me in the car since there were only a few cafes and restaurants on the way and the quality of the food in those days was rather like the quality of the fuel. There was one privately run restaurant but it was too close to Petersburg -- fine if you started from there but too bad if you started from Moscow.

Now, though, there's no chance you'll die of starvation on the journey. There are many different eateries and some of them are open at night too. If you don't want to stop for a meal you can buy something like a Snickers from one of the kiosks you'll find in any settlement with more than two houses.

The other problem was police on the road. These days they're still out in force, particularly at night. I prefer night driving (because there are fewer trucks on the road) but I've found the traffic police don't sleep. Their radar-equipped cars are hiding out in every forest along the route and it's very difficult to keep up a good speed. If you do want to drive fast, you have to pay and this makes the total price of your trip about as much as an airfare.