Saratov

Travel Guide Europe Russia Volga Region Saratov

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Introduction

Saratov is a city in the Volga Region of Russia. The city has about 800,000 inhabitants.

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Sights and Activities

See the magnificent Volga river, the longest river in Europe. At the most popular spot (Naberezhnaya Kosmonavtov, the Cosmonauts Embankment) the Volga is 3km wide, whereas at some other spots nearby Saratov its width reaches as much as 11km. The Embankment also features the beautiful "Old Bridge", built in mid-20th century. The bridge was the longest in Europe until the 1980's.

Gagarin trained in Saratov and he landed near by. There is a museum and a monument.

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Weather

Saratov has a moderately continental climate with warm and dry summers and an abundance of sunny days. The warmest month is July with daily mean temperature near +23 °C; the coldest is February, at -8 °C. Summers are hot and dry in Saratov. Daytime temperatures of +30 °C or higher are commonplace, up to +40.9 °C during a heat wave in 2010. Snow and ice are dominant during the winter season. Days well above freezing and nights below -25 °C both occur in the winter.

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Getting There

By Plane

Saratov Tsentralny Airport (RTW) has flights with Saravia to/from Frankfurt, Hanover, Khujand, Moscow, Surgut and Yerevan.

By Train

Saratov has regular train connections with Moscow, Samara and Yekaterinburg.

By Bus

There are also buses between Saratov and many other cities, including Moscow. However, the comfort and value of the rail system over the vast distances involved makes the bus service a comparatively unattractive option.

By Boat

River cruises down the Volga operate during the summer months (early May to end of September). Dozens of boats operated by different companies run from Moscow to Astrakhan. One way or return cruises may be reserved to/from practically any city along the Volga. Moscow to Astrakhan (one-way) with three daily meals is 15,000 rubles (approximately $500 US). Without meals, approximately 8,000-9,000 rubles.

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Getting Around

Saratov, like most provincial Russian towns, is served by a network of trams, buses and marshrutkas (set-route minibuses). The main terminus for most forms of transport is the area around the Kritiy Rynok (market) at the top of Prospekt Kirova. There are also taxis, both official and non-official. As with all non-official taxis in Russia, agree a price with the driver before setting off.

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Eat

Cafe Fortuna, above an internet cafe on Prospekt Kirova, is reliable for good Russian food like blini, borshch and solyanka, as well as omelettes and chips and the like.

Papa's Irish Bar, also on the Prospekt, serves a decent menu including a fry and Irish stew, as well as other slightly Russified Western pub food.

There is a Tinkoff Restaurant and Bar in Saratov. Tinkoff hosts live groups, as it does in its other locations in Russia. Decor inside is clean and swanky, with dimmed lights and lounge-style tables. The food is overpriced and uninspiring. Expect to go through security by stocky bouncers if you arrive to see a concert.

There are a number of passable sushi restaurants around, while street food like shwarma and hot pirogi are readily available.

For those unwilling to spread their wings, there is a McDonalds on Prospekt Kirova. There is also an ice-cream parlour called Pingvin on the Prospekt and a Baskin Robbins by the multi-coloured church off the end of the Prospekt.

Near the circus there is perhaps Russia's only branch of Papa John's. Like many American fast-food imports, Russian Papa John's appears to be a decent, sit-down restaurant. The restaurant provides free wireless to its guests.

Saratov is also home to a locally-owned chain of overpriced coffee shops called Vostok-Zapad ('East-West'), where no two cappuccinos are ever the same (or, indeed, ever much like a cappuccino). They are, however, a pleasant place to hang out and the coffee is decent enough, if not exactly what you may have in mind but the quality is consistently better than the used dishwater served in most US and UK randed coffee chains. Another café is Café et Chocolat which, as the name suggests, is a French-style establishment, serving crepes and pastries. They have several branches.

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Drink

Bars along the main pedestrian street, Prospekt Kirova, include Pivnoy Zavod (Beer Factory, a microbrewery); Papa's Irish Pub; Pivnoy Bul'var (with American pool tables as well as Russian billiards); and Grand Michel (with bowling).

There are also numerous wine bars around the city where wine can be sampled by the cup.

Saratov's main nightclubs include Jumanji and Ars. Both operate rigorous security checks (metal detectors and body searches are par for the course) and face control policies (nonwhite ethnic minorities may be refused point blank).

In summer, barges along the naberezhnaya (embankment) become floating bars and clubs.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Russia is a huge country, and excess to the internet varies a lot. The main cities and tourist places have (free) wifi excess at lots of places, like restaurants and cafes (McDonald's is always a safe bet). Internet cafes are present in larger places as well. Rural areas and especially if you venture into remote and/or mountainous areas have little excess at all. Most travellers will find connections though when using their phone or tablet.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The emergency number is 112. The country code for Russia is 7. Russian phone numbers have an area code with three, four or five digits (according to their province), followed by an individual number with, respectively, 7, 6 or 5 digits, always yielding 10 digits in total. The three digit code 800 is used for toll-free calls. Mobile phones always have three-digit "area" codes and seven-digit numbers. Calls within any one area code may omit the area code (except in Moscow). Inter-area code calls within Russia: 8 (wait for tone) full Russian number including area code. The international access code for dialling outwith Russia is the sequence of 8 (wait for secondary tone and then) 10. International calls to Russia, as always, replace the plus sign (+) in the international phone format with the local international access code for the country you're calling from, followed by Russia's country code of 7 followed by the individual Russian phone number including area code.

You will require a SIM-unlocked GSM 900 / 1800 compatible international cell phone when buying a Russian SIM card. If you do not have your own international cell phone, it's best to buy a cheap cell phone with some value on the card. Foreigners can purchase a local SIM card by showing your passport. BeeLine is considered to be the best in terms of reliability and connections quality. However Megafon's services can be a bit cheaper.

Post

Russian Post is the national postal service of Russia. It's English version is currently under construction, but mainly involves the track&trace system. The domestic post is reasonably reliable, and sending international mail is fairly reliable but slow, taking at least a few weeks to European countries, longer to the USA or Australia for example. The delivery of mail sent from abroad to Russia is highly unreliable, and people or companies tend to use foreign adresses, from where a private carrier sends it to Russia. Alternatives like poste restante are non-existent with Russian Post. Most cities and large towns in Russia have a Central Post Office (Glavpochtamt), which also sells stamps and envelopes, and usually has fax services and Internet availability, though the latter mostly not in smaller places. Also, many hotels have postal services, including mail boxes. Post offices tend to keep long hours, usually from 8:00am or 9:00am until 8:00pm or 9:00pm Monday to Friday, and closing earlier during weekends. The main central post offices in the biggest cities keep even longer hours. For sending parcels, you can also try services by DHL Russia and FedEx Russia. For all mail you can use the regular alphabet, though maybe include the country's name in Cyrillic. For sending post to Russia (or trying to receive it) note that addresses should be in reverse order: Russia, postal code, city, street address, name.

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Accommodation in Saratov

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This is version 4. Last edited at 15:30 on Nov 9, 17 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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