Thought I'd mention this for anyone traveling to Russia on a Viking River Cruise. I intended to bring my GPS receiver along to track our position on the waterways and within the metropolitan areas. Then I discovered this travel advisory on the US State Department site.
The importation and use of Global Positioning Systems and other radio electronic devices are subject to special rules and regulations in Russia. In general, mapping and natural resource data collection activities associated with normal, commercial, and scientific collaboration may result in seizure of the equipment and/or arrest of the user. The penalty for using a GPS device in a manner which is determined to have compromised Russian national security can be a prison term of ten to twenty years. In December 1997, a U.S. citizen was imprisoned in Rostov-na-Donu for ten days on charges of espionage for using a GPS device to check the efficacy of newly-installed telecommunications equipment. He and his company believed the GPS had been legally imported and were not aware that Russian authorities considered nearby government installations secret.
It's ten years old, but I found out about it on a GPS board where someone reported a similar occurence in 2006. A friend he was traveling with carelessly pulled out his GPS receiver in view of some state police. They informed him that he could either surrender it there or accompany them to the station. This was probably more of a shakedown than a security violation, still a stranger in a strange land must be careful... And I almost packed my Garmin.
Thanks for this tip! This August we are taking a Scandanavian and Baltic cruise, and St. Petersburg is a two day port of call. We will have to be sure to leave our GPS on the ship when we go on our shore excursions!
I find that this is a strange topic.
Why use GPS on a river cruise? You are not traveling at a high rate of speed, and rivers are not very wide.
Also, why GPS in a city like St. Petersburg? I have taken walking tours of St. Petersburg, and a map in your tour book should be enough.
Visiting the Hermitage, however, can be very confusing. Use the IBM service inside to print out routes to the various art works you are interested in.
I lived in Israel for 10-years, and carried a GPS and a cell phone, just in case I ran into trouble in the West Bank, and needed help quickly. Only happened once. My GPS (a low cost Magellen) would not indicate altitude below sea level, and I traveled daily to the Dead Sea area. Also, Sea of Galilee is below sea level. In USA, only Death Valley is below sea level.
One other thought. Using a GPS in a city would peg you for a tourist, and make you a target for pickpocketing or robbery. Stay safe.