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Thread summary:

Taking trip to Russia, travel tips for Russia, how to travel to a foreign country, travelling to Russia, St. Petersburg, Moscow, supplies to take on trip to Russia

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Old 05-09-2007, 04:35 PM
 
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Anyone been to Russia? Moscow or St. Petersburg? I'm thinking of taking a trip. Any advice on what to do when first arriving? Getting from the airport to wherever you're staying and if there are some tourist/travel guides with itineraries on all the main touristy attractions as well as local hangouts? Also how much Russian is actually needed? for I don't speak ANY

Any advice is appreciated.
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Old 05-09-2007, 05:52 PM
 
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All I've heard is that Russia has become very expensive. Especially Moscow.
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Old 05-10-2007, 07:42 AM
 
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I was in Moscow about five years ago. It was a business trip, so we didn't need to arrange our way from the hotel to the airport, but you can contact the hotel and see if they offer a shuttle.

There are western brand hotels in Moscow (and I imagine St. Pete as well) - Marriott, Meridien, Renaissance, Radisson, etc. Over there, the Best Western brand is Best Eastern! We stayed at a couple of the Marriotts and the Renaissance. It is, however, expensive - about $200 per night for a nice, standard room five years ago. I imagine its comparable to NYC.

At both places, there were people at the front desk that spoke English. Not everyone will, but enough to get by. One night we ate in the hotel restaurant. Our waitress was an English major at the university, and she made better money waiting tables on foreigners than working as a translator.

Another couple we were travelling with arranged for a guided tour of the Kremlin through the concierge of the hotel. Our tour guide was a retired translator for the government. She spoke excellent English, and it cost about $50 per person for a tour that lasted at least four hours.

Generally, people dealing with the tourists will speak enough English to get by. One day we went shopping on Old Arbat Street for souveniers. All of the vendors spoke enough English to sell us things!

We did learn a little Russian before we went - enough to say please and thank you, hello, etc. Russians generally don't smile, but they seemed pleased we learned a little of their language.
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Old 05-10-2007, 08:29 AM
 
Location: The Big D
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OHHHH, I want to go back so bad. And take my husband and the kids. I went to Russia, well it was the Soviet Union back then, in 1986. I was on a tour so I did not have to arrange my hotel or tours and we stayed in Moscow (traveled thru St. Pete on the train from Helsinki). The hotels back then were TOTALLY different, no American hotels at all. The room was a hoot w/ built-in furniture and looked like it came straight from the set of the Jetsons (that futuristic 50's look). When we turned on the tv it shot out flames so we unplugged it and never turned it on after that. Even back then MANY people spoke English, I had a small translation book and never used it. I'm sure one thing has not changed as I know even in places like Germany it is the same, they don't typically serve ice w/ any drinks not even Coke. You MUST tour the Kremlin. Go inside St Basils. There is a museum located in the Kremlin that is AWESOME!!! They had all of the old carriages and coaches along w/ thrones, crowns, goblets, etc that the past czars used. They are a sight to behold totally encrusted in precious gems. The spokes on the wheels of the coaches were totally covered in huge ruby's, emeralds, etc. There is so much to see and the history so rich. Some day I'll go back.
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Old 05-10-2007, 08:40 AM
 
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Originally Posted by jtla View Post
I was in Moscow about five years ago. It was a business trip, so we didn't need to arrange our way from the hotel to the airport, but you can contact the hotel and see if they offer a shuttle.

There are western brand hotels in Moscow (and I imagine St. Pete as well) - Marriott, Meridien, Renaissance, Radisson, etc. Over there, the Best Western brand is Best Eastern! We stayed at a couple of the Marriotts and the Renaissance. It is, however, expensive - about $200 per night for a nice, standard room five years ago. I imagine its comparable to NYC.

At both places, there were people at the front desk that spoke English. Not everyone will, but enough to get by. One night we ate in the hotel restaurant. Our waitress was an English major at the university, and she made better money waiting tables on foreigners than working as a translator.

Another couple we were travelling with arranged for a guided tour of the Kremlin through the concierge of the hotel. Our tour guide was a retired translator for the government. She spoke excellent English, and it cost about $50 per person for a tour that lasted at least four hours.

Generally, people dealing with the tourists will speak enough English to get by. One day we went shopping on Old Arbat Street for souveniers. All of the vendors spoke enough English to sell us things!

We did learn a little Russian before we went - enough to say please and thank you, hello, etc. Russians generally don't smile, but they seemed pleased we learned a little of their language.
Jtla, I second your observations and recommendations! Went on a group tour to St. Petersburg, with my wife, in February of 2000. As crazy as it sounds, February was a good time to go! We had virtually no waiting in lines at the palaces and other attractions. Temps were in the low 20's during the day, which wasn't too bad when warmly dressed.

IMHO, the best way to see Russia is with a group tour. Like Jtla said, you can learn a little Rusian and wander around a little on your own during the day; we did since my wife learned a little Russian in university. Yes, you'll find many of the hotel chains in St. Petersburg, as well.

We felt like there were two kinds of Russians; those that were able to embrace capatalism and those that were left behind in the conversion...

We dined VERY well on our tour; there wasn't anything I didn't enjoy. Linens and china were on the table everywhere we went. Yes, prices in Russia are comparable to many Western European cities. But we honestly felt it was a better deal than touring England on our own the previous Summer. You will notice that there are two price lists; one for Russians and one for tourists. Yes, it seems unfair. But the average Russian could not take in the Hermitage Museum or eat out like foreigners can on their average wage. So we just grinned and accepted. (One night we wandered out on the city bus and had "Plinis", a crepe-like pastry filled with the meat cheese and/or vegtables of your choice. We had one ham & cheese and one dessert plini and Coke each; cost: $1.50 for all! )

I do know there is a sizable ex-pat community of Americans and other foreigners in St. Petersburg. But I have no idea how to access their resources.

We were truly glad we went. Best of luck!
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Old 05-10-2007, 11:11 AM
 
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Crew Chief,

The tour you went on, was it arranged before you arrived in Russia if so, how did you find out about them? Or was it from your hotel?

thanks!
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Old 05-11-2007, 09:10 AM
 
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Originally Posted by linkbr View Post
Crew Chief,

The tour you went on, was it arranged before you arrived in Russia if so, how did you find out about them? Or was it from your hotel?

thanks!
We arranged our tour through a travel agency in Germany, where we lived at the time. Our tour included round-trip airfare, hotel, guide and some entrance fees. We had used this particular agency in Chemnitz before. (But I'm sure ANY European travel agency will work) Without doing a lot of research to back it up, we've always assumed that tours booked from Europe tend to be much cheaper than those originating in the U.S. (even after airfare from the U.S. is included) We may be working from mistaken assumptions, but it may be worth your while to look around on the internet a little... Best of luck!
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Old 05-11-2007, 10:38 PM
 
Location: Tucson AZ & Leipzig, Germany
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Don't forget, a visit to Russia requires US citizens to obtain a tourist visa in advance from a Russian consulate. It's fairly easy to get that visa if you are going with an organized tour group, the tour company will give you a letter for the consulate that has the details of the tour. Go visit a web site for the Russian consulate office in the US (they have several) for all the instructions. Solo travelers need to provide their own details about their visit to the consulate. RT tickets, hotel reservations, places to be visited. It's really almost the same information that the US consulate requires of Russian citizens for a visa if they wish to visit the USA, so it's nothing to get excited about.
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Old 05-15-2007, 02:23 PM
 
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Default I was in Russian in Feb/Mar 2007

I was in Russia from February 20th of 2007 through March 14th, though I only spent 3 days in Moscow. It is a VERY expensive city, even though visiting most of Russia is relatively inexpensive. I spoke no Russian when I went, but then again I was meeting a Russian native who took very good care of me while I was there.

Good luck!

Kevin
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Old 05-18-2007, 11:43 AM
 
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I lived there for two years. It was, however, ten years ago, so I’m sure things have changed now. After a few months, I was able to make my way around with the Russian I learned. I think there are enough people who speak English that you can get by in the larger cities. I do hope to go back some day, but with young kids in the picture I hesitate (it's not the most kid-friendly or safest place in my opinion).
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