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Moscow and St. Petersberg - Has anybody been there recently?
Old 05-20-2014, 09:51 AM   #1
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Moscow and St. Petersberg - Has anybody been there recently?

Please share your experiences.

Take guided tour or DIY?

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Old 05-20-2014, 10:52 AM   #2
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Sorry this isn't recent, but DH and I went there in 2003 - St. Petersburg only, because we were fascinated by Russian history and a lot of the things that interested us were there. Since every package tour seemed to combine both, we went on our own.

Getting visa: no problem. I filled out the forms myself but had to mock up a travel agent itinerary (they wanted one, we didn't have a TA). We stayed at the Radisson; they gave us the required invitation after we made our reservation.

Hotel: just wonderful. They immediately tried to "upsell" us to a junior suite and have the WSJ delivered every day for some crazy amount. We turned both down, but you gotta love capitalism.

Tours: we did splurge and get private guides for a few things. We booked a tour of the Youssopovksy Palace (where they murdered Rasputin) through the hotel. I'd read that sometimes the ladies working in the Palace were very protective of the place and wouldn't let just anybody in. We booked another tour guide for Tsarskoe Selo (now Pushkin) and the Hermitage. She had an associate take us to Pushkin; he led us on an odyssey through ornate subway stations followed by vans operated by enterprising Georgians where you got in, passed your rubles up to the driver through the hands of your fellow passengers, and your change was returned the same way. Definitely not something DH and I would have done on our own!

Pretty easy to get around in English but I had studied a little Russian beforehand. So many words are borrowed from French, English and German that if you just learn to decipher the alphabet it's a great help.

I highly recommend for current and detailed recommendations; just make sure you do a search on common topics before you start a new thread on "how do I get a Russian visa?". (Sorta like starting one here on "When should I file for SS?")

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Old 05-20-2014, 04:00 PM   #3
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Same here went in 2005 to st Pete - took the train from Helsinki - had the border crossing experience "your papers please"

Had a guide for the first day - the on our own

The best thing was Peterhaus on the Baltic - took the hydrofoil - felt like a scene from a Cold War movie

I'm sure things have changed - but compared to all the Scandinavian countries - they didn't seem organized

The Visa app is like a top secret security clearance!
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Old 05-20-2014, 06:19 PM   #4
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I did a guided tour of both cities and found them incredible. I felt that St. Petersburg had more of a Russian culture to it while Moscow had the more "Soviet" feel.

If I were to do it again, I would still get the guided tour. Very interesting part of the world, just not sure I'd want to be on my own checking it out.
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Old 05-20-2014, 07:01 PM   #5
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We did a Royal Caribbean cruise tour in 2007 that spent two days in St Petersburg; we did the cruise's day tour which included the Hermitage, which was for me the most interesting part of the day. Saw masters' art work that you couldn't find in the books, probably because the western authors couldn't easily get there in the day.

We had lunch at the Radisson, where we were served by a platoon of precision servers, and they gave my 16-year-old son champagne and vodka... he was impressed! Mom was not...

Of all the travel we've done, that trip was my favorite: 4 days between Paris and London, then Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, St Petersburg, and Tallin on the the ship. Found many places to which I'd eventually want to return for more. St Petersburg isn't one of them, however...
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Old 05-21-2014, 06:00 AM   #6
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Actually here in St P at the moment - all expenses paid by a project. It is gorgeous this week - long days light until 10 pm. Warm, bright. I'm a DIY type and with the help of a wonderful concierge have done fine. It is a beautiful city with great art, food and water. I'd certainly come back. I like it much more than Moscow. There's not a great level of English on the street, but google translate has rescued me.

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