How to Plan a trip to Russia

  1. I'm on track to finish my EdD in the spring of 2014 and would like to reward myself with a trip to someplace I haven't been before and St. Pete and Moscow are on my list. I'm very comfortable traveling and planning most trips on my own, but I'm rather unsure about this one.

    I've considered a Viking River Cruise that while pre-packaged, also gives me some freedom and nights off the boat.

    Has anyone else planned a trip to Russia on their own? Or did you use a travel agent (if they still even exist). I'd welcome any thoughts or suggestions!
  2. I've been there a few times, and I hope you will enjoy your trip! Russia requires American tourists to have a visa, so if you haven't been there before, the cruise you are considering or a travel agent is not a bad idea. If the cruise company provides visa support, that would help a lot. I assume a travel agent would provide visa support. It isn't a huge hassle, but having someone help you through the paperwork the first time could be very helpful.
  3. Thanks for your post. I had read that I would need a visa, which in part, is what prompted me to start this thread well in advance. Where in Russia have you been?
  4. Moscow and St. Petersburg, exactly where you mentioned in your initial post! They are very different from each other. Both fascinating, but in different ways. What draws you to travel to Russia?
  5. Well, I've been fortunate to travel through most of Western Europe and trying to move through to the east. I love the history and the architecture. I have no idea what to expect, but I love reading about the culture and then exploring in person rather than having everything planned out.
  6. I've been to St. Petersburg and Moscow twice, once in the winter and then again in the summer. I thought St. Petersburg was spectacular in the summer, the canals rival and surpass Venice by far.

    I did all the touristy things you read in guide books. Stalin is no longer lying in state, but you can still go view Lenin on Red Square at Lenin's tomb. Please research the opening times and days, as they are short and if I remember only 5days/week. You probably know that St. Petersburg was once called Leningrad--might want to read the history on that before you go.

    I love history esp war history and the mass fortune and art that the czars accumulated is amazing. A lot of it is for display at The Hermitage museum, which ranks as my number 2 museum in the world. It puts the Louvre to shame in my book. But it offers a different perspective to view art and different era and time. Read the history about Catherine the Great's carriages and Faberge eggs before you go. Also, please schedule a guided tour of the Hermitage, helps a lot. Then stay after and browse on your own.

    I would not do the Viking River cruise, but please take my advice with a grain of salt. I'm not a cruise fan at all. You need to stay in the places that you visit and wake up there to get a better feel for the culture and environment. Part of visiting any city is just walking around in out of way places and exploring; and you are not afforded that on a cruise.

    Things to make note of --the alcohol intake and there is a definite feel of a class system. I hope I don't offend any of our Russian members.

    Have fun, read a lot before you go.

    I sometimes enjoy the research and planning of a trip as much as the adventure itself.

    We took the train from St Pete to Moscow. That was an experience in itself and I consider myself a well seasonsed traveller. The underground or train service in Moscow is an attraction by itself with its decorations. Here's a little quote I found for you--

    "The Moscow Metro was one of the USSR’s most extravagant architectural projects. Stalin ordered the metro’s artists and architects to design a structure that embodied svet (radiance or brilliance) and svetloe budushchee (a radiant future). With their reflective marble walls, high ceilings and grandiose chandeliers, many Moscow Metro stations have been likened to an “artificial underground sun"

    Moscow was or is the most expensive city to live and rent an apartment in the world, BTW.
  7. I'll be going to Moscow in may for the may holidays. This is about springtime when temperatures are a nice 15-17C and just a spring coat will do. I am Russian but I don't have a Russian passport anymore. Our family friends are taking care of the private guest visas. Visas require you to register where you are staying. They want to make sure you dont disappear in the country and go back to your own. There are agencies who will file the paperwork on your behalf but you can find it on the websites and register online for it if you want to save money. Be careful though because bribes are still the norm if a cop decides to harass you. Demanding the embassy won't help. Most tourists don't have any problems but be vigilant is all. Things become twice as expensive if you have a foreign passport.

  8. Viking River Cruises are quite nice. Going on a cruise like Viking is helpful if you are not in command of the language. I have sent people with this group before and they all enjoyed it. Depends on what you are looking to do.
  9. Thanks for your post. What in particular have folks liked or not liked?
  10. They liked having everything taken care of and people who spoke the language. However, the BEST group for River Cruises is:

    They are ranked #1. They also have trips to Russia. If I were doing a River Cruise, this is who I would use.
  11. I've been to Russia 5 times (I'm doing my PhD in Russian Literature) from traveling by myself in little towns to helping run a study abroad group, and I absolutely love it there (despite all of the insanity with the government right now). St. Petersburg is beautiful & my favorite of the two cities. Since they're major cities, they're fairly easy to navigate for tourists.

    You can definitely plan the trip on your own (although I recommend using a visa processing service. They're worth the money & not having to deal with Russian officials--I had mine rejected once for not having my fax number on the form--I don't even have a fax machine! I ended up making up a number & they accepted it. Go figure.)

    As a woman traveling you'll want to take certain precautions like not taking taxis since taxi drivers there are oddly aggressive. Public transportation, however, is extremely easy to navigate & as others have said the metro in Moscow is absolutely brilliant.

    I do a bit of travel writing & I've written a bit about Russia. I wrote this a few months ago. It's a good place to start for planning a trip on your own:

    If you have any questions or need help navigating your planning, let me know.
  12. Thanks so much for your post and the link. I'm on vacation in vienna right now and quite spoiled because everyone knows English. Russia is daunting but so worth it I think.
  13. Learn more how to organize your journey to Russia with minimum efforts from your side.
  14. I've always wanted to go to Russia. Someday.
  15. One of my dream destination...