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DIY or Guided tours?

Derby, UK
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DIY or Guided tours?

My wife and I are visiting St Petersburg for 4 days between 29 May to 2 June (travelling independently). My main query was whether we should be using a guided tour or Do it ourselves ? Most tour companies seem to cater to the "Cruise market" and I wonder whether they will offer something for me as an independent traveller.

St.Petersburg
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1. Re: DIY or Guided tours?

Hi,

While there are many companies especially oriented on the cruise passengers and big groups you can find other ones (smaller companies and private guides working free-lance) being very helpful to the independent travelers.

I would suggest you to take city tour to get oriented, learn more about the city and see some sights located a bit away from the center. Then you can explore the Hermitage on your own as it is visitors friendly. Ask for the free map on the information desk of the museum and do some research on-line (http://www.hermitagemuseum.org/ ) to check what exactly you are interested in. The Russian museum www.rusmuseum.ru can also be visited on your own.

Peterhof park can be visited independently as well (take the hydrofoil which leaves from the pier on Neva River near the Hermitage every half hour). The Grand Palace of Peterhof may be a problem as there are queues to enter it.

Catherine’s palace is a place where you need a guide. On one hand it is quite difficult to get there by public transportation on the other hand it is difficult to get in because of the queues. So another tour which I strongly recommend you is Catherine’s palace (with Amber Room) and Paul’s palace – two estates are located near each other and are as different as could be so it’s interesting to see both and compare.

So among the five days you spend in the city you can have 3 day on your own and two days of private tours.

Enjoy your trip!

St-Petersburg
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2. Re: DIY or Guided tours?

DIY seems to be more reasonable.

There are some problems with information points and english speaking police, busdrivers etc, but good city map helps to solve the problem.

You can try to find some student for example (ask on this forum) - just to help with transport system and advice what to see. Much better than touristic firms.

St Petersburg Russia
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for St. Petersburg
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3. Re: DIY or Guided tours?

I agree with Eugennia, split the time between assisted touring and DIY time. after the orientation of how to get around, use public transportation, money, phones, and the lay of the land you will be quite capable of exploring on your own. There is a big difference between getting around and understanding what you see. Some people come for the sights and really do no care about what they mean or this history behind them, these sorts do well with only a guide book. Those who go to museums and actually read the placcards and want to find out about the cultural and history, using a qualified guide is a major help. No guide book would be able to or want to be a history/culture interpreter as a guide can be.

One interesting note about guides; they are good overall, very good because St Petersburg has high qualification standards for licenses for each museums or palace. Compared to other cities, the guides in St Petersburg tend to be very well educated in their craft, it is required. I know of no guide that does not have a high university education in related fields, many with masters degrees in history, fine art or foreign languages.

4. Re: DIY or Guided tours?

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Dover, New Hampshire
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5. Re: DIY or Guided tours?

We also spent 4 days in "Peter". We used a Guide, and I think it was a good decision. Although a great tourist destination, St. Petersburg is still not the most friendly place for tourists, particularly given the Cyrillic alphabet. You can find guides who specialize in self-planned itineraries.

Our itinerary included airport transfers (both ways), a full-day city tour (cathedrals, sites) and a 2/3 day (planned for 1/2 day, but we spent more time than expected) trip to Peterhof. We did shopping on-our-own for part of a day, and also did the Hermitage on-our-own, taking a full day for the Hermitage. In our case, one of us is a formally trained painter, so once we figured out the layout of the building, things went fine. (But the Hermitage is very crowded this time of year, and will get worse as the summer touring season peaks.)

The guide we used is Julia Ivanushkina,

http://www.spbwondertour.com/ She was EUR 35/hour, and we ended up paying for 15 1/2 hours (plus the airport transfers.). Tip: Make sure you have plenty of cash for museum entries, which can be expensive. If you get a guide, ask him/her ahead of time how much you will need for that day's planned activities.

Normally when visiting a city, we "do our own thing", having engaged a full-time tourguide only once before (that was in Cairo, another very smart choice.)

6. Re: DIY or Guided tours?

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