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Apartment v. hotel? Independently or with a guide?

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Apartment v. hotel? Independently or with a guide?

Greetings, fellow travelers,

In researching St. Petersburg, LP says that anyone spending more than a few days should consider renting a short-term apartment. My husband and I, along with another couple, (all seasoned travelers in our late 50s) are planning on spending a week to 10 days in St. P. in late June/early July next summer. The more I read about St. P.,the longer our list becomes of where we want to go. Any suggestions on if 7-10 days is appropriate? I see some people going for just a few days, or a week. I figure it's a long way (from Oregon), and we want don't want to shortchange ourselves. Do people get museum/art/history overload?

Responses to a previous post of mine here on TripAdvisor a few months ago convinced me that it's possible to travel independently in St. P. The guidebooks appear to assume that this is fine too.

Our friends want a full-time guide, however, thinking that navigating our way through a big city--in Russia!-- is too daunting to do on our own, as well as we'd have better access to the heavily visited musuems with a guide. I'm taking a "Russian for Travelers" class at our local community college this fall, but I don't expect to get beyond the basics.

I'd really appreciate some input on how best to visit St. P. on a "moderate" budget, knowing that we're going during the peak season and that St. P. is an expensive city. Our thinking is a hotel would have a concierge to help with questions, but if we have a guide, or have done our homework thoroughly, maybe having a concierge wouldn't matter. I've seen references on this forum to guides, but really don't know how to find one. Any suggestions or recommendations would be most appreciated.

We plan on staying in the city center, to be close to the places we want to go to, but LP advises to also consider access to public transportation. I have read about how bad vehicular traffic can be. So is it better to take public transportation (i.e. the Metro), and if with a guide, do they typically have their own cars, or how do guides work in St. P.??

Thank you all for your help!

St. Peter Line
Ferries, Taxis & Shuttles
Taxis & Shuttles, City Tours
Nevskiy Express
Taxis & Shuttles, Railways
Taxis & Shuttles
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1. Re: Apartment v. hotel? Independently or with a guide?

Hello, I guess the apartment v.hotel question depends on your finances. I was in SPb in August and stayed at the Holiday Inn. It wasn't in the center, but half a block away from a metro station 4 stops away from the center, which means that you get there in about 8 minutes.

For longer distances, I would recommend you hire a driver (which will cost you a lot less than an accredited guide). I have in mind Alex Lyubimov, who is truly very helpful. He will help you with everything, pick you up at the airport, find tickets for Catherine's palace etc. and explain anything you want to ask. His e-mail is alex-lyubim@mail.ru and his phone number is +7.812.945.4126. He has his own car, new, with a/c, etc.

So if you do your homework, as you said, and you know where you want to go and when, you won't have any problems.

Have a great time in SPb. It's an unforgettable city.

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2. Re: Apartment v. hotel? Independently or with a guide?

It is a serious choice – apartment vs. hotel. Staying in the apartment you will have to think of breakfast. May be cook it yourself or go somewhere. In case you think of cooking the most important thing is to choose the apartment located near the market or big grocery (for ex near Vladimirskaya metro station). So you can stay in the city center in a walking distance from the major sights and at the same time you can actually buy food.

Another thing to keep in mind – staying in the apartment there is nobody to assist you in case you are out of electricity or water or anything of this sort. Of course you will call the manager but usually the service comes on the next day. I have never thought of it until I witnessed such a situation this year. But on the other hand apartment can save you money.

By the way, it seems that many hotels put the prices down now so check with mini-hotels may be you can get a good deal.

10 days give you a wonderful opportunity to mix different activities not to get overloaded with museums and churches. I believe you could even go to visit Novgorod which can become a highlight of your trip.

It is a good idea to have guide for some days of your visit and spend the rest on your own. In order to find one you can simply Google ‘private guide St.Petersburg, Russia’, e-mail several and see who is responsive, who understands what you want and so on.

While in the city you can walk to many places, take a metro or bus which is relatively easy. Guides usually don’t drive as it is unsafe to drive and talk at the same time. So the guide will offer you a choice of private or public transportation.

Have a pleasant journey!

Pasadena, California
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3. Re: Apartment v. hotel? Independently or with a guide?

We were there about 4 years ago so our information may be outdated, but... for what it is worth...

We were a family of four, parents @ 50 and teenage sons. We rented an apartment in a fantastic location for not much money. There are a number of agencies and most seems to advertise the same apartments. We used CityRealty, and they had a great website with accurate photos and a map of where the apartments were located. The apartment itself was fairly basic but fine, and the location was unbeleiveable-- literally around the corner from the Hermitage/Palace Square. If you click on my screen name, look for my Russia posts... there is lots of detail on the apartment and other aspects of our trip. Whether you rent an apartment, or stay in a hotel, I think location is critical. There are great places right in the historic center, on Moika, Bolshoya Morskaya (sp?), etc.

With 10 days, I think you could easily consider a 2 day/1 night sidetrip to Novgorod, which is pretty easy to get to and very easy to visit on your own-- but a bit far for a day trip, unless you opt for an expensive day with a car and driver (and even then, it would have to be 2-3 hours each way by car, I would think). Novgorod is accessible by bus or train. Beautiful, ancient and interesting, and a completely different look at Russia. One of the highlights of our trip-- much like one of the Golden Ring cities you may have heard about, near Moscow.

If you visit on your own, try to leave most of your luggage in SP, or if renting an apartment, just keep it for that one night... it will be worth it.

We didn't use guides much, but ideally you might want to plan a couple of days with a guide, to see things that would be difficult without a guide. We only used a guide for one day, Peters Walking Tours, for a Siege of Leningrad tour. Very interesting, and will help ease the museum/palace overload thing.

Some people on this forum have said that a guide is helpful for getting access to Catherine Palace (we didn't go there). We had no trouble just getting into the Hermitage by just walking up-- twice!!-- but maybe we were just lucky...

Saint Petersburg is very easy to get around in-- at least the center, where you will spend most of your time. You won't need a guide for the basic walking tour of the main highlights-- and you CERTAINLY will not want a car for this. You can walk almost everywhere in the historic center, including to the Peter and Paul Fortress across the river. If you use a car (or the subway), you will miss the fantastic views from the bridge.

Obviously, a lot will depend on your friends. I'd go nuts with a guide every day. Our apartment was fine but not fancy-- the bathroom was clean but basic-- and do NOT put anyone on a Russian sofabed! They are different, and not suitable for adults. Make sure you have a two bedroom place. And when you arrive at your apartment or mini-hotel, don't be put off by a gloomy, concrete stairwell. These seem common.

Monterey, California
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4. Re: Apartment v. hotel? Independently or with a guide?

We used City Realty last year to rent a very spacious apartment overlooking Nevsky prospect in the heart of the city for less than any of the mini hotels. Our 10 day stay was not enough to see everything on our list despite the fact that we had previously visited all the popular tourist sights! The subway was close by and is very easy to use if you can decipher the cyrilic station signs. We had an exceptional guide - Julia Ivanushkina - (who seems to be presently working through TJ Travel) whose husband acted as our driver. Novogorod and Schisselburg Fortress were noteworthy day trips. The imperial palace grounds and secondary residences are wonderful destinations on their own merits. Do your research and you'll find more than you could possibly do. There are plenty of fast food - russian style - restaurants so don't worry about a lack of hotel meals. There are a number of world class restaurants around the city and there prices are as high as any world class restaurant here in California. Don't even think of wine - the prices are astronomically high.

5. Re: Apartment v. hotel? Independently or with a guide?

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