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Moscow and St. Petersburg Trip

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Portugal
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Moscow and St. Petersburg Trip

I need advice, please, for a last-minute 2-week trip to Moscow and St. Petersburg starting July 29. Russia requires pre-booked hotel names and dates before they'll accept a VISA application and I haven't made any yet. Panorama Travel Ltd. here in New York City can somehow fudge that info on the VISA without my actually having reservations and get the VISA processed in 2 weeks for $200 that I will willingly pay.

But now I have to make my "real" hotel reservations. Can anyone give me hotel recommendations--especially in very expensive Moscow? I prefer basic smaller hotels with local flavor rather than large American-style chains with all the extras. About $150/night for a single room would be great. I'm a very experienced female single traveler, living in New York City, so am comfortable with large cities and transportation systems. I usually walk all day until 8 or 9 pm to see as much as possible. Do I have to be more cautious in Moscow since I read thieves are very common there. Should I pay more for a safe center city hotel location? I plan to take a fast train from Moscow to St. P instead of flying, so could someone fill me in on their experience on Russian trains? I read cheaper trains are overnight and not really safe.

This is a lot of questions, but I've found Trip Advisor people are the best travelers and very willing to share experiences. Fortunately, I have time to research specifics on museums and other places that I'm eager to see. I'm already booked with Lufthansa so have that itinerary for the VISA application.

Many thanks for whatever suggestions anyone can make--I'm looking forward to your responses! Virginia

Moscow, Russia
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1. Re: Moscow and St. Petersburg Trip

There is a shortage of basic small inexpensive hotels in Moscow - they are mostly large and expensive, and most of inexpensive ones might appear too basic to anyone who has not just got down from the tree. Before people start giving specific advice, please read the reviews here on TA, I usually pick hotels all over the world this way and it works out perfect for me. Thieves are definitely not more common here than in NYC, so you need to take no special precautions other than at home. The same goes for the trains. Contrary to popular belief, non-central locations are not noticeably less safe than central, so you should not make the location decision based on safety. The center is more convenient for sight-seeing but more expensive and that's it.

Plymouth, Minnesota
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2. Re: Moscow and St. Petersburg Trip

I take overnight trains up and back every year...and never had or heard of any problems. Admittedly I do get a "luxury" cabin - not really luxury, but a cabin with a locking door for 2...everyone locks the door from the inside before they turn in for the night. So, unless you happen to land a roommate who is a thief or a mugger or worse, you will be extremely safe. Note there are cheaper cabins for 4 as well for less money...would not suggest you book the lowest class- so-called "Platskart"...

Being a female, you may want to be sure when you book your (presumed) cabin that you specify you want a "same-sex" roommate (unless there are 2 or more of you!, in which case you just get your own cabin...

Check out TA for advice on getting your TX...if price is a big thing, then you can TRY to book right on the RZD (Russian Railways) site, but it is in Russian, and we have come up with a handy guide to get you thru...the reason for even bringing this up is depending on when you will be traveling, you may not want to wait til you get there to get your train tickets...

Quainton, United...
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3. Re: Moscow and St. Petersburg Trip

The night trains are perfectly safe - why wouldn't they be?

There's quite a lot of them, including the famous 'Krasnaya Strela' or 'Red Arrow', train number 1/2, which was the most prestigious train in communist times. There's a few other prestige sleeper trains such as the Nevsky Express, and the plain 'Ekspress'. Then there's the luxurious privately run 'Grand Express' if you really want to push the boat out, with some deluxe rooms with shower & toilet.

The day trains are high-speed Sapasan trains taking just 3 hours 45 minutes, although they tend to be as (if not more) expensive than the sleeper trains, and unlike the sleepers, the day trains doesn't save you a hotel bill!

It's easy enough to buy tickets at the station when you're there (the extra few roubles to book in a quiet, civilised 'servis senter' at the station rather than the main ticket office can be worth it!), although an agency such as www.realrussia.co.uk can arrange it in advance for you, for a 15-25% extra fee.

Edited: 17 June 2011, 13:38
Plymouth, Minnesota
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4. Re: Moscow and St. Petersburg Trip

I would just re-iterate re: when to get tickets...if you come in peak season (summer), and try to travel on a peak day (around weekends), you may find your options limited...but good idea about paying a few $ more to use the service center (which includes air conditioning , which would have been a must last year with the heat wave they had...

As for price, agree you save on hotel, but if you get a 2 person cabin, it will cost about 50% more than express...having said that, the room savings and also time (you would be sleeping anyway sometime during the 24 hour day) to me make the night trains a good idea (if you can sleep on a train)

New York
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5. Re: Moscow and St. Petersburg Trip

added to that, they won't sell you a train ticket w/o recording your passport info. Serial killers etc like to operate cloaked in anonymity

St Petersburg Russia
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6. Re: Moscow and St. Petersburg Trip

If you want good advice, not to say others do not give it, listen to "The man in Seat 61", probably the most expert person in passenger train travel worldwide. Visit his web site for a very in-depth storehouse of information for train travel anywhere.

Good to him here on the St Petersburg forum.

Unless a business meeting requires getting to and from Moscow in the shortest time, I prefer the night trans which allow a more leisurely arrival after a good night sleep and saving $300 on a hotel room. If you leave your door open it is common to have visitors who want to turn the trip into a social event, with shared snacks, drink and conversation all night. It really is a good way to meet people and exchange ideas of the cultures of your respective countries. I am still in communications with people I've met during these impromptu parties that spring up. Riding the train will be safer than driving your own car to the grocery store at home. Theft is not the reason people close and latch their doors, it is to get sleep without the wandering from cabin to cabin with the roving parties the spring up paying you a visit, particularly before or after football games between the two cities.

7. Re: Moscow and St. Petersburg Trip

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