To Russia with Love (or not)?

Discussion in 'Travel Insider Tips' started by BlacKnox, Jun 4, 2005.

  1. BlacKnox

    BlacKnox Active Member

    Jan 29, 2005
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    On my next big trip next month I'm planning to hit 13 countries in just over 3 weeks via 6 airlines. The question is, should I make it 14?

    The g/f and I will be enjoying our summer holiday together, and I'll mix in a bit of work here and there. Schedule at present is:

    CTS-FUK (JL)
    FUK-ICN (JL)
    ICN-FRA (LH)
    FRA-Paris-FRA (Rail)
    FRA-HEL (LH)
    HEL-Tallinn (Helicopter)
    St. Petersburg or Moscow by rail???
    HEL-FRA (LH)
    FRA-LAX (LH)
    LAX-Mexico-LAX (Bus)
    LAX-MEL (UA)
    MEL-BKK (TH)
    BKK-CMB (TH)
    CMB-SIN (SQ)
    SIN-HKG (SQ)
    HKG-NRT (SQ)
    NRT-CTS (NH)

    SQ flights will be in first class, Thai, JAL & ANA in business, and the others in Y.

    I have 7 nights in the HEL/TLL/LED area. I had planned 3 nights in Helsinki, 2 in Tallinn and 2 in St. Petersburg. I know I can't do justice to these areas given the short time frame... so, should I drop Russia or Estonia off the list? Or maybe 3 nights in Russia and 1 in Tallinn? Just St. Petersburg or Moscow too? Is it worth busting my butt on the train to see these 3 cities for such a short time (TLL/LED/SVO)?
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    As a side issue, the russian visa process seems a bit of a hassle which prompted my thinking whether to drop Russia...

    I know NM has spent some time in these places. Anyone else? I would appreciate any comments/ advice from people, as this will be my first time in that neck of the woods. Cheers :!:
     
  2. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
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    Moscow is a fair distance from Helsinki. St Petersburg is a lot closer. When I was in HEL I remember seeing 1 day (long day) and 2 day tours to St Petersburg that used some kind of special transit visa. Dont know if it still exists or not.

    I probably wouldnt spend too long in Tallinn. While it has a nice old town, it is fairly similar to others in the area. Be prepared for the boatloads of Finns bingeing on the (relatively) cheap booze.

    Are you going to head up to Rovaneimi (or further north) for the midnight sun?
     
  3. sully

    sully Member

    Jul 31, 2003
    238
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    Wolloomooloo, NSW
    I lived in Kyiv for 3 years and regularly travelled to Moscow for business. I was able to see a fair bit of the place and can say that it is a really great experience. There is a train from Moscow to St Petersburg and vice versa but it takes about 10 hours. St Petes is also a great experience but if you are visiting you need at least 2 days at the Hermitage to do it justice.

    St Petersburg has the potential to be a real jewel if there was some money available to spend on infrastructure and cleaning up the stench from the network of canals.

    While the time constraints do not permit a good poke around the trip is still wothwhile.

    Enjoy it if you can get there.
     
  4. BlacKnox

    BlacKnox Active Member

    Jan 29, 2005
    732
    13
    Thanks Kiwi Flyer and sully for the feedback.

    I know there are transit visas if staying on a cruiseship or travelling through the country, but I don't know of any for short daytrips etc. I'll check it out when I'm in Helsinki.

    After this comment and a little research today, looks like 1 night will be enough in Tallinn.

    I didn't plan to visit Rovaneimi as I've heard mixed reports. I'd love to see the Midnight Sun but will arrive in Helsinki July 28th. I think prime times for veiwing it are Mid June - Mid July. Maybe just a little too late - I'll also miss the wife-carrying championships in Sankajarui. :lol: Perhaps more of an attraction for me would be heading up to the artic circle to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in winter.

    Agreed. I suppose today I'm leaning towards skipping Russia this time, and waiting until I can spend more time there. The ferry to Stockholm from Tallinn looks interesting as another option. For example 3 nights in Helsinki, 1 night in Tallinn, 2 nights on overnight ferries (TLL-STO/ STO-HEL), 1 night in Stockholm. Any thoughts?
     
  5. Kiwi Flyer

    Kiwi Flyer Senior Member

    Sep 24, 2004
    5,453
    5
    Dont need to go to arctic circle to see the northern lights. Even HEL has them visible a lot in winter.

    I could see how Rovaneimi isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it does have the advantage of being easily accessible part of arctic circle.
     
  6. NM

    NM
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    Aug 27, 2004
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    Remember that you will need a visa for Russia or Ukraine and that is costly and can be difficult to obtain. I have been to Kiev three times and getting the Visa is not simple but can be done if you follow the right procedures and pay the fee.

    I would not recommend visiting Kiev unless you either speak/read Russian or have someone to take you around. However, its a wonderful place to visit under the right circumstances. I have not been to Moscow, but expect it is similar though a little more friendly to tourists.

    No visa is required for entry into Tallinn and its a short ferry ride from HEL.
     
  7. sully

    sully Member

    Jul 31, 2003
    238
    1
    Wolloomooloo, NSW
    NM, I disagree about your comments regarding Kyiv (note correct Ukrainian spelling). It is an easy place to get around notwithstanding an inability to speak the language and the people are much friendlier to visitors than Muscovites. I personally would go to Kyiv before Moscow even though there may not be the marvels of Red Square, the Kremlin or the Treyakov gallery. Kyiv has Zoloty Vorota, Pechersk Lavra and many small museums and art gelleries. The walk down Andrivsky Uzviz is also a great experience. The weather is better and the general feel of the place in the warmer months is great.

    The visa process is not easy and it generally should be obtained before arrival but it is no more expensive than most visas.
     
  8. Jobu

    Jobu Member

    Dec 24, 2005
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    I'm off to Kyiv / Kiev shortly for a short trip...

    What do you recommend are the good sights and sounds?

    Also, can you recommend a good hotel?

    Cheers,

    JOBU
     
  9. NM

    NM
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    Sophia's Monument is worth a visit.
    The markets near St Andrea's church are good for a look, but if you don't speak Russian you are going to pay more for the merchandise.
    There is a great out-door museum, but I can't remember the name of it. Should not be too hard to find.
    The heart of modern Kiev is the central square and its always bustling with activity. The old part of the city is full of old architecture and monuments that are also interesting.
    Can't really help there. Each time I have been to KBP (3 times in the last 9 years) I have had the privilege of staying with a family in their outer suburban apartment, making for a much more interesting visit.

    I do know there is a big hotel right in the middle of down-town Kiev, opposite the square mentioned earlier. That would certainly be a great location. Unfortunately the name of the hotel is obscured in the only photograph I have.

    Kiev is not a very tourist-friendly place. If you don't speak (or at least understand) Russian, its not going to be easy to get around without being ripped-off everywhere. I have been luck to have a local guide (my host family) to show me around and make sure I was safe and to negotiate prices at the markets on my behalf.

    Is this is business visit, or for leisure?

    Enjoy Kiev, its a great city full of history.
     
  10. tgh

    tgh Active Member

    Apr 23, 2006
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    Brisbane
    StP was on my bucket list , and was seen via a cruise ship.
    Not to be missed , if you can manage it.

    The crowds , the rules , and the chaotic traffic make this one of the places to pay well for transport and guidance.

    We paid what seemed like a lot of dosh , but received a guide with encylopedic knowlege and a magic pass to the front of the queue ( passing literally thousands in the process) ,and a male driver who was agressive but patient in the traffic.

    You don't drive ??, we asked our guide... Oh, I have a licence but I don't drive at all....it is better for males to drive in Russia.......
     
  11. dajop

    dajop Senior Member

    Jul 1, 2002
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    I helped some relatives get visas for both Ukraine and Russia last year. The Ukrainian visa was simple, a single night's hotel confirmation from the internet/flight itinerary and the fee paid - done, simple. The Russian visa needed hotel bookings, a visa authorisation from a Russian travel agent (organised through hotel - for a fee), and the fee, as well as flights. It was much more complicated.
     
  12. russianrob

    russianrob Member

    Nov 8, 2005
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    Russian visa's are a pain in the a@#%. As an Australian you can get 30 days on a Tourist Visa but as others have pointed out you will need a hotel booking for each night in country. I would not recommend it but I know some who book and pay for first night, let the hotel/hostel register them (VERY IMPORTANT!!!!!) and then disappear. danger is if you visit a city not registered in your visa and the Police stop you on the street (or in the airport) you will NOT escape without paying a substancial bribe. All Police can not be trusted to act in your best interest, so make sure you have the Moscow Embassy phone number and your Passport on you at all times (or a photocopy that includes your visa page).

    St Petersburg could easily take a week of your time. The Hermitage Museum a couple of days alone. make sure you go out to the Summer Palace as well. Beware dual pricing for westerners, you WILL get ripped off in Russia. St P airport is a long way out of town, and you probably have little choice other than the Taxi mafia.

    Train to Moscow can be taken as a sleeper overnight, but many reports of theft amogst Russian people themselves.

    Moscow is a two trick pony, Kremlin/Red Square, and the metro stations. One day is as much as you want. In side the Kremlin advise paying extra to visit the museum with the Faberge eggs etc.........mind blowing Tsar/Tsarena extravagences. As others have mentioned you can find incredible guides, and they are worth the money.
    Moscow traffic is gridlock most of the day. The taxi mafia will attack as soon as you exit customs, but both major airports now have rail/mini bus connections to the city now.

    Do not expect smiles or customer service (an oxymoron in Russia) in any airport, train station or in any offial dealing. The public on the other hand can be extremely helpful and friendly.

    If you are not travelling with the wife/girlfriend you will be approached, but be warned it will cost you one way or another!

    The night club scenes are hot if you are young enough to be still into that, but cater to the new rich and have "face control". Dress up and identify yourself as an Australian, gets you into most places.........but refer warning above!

    Kyviv, great place to visit but Odessa is much better imho :D
     
  13. Jobu

    Jobu Member

    Dec 24, 2005
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    Fantastic thanks NM.

    Trip is for business.

    Speaking of which, what is the best way(s) to get to Kiev from Australia? Preferably OneWorld with minimal transfers (and if possible, not via London?). When I look at the OneWorld map it only seems to show flights to Kiev from

    - Budapest
    - Amman
    - London
    - Helsinki

    Also, based on your suggestions above, which of the partner airlines would be best (J class)?

    Cheers and thank you muchly,

    JOBU
     
  14. NM

    NM
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    Each of my visits has been using BA via London. Twice on QF FF awards and once as part of a DONE4.
     
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