We interviewed Greg Tepper at Exeter International, specialists in arranging travel to Russia.
1. How has travel to Russia changed over the last few years? Is it easier
or more difficult?
It is just about the same as far as ease or difficulty, but there are many more options for the traveler now. Better hotels, restaurants and services arrive all the time. The visa process is slightly more complex, but still not a real obstacle. Still, you should not expect Russia to be an easy place to get around- few signs are in English and people ont eh street do not generally speak English- so almost all travelers to Russia are part of a group tour or have private car, driver and guide meeting them upon arrival.
2. What about visas Ė are they required and how do you get one.
Yes a visa is required, but the process is not hard. You can get a visa processed as fast as the same day ($300 per visa), but for the best price, you will need at least three to four weeks for processing ($100 per visa). You can find instructions on the Russian Consulateís website. You will also need an official ďinvitationĒ from a tour operator.
3. What are the advantages/disadvantages of traveling with a group?
If you usually like to travel in a group, then you should do this in Russia too. If you usually prefer to travel independently, I highly recommend that you make arrangements to have a private guide meet you upon arrival and have your itinerary laid out before you go. You will also need a private car and driver at least part of the time. Donít arrive and try to ďwing itĒ in Russia- it is NOT recommended and you will have lots of stress (at a minimum!). A tour operator an make all these arrangements for you, including processing your visa.
4. How difficult is it to travel as an individual in Russia?
5. The members of our Forum are interested in seeing palaces and buildings
associated with the last Tsar and his family. Many of these are located in
Tsarskoe Selo. Is it possible to set up individual travel to these sites
and stay in Tsarskoe Selo?
Absolutely! Just ask your tour operator to plan this itinerary for you. Many palaces and museums have odd closing times (sometimes every Tuesday and the last Friday of each month! Each museum has a schedule like this and it is confusing). You wonít want to stay in Tsarskoe Selo since there are few restaurants out there and the couple that are there are very touristy. You can get to Tsarskoe Selo in 50 minutes or less from central St. Petersburg which has lots of hotels and many good restaurants.
6. Have you been to the Alexander Palace and can you tell us how you found
the palace itself and how is it is faring as a tourist destination?
Alexander Palace is just beginning as a museum (opened only a few years ago), as only a few rooms have been restored to their original condition. Most rooms are more like a memorial to the Imperial family and how they lived in this space (ie. lots of pictures of what each room looked like and a few articles from the original room). The palace is not overrun by tourists like the other palaces Ė ie. Catherine Palace and Pavlovsk, so it is always a pleasant museum to visit.
7. Is it possible to travel to the Crimea and visit Livadia?
Absolutely! You can take a cruise that goes into the Black Sea or better yet, fly to Simferopol from Kiev, Moscow or Istanbul (on Turkish Airlines, which is an excellent airline). You will need a visa if you fly in and your tour operator can help you with this. The best place to stay in Yalta is the Hotel Oreanda- a good Ukrainian-French joint venture hotel. You will want a private car, driver and guide here.
8. What final advice would you give to Romanov enthusiasts who would like
to travel to Russia?
Do your research, know what you are most interested in and find a good tour company to help you plan your trip and make all the travel arrangements. There is so much to see and do in St. Petersburg, Moscow and the Crimea, that you will feel rushed no matter how much time you give yourself- so try to devote more time rather than less (no less than four or five days in each city).
25 Davis Blvd.,Tampa, FL 33606 USA
Web Site: www.exeterinternational.com
Tel: 800-633-1008 / 813-251-5355
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