Author Topic: New summer trips to TS  (Read 74407 times)

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Offline Grand Duchess Marishka

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #15 on: September 10, 2007, 03:31:01 PM »
Hello, there! I am very grateful for this thread. I've recently been planning a trip to Russia and have desperately needed assistance!

I intend to go during February and have been trying to save up money to do so. I guess I have a number of questions that I hope aren't too difficult to answer! :) I appreciate any assistance!

1) What are some of the best hotels in St. Petersburg? They don't necessarily have to be four stars, just as long as they are suitable for a simple tourist! :) Does anyone know of any? I've seen a few in travel packages, but these are the "big ones"!

2) How much would a trip to Russia cost, approximately? Actually, how much should I expect the cheapest trip to Russia (St. Petersburg) to cost? My budget is severely limited, but I am ready to work as hard as I must to get there! :)

3) Is it hard to get around without knowing Russian, if you aren't with a tour group? My friend speaks Russian and may join us, but I don't know if that's definite, and I know only a bit of Russian, none of which would be helpful during travel! :D

4) Does Alexander Palace offer tours of any sort (Oh, I hope it does!) and if so, do they run during February? Also, this question is much less important and probably a little too specific, but do they allow cameras or film cameras inside, if it pertains to a student project?

I think I have many other questions as well, but my mind seems to have drawn a blank. I'll be sure to post them here if I remember! Thank you, in advance, to all who answer them for me! It's so appreciated! I really, really hope to go!

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #16 on: September 10, 2007, 03:44:54 PM »
Hello GDM,

I will try to answer a couple of your questions...

3) Is it hard to get around without knowing Russian, if you aren't with a tour group? My friend speaks Russian and may join us, but I don't know if that's definite, and I know only a bit of Russian, none of which would be helpful during travel! :D

It's not that hard to get around St Pete without English, although it would certainly help to learn cyrillic letters so you can at least read the metro stops, etc. Very few people speak English, so it would be helpful to have a translator, but you can probably get by without one. 

4) Does Alexander Palace offer tours of any sort (Oh, I hope it does!) and if so, do they run during February?
 

Yes, the AP does offer guided tours, but unfortunately only in Russian. I am pretty sure they are year-round.

Also, this question is much less important and probably a little too specific, but do they allow cameras or film cameras inside, if it pertains to a student project?

In Russia, you can take pictures practically anywhere, for a fee ;-)

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #17 on: September 10, 2007, 04:06:32 PM »
I would disagree with Helen about the Russian language. Not that many Russians seem to speak English. All the major palaces though, do have English speaking guides.
 St. Petersburg can be very expensive. Unless you have someone to show you where to eat  and stay at reasonable prices.  Also, tourists [non-Russians] are charged a higher ticket price than natives at the palaces & museums. Having a Russian guide, or Russian speaker at least, can help there.
  I know of a couple of reasonable and clean hotels, almost all include breakfast, as well as a couple of the most costly. I am fond of the Matisov Domik and another is Hotel Irene.  The Irene is a deco charm but tiny.
 At your age, a school group would probably be best for a first visit, in my opinion.  I am not saying you cannot handle it alone, but it might be a lot easier for you with a group. Also, less costly.
 Check out the other threads on visiting Russia as well.
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Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #18 on: September 10, 2007, 04:28:53 PM »
All the major palaces though, do have English speaking guides.

Yes, that's what I meant by "you can get by", but unfortunately more obscure places, which can be more interesting than the major palaces, like the The Lyceum, teh Yussupov palace (although that one may already have an English speaking guide by now) and even the AP, which is what GDM is interested in, don't usually have English speaking guides, so this is where it would be nice to have a translator...

Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #19 on: September 10, 2007, 05:10:43 PM »
Yes, the AP had NO guides, English or Russian when I was there. But that was before the tourist season. And about the only way one can get in the major palaces- Catherine or Peterhof in the summer is with a group, I am told, for non-Russian speakers. Especially now that the cruise ships are including St.P. as a regular stop. The babushkas are an essential resource when touring the palaces, and they rarely speak English.  Neither do shop assistants or waiters and menus in restaurants [except the tourist ones]. So, imo, a guide/translator is a must. Having said that, the city itself is pretty easy to get around on foot. I could never figure out the transit system, even though I do know the Cyrillic alphabet.  Of course the Tsarkoe palaces and Pavlosk, Peterhof and Gatchina would require usuing the trains or buses without a driver.
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Offline Grand Duchess Marishka

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #20 on: September 10, 2007, 05:13:19 PM »
Thank you so much, Helen A. and Robert Hall for all your help and the swift replies! I really appreciate it! There's definitely no hope for a school trip to Russia--I can guarantee that--but there will be a small group of us going, if we do go. And I truly hope we do! Hahaha. I believe there would be about four or more in our group. One of us does speak Russian and can most likely translate, otherwise, would it be too difficult and/or expensive to get one? We really want to refrain from going with any "tour groups" just because for the most part, they would probably not stay within St. Peterburg, and also, they would most certainly, from what I have read, avoid the places I'm specifically interested in. Though I do understand how much of a help it would be to be with a group! Perhaps I can look for a tour group that gives tour members a little more time to themselves to explore....

Actually, there is the group tour called "Route of the Romanovs" that I found on Google. But I've never done it, and don't know anyone who has, so I'm not so sure it's legitimate. However, they go to all the Romanov palaces and end in Ekaterinburg, so it does sound like quite the tour! :)

Hahaha, well, again, thank you so much. I'm going to keep doing my research and saving, and of course, I will return if I have any more questions. I thank you for answering them so thoroughly and helpfully! :) This really is a lovely community!

Offline Helen_Azar

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2007, 06:18:54 PM »
Yes, the AP had NO guides, English or Russian when I was there. But that was before the tourist season. And about the only way one can get in the major palaces- Catherine or Peterhof in the summer is with a group, I am told, for non-Russian speakers. Especially now that the cruise ships are including St.P. as a regular stop. The babushkas are an essential resource when touring the palaces, and they rarely speak English.  Neither do shop assistants or waiters and menus in restaurants [except the tourist ones]. So, imo, a guide/translator is a must. Having said that, the city itself is pretty easy to get around on foot. I could never figure out the transit system, even though I do know the Cyrillic alphabet.  Of course the Tsarkoe palaces and Pavlosk, Peterhof and Gatchina would require usuing the trains or buses without a driver.

The AP has occasional guided tours, in other words, not very regular, you have to "catch" them. I think it may even be something like twice a day, or whenever they feel like it... But the tour is pretty good, if you understand Russian of course.

And yes, the city is very easy to get around on foot. I found the subway system very easy, but then again, I am a New Yorker, so once you have the NYC system down, you can pretty much get around on any system. But as I said, you would do much better if you can get a translator, although it is do-able on your own...

I just found the Route of the Romanovs tour that you mentioned: http://www.onthegotours.com/Route-of-Romanovs. I wonder why they include Vladimir, but not Tobolsk or some other, more relevant places?

Offline dmitri

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #22 on: September 11, 2007, 01:13:22 AM »
I believe going in February it would be extremely difficult to travel alone without an english speaking guide or driver. The cold alone would defeat most people. If you are travelling in a group contact Intourist and hire a guide and a driver. They pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel. That way you don't get lost in the freezing cold. Winter weather in Russia has to be experienced to understand the extreme harshness. Much time can be lost and health as well. Good advice is also to pay for a western car and driver. Larger vehicles can also be obtained. Staying in a cheaper hotel might be okay but with greater distances to travel much time could be lost. It is challenging enough in winter walking from the Hotel Angleterre in St.Petersburg to the Hermitage. Take your fur hat, thermals, gloves, scarves, poloneck sweaters, great coat, woollen socks and good boots with very thick tred. Slipping on ice or now could result in broken bones. That I would not wish on anybody. Ice in particular is extremely dangerous. Many places only take Russian roubles and automatic cash machines are not available in as many places as in western countries. Large hotels have them. Do not exchange money on the street. Credit cards are not accepted in many places including bookstores. Visas are also essential for Russia. They take quite a time to arrange before your departure. Forgot to say you must have some sort of invitation to obtain a visa. This is usually in the form of booked and paid for accommodation and tours. You can't simply roll up at the airport and say you want to travel to Russia. An Intourist guide can also arrange tickets for the Mariinsky and elsewhere. Hotels usually charge extra fees for such a service. The Alexander Palace has no guides. The benefit of a guide is you usually get to where you want in good time. Standing in a queue waiting for a ticket in winter in St.Petersburg is not my idea of fun. Many Museums will only allow photos taken without a flash on payment in cash only of a photo permit. Roubles also cannot be exchanged into western currency outside of Russia. It is worth paying extra to ensure you are safe and warm in winter. Even the walk at night from the Mariinsky Theatre back to a hotel would be very difficult in winter. Many people arrange for a car to collect them and take them back to the warmth of their hotel. I found it worth every cent. There were not many people walking back or in fact on the streets at all. Also be prepared to face heavy security in all public places and to go through metal detectors and even be searched. In this day and age it is much better to be safe than sorry. I found the security at the Hotel Angleterre to be excellent. Outsiders were very quickly shown the door. Finally most Russians do not speak English.

Offline vladm

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #23 on: September 11, 2007, 05:42:05 PM »
Hello, there! I am very grateful for this thread. I've recently been planning a trip to Russia and have desperately needed assistance!

I intend to go during February and have been trying to save up money to do so. I guess I have a number of questions that I hope aren't too difficult to answer! :) I appreciate any assistance!


1st you will need to get Visa
I found this guys to be very helpful and cooperative:

http://www.russianvisaguide.com/contact.htm


ticket, during the winter prices are much cheaper, but to Russia price can go up to $1100 + taxes

1) What are some of the best hotels in St. Petersburg? They don't necessarily have to be four stars, just as long as they are suitable for a simple tourist! :) Does anyone know of any? I've seen a few in travel packages, but these are the "big ones"!
pick any hotel from yahoo travel (ticket you can get from there as well), better to get entire package, verify first location of the hotel, it should be near the vicinity of the St. Petersburg center. (not Park Inn Pulkovskaya, its located far away from center)

2) How much would a trip to Russia cost, approximately? Actually, how much should I expect the cheapest trip to Russia (St. Petersburg) to cost? My budget is severely limited, but I am ready to work as hard as I must to get there! :)
if you planning to stay in luxury for two weeks ~$4000+, but you can cut down cost by staying with some family or hostel, you can get down to $2000-$2500 including meals transportation and museums

3) Is it hard to get around without knowing Russian, if you aren't with a tour group? My friend speaks Russian and may join us, but I don't know if that's definite, and I know only a bit of Russian, none of which would be helpful during travel! :D


It is difficult without basic knowledge, however few Russian words and knowledge of Cyrillic alphabet can get you really far, I would recommend to get acquainted with English speaking person, and at least 10%-30% of the time have his/her guidance.

4) Does Alexander Palace offer tours of any sort (Oh, I hope it does!) and if so, do they run during February? Also, this question is much less important and probably a little too specific, but do they allow cameras or film cameras inside, if it pertains to a student project?
Entry to the palaces during high season only with tours, I believe during winter time, AP can have someone,who will provide tour in English.

good luck with your trip, please provide report to us, how did it went...
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Offline vladm

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #24 on: September 11, 2007, 07:35:45 PM »
AP can have someone,who will provide tour in English.
Comment I made, was base on my actual experience, I've heard English tour guide in AP this August, so I assume they (AP) may have someone in staff English speaking already.
In any case, during my experience, I was very annoyed by the staff of museum not only AP, but also Catherine Palace, because forcefully they "knew" what is best for me...
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Offline Robert_Hall

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #25 on: September 11, 2007, 08:17:32 PM »
Well, there were no guides- Russian or English when I was at the AP in April of last year. Actually, the place was pretty deserted, except for the babushkas. That is the beauty of traveling off-season, prices are lower and crowds thin. My friend & guide, Nico had the place pretty much all to ourselves. Same with the other palaces. Not the Hermiitage, however. I have been there 4 times now and it is always quite busy.  I think Dmitri is right though, Feb. is a pretty risky month weather-wise. Getting around can be a real problem.  You must remember  Tsarskoe Selo, Peterhoff, Gatchina  and Pavlosk are all outside of St.Petersburg of various distances.  I was okay in January, but the weather got pretty nasty right after I left.  Also, there are not many hopurs of daylight at that time of the year. Flooding is an occurance, and the canals as well as the Neva  will be frozen. All the palace gardens are winterised, and not much to see. The fountains are shut down.
 I do not know about other's experience, but I had no problem finding ATMs. Usually at the larger hotels, but they certainly were around when I need them.  Also, credit cards are becoming more widely accepted at good restaurants and stores.
 A word about buying books- if you buy a lot of them. You can, of course take them with you when you leave, but if you have a lot, that could present a weight problem.  Another option is to have them sent via the Russian post office.  That can take a very long time to get to you, even if you pay for air mail.  And third, the major hotels will arrange to have them sent via Finland. Costs a bit more, but worth it for the peace of mind.
 I think we all agree that if you do not join a group, you would do best to at least hire a guide and driver to make your viist more enjoyable.
 
Life may not be the party we expected, but while we are here, might as well dance..

Do you want the truth, or my side of the story ?- Hank Ketchum.

Offline Belochka

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #26 on: September 12, 2007, 01:08:03 AM »
... I do not know about other's experience, but I had no problem finding ATMs. Usually at the larger hotels, but they certainly were around when I need them.  Also, credit cards are becoming more widely accepted at good restaurants and stores.
 

Bankomats are indeed scattered in many places where foreign tourists roam in St. P and Moscow. However before visiting small towns and villages you will need to take a bundle of rubles. Many of the Bankomats located on the main street and near metros release no more than 500R. Hotels are safer (with security) and you can remove 10,000R each time.

Most of my store and restaurant purchases were with CC's (except in supermarkets and produce stores). Museums and the hydrofoil to the Peterhof accepted cash only.

Margarita
« Last Edit: September 12, 2007, 01:11:10 AM by Belochka »


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Offline dmitri

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #27 on: September 12, 2007, 04:58:44 AM »
Please do be careful. It's better to be safe than sorry. Much really good and kind advice has been given by many people. I think it is really best to delay your trip to Russia, as hard as that might seem, rather than going without sufficient funds to be warm with good food and all the necessary funds for transport, guide services and museum entrances. I cannot say enough how harsh and desperately cold a Russian winter can be if you are not prepared. You know if you have paid for most things before you leave you are in quite a good situation. That means you can pay for accommodation, guide services, tours, driver and so on before you leave. The Airport in St.Petersburg is a long way from the centre of the city. You will have a wonderful time once you are there if you have planned things well. As the Boy Scouts motto goes ... Be prepared! I wish you only the very best with your trip.

Offline dmitri

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #28 on: September 12, 2007, 05:02:32 AM »
P.S. I meant to include do make sure you have good travel and health insurance.

Offline Belochka

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Re: New summer trips to TS
« Reply #29 on: September 12, 2007, 05:56:38 AM »
... And yes, the city is very easy to get around on foot. I found the subway system very easy ...

Completely agree Helen,

St. P is wonderful and very easy to walk around to discover a nice cafe or special store or just stroll past an architecturally interesting building in between the numerous museums, parks and galleries and fashionable malls. Vladimirskii Passage is worth a visit.

The metro is safe and easy to use by day and made easier with muti-ride magnetic cards. A few of the stations are noticeably deeper underground than in Moscow. The 4 lines are color coded with interchanges which are easily identifiable at each stop and the trains run very efficiently every few minutes.

Margarita


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