Travelling to Russia (St Petersburg/Moscow) advice please?

Discussion in 'Travel' started by renamed_user, Feb 5, 2013.

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  1. Hello there, I am going to be visiting the above cities having never been to Russia before. I am part of a group which should keep me out of trouble, anyone got any experience of Russia, what are the peasants like? How pricey is beer and food etc.
    Thank you kindly.
  2. Russia went Glasnost and made its prices for Western style hotels same as the West in the 90s and early 2000s. This surprised me as I thought the country was so desperate for dollars it would be mega-cheap. Quite clever really as to ensure the maximum revenue from opening their borders they made the prices higher than one would expect and thus probably did well from it.

    From what I understand to still be the case you'll probably not find a really cheap hotel unless you look a ways off the tourist track. Also same for food and drink. But when cheap it can be very cheap like vodka for about same price as fuel here per litre. I found it similar in Poland...even to the extent where pushy taxi drivers will try and stop you picking up a taxi off the street because it is cheaper than getting one from outside your hotel. One guy even started to try and push me back towards the hotel for example rather than see me stop a taxi about 100 metres from the hotel! Cheeky fat miserable ****. Didnt stop me getting the taxi though. They can be quite controlling in these countries and may see protecting their revenue system as a reason to get a bit shirty ie they reckon they are justified in telling you how to do you may need to stand your ground.

    It should be a great trip though. I have chance to go every year for last few years but with one thing and another I get out of it. Maybe this year.
  3. Moscow and St Pete are much like any other European cities, at least superficially. Same coffee shops, burger bars, brand name shops. Free wifi everywhere is 1000% better than London.

    Prices for most stuff is also euro standard. Hotels are mega-expensive.

    Russian cities are still much safer for tourists and travellers than UK towns - there is very little mugging or robbery ('cos the police don't hesitate to beat the shite out of crims they apprehend. Oh, and gay people. And democracy activists.)

    Decent beer is about half UK price, mainly because until recently it was regarded as "food" and not "alcohol" by the authorities. MacDonalds is about 20% cheaper than UK. Cashpoint machines everywhere.

    Don't take a wife/girlfriend. Russia still has women that look like women, and not like hippos....

    Same tourist rules as everywhere else: don't be a ********, don't get blind drunk, take sensible security precautions, be polite and responsive to uniformed people. Make some scans of your passport and visa. Wear clothes where your passport is in a secure pocket.

    Recommend you prepare by having a look at the cyrillic alphabet, and print off a little crib sheet. You'll find that about 70% of nouns (eg shop signs, MacDonalds menu, etc) are derived from european words, so if you can decipher the cyrillic letters, you'll understand quite a lot you see around you.
  4. Don't!
  5. Thanks for the above, I am staying whilst in St Petersburg at some 840 room hotel opposite the war memorial about 11kms from the centre, can't recall the name. After three days we overnight on the choo choo train to Moscow. I am hoping to visit the WW2 museum, which I thought was in Red Sq but I believe it is further out now. I'm also wanting to visit the infamous KGB HQ,the Lubyanka where many former drinking mates of Uncle Joe, as well countless others were dispatched with a bullet. Apart from that I will follow the rest of the group tour. The group is mainly my son and his fellow school pupils as well as a couple of teachers so visiting the fleshpots is going to be out of the question-sadly for me.
  6. LancePrivateJones

    LancePrivateJones LE Book Reviewer

    I would say that St Petersburg is probably one of the maddest places I have ever visited.

    Not necessary dangerous but definitely mad.

    I was wandering down Nevsky Prospect and saw a woman taking her horse for a walk, on the pavement.
    She demanded $US10 from me to say hello to her horse which I politely declined to much abuse.

    At night the place looks like Disneyland what with all those Russki churches painted in bright colours and well lit.
    The Vodka there was the best I have ever tasted and served properly.
    As pointed out previously, lots of the women are stunners but totally ******* batshit.

    It's a unique place but I'm not sure I'd ever want to go back.

    NB : Always be nice to uniformed authorities, a pack of Benson & Hedges can get you a lot of favours and out of trouble very quickly.
  7. The overnight St Petersburg to Moscow train is an amazing experience. I lay on my bunk half the night watching the country roll by (the nights were short and there was a full moon as well). Make sure you take some food with you, though, as pickings on board were slim when I made the trip.
  8. i was going to add what LPJ has said.

    1. very very very unlikely to need it (especially on a school trip) but...I'd have a back-up dollar bill ready or packet of fags in case I ended up in shite with the rozzers by accident. The most hooligan-looking types I saw in Poland were cops. certainly at night i reckon they'd be happy to meter out out some cracks to the head with the sticks they carry. and in the airport the customs were seriously aggressive i noticed too. the packet of fags could at least be something to calm a situation down out on the streets and allow you to talk your way out!
    of course if you are me you'll be spending your evenings within a fine palace and being entertained not coming up against the state on a slushy side street. but we all like a walk around dont we?

    2. the chicks are quite lovely to chat with. good fun. most i've met get quite annoying after a while (few days) though. their melancholy dialogues are enjoyable at first but get on your tits after a while. could just be the ones i have met on my travels though. am glad to have met them though as is interesting talking to them.
  9. St Petersburg is basically Vienna, but a Vienna that hasn't been painted or repaired since 1917. Equally expensive, the hotels are hit and miss unless you're paying hundreds a night. Everything either costs a fortune in the cities and is actually pretty good or costs pennies in the Countryside and consists of Cabbage. The Tubes are sod all use in town, so expect to walk long distances. That said it is definitely less European than the great cities of Eastern Europe so is well worth a visit once. I found a couple of good Georgian restaurants and really enjoyed the expensive food. The Aurora is worth a quick visit - ditto the fort. The Hermitage is pretty good too. Other than that the city had nothing of note other than some very good looking women.

    I caught the train over from Finland, and that is very well organised. They chucked a bunch of Americans off the train as the Americans thought their Tourist Invites were actual Visas - do not make the same mistake. Oh and don't be any skin colour other than white. Russian race relations are still early Jurassic era - and that's being polite.
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  10. She was simply taking it to the slaughter house! TESCO will open there soon!
  11. LancePrivateJones

    LancePrivateJones LE Book Reviewer

    It was a bizarre sight, the pavements down Nevsky Prospect are quite wide and are flagged in stone.

    They are also packed with people and street vendors etc.

    She spoke perfect English and informed me that she was "Taking her pet horse for a walk and what on earth could be unusual about that?".

    They are all like that in St Petersburg, ******* mad the lot of them.

    Don't get me going about the Russian string bass player who did a turn in a St Petersburg Irish bar.

    I wish I'd recorded it.
  12. Guess that's the whole point of travelling to places like that for fun. You'll see things you won't see elsewhere. Even if a little mad they are different. One reason I quite liked East Berlin a few years ago. I was there with work but enjoyed seeing the way people lived in the 'old East' whereas the Western side just seemed like London a bit more.
  13. I've been to Moscow only. No crime in the city, I was amazed to see a girl all on her own at a bus stop at 23:00 on a laptop. This was city centre-ish. Having said that, don't go into the outskirts, krokodil is rife in some parts and you'l get into trouble. Stand up for yourself, people rarely smile and are offish, this is normal.

    Not many people speak English, learn some Russian at least learn a little of the alphbet, you'd be surprised how much you can work thing out by yourself with practice.

    You must do this is nothing else.... Take a few hours to explore the Metro, it is truely one of the modren art wonders of the modern world. Take the circle line and get off at every station and have a walk around, every one is different and stunning. If you don't leave the station it will only cost you 1 fare, it is the cheapest cultural experience you'll ever have.

    Try to go to the 'Central Army Museum' its near the ballet (meh), get off the dostoyevskaya metro and go north past ballet on ulitsa Sovietskoy Armii, cant miss it, big building, T34 and ML-20 (IIRC) outside. Buy a photo pass or you cannot take photos, its only a few rubles. We spent what, 4 or 5 hours there. Monuments to the war are everywhere, they are vert big into the sacrifice of the war. oh, go to the tomb of the unknown soldier for the changing of the guard, its behind the Kremlin, you'll love the the drill, comical but the place has a massive amount of respect ozzzing out of it. Don't take the piss! Brides will come up to the monument in their wedding dresses and place flowers.

    The women are stunningly beautiful and the men are stunningly ugly (so my Mrs said). We think it is because all the young fit men were killed during the great patriotic war and left the munters behind... Well, its a theory.

    Editted to add more whaffle....
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  14. I was in Moscow in 1994 and was advised to take dollar bills not travellers cheques as it was unlikely the bank would have enough money to cash them. I wouldn't drink the tea on the train as there have been stories of it being drugged so tourists drink it and are then robbed. Kremlin is interesting, Lenin's tomb is spooky, Bolshoi was fantastic. Being able to speak a little Russian will get you a long way but I was told off in the hotel for speaking it. It's mad just go with the flow
  15. Wear winter boots with rubber soles, Camel Active or something along those lines. Do not wear shoes with leather soles, its winter in Russia and the streets are icy, with leather soles you will slide on even an gentle incline. Or fall over, it happens in a split second and the pavements are rock hard, broken collarbones or hips are commonplace for the unwary. And Russian hospitals are not where you would wish to be.
    Wear a hat that covers the top of your ears, the cold is shattering for those not used to it. If you have one that has ear flaps on so much the better. Take a very good coat, there was a thread on British Warms on ARRSE, if you have one forget it, nothing like warm enough. Use thermal underwear, the wind will cut through your clothes like a knife and without thermals you will be misery personified.
    Watch for icicles dropping from high balconies, the ice freezes during the night and can thaw by day, the icicles come down like swords, they will split your skull open or go right through your clothes. Every year people are killed in Russian towns and cities this way. Remember to look up and check every fifty meters or so, check ahead and do not walk close to the walls of the buildings.
    The Savoy Hotel in Moscow is close to the Lubyanka, its the oldest hotel in Moscow and a good place to stay. Come out the front door turn right, walk down the street turn left at the junction with the main road and walk up, the Lyubyanka is directly ahead of you. If you turn right at the junction instead of left you can walk to Gum and Red Square. Being a four star hotel the Savoy has four star hookers, the Kempinski being a five star has five star hookers. Don't contemplate the three star variety....!
    The architecture is stunning in both cities. There is a Russian saying "Moscow is a big dirty village", it is in many ways but one of the most fascinating places to be. Walk around Gum, take a trip on the Moscow underground, visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, its round the corner from Lenin's tomb. There's so much to do in Moscow that a dozen visits would barely scratch the surface.
    The same applies to St. Petersburg. While Moscow is really Russia St. Petersburg feels much more Western European, Rastrelli's architecture has much to do with it. Visit the Hermitage and if you have time visit Gatchina, the Catherine Palace and Peterhof.
    The train journey is an experience in itself. The last time I was on it a brace of Orthodox Priests held a service in one of the carriages, complete with singing in Church Slavonic. The site of Russian businessmen wearing three thousand pound suits and Rolex watches and Russian girls wearing the shortest skirts and highest heels kneeling piously on the far from clean floor was astonishing. Only in Russia!
    That said both Moscow and St. Petersburg are little islands within Russia, they are not really indicative of Russia, if you ever have time try and visit other cities and towns, preferably east of the Urals for the real feel of Russia. You will have the most fabulous and enjoyable time!
    The Russian girls have a saying "the wife is not a wall!" Nothing more needs saying!
    Enjoy Russia, it gets into your heart and soul. Its unique and magical and very different to western Europe. I hope you have a great time and return often.
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