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Any one travelled independently to St Petersburg recently?

Any one travelled independently to St Petersburg recently?

Old Jun 6th, 2010, 11:17 PM
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Any one travelled independently to St Petersburg recently?

Im planning a trip to St P next May / June time.

My brother worked in Moscow and has told me not to travel independently but to book through a tour. I have to say this does not really appeal to me.

I'm wondering if there is any one who has been there recently and can tell me if they felt safe and where the pitfalls are?
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Old Jun 6th, 2010, 11:43 PM
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We did, but our hosts, who lent us an apartment, had to get one of their hotel industry friends to get us the invitation letter to be able to apply for our visa. I imagine your brother just wants you to not have the hassles.. and there will be some, just getting the visas and not speaking the language. But we had a wonderful time.

Here is my longish report.

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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 12:39 AM
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We did a couple of years ago. We got a visa agent to do the Visa, which was worth the money not to get it wrong.
Stayed at the Northern Lights, which was lovely. Arrived by train from Riga, and flew back there after.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 02:00 AM
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In Spain an individual can no longer get the visa without the help of an agency.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 03:21 AM
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Not oly did we do it independently, but my husband uses a wheelchair! Overall, we had a great time, did a lot of sightseeing, and had no major drawbacks that would prevent us from doing it independently again, That said, there are Lessons learned from everything and I will share some of ours with you:

1) Do not go too budget on hotel, not in SP. Hotel staff often are the best sources of info and a good hotel could actually save you money on good advice. I heard of people who stayed in budget hotels in SP that did not included toilet paper....

2) Get a guided visit/guided tour at the Hermitage. Do not attempt to do it on your own; way too vast and encompassing.

3) Hotels often have the best restaurants.

4) A guided driver for a day for day trips is not a bad idea; conciergers can help with this.

Again, our approach was go indpendently, once there hire guided services for specific sigightseeing. ("piece meal").
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 03:36 AM
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My sister and I traveled to St. Petersburg on our own several years ago--we actually met there as I was flying from London and she was flying in from the States. I was mildly nervous about taking a taxi on my own but it was fine. If anything, I imagine everything is easier now.

I believe we had to have a hotel booking to get our visa. We stayed at what was at the time a very new hotel on the Nevsky Prospect. It has changed names since we were there, now the Corinthia Newskij Palace Hotel.

At the time it had art deco Austrian decor. I remember we had lunch with the manager (my sister was considering it as a site for a conference) and he told us every fitting, fixture, nut and bolt had been imported from Austria.

We hired a guide and driver to take us out to Puskin to see the palaces but we went on our own by hydrofoil to Peterhof and we split trips to the Hermitage, one on our own and one with the guide. Through the guide we were able to get into some buildings which weren't open to the public.

Except for the buildings at that time closed to the public, everything we did with a guide we could have done on our own. However, she was a former Intourist guide with a wealth of information on the sites and on what life was like before all the changes in the early 90s. I am so glad we used her.

Good luck, have a great trip. I would say be very careful at night but that goes for any large city.
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Old Jun 7th, 2010, 11:22 AM
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Thanks for your replies everyone! My bro is just a little over protective sometimes so although I listen to his advice I take it with a pinch of slat (he also thinks Ill struggle driving on an Autobahn for goodness sake!) Kind of him to be concerned but BROTHERS!!!

Lots to read and good advice. Really appreciate your help!
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Old Jun 8th, 2010, 01:03 AM
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we did st petes last may ( late may /early june)
it rained every day..unlike moscow

we got there by the overnight train from moscow and paid through the nose cos we bought our tickets through and agent at home
couldve done it for quarter of the price upon arrival ..oh well

i dont have really fond memories of st petes cos of the rain...i have so few good pics..all are bleary and blurred with the rain

we didnt feel like walking a lot...but we did
the hermitage was closed due to a convention
we did do petrohof by bus...that was ok...but we are sick of palaces...and it can get overwhelming...all that gilt and residue of guilt and vice...yukky history like everywhere else in the world

i do recommend you have at least a coffee at the pushkins cafe called literaturni i think....its the place he had his last sip before the duel which resulted in his death...kinda romantic notion
we had a meal there and it was nice...a russian songstress amused and delighted us...it is very russian...cheesy but nice and cosy with all the rain about

do watch for gypsy kids
gosh theyre brazen
i was the saviour of st petes that day when i foiled a purse snatch ( yes! true!) by yelling at the top of my voice a warning that split the skies and rendered the cheeky gypsy girls purseless...they looked like they were going to kill but i averted my eyes skyward and pretended the warning came from God Himself..it worked...they never cottoned on it was I!

funny now but it was a little scary...makes a bit of a story..i asked the proprietor of the cafe ( the pushkin one) what they did in the event of a gypsy attack lol and he just gestured a big hearty slap on the face...and i said...'but theyre just kids!" and he replied " good then you can hit all the harder"
take that as you will lol..notlol...bit tragic

otherwise seemed safe
lots of people about
moscow felt safer cos it was brighter weather...didnt get dark for ages but st petes clung to its gloom so we didnt really venture out too much at night
did go to a ballet... at the italyanski street one...nice theatre..not even their best but still quite glorious
tickets are cheap..if you can act like a local

we booked our accommodation through city realty who were professional and handled all the registrations...we just had to come by a day or so later after arriving to pick up our passports
we had a driver pick us up from the train station and he also took us back to the airport
our apartment was wonderful
spacious and modern but the building was derelict by our standards

we went to yelegin island too...that was fun..even in the rain..theres a little zoo..and the park is really good for walking...lots of swanky homes being built round there...all for the bigwigs

lots of signs in english so you will be fine

russia exceeded our expectations
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Old Jul 1st, 2010, 02:04 PM
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Our trip report tells of our independent travels to Russia in April 2010.
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Old Dec 1st, 2010, 07:06 PM
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Fashionista - careful here - Nadya_Pavlova joined Fodor's today. She is an unknown commodity... and has resurrected a 5 month old thread, likely for personal gain.

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