St. Petersburg and Baltic States

Oct 4th, 2005, 03:59 PM
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St. Petersburg and Baltic States

It's a big world, but I am hankering for a trip to St. Petersburg, Latvia, Esthonia ... probably in late spring after the Neva has thawed.

Any experiences out there on doing this trip outside of an organized tour? Or would I be better off on a cruise out of one of the Scandinavian countries, a group tour, etc. I have been to St. Petersburg once as a child, but it was almost 50 years ago, and I would like to see everything I saw as an 11 year old but with all those years in between. Did at one time speak a smattering of Russian, do know the alphabet. Not a fussy traveler.

Any input would be much appreciated. Perhaps I'm thinking of biting off more than I can chew?

birgator is offline  
Oct 5th, 2005, 05:01 AM
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Hi - I would love to go to St Petersburg too! Just posting to get the ball rolling and to say that I can't see why you need to do a tour or cruise. All doable independently if you have the TIME, and the inclination. For example, there is a train from Tallinn to St P and from St P to Helsinki. And I can't imagine travel from Estonia to Latvia would be hard.

I travelled to Tallinn just a few weeks ago on the ferry from Helsinki. So there's one possibility for you. Finnair have an extensive European network. Also Easyjet fly into Tallinn from the UK - not sure from which airport - check their website - they may well fly into Riga too.

Have fun.
fuzzylogic is offline  
Oct 10th, 2005, 09:25 AM
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Thanks for topping and your encouragement! I guess I still think of StP as in the Soviet Union rather than in contemporary Russia. Anyone have experience with renting small apartment in SP?

birgator is offline  
Oct 10th, 2005, 10:22 AM
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I do have experience travelling (and living) in Latvia and Estonia, St. Petersburg remains to be added to the travel list.

In general, I would shy you away from one of those cruises. Granted, they give you a taste of what the cities they dock at are like, but for real in-depth experiences, I would travel individually.

Both, Latvia and Estonia are thriving nations and their capitals are indeed bustling with life and a lifestyle of Western European standard (at least for the foreign visitors and ex-pats).

Should you need any specific advice on either Tallinn or Riga, or some places in those countries, do post here and I shall gladly help.

I do suggest you take a look at

Their guides are available for St.Petersburg, Riga, Tallinn and other cities in the region and contain most valuable information.
I would also suggest to obtain the latest issue of their guides upon arrival in the respective towns. They are available at kiosks and Hotel front desks and are absolutely reliable!

hsv is offline  
Oct 10th, 2005, 01:28 PM
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I've thought about visiting St Petersburg as well; are there special visas required to travel to Russia? I also assume that this documentation takes quite a bit of time to procure and can be relatively costly. Has anyone had any experience with this?
whitey is offline  
Oct 10th, 2005, 02:11 PM
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Thanks for the inyourpocket tip; looks like terrific information.

Any personal recommendations for flea markets/antique shop areas in Latvia and/or Estonia?

birgator is offline  
Oct 10th, 2005, 08:03 PM
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We are planning a similar trip for this summer. You may want to add Lithuania as its capital Vilnius is supposed to have the best preserved old town in Europe. Vilnius is only 4 hours from Riga by bus.
julies is offline  
Oct 12th, 2005, 07:21 PM
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Whitey -- I am by no means an expert on this, but I have been looking at different Russian tours and it sure looks like you need a visa and that it costs around $130-150. There are services that help you get one, but I would think that it would take a little time.
Kristinelaine is offline  
Oct 12th, 2005, 07:42 PM
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Most everyone needs a visa to enter Russia. We get these all the time for clients, but you could get one on your own if you have the time. No matter what, you do need an invitation and tourist voucher (normally the hotel or travel company provides this), then you need to apply for the visa in advance at a Russian consulate. It takes anywhere from one day to 12 business days, depending on the price you pay (consulate fee ranges from $100-400 for most visas, plus any fees that the visa processing company charges and possibly the cost of the invitation). You can find out more information at

the Consulate General of the Russian Federation in New York. Once in Russia you need to register your visa within three business days (normally your hotel does this, but there are other ways to get this done if you are not staying in a hotel).
Marc_David_Miller is offline  
Oct 12th, 2005, 08:25 PM
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birgator, the best time to visit St. Petersburg is during 'white nights' (unfortunatly most expensive too). The 'white nights' last from late May to the beginning of June, and it is very special time there. St Petersburg has very cold and dump weather, so it may not be very pleasant during spring.
I don't have a personal experience renting appartments there, but my friends just came back, and they rented an appartment there for about $70 a day or so for 5 days, and were very happy with it.
helen63 is offline  
Oct 12th, 2005, 10:32 PM
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sorry no particular experience with flea markets and antique shops - you might check Filharmomonijas Laukums next to Kalku iela at the beginning of Riga's Old Town, though. There are usually a couple of painters with exhibitions and I seem to recall one or another shop with antiques.

Should you want to buy amber, beware that you get real one - there are quite a number of cheap fakes around.
hsv is offline  
Oct 13th, 2005, 03:51 AM
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If you did want to travel with a group, we have just done a two week trip with Explore called Treasures of the Tsars and started in Tallin, went overland to Moscow, Golden Ring cities, St Petersburg and Helsinki.

When we were in Tallin and St P it was really obvious when the cruise boats were in because everything was packed. They seemed to have a mad couple of hours to rush around before the street went back to normal.

Explore accomodation was pretty basic but everything was really well organised and had quite a few included trips into churches, monastries and palaces with excellent english speaking guides. I thought it was a good way to see a lot in a short space of time.
sarahkay is offline  
Oct 13th, 2005, 04:55 AM
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Thanks for all your replies; seems a solo adventure is quite do-able then.

helen63: Do you happen to know how your friends found their apartment? Any caveats?

hsv: I do know about amber, and no, too old for new chatchkes. I was curious about markets, since I see a lot of imported antiques into the US from the Baltic, and those dealers surely aren't going to share their sources!

MDM: One of the Swedish sites I went to claims that Russia did (?) start a three day visa purchasable at point of entry? Yes? (I have a Swedish passport). I couldn't find this info anywhere else, so perhaps this never materialized.

This is a partially a trip to once again see my "roots" in St. Petersburg -- have been to Moscow, Helsinki etc. I note there is plenty of info in Fodors on the Baltic states (when the search works) so will return for more recommendations after I do more googling.

birgator is offline  
Oct 13th, 2005, 06:36 AM
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It is fairly easy and inexpensive to rent an apartment in Saint Petersburg- definitely less expensive than most hotels!! I would recommend contacting an American agency that owns apartments in Saint Petersburg, or at the very least is linked to a StPb agency. Such as:

I have not rented an apartment in Saint Petersburg in 3 years, but this was the agency that was recommended to me for my visit over the past 2 weeks(we had planned on renting, but were given an apt. by the schoool that was hosting us). It is definitely a more cost-friendly option, but I would recommend:

1) the apartment have some kind of coded-entry at the front (building) door.

2) the apartment be within 10 minutes of a subway (METPO) station.

3) confirm that there is a land-line phone in the apt., so that you can purchase an inexpensive phone card for international calls.

Saint Petersburg is enchanting, and truly is best experienced in the White Nights- but any time in the late spring - early fall it is still lovely. Remember that the White Nights do make for truly 24 hours of day light-- make sure you have an eye cover for sleeping at night!!!

katya_NY is offline  
Oct 13th, 2005, 08:30 AM
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Re: 3 day visa-you should check with the Russian consulate in Stockholm (or a travel agency in Sweden). This program was introduced about three years ago for citizens of certain countries but was, for all practical purposes, never implemented at the time. Perhaps it has changed now.
Marc_David_Miller is offline  
Oct 13th, 2005, 05:20 PM
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birgator, my friends knew someone in St. Petersburg, who used an advertisement in local newspaper to rent an appartment. This probably would not be an option for you if you don't know anyone there, but you can use the Russian based agencies as Katya suggests. My friends were very happy how it is turned out.
helen63 is offline  
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