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St Petes and Moscow - tour or on our own?


Feb 22nd, 2013, 02:44 PM
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St Petes and Moscow - tour or on our own?

Hi - We (couple) would like to travel to St Pete's and Moscow in mid June. We do not speak any Russian. We traveled to China and were okay with getting around on our own. We are contemplating a tour (trafalgar or insight) but not sure we are getting a lot for $2500. Some questions:
1) Is it wise to travel to these cities on our own?
2) would it be easy to hire guides for the attractions once there?
3) can we buy a train ticket from St Pete's to Moscow before we get there?
4) are the subway maps in English?
labern116 is offline  
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Feb 22nd, 2013, 03:21 PM
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How savvy are you and how old/fit?

Considering the metros are in Russia, why would the maps be in English? Paris metro maps aren't in English. I'm guessing that the concern will be that you can't read Russian?

There are maps available online that have Latin alphabet transcriptions of the Cyrillic-letter names of the stations. You should be able to match the Cyrillic names as necessary on the Metro because many Cyrillic letters are close to Latin letters (there are A, B, C, E, H, I, J, K, M, O, P, although the pronunciations may differ - C is Latin S, H is N and P is R; and other letters have shapes like the Latin N, R, X, W and Y).
BigRuss is offline  
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Feb 22nd, 2013, 05:04 PM
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I visited on my own. If you do that, BigRuss gives you good advice - learn to transliterate from Cyrillic to Latin letters. Being able to do so was invaluable for using the subway.

They are fascinating places, and mid-June is a wonderful time to go. Enjoy!
kja is offline  
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Feb 22nd, 2013, 06:18 PM
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You can certainly visit Russia on your own - we have done it twice.

However, the tourist infrastructure is not as well developed as in western or central europe. We found the only hotels we wanted to stay in to be quite expensive and either walked or took cabs everywhere (cab drivers speak English).

And no - subway maps or stations are not in English they are in Russian and in the Cyrllic alphabet - which you should learn the basic of before you go. For example, the word restaurant is very similar in English and Russian - but in the cyrillic alphabet is spelled PECTOPAH.
nytraveler is offline  
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Feb 22nd, 2013, 06:20 PM
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Sorry - yes private guides are available - and there are group tours to visit some of the palaces on the outskirts.
nytraveler is offline  
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Feb 25th, 2013, 09:36 AM
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Because many countries do that? I'm pretty sure I remember seeing English on the metro in China. It makes sense if you have people from all over the world visiting and using the public transit... local language and one foreign language.

I'm going to St P and Moscow on my own in August and am working on learning the alphabet (at least a little) using various "learn Russian" sites from a google search.

Train tickets... I *think* these are released about 45 days ahead of time but I'm really not sure about that. I'm getting most of my info from TripAdvisor (a much more active forum for Russia info) so you might want to do a search there for train info. I think the website to buy train tickets is in Russian with no translation but I think there is a step by step walk through available to get you through it.

As for should you go on your own, it depends on you. I'm fairly comfortable with figuring things out when I have no idea what's going on around me but many people simply hate that. Where do you fall in that spectrum?
Iowa_Redhead is offline  
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Feb 26th, 2013, 02:46 AM
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I've been to Russia over 20 times and have lived in Moscow for a year. To answer your questionsbr />
1) Definitely wise to travel on your own. You've been to China, right? This will be much easier.
2) Very easy to hire guides once there. Outside main attractions eg the Kremlin there are official guides you can hire on the spot. They are usually excellent. If you are visiting somewhere further out of town, you can organise a car and driver and get a tour guide once there. It's not uncommon for a car and driver to wait several hours for you.
3) I would advise you to do so, since some trains can get full at peak times.
4) You can download subway maps with the station names in English or English & Russian. There is no signage in Moscow in English at the metro or railway stations, unless introduced in the last year or so. In St Petersburg some of the street names are also in English, around the centre. It is useful to learn Cyrillics and you will find many familiar words. If you don't it's not the end of the world. I know plenty of people who didn't learn the alphabet and no Russian at all, and they survived.

And mid June is a lovely time to go. Take mosquito repellent!
Odin is offline  
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Mar 10th, 2013, 12:12 PM
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I traveled around St. Petersburg for 8 days, mostly alone, using the Metro. There are a couple great guidebooks that give your the names of the Metro stops, restaurants and attractions in English and in Russian. So I just matched the word to the sign, even if I couldn't pronounce it. Also, alot of Russians in St. Petersburg speak some English (among several other languages); just start with "Please" and a couple words in Russian and they are usually willing to help. Actually, I never found anyone not willing to help me.

For the Hermitage, definitely buy and print tickets before you go. Then walk past the long long line and the ticket windows to pick up your ticket at the counter inside. This ticket also allows you to take pictures without having to pay an extra fee and stand on another line.

Wander a few blocks from the tourist areas, there are some amazing restaurants, and the Business lunch specials are a great deal. If you avoid jeans and sneakers, you'll get better service and treatment.

Have a great time!
Alfvaen is offline  
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Mar 10th, 2013, 01:04 PM
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We were there by ourselves in Sept 2011 and posted a report here and asked and answered some questions. If you haven;t already you might do a search and it will help a lot. We also rented apt in both cities and that was fantastic
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