Russia

School terms keep kids in school and parents sane. Holidays can be boring to kids if they are left alone. Discuss vacation ideas and how to make good use of the free time for both children and adults.

Russia

Postby Jennifer » Wed Mar 04, 2015 7:28 am

Is it advisable to :

1. Go on free n easy

2. Join Sg travel agency

3. Join local land tours

Traveling in late Nov, 2A2C, children ages 18 n 14.

Jennifer
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Re: Russia

Postby jetsetter » Wed Mar 04, 2015 9:07 am

I went F&E, but I had a travel companion who could speak some halting Russian.

If you guys love adventure, you can consider F&E then get a Moscow City Pass or St Petersburg City Pass which includes hop on & off open top bus tours and admission tickets to top attractions. Getting to your hotel from the airport via their express train should not be a problem.

I recall the most challenging part of F&E was getting around the city via its Metro. I believe the signages are still displayed in Russian today. I had to copy the Russian name onto a piece of paper as I didn't have a smart phone then and was very focused on counting the stops thru'out the journey so as not to miss my station! Russian trains were VERY crowded at peak time. They didn't queue, they didn't say excuse me. They pushed.
Image
These days, you can download the bilingual metro map app onto your smart phones. Download the Russian Alphabet table too.

There should be metered taxis today (but do google for a reputable taxi coy), though I read somewhere that "gypsy cabs" are still available. I took mainly gypsy cabs which were really private sedans driven by Russian residents who would pull over once I flagged at them by the roadside. Need to "chicken-duck talk" to negotiate for a good fare before boarding. Some websites say this kind of illegal service still exists today!

Joining a SG agency tour is very convenient, but you won't get to explore Russia on foot and discover nice cafes and restaurants that locals visit, nor watch the famous ballet performance you'd always wanted to :) But you save a lot of time commuting from attraction to attraction la...Moscow and St Petersburg boulevards and parade squares are neither short nor small. There's a lot of walking to be expected. Late Nov marks the onset of winter (around zero degree?), so you must wear good boots with thick soles, if you need to walk a lot in the open to find your museum. I had a great slip in St Petersburg, but luckily I had young bones then!

Safety - Yes, there will be pickpockets, just like in other major cities. I was robbed at one station. I'm not sure if there're still shootings in the city. My gf went one year after I did and witnessed a man shot dead at point blank outside McDs @ Moscow! Chechnyan and Ukrainian separatists and mafia still quite active...

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Re: Russia

Postby Jennifer » Wed Mar 04, 2015 9:19 am

jetsetter wrote:I went F&E, but I had a travel companion who could speak some halting Russian.

If you guys love adventure, you can consider F&E then get a Moscow City Pass or St Petersburg City Pass which includes hop on & off open top bus tours and admission tickets to top attractions. Getting to your hotel from the airport via their express train should not be a problem.

I recall the most challenging part of F&E was getting around the city via its Metro. I believe the signages are still displayed in Russian today. I had to copy the Russian name onto a piece of paper as I didn't have a smart phone then and was very focused on counting the stops thru'out the journey so as not to miss my station! Russian trains were VERY crowded at peak time. They didn't queue, they didn't say excuse me. They pushed.
Image
These days, you can download the bilingual metro map app onto your smart phones. Download the Russian Alphabet table too.

There should be metered taxis today (but do google for a reputable taxi coy), though I read somewhere that "gypsy cabs" are still available. I took mainly gypsy cabs which were really private sedans driven by Russian residents who would pull over once I flagged at them by the roadside. Need to "chicken-duck talk" to negotiate for a good fare before boarding. Some websites say this kind of illegal service still exists today!

Joining a SG agency tour is very convenient, but you won't get to explore Russia on foot and discover nice cafes and restaurants that locals visit, nor watch the famous ballet performance you'd always wanted to :) But you save a lot of time commuting from attraction to attraction la...Moscow and St Petersburg boulevards and parade squares are neither short nor small. There's a lot of walking to be expected. Late Nov marks the onset of winter (around zero degree?), so you must wear good boots with thick soles, if you need to walk a lot in the open to find your museum. I had a great slip in St Petersburg, but luckily I had young bones then!

Safety - Yes, there will be pickpockets, just like in other major cities. I was robbed at one station. I'm not sure if there're still shootings in the city. My gf went one year after I did and witnessed a man shot dead at point blank outside McDs @ Moscow! Chechnyan and Ukrainian separatists and mafia still quite active...


:thankyou:

both hubby n elder boy told me to find a tour agency, save the prob of self-commuting, getting lost & wasting time.

my concern with Sg tour packages is mostly end up touch & go which I do not like.

Would local land tours be more engaging?

Jennifer
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Re: Russia

Postby slmkhoo » Wed Mar 04, 2015 9:30 am

Jennifer wrote:both hubby n elder boy told me to find a tour agency, save the prob of self-commuting, getting lost & wasting time.

my concern with Sg tour packages is mostly end up touch & go which I do not like.

Would local land tours be more engaging?

I haven't been to Russia, but in general, I feel that tours are better than free and easy when time is tight and there is a language issue. But there are different types of tours - I tend to avoid Sg ones as we prefer to spend time on history, culture and scenery rather than shopping, taking photos of sights and eating Chinese food (this is probably an over-generalisation, but that's my experience of Sg tours so far - 30 mins in a museum and 2 hrs in a shopping mall!). Local land tours can be a bit risky as you don't know the quality and the guide's standard of English. For somewhere like Russia, I would probably go with one of the British tour companies like Trafalgar, Insight or Globus as you will be assured of a certain standard. They may allow you to join in Russia so you don't need to fly to the UK first. They will also use local (Russian) guides but should have vetted them to make sure they meet an acceptable standard.

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Re: Russia

Postby Jennifer » Wed Mar 04, 2015 9:32 am

slmkhoo wrote:
Jennifer wrote:both hubby n elder boy told me to find a tour agency, save the prob of self-commuting, getting lost & wasting time.

my concern with Sg tour packages is mostly end up touch & go which I do not like.

Would local land tours be more engaging?

I haven't been to Russia, but in general, I feel that tours are better than free and easy when time is tight and there is a language issue. But there are different types of tours - I tend to avoid Sg ones as we prefer to spend time on history, culture and scenery rather than shopping, taking photos of sights and eating Chinese food (this is probably an over-generalisation, but that's my experience of Sg tours so far - 30 mins in a museum and 2 hrs in a shopping mall!). Local land tours can be a bit risky as you don't know the quality and the guide's standard of English. For somewhere like Russia, I would probably go with one of the British tour companies like Trafalgar, Insight or Globus as you will be assured of a certain standard. They may allow you to join in Russia so you don't need to fly to the UK first. They will also use local (Russian) guides but should have vetted them to make sure they meet an acceptable standard.


:thankyou:

will check out those tour companies u mentioned.

Jennifer
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Re: Russia

Postby hquek » Wed Mar 04, 2015 10:22 am

I did Russia on my own about a decade ago, just did a quick check and it seems Singapore passports still need a visa to go there.

It was a fairly cumbersome process for me. I had to 'buy' an invite from a Russian entity/person - it was actually a letter, just print out can already. Fill in the application form and submit the letter/form/passport to the Russian embassy (cannot be too far in advance...they will deny) and wait a couple of weeks (think 2/3 weeks) for them to call you to collect your passport. Russian embassy is very near to Botanic Gardens.

Overall it was a good trip. We saw pickpockets in action (they tried to target us but luckily they failed) and also got harrassed by racists in a small town. Language was an issue - even ordering in McD was a hassle cos we had to point. The Russians we met didn't queue (they will just cut in wherever they can).

Bad points aside, no regrets about having undertaken the trip. Enjoyed the visits to Red Square, Hermitage, the various palaces etc. I didn't take cab at all but relied on buses and subways. We stayed in private homes in Moscow and St Petersburg and met some really nice people (also had their help in procuring train tickets). Overnight train between Moscow/St Petersburg was safe and fine despite some web scary stories.

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Re: Russia

Postby floppy » Wed Mar 04, 2015 1:26 pm

Jennifer wrote:Is it advisable to :

1. Go on free n easy

2. Join Sg travel agency

3. Join local land tours

Traveling in late Nov, 2A2C, children ages 18 n 14.


Sorry to be saying the obvious (and for being anal :rotflmao: ), but Russia is a huge country (i.e.the largest country in the world at 1/8 of the world's total land mass). It would be more prudent to be stating the places/cities that you want to visit within Russia.

My assumption would be that, by Russia, you are only referring to Moscow/St. Petersburg. In that case, as jetsetter and hquek have pointed out, you can go free and easy/DIY. However, if your Russia includes the other parts of the country like Yekaterinburg, Volgograd or Vladivostok, you are better off on a group/package tour.

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Re: Russia

Postby Jennifer » Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:21 pm

floppy wrote:
Jennifer wrote:Is it advisable to :

1. Go on free n easy

2. Join Sg travel agency

3. Join local land tours

Traveling in late Nov, 2A2C, children ages 18 n 14.


Sorry to be saying the obvious (and for being anal :rotflmao: ), but Russia is a huge country (i.e.the largest country in the world at 1/8 of the world's total land mass). It would be more prudent to be stating the places/cities that you want to visit within Russia.

My assumption would be that, by Russia, you are only referring to Moscow/St. Petersburg. In that case, as jetsetter and hquek have pointed out, you can go free and easy/DIY. However, if your Russia includes the other parts of the country like Yekaterinburg, Volgograd or Vladivostok, you are better off on a group/package tour.


:rotflmao:

I hv no idea where exactly elder boy wants to visit. So post first to get some advices.

I checked the tour companies slmkhoo suggested this morning. Most days are on our own to explore. Not sure whether hubby and elder boy like this way.

Jennifer
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Re: Russia

Postby floppy » Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:47 pm

Jennifer wrote: :rotflmao:

I hv no idea where exactly elder boy wants to visit. So post first to get some advices.


I think the issue with Singaporeans is that we assume everything is small and compact, and given our lack of distinction between Singapore (the country) and Singapore (the city), we take it as everything is the same, everywhere.

Russia alone can fit in hundreds of Singapore and each area has its nuances. Hence, advice should be tailored to each region to be effective. Perhaps it's best to ask your boy where he wants to go first. Otherwise, he could end up banish in Siberia :evil:

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Re: Russia

Postby Jennifer » Wed Mar 04, 2015 4:16 pm

floppy wrote:Otherwise, he could end up banish in Siberia :evil:


:laugh: alamak

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