“How to get a Russia Tourist Visa in Singapore” is one of the more popular posts on my blog. Obviously, by now, i have already been to Russia. More than a year ago in fact. This is a long over due post on how the trip turned out. In a gist, I’m certain I want to go again!
Russian people are among the most friendly I have encountered! I also appreciate their artistic ingenuity as manifested in the architecture and interior design. The motifs employed are out of the world, and i love their use of bold yet harmonious colours.
Some travel tips for those planning on a trip to Russia:
Data is dirt cheap in Russia (under S$10 for a few GB). Get a prepaid SIM card from any provider and you will have plenty of data. Be careful not to use data roaming with your Singapore SIM card, which I accidentally did and resulting in a crazy expensive bill. If you prefer to get everything set up before you go, you could sign up for M1 Europe Data Passport (S$50), Singtel ReadyRoam (S$35 for 1GB). Not cost effective though if you are traveling to Russia only.
Uber is inexpensive and popular – take advantage of it. Otherwise, be prepared to walk long distances if using the public transport. The stops are far apart.
The marshrutka (mini bus) is a cheap and efficient transportation option if you can muster the courage to try. They have a bus number just like regular buses, and they show up on Google map search results when looking for directions, so there’s no worry of getting lost. The bus conductor might even speak a little English and tell you where to get off. The fare is distance-based.
We arrived in Moscow late afternoon, and it took a long time to locate the tiny door that led to our hotel in Kazansky railway station. That’s right, it’s a hotel that operates right inside a railway station. The only reason i would stay here is, it is right across from Leningradsky Railway Station, from which we will be taking the Red Arrow Train to Saint Petersburg. And we do have a lot of luggage, plus two kids, so we definitely have to keep the hassle to a minimum.
Catherine Palace is probably on everyone’s itinerary in Saint Petersburg. Unfortunately, it’s not covered by the Saint Petersburg card, and it’s quite expensive too. IMHO, it was not worth the money, but one has to see it for the sake of Catherine.
We just missed the train to get there, and in a way, that was a blessing in disguise. Someone touted to get us there for 1000 Rubles (S$21). Out of convenience, and since the price was still within reason, i decided to go with it, and we got to Catherine palace in half an hour. The train plus bus would have taken at least one and a half hours. On hindsight, it would have been better to hire a Uber car, and it would have been cheaper.
I made two attempts to dine at Troika and was disappointed both times. The first time, it was closed (without any notice given). The second time, they could not accommodate us. I didn’t try to call ahead to make a reservation, and maybe i should have. Anyway, it is located right smack in the middle between two metro stations, a very long walk. Good thing i did my homework and had second choices of restaurants on hand, and i highly recommend checking out Suliko (Сулико), serving Georgian cuisine.
Somehow, my visit to Oranienbaum and Peterhof also did not go as planned. I don’t remember exactly, maybe the train tickets were sold out or something. But right outside the train station, there were Marshrutka buses with the label Peterhof. I thought, why not. My plan was to visit Oranienbaum first, and the bus conductor spoke English and could understand my intentions. We alighted at the very last stop, and nearby, there was a local bus that would take us to Oranienbaum. Google Maps has information on the bus routes, so it was no problem at all finding our way there.
Less intensive sight-seeing for the final day in Saint Petersburg. No reason to rush now that the Saint Petersburg card has expired.