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  1. #1
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    Default St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    We are traveling to Novosibirsk in late July to see the August 1 solar eclipse, and will be spending 4 days there, 3 in St. Petersburg and 2 each in Tallinn and Helsinki. We will be traveling from St. P. to Tallinn by bus, from Tallinn to Helsinki by boat and from Helsinki back to St. P. by bus or train. The rest of the trip wil be by air.

    Any information about any or all of these cities and regions will be appreciated, as well as about travel between them, about Aeroflot, airports and airport-to-city transit, food, sights, hotels, and - in Novosibirsk only - car rentals. Also - in the remote event any any reader would know - how formally is one expected to dress to attend the opera in Novosibirsk's opera house? (Russia's largest)

  2. #2
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    Quote Originally Posted by RichardNika View Post
    We are traveling to Novosibirsk in late July to see the August 1 solar eclipse, and will be spending 4 days there, 3 in St. Petersburg and 2 each in Tallinn and Helsinki. We will be traveling from St. P. to Tallinn by bus, from Tallinn to Helsinki by boat and from Helsinki back to St. P. by bus or train. The rest of the trip wil be by air.

    Any information about any or all of these cities and regions will be appreciated, as well as about travel between them, about Aeroflot, airports and airport-to-city transit, food, sights, hotels, and - in Novosibirsk only - car rentals. Also - in the remote event any any reader would know - how formally is one expected to dress to attend the opera in Novosibirsk's opera house? (Russia's largest)
    Visit http://novosibirskguide.com

    p.s. they have forum, you can ask there.
    Last edited by dfnsk; 11-29-2007 at 01:20 AM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    Let me know if you need any help with your St. Petersburg itinerary - I could suggest a detailed tour program. Generally, in three days you could do the following:
    Day 1 – a panoramic city tour with visits to Peter-and-Paul fortress, St. Isaac’s cathedral and the Church-on-Spilt Blood (approx. 6 hrs.)
    Day 2 – a trip to Catherine’s palace in Pushkin (Tsarskoye Selo) and the palace of Paul the First in Pavlovsk (approx. 6 hrs.)
    Day 3 – the Hermitage museum, a trip to Peterhof to visit the Grand Palace and the fountain park (approx. 8 hrs.)
    Get in touch if you have questions - palladium@online.ru

  4. #4
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    Seeking information about the Anastasia Travel Company, www.AnastasiaWorld.com.

    I am told that Russian Tour companies must be approved by the Russian Immigration Service. Is this true?
    Anastasia has posted her authorization number, it is MBT 004468.
    Thanks you so much for any help you may be able to give me.
    Aviva

  5. #5
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    I would think so. The process of gettng a Russian visa requires you to first get "invitation letters" from all of your hotels. The agency we are using can be e mailed at incoming5@olympia.nsk.su. I don't remember their official name, but they will supply it - my wife has the paperwork in a file somewhere. As far as I know, they are reliable. We've sent them money for hotels in all 3 cities and they've sent back the "letters." They haven't tried to cheat us, which several other agencies there have tried to do. You want to use an agency that will send you the letters and then will also place you in hotels that will register your visa for you in each city, something required if your stay in a city exceeds three days (and by there days, they mean that if you clear passport control at 5 minutes to midnight on Tuesday and exit at five minutes after midnight on Thursday, that coungts as three days)

    It's ironic that Russia, the formerly communist country, has all these rules and regulations and bureaucratic procedures, not to mention charging $131 for each visa, and yet Cuba, the only bonafide communist country left, just requires people to buy a tourist card at the airport and show a passport! Go figure!


  6. #6
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    Exclamation Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    Hi Richard,

    You answered your own question (re: the visa costs vs: travel card) right there re: capitalism vs. democracy. Russia is a "free" Republic now (there also is somewhat of an element of tourism to St Petersburg and Moscow, but mostly folks traveling home to see family who aren't allowed into the USA on tourism visas from Russia or America) and as such, can charge whatever they want for anything they want, and they do. Everything has a price now over there.

    And the odd thing, because I have a dear friend from one of the former Soviet Republics who used to live in St Petersburg and has friends in Moscow, despite the influx of monies coming into the country, not a lot of people are really doing all that better, economically. Some, like their fearless leader (rumors always buzz), would rather go back to the "old way" i.e., communism because when it was those times, everyone had a job, and everyone knew where to get things and when, even if it wasn't a lot. My friend lived and had her own nice apartment during Soviet times. She was able to travel to certain places and her life wasn't great but it wasn't awful. Her home city now? A DIRTY DUMP, CORRUPT GOVERNMENT ON THE TAKE AND A PLACE SHE'D RATHER NOT BE ANYMORE. It was nicer when it used to be "under control"..............go figure. Things are also still funny when it comes to passports and visas - during election time, because one needed to show their passports to vote; my friend's mother needed to renew her passport in order to get to St Petersburg to meet the rest of the family who were all headed there for a holiday. The holiday had to be cancelled and rescheduled because "there weren't any passport books" to issue (it was election time) so her Mom could not travel. I kid you not, this happened only 2 years ago. And that was going from a former Soviet Republic to St Petersburg, Russia!! You would think it was all together or something but no, it's all separate and worse than ever. In short, don't expect travel to Russia and any of the former Soviet Republics to be easy. Along with the "Invitation" letters that were mentioned, AND, this is a big AND, not speaking Russian, you will pay more for everything (unless, perhaps if you are on a very,very organized tour!!) since you are not Russian and presumed to be a VERY RICH AMERICAN to be taken advantage of. My American friend is married to this dear friend; they tested the theory - it's true. He tried buying ballet tickets to the Bolshoi and got one price, then his wife, speaking Russian, asked for the same thing, and got a much better price. It is what is is. I'm not saying don't go because I want to go but I wouldn't go without my friend being right there by my side and I know some Russian but not enough to sound fluent!!

    Cuba can issue a visitor card for not a lot of money because they are still on the old rules just like Russia used to because they will tell you where you can go - mostly only the hotel zone and nowhere else. The government is still antiquated and people/tourists aren't banging down doors to Cuba except to mostly visit family or for journalists. It hasn't yet regained its tourism heights that it once had before the Communist takeover by Castro and his people. Back before then, it was the place to be!! So you get your visit card and DO IT THEIR WAY!! It was really weird in China too, where I went and where going through immigration was really, really kind of frightening on some level. And when I was on my little 6 person government run tour bus, why we got pulled over by the little man standing on the circle pedestal in the middle of a GIANT GIANT GIANT roundabout. We were stuck there for like 1/2 hour or 45 minutes while the little traffic man went through the driver and the guide's papers. They weren't concerned with our papers. I don't know why this happened but it was another eye-openeer! We weren't in Kansas anymore Toto!! I kept forgetting we were in a COMMUNIST country!!! And I don't plan to go to any others if I don't have to anytime soon. It's just too weird and scary. You theoretically could get stuck there and not get out. I don't want to take that chance.

    Anyway, interesting about the invitation letters, visas and added expenses and extra steps for traveling to certain places in our big, big world!! Anything can happen, even when your planning you can come across surprises!!
    Colleen Costello
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    Wow, that was quite a response! We just sent our visa packets off today. Passports, invitation letters, cashiers check for $131 each, application with our college info from the 1960s and every country we'd visited for the past decade. Whereas Cuba charges $25 coming in and another $25 coming out. You don't have to submit a photo. They do that when you come and when you go! So I have heard.

    I was advised by one source that there are two price ranges for all performances. One for locals and one for "rich Americans," which we are not, but whatever. You could buy local-price tickets, but, the source warned, heaven help you if the babushkas catch you!

    Meanwhile, the former Estonian SSR, which we will also visit, is now EU and wants nothing more than to stamp your passport.

    We could have gone to China for the eclipse, but between the Olympic mobs, Tibet, and many other things, including their habit of eating dogs, I will stick with the land of borscht and pirogis!

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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    Richard,

    If only have 1 day in Helsinki what would you do? Also in Moscow have a day free and the same in St Petersburg any ideas

    Thanks

  9. #9
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    I'd go to the public library and check the guidebooks. Most of them, such as Frommer and Lonely Planet, give you an outline for what to do if youonly have one day, or two, or three.

    Helsinki has an excellent tourism office. I've spoken to a few of their people by phone. They speak better English than I do! You can probably find it on line.

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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    Quote Originally Posted by rmhall View Post
    Richard,

    If only have 1 day in Helsinki what would you do? Also in Moscow have a day free and the same in St Petersburg any ideas

    Thanks
    If you're looking for something a little off the beaten path in Helsinki, you may find this story useful:

    Five Wacky Things to Do in Finland
    Sarah Schlichter
    Senior Editor
    Independent Traveler
    www.independenttraveler.com


  11. #11
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    One day in Helsinki: If it's the weekend, visit the market down by the port. Take the boat to the fortress island - I forget its name - for 3.8 euros roundtrip, walk it, take in the sights and visit the museums and the fortress and read the historic markers. There's also what looks like an odd monument to an alien! Take the tram tour - catch a number 3 blue tram (streetcar). It does a double loop all around the city and out into the suburbs a bit. price is 2 euros, if you can even figure out how to pay the fare. We couldn't and sat there clutching our money in case anyone confronted us. No one did. Buy some beer and enjoy it in the park that occupies the median strip in that main street that parallels the shore. (I forget its name) The supermarkets even take credit cards! (Europe doesn't have our silly American phobia against drinking in public) Visit the city's own art and cuilture museums. Find them on the map. Go there and you'll see a Pizza Hut. Go inside and to the elevators in the back and go to the second floor and you'll find entrances and ticket desks for both museums.

    One day in Moscow: We missed a lot there, but we didn't miss Red Square and you shouldn't, either. It's an awesome sight. Get there early if you want to visit Lenin's Tomb, and watch your step in there! It's dark and hazardous and my wife took a nasty fall. The now-ultra-chic GUM shopping mall is close by, over a century old. The Kremlin and Red Square holds several museums: we chose The Armoury, with its remarkable treasury of jewelry, carriages, porcelain, and thrones, including that of Ivan the Terrible, made of ivory. We missed two major art museums: Pushkin and Tretyakov. Maybe next time. Ride the Metro (fare is about the equivalent of 75 cents). It's a flat fare, and you can get off and explore the sculptures in the stations and another train will be along only 2 or 3 minutes later.

    One Day in St. Petersburg: Only one day? We took four! The biggest attraction in town is, of course, the great art museum The Hermitage (closed Mondays) Be there when it opens in the morning, read up on it, and select the areas you are most interested in. By the way, their cafeteria has a built-in internet cafe! If you shrink your time there to 3 or 4 hours, you can make it over to the Russian Museum, about 3 or 4 blocks away, which opens a window into the Russian soul. (closed Tuesdays) There's a lovely park adjoining it, and the weird-looking multi-domed and weirdly-named Church on the Spilled Blood. While the museums are closed (early morning or late afternoon or early evening) walk Nevsky Prospekt, walk alongside the canals that run off of it, take the Metro to the Fortress of St. Peter and Paul - walking the grounds is free - and just wander around the city. There are tour boats on the canals and ticket sellers where the canals meet the Nevsky - take a boat ride - try to get one with an English narration.

    Cheapie transport to/from the airports: The 851 public bus from Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport (both terminals) will take you to the northern end of the number 2 Metro line. For St. Petersburg, the number 39 minibus will take you to that Metro (also about 75 cents for the fare). And, back at Sheremetyevo, there are free Aeroflot buses between the two terminals (which are 5.7 kilometers apart) and also shuttles (look for minivans with a "1" and a "2" on them and charge about 80 cents). Don't take a taxi, they'll gouge you and besides you don't have to. Actually it's a good idea to avoid taxis in either city unless you get them through your hotel. Both cities are full of foodand drink (including beer) and ice cream stands. And do what you should do everywhere: eat where you see the locals eating. Much cheaper, and much more interesting and fun.

    If you have time, try to learn the Cyrillic (Russian) alphabet before you go. It will really help you to use their excellent Metro (subway) systems. Oh, and be careful crossing the streets - don't jaywalk. Cars will stop for you in Helsinki, but in those two Russian cities, they just might not!

  12. #12
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    Default St Petersburg Moscow Novosibirsk Tallinn and Helsinki

    I found out a few days ago that my next destination this year is Moscow. Even though its a business trip, i might stay on my own for 3-5 days to visit... And, I got a lot of useful tips on this forum before going to London, so I thought I might try again What are the MUST-sees in Moscow??? what is the best public transportation to use???? thnks in advance to all planning my trip..I still have a bit more than a month before leaving and.. promise to post pics when I am back

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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    I was checking old e mails and discovered I'd never responded to this query. Too late to help this poster, but perhaps I can help others.

    Nothing beats the Metro (subway) in Moscow. It's an incredible system, fast, trains every few minutes, and it's economical. You can get a city bus from either of the two major airports to connect with it. BUT - and this is a big but - you will find it almost impossible to use unless you either learn the Russian (Cyrillic) alphabet, or else carry a pocket chart of it. If you can't read the letters and match things up, then the otherwise easily-understandable maps will make little sense, and you'll be in trouble. And you don't even want to think about hailing a cab on the street in Moscow. They are all vultures. We only used cabs ordered through our hotel.

    Red Square is in absolute must - remember that Lenin's tomb closes early in the day. The nearby Armory museum is extraordinary. There are other museums in Moscow that we just didn't have time for. I recommend using a good guidebook and roaming around.

    Whatever you do, do not stay at the Sevastopol Hotel. It's isolated and hard to find, and the receptionist there tried to extort money from us by falsely claiming that we hadn't registered our visas.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    I've been to St. Petersburg and Moscow, these are great places vo.Chung I had three days there dang.Con commensurate with the amount of the other two cities do not have a chance to stop by! Hopefully there will be this summer! Russia is fantastic.

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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    Tallinn is one of Europe's nicest cities definitely worth researching. Old town is especially marvelous and is also listed in UNESCO Old Towns.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    We also enjoyed walking around Tallinn. The Old Town is nice and we had an overpriced drink or two in the old town square, and were serenaded by the most godawful singer/guitarist I've ever heard - I've heard more melodious alleycats. But it was still fun. There's a couple of neat old-fashioned streetcar lines, and a huge park with three museums in it which are interesting, as well as Peter the Great's cottage. You can reach the park by streetcar. Estonia is now in the EU but was once part of the Soviet Union, so of course vodka is cheap and readily available - we had drinks and snacks in our room every night. There are several boat and ferry lines to and from Helsinki that are reasonable and take only a couple of hours, and because Finland is also EU, there are no customs or passport formalities. But if you make that excursion, be sure to buy some euros before you leave - there were no exchange facilities at the Helsinki harbor, and we ended walking at least two miles to our hotel. (Estonia is not on the euro system)

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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    Hi! I will be in Helsinki and Tallinn next month. I was wondering what are the best places to eat and taste the local cuisine?

  18. #18
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    We didn't do a lot of eating oiut in either city when we were there in the summer of '08. If you'll be in Helsinki on the weekend, don't miss the huge open market down by the docks. There are countless stalls and little cafes set up there, and it's full of locals. Eating where the local people go to eat is a good idea anywhere, at least in countries like these where you don't have to worry about water and food contamination. They also have supermarkets with superb prepared foods - it's fun eating and having a few beers in the long downtown park - I forget its name - it runs down the middle of that main street that parallels the water. The supermarkets sell beer and wine but not liquor - that's only in liquor stores.

    The cafes around the main square in the old city in Tallinn are great places to sit, but their food and drinks are unbelievably overpriced. It was the most money I ever paid for a beer in my life! I suggest getting the absolute minimum there, eating and/or drinking it slowly, and having your main meals outside of the old town, following the locals. The Russian presence lingers on in the easy availability of multiple brands of vodka at low prices and in various sizes in liquor stores and groceries.

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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    Nice post...Thank you very much!!......

  20. #20
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    I did a home exchange in Finland in 2009. If you check some of those posts and my trip report, you will find some ideas. I also did a day trip to Tallin. There is a "free" tour of the old city there that is well worth it--and in English. The reason I put "free" in quotes is that they do it for tips and it is only fair to give them a decent payment if you enjoy the tour. I thought it was excellent and a good idea if you only have one day.

    Helsinki has a lot of different options for what to do in a day, but I would recommend a basic city tour and eating from the stalls in the port area. There is good seafood there!

    Doing Helsinki in one day off a boat does not really do it justice, but, if that is all you have, that is all you have.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    I asked this same question in another thread, but I would like to know if anyone has been to Moscow and St. Petersburg in Sept. What part of Sept. were you there? What were the temperatures like? If you were there during the latter part of the month, had the leaves turned color so that the fall folliage would be an attraction? I will appreciate any help you can give with these questions.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    Hello, I really really want to visit Tallinn. The old centre and square sounds lovely. Is there any visitor attractions or things to sightsee that I absolutely must do 8asides from just walking round)?

  23. #23
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    There are several small-to-medium but very nice museums in the main park (I forget its name, but you'll have no problem finding it) Also, I enjoyed riding the trolley cars back and forth.

    The old city and square are nice to see, but I recommend doing your eating and drinking elsewhere, as the cafes in the square are outrageously overpriced. The most expensive beer I ever had was in one of them, and I live in Miami Beach!

  24. #24
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    Just wanted to update this thread, I was in Tallinn during March 2011 and they had just converted to Euros.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Novosibirsk, Tallinn and Helsinki

    The interesting thing now is that due to the many countries in the EU with weakening economies, I hear more "chatter" about the Euro going by the wayside, or that some countries would prefer having their own currency back. From a fundamental standpoint of economies and finance, I never quite understood how it would ever be possible to have so many countries with such varied economies could ever be joined monetarily. Perhaps being an accountant and having had to study consolidations, do reconciliations and work on foreign currency matters, I never could figure how it could be done. Or why. A continental currency? No other continent has that. It just wouldn't work!

    While it was maybe a little hectic using multiple currencies on a European trip, it was also sort of cool to see new money and everything always seemed to work out fine. Perhaps it's just me, having spent 4+ years counting dollars while working at a bank during college - the only exciting moment was getting a $500 bill from a customer. I liked having the small change leftover as souvenirs OR there used to be the option of donating said change to UNICEF, I believe.

    Anyway, it was always easy to change neighboring country currency, although if one wasn't traveling through connected countries, not so easy then

    I guess we shall see how things go in 2012! All over the world, it seems......but I still want to go lots of places!! Turn the dollars into whatever is necessary - I just don't think we are beating any currencies at present, but there are still always ways to save money when traveling
    Colleen Costello
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