Date of stay: Easter, April 2010
Travelled with: Group of friends
Tour or pre planned: Pre planned
In April 2010 my partner and I with another couple did some independent travel in Russia. Russia is not the easiest country to get into and the process to obtain a visa is not the cheapest. You’ll need to factor this into the length of time you’d like to stay. We went for four days but given the cost of the visa we probably should have gone for longer.
With regards to the visa you need an invitation. You can do this in one of 2 ways, either ask your hotel/tour company to provide this or if they can’t/won’t, you can buy one online. We did the latter through – http://destinationrussia.com/russian_visa.html. It was a fairly easy process and we received our tourist invitation via email. Click on the following link for more information regarding Russian Visas.
We then needed to submit this with our application, passport, application fee and visa fee at the Russian Embassy. The Russian Embassy in London was very specific as to when you can drop off and also when you can pick up, so make sure that you check times before making the journey.
We decided to spend two days in Moscow and then two days in St Petersburg. We choose to take an overnight train from Moscow to St Petersburg, this way we saved a night’s accommodation and arrived 8am the next morning refreshed and ready to explore St Petersburg. It’s best to book a 2 berth or 4 berth sleeper cabin, (if you book a 4 berth and there’s only 2 of you then expect 2 randoms. This can be ok sometimes but if one’s a loud snorer then you won’t get much sleep). We’d recommend you spend 1.5 days in St Petersburg to every day spent in Moscow, there’s much more to see in St Petersburg.
St Petersburg has an interesting history and for that reason we opted to take a hop on hop off bus to explore the city and hear about the various stories about it’s fascinating past. Tickets can be purchased from different stops around the city and buses run every 30 minutes.
If Churches are your thing then there are loads of really beautiful Churches and Cathedrals in St Petersburg. Of the many, we visited, Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, Church of Savior on Blood, The Cathedral of SS Peter and Paul and Kazan Cathedral.
For spectacular views over St Petersburg we’d recommend climbing Saint Isaac’s Cathedral, tickets can be purchased outside. You have two options, to go inside and climb or just to climb to the top. We’d recommend doing both, inside the Cathedral is amazing and then the 300 step climb is well worth it for the views over the city. The Cathedral is closed on Wednesdays and open Thursday – Tuesday. For more information and opening times click on the following link Saint Isaac’s Cathedral.
Mariinsky Theater – Anna Pavlova (Ballet Dancer for whom the famous Pavlova was created).
St Petersburg is a city of bridges, over 500 of them. Masterpieces of engineering and architecture.
The St Petersburg website is very helpful and worth checking, ideal to pre plan your stay.
Accommodation: We stayed at the Hotel Lyra and would not recommend this hotel. It’s to far from the main sites and not the safest area to be walking at night.
Would you recommend your hotel/hostel: No – Hotel Lyra
Overall city rating: 4.5 out of 5
By: Nick & Jackie