Saturday, July 14, 2012

Back from Russia

Just came back from a 9 days free & easy trip to Russia, covering both Moscow and Saint Petersburg. You will love Russia if you love to know more about history, culture, and of course architecture. Each attraction can take 4 to 5 hours to really explore the place. It makes me wonder how those tour groups are able to breeze through the different attractions and yet keep to their schedule.

I'm in the midst of sorting my photos but just wish to drop some notes on traveling in Russia. You just need to remember 3 things, at least for Singaporeans:
  1. You'll need to know Russian -
    Very very few people knows how to speak English, with the exception of Arbat Street and Nevsky prospect, which I suspect is because it's the "Orchard Road" of Singapore.
  2. You'll need a Letter of Invitation -
    Otherwise, you will not be able to enter Russia or apply for the Visa. This is usually provided by the hostel or hotel that you're staying, usually with a fee in roubles. Mine is about SGD38.
  3. You'll need a Visa -
    Yes, one of the few countries that Singaporeans need to apply for a Visa. The cost is about SGD70, and you'll need to also attach some supporting documents. More information on the visa application can be found here.
Once you have your Visa, you're all ready The other problem is where to get roubles, the Russian currency. It's extremely difficult to find roubles in Singapore. I only know 2 places in Singapore that will change SGD to roubles, Lucky Plaza and Change Alley. However, the rate is not that great. It is best if you change to USD or Euro, and change a bit of the money upon arrival in Russia so that you're able to travel around Russia. The exchange rates at the shop right outside the arrival hall are better than the ones within the arrival hall so do not change inside. If you're taking the Aeroexpress, there is a bank within the Paveletskaya metro station which also has better exchange rates.

One thing I like about Russia is that there is no need to fill in any arrival card. The officers processing your arrival will print out your arrival card. After getting out of the airport, walk towards the left-hand side and you should see the Aeroexpress to the Paveletskaya metro. You'll see something like the picture below once you arrive at the aeroexpress station.

You can get your train tickets at the ticket machines shown below and yes, they have the English option. The cost is about 320 roubles for a one-way trip.

The train ticket has a 2D bar code similar to the picture below. Just face the barcode downwards towards the red light emitting from the ticket gantry and move it slightly left and right. The gantry should open.

The condition of the trains differ depending on which train you managed to get on. Below is the picture of one of the trains that I managed to get on. Looks quite new, and it's comfy.

One thing to note is that they have half the seats facing the opposite direction, so the general rule of thumb is to sit facing the direction that the train will be traveling. You can find more about the aeroexpress service here.

I will post more once my photos are ready. Oh yes and one word of warning. Beware of pickpockets.


Anonymous said...

hi! chanced upon ur blog when i was doing some research for russia which has been extremely helpful in planning for my trip coming end october..have a few qns

1) which hostel did u stay @ in moscow & st. petersburg

2) how much did u spend for accom/flight?

chantc said...

We stayed at Fabrika at Moscow, and Uno Hostel at St Petersburg. Pricing depends on the type of room like shared bathroom, shared room, etc, and how long you're staying. Do note that the rooms are ok for sleeping.

Air ticket price will depend on which airline and the period which you booked.

I think it's better if you go to the respective website to take a look.

Anonymous said...

will check out the prices! cos i was hoping to cap my budget at 2.5k/pax. but not sure if its feasible. checked out emirates and they're flying to spb for 1488.. so.. will see how tt pans out. :) thanks for the tip!

chantc said...

If you're not choosy on the sleeping arrangement, should be possible. Both fabrika and Uno should be easily found using google, including the prices. Emirates price includes airport tax and all the extra charges? If so, it's quite a good deal.

Do note that if you're entering the cathedrals and palaces, you'll need to allocate quite a bit on the entrance fee. Getting to St Petersburg will also not be cheap.

Hazzie said...


I'd like to know if you applied for a single visa entry or multiple visas since you traveled to two places?

chantc said...

Just one visa because its for Russia.

chelsy tan said...

Chanced upon your blog when I was doing research for Russia. Doesn't seem like many people go for free and easy there.

How was it like doing free and easy and getting around to places?

Is it easy to get a data sim for WhatsApp/surfing?

Thank you!

Edwin said...

Hi stubbled upon your blog, quite impressed you visited Russia on your own. How safe to walk the streets and visit the places?
Any harrassment from skin heads?
I heard Russians are quite racist, especially to people from Asia.
What are the dos and donts?
How about food costs and diversity?
Besides pickpockets, any other danger?
Your invitation to visa issued by the hostel you staying?
How long to process?

fion said...

May I know what do you mean by " Letter of invitation" by the hotel? I had booked moscow hotel through Hotel .com website. So can i still apply for russian visa by just submitting the hotel confirmation?

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