Now that Japan (and shopping) is over, it is time for the serious travel stuff. As one of our dream destinations, Russia holds a special place for me in terms of the history and geography of the Slavic peoples. You probably should be told, I am a history buff (my collection of history books is significant).
While living in Europe (Amsterdam specifically) we had not made the trip to the ‘great Russia’, preferring to drive across France & Germany etc. It is with a pinch of regret now more than 10 years later, to be reminded that it is much more challenging to find time and opportunity to do so from Singapore!
So, what do we (Mel and Suan) consider?
- Getting the visa (while Mel does quite a bit of business travel).
- Check out who offers to bring us there.
- What will we do and see there??
- Do they have good hotels along the way?
First up, apply for the visa. Most agencies and the official Russian embassy website will tell you it takes approximately 2 weeks to apply and obtain approval. Ok, what if you are frequently out of town on business and cannot have you passport stuck at the embassy? Fastpass of course (I mean fast track, too much Disney…) at a price – possible 3-5 days? Quotations vary, but then no money, no visa (not honey).
Ok, that settles the visa bit. How will we tour Russia? We had entertained the remote thought of getting our own way in Moscow and onward to St Petersburg. Afterall, those are the usual tourist traps right? For those who are geography buffs, you’d know that the land of Russia (and we talk here only about “European” Russia) is immense. Our copy of Insight guide on Russia may show a lot of possibilities to sightsee your way from Moscow to St Petersburg (and so will lots of folks on the web), but trust me that the distances are way too large even for Napoleon or Hitler’s armies to conquer (not to mention King Charles XII of Sweden in the early 1700s).
Ok, so we cannot plant the Singapore flag on more places in Russia as we would have pleased.
Look at the map. Do you really think you can cover 38% of Europe in detail over a period of 10 days? Do chickens have lips? This rules out “free and easy” for us with limited time. Considering that we want to have a good view of the major tourist traps, travel packages come into play.
Like Japan or many other countries we have travelled, initial forays were with package tours. And as the experience builds, we begin to strike out on our own. This is truly the beginning of a long journey.
We looked up the following agencies that offer variations of the same package:
- Dynasty travel
- Super Travel
- Universal travel
Next post, we will dive deeper into the itineraries and hotels that these travel packages offer as we move to the selection phase (this is so procurement…).