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Moscow: question for those who have gone from St Petersburg


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I have read many of the threads that discuss whether or not Moscow is worth the expense and long day, especially when there are only 2 days in port.  I realize there are two strong opinions from people with one side saying it is worth it and the other side says stay in St Petersburg. We have decided to go Moscow on day 1 of our visit. 

 

So, those who have done the long trip to Moscow....did you go with the cruise ship or a private guide?   If a private guide, who and would you recommend them?  Did you take the train both ways or fly one direction?  

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On 8/22/2019 at 9:28 AM, Wayfairers said:

I have read many of the threads that discuss whether or not Moscow is worth the expense and long day, especially when there are only 2 days in port.  I realize there are two strong opinions from people with one side saying it is worth it and the other side says stay in St Petersburg. We have decided to go Moscow on day 1 of our visit. 

 

So, those who have done the long trip to Moscow....did you go with the cruise ship or a private guide?   If a private guide, who and would you recommend them?  Did you take the train both ways or fly one direction?  

Been to Moscow several times. We have used the Sapsan both ways and have also flown both ways - never a combo of the train/plane. We enjoyed the Sapsan more than the flight. We have NOT travelled to Moscow when arriving by cruise ship so have no comment on your particular situation regarding a one day tour with only 2 days in St. Pete.  Good luck - hope the visit meets your expectations.

Edited by dogs4fun
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Thanks for the info.  Good to know you enjoyed the train more than the plane - I would expect we would too as flying is typically more hassle than taking the train.  

 

We decided to book the trip to Moscow with the cruise ship after learning that if we miss the train or plane we don’t get a refund in addition to missing Moscow.  And, I’ve had friends who’s ship missed the St Petersburg stop due to weather.

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Moscow is a great city but I would rather spend all two days in St Petersburg. Some years ago we had almost a week there and still it doesn’t seem enough. We also had one day in Moscow and the journey arranged by the local travel agency was well organized and comfortable. In a view of time restrictions of the journey (we spent almost 8 hours on the train and just 6-7 hours in the city) one day in Moscow still felt a little rushed. Anyway, enjoy planning your trip and hope you have a great time in Russia!

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Just make sure the day you are going to Moscow, it is not one of their holidays or even a day before a holiday.

 

Moscow is an amazing city but it is frustrating when Red Square is closed for parades, etc.... It is hard to determine when they close it but it is definitely closed for their holidays. When it is closed - you can only walk around the exterior of the square and look in.

Edited by Coral
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I have 2 days in St. Petersburg and am thinking about this possibility. I think it’s hard to do this with 2 days. The first day will take longer time to go ashore because of the immigration process. The second day is not possible due to the early all abroad time. It seems that it’s only worth doing it if there are 3 days in St. Petersburg especially when a full day of touring in Moscow is preferred. 

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1 hour ago, AngelDisney said:

I have 2 days in St. Petersburg and am thinking about this possibility. I think it’s hard to do this with 2 days. The first day will take longer time to go ashore because of the immigration process. The second day is not possible due to the early all abroad time. It seems that it’s only worth doing it if there are 3 days in St. Petersburg especially when a full day of touring in Moscow is preferred. 

For 2 days - spend the time in St. Petersburg. There is so much to see there. Save this for a 2nd trip.

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When we were in St. Petersburg we were also very interested in visiting Moscow. We were already in Russia why not visit as much places as we could, right? We used Anastasia Travel for our St. Petersburg tour and also asked them to include Moscow. They were very helpful and were very much willing to arrange a day trip to Moscow for us but they suggested we just stay in St. Petersburg since we only had 2 days. They were kind enough to explain that we would just waste time and money if me push through with the Moscow trip. We would spend more time on the train instead of using the time to explore and enjoy the sights. They were actually correct and we ended up enjoying a wonderful 2-day tour in St. Petersburg. I guess we'll have to go back to see Moscow and make sure to stay longer! 

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When we went to St Petersburg we had the same dilemma. We decided not to go to Moscow and didn’t regret it one bit. There is so much to see! If you spend the 2 days in St Petersburg you can go and see Peterhof Palace on one of the days. We were on a Princess cruise and like flowslow, we booked our private tours with Katharina from Anastasia Travel.  This way we used our time to the fullest to see as much as possible at our pace with a personal guide. (We are not fond of the big group tours from the cruise lines).

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9 hours ago, angie7911922 said:

When we went to St Petersburg we had the same dilemma. We decided not to go to Moscow and didn’t regret it one bit. There is so much to see! If you spend the 2 days in St Petersburg you can go and see Peterhof Palace on one of the days. We were on a Princess cruise and like flowslow, we booked our private tours with Katharina from Anastasia Travel.  This way we used our time to the fullest to see as much as possible at our pace with a personal guide. (We are not fond of the big group tours from the cruise lines).

We have two days and decided only staying in SPB for both days. We are thinking of forming a private tour with other cruisers on another forum as the CC roll call for that cruise is so quiet. We are looking into Anastasia Travel as well. Very excited to go!

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On 9/1/2019 at 8:09 PM, AngelDisney said:

We have two days and decided only staying in SPB for both days. We are thinking of forming a private tour with other cruisers on another forum as the CC roll call for that cruise is so quiet. We are looking into Anastasia Travel as well. Very excited to go!

 

Great idea to form a small group!! Have a fantastic time and I am sure you wont regret that decision!! 

 

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I'm not sure about customs when coming in on a cruise ship. We were told that if we wanted to leave the ship, we would have to be on a tour, either a ships tour or private tour. I know we had to show our tour tickets at customs to be allowed to go further. We chose Alla tours and they were fantastic. We were docked in St. Petersburg for 3 days and we did go to Moscow on the Capsan train on the 2nd day. It was a VERY long day. We had to meet our group at 6:00am and were on the train at 7:00am. We arrived back at to our cabin at 1:30am the next day. It was a wonderful day and we're so glad we went but if we were in St. Petersburg for only 2 days, I probably wouldn't spend a day in Moscow. It is a 4 hour train ride each way, and if you need to be back to the ship to depart, it may not leave you much time in Moscow. The 8 hours we spent there, wasn't nearly enough. Traffic is horrible and we ended up getting off our bus and taking the subway to Red Square. Those 8 hours allowed us a tour of Red Square, which was phenomenal as well as a quick walk through GUM department store and a ride on the subway with several stops to see the mosaics, sculptures and chandeliers that are in the corridors of the subway stops.

But.....there is so much to see in St. Petersburg , the 2 days we spent there, were a whirl.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure you're in line to get off the ship before the ship arrives in port. We were in line an hour early and there were still about 20 people ahead of us. We found that the cruise ship allowed their tour groups to get off the ship first, so when we got to customs, the lines were outrageous. It took us about an hour in line and we were late starting our tour. I had organized the tour with Alla and had advertised it on our cruise forum here at Cruise Critic. There were 12 of us and we met up on the ship each morning and went through customs together so we all met the tour bus at the same time. That was very helpful!

The lines the first day were the worst and days 2 and 3 went much more quickly. Also, everyone was getting off the ship at the same time on Day 1, but tours met and left at different times on Days 2 and 3.

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16 minutes ago, luvtravel88 said:

.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure you're in line to get off the ship before the ship arrives in port. We were in line an hour early and there were still about 20 people ahead of us. We found that the cruise ship allowed their tour groups to get off the ship first, so when we got to customs, the lines were outrageous. It took us about an hour in line and we were late starting our tour. !

The lines the first day were the worst and days 2 and 3 went much more quickly. Also, everyone was getting off the ship at the same time on Day 1, but tours met and left at different times on Days 2 and 3.

This is one of the reasons that we decided to use the cruise ship to go to Moscow our first day in St Petersburg. 

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25 minutes ago, Wayfairers said:

This is one of the reasons that we decided to use the cruise ship to go to Moscow our first day in St Petersburg. 

I believe that the ship tours to Moscow go via air, right?

Yes, as others have noted, there is MUCH to see in Saint Petersburg and in spending a week there one will barely scratch the surface - the same is true for Moscow.

It sounds like you want to get a "taste" of both cities - don't allow anyone to "throw water" on your plans as you best know what you want to do. You can always return for an extended visit. 😉

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4 hours ago, dogs4fun said:

I believe that the ship tours to Moscow go via air, right?

Yes, as others have noted, there is MUCH to see in Saint Petersburg and in spending a week there one will barely scratch the surface - the same is true for Moscow.

It sounds like you want to get a "taste" of both cities - don't allow anyone to "throw water" on your plans as you best know what you want to do. You can always return for an extended visit. 😉

No, our ship tour is going by train there and back unless I misread something.  You are right...we just want a taste of both cities.  In fact, that is what we get from all cruise port stops - just a taste.  We are never there long enough to the see the area completely.

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2 hours ago, Wayfairers said:

No, our ship tour is going by train there and back unless I misread something.  

Interesting - I thought that the ship tours flew to Moscow when in port for only 2 days. Hope you will post upon return and let us know how it went.

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16 hours ago, dogs4fun said:

Interesting - I thought that the ship tours flew to Moscow when in port for only 2 days. Hope you will post upon return and let us know how it went.

Double checked and it says we go to Moscow on the high speed train.   Come back the same way.   From all I’ve read it takes a little longer (ship to Moscow sites) to fly than to take the train.  

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I've been thinking about that - and I might be wrong, but it seems to me an SPB-Moscow combo over a 3-day cruise is one of the few remaining cases where obtaining a full-fledged Russian visa actually makes sense (especially for families/groups and especially if one is willing to do some DIY trip planning). 

 

Just to make sure, though - for those staying on the ship, is there some kind of curfew, or are you able to come and go as you please?

 

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4 minutes ago, napoxoguk said:

I've been thinking about that - and I might be wrong, but it seems to me an SPB-Moscow combo over a 3-day cruise is one of the few remaining cases where obtaining a full-fledged Russian visa actually makes sense (especially for families/groups and especially if one is willing to do some DIY trip planning). 

 

Just to make sure, though - for those staying on the ship, is there some kind of curfew, or are you able to come and go as you please?

 

If you have a Russian visa there is no curfew - you may come and go as you wish. In fact, if you so choose, you can spend the entire time in the city (staying at a hotel in either Moscow or St. Petersburg) rather than returning to your ship each evening - but ONLY if you have a visa.

Edited by dogs4fun
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6 minutes ago, dogs4fun said:

If you have a Russian visa there is no curfew - you may come and go as you wish. In fact, if you so choose, you can spend the entire time in the city (staying at a hotel in either Moscow or St. Petersburg) rather than returning to your ship each evening - but ONLY if you have a visa.

That is what my research shows too.  A quick google search showed the tourist visas for US citizens are $160.  I’m willing to pay for a tour rather than get the visa.  We’ve gotten most of the visas that are a pain to get and I’m tired of doing that. 

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2 minutes ago, Wayfairers said:

I’m willing to pay for a tour rather than get the visa

I understand. Ru visa process can be expensive and time consuming, especially if you live far away from one of the visa centers.

I'm just trying to come up with a reasonably conservative number - what can one realistically expect to pay for a mad 1-day Moscow dash if they go DIY.

For a regular SPB-only itinerary, visa doesn't seem to make sense - not only price-wise, but also from the standpoint of convenience - all the local operators have their itineraries down to a science.

 

With Moscow, though, it's not so clear-cut.

 

 

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I found that most of the tour operators will give you a tour but no guarantee that you make it to Moscow because you will miss the train if debarkation is too slow.  I found one tour that offers a 2 day tour with a flight to Moscow day 1 and train back and St Petersburg day 2.   Seriously considered them.   I briefly thought about getting a visa and spending the night in Moscow but never priced everything out. If you look into that I would love to see what you find. Probably not for us though because I want to see some of both cities.  

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2 hours ago, napoxoguk said:

I understand. Ru visa process can be expensive and time consuming, especially if you live far away from one of the visa centers.

I'm just trying to come up with a reasonably conservative number - what can one realistically expect to pay for a mad 1-day Moscow dash if they go DIY.

I have visited Russia multiple times. I received my latest 3 year visa in May and here are the associated costs:

Single/Double/Multiple entry visa, consular fee = $198

Visa Center Processing fee = $50

Total = $248  (this is your total if you apply in person at one of the 4 consulates located in the USA - since I don't live near a Russian consulate, I must use the more costly mail option)

 

SO ... here is what I actually paid:

Multiple entry visa, consular fee = $198

Visa Center Processing fee by mail = $120

Return shipping/handling fee = $35

Total = $353

Totally worth the fee as I spend multiple weeks in Russia yearly and prefer DIY - personally, I would not consider a visa if it was a one time visit via cruise.

So, for DIY, added to the visa expense, one must add the cost of the sapsan train (or flight), Moscow transportation (metro is great), food & associated entrance fees to the Kremlin (and whatever else one has the time/desire to visit).

FYI: There is a HOHO in both Moscow & St. Petersburg.

 

Edited by dogs4fun
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Okay, I think the diy budget might be something like ₽20,000 (about $300) per person. This includes:

Train tickets: ₽9000 (5+4); Kremlin+armory: 1700 (1000+700)

Boat ride:600

Metro:200

Meals: 3000 (1500 per casual meal)

Contingencies (Uber ride if needed, etc): 2500. 

 

It's based on a number of assumptions, so real-life mileage will vary - please let me know if you identify some glaring omissions or errors.

 

Assumptions:

Done on day 2 of three.

Good weather (lots of outside/walking time)

Earliest Sapsan to Moscow, overnight double decker from Moscow (no hotel stays)

Train tickets purchased at least 30 days in advance, economy for Sapsan and economy plus for the double decker (includes a bottle of water and a piece of gingerbread).

All group members are adults

Done on a day when the Kremlin, Red Sq, and other Moscow attractions are actually open.

Boat ride via watertrams-radisson.ru (the cheapest option with English audio guide)

 

 

Sample itinerary:

leave SPB on Sapsan 743a (5:30am), sleep on the train.

Arrive Moscow 9am

DIY Metro tour until 11am

Kremlin excursion (cathedral Sq, DIY) 11:30

Armory excursion (audioguide) 12:30 

Quick lunch (at GUM stolovaya or fast food chains at Manezhnaya sq) : 2 to 3pm.

Walk to Zaryadye boat pier via Alexander's garden, Red Sq, Zaryadye. Boats leave every 30 minutes. Route: Zaryadye- Gorky Park - luzhniki- Ukraina - turnaround - sparrow hills - Gorky Park. Time on board: 2 hrs. 

Gorky Park/muzeon (5:30 to 7:30). 

Head back (metro) towards red sq for evening walk/dinner (tverskaya-kamergersky-b.dmitrovka-metropol-nikolskaya area)

Need to be back at the train station by 10:30 to catch the 006aa train departing at 10:50. 

Back to SPB at 6:47 am.

 

Doable?

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