Russia is the largest country in the world and 8 days are too few to travel, so we decided to visit only the two most important cities of the so-called "European Russia": St. Petersburg and Moscow. I had read many stories that highlighted the hardness of the Russians and how difficult it is to understand them. We, on the other hand, did not encounter great difficulties, although we saw that yes, that people were generally cold (as in all major cities), but when necessary, people came out to help us out. As I said in the stories, I liked Moscow much more than St. Petersburg, not because the second one was uglier, but because Moscow is a constant surprise and that's what I like most.
Itinerary 8 days through St. Petersburg and Moscow
Day 1: St. Petersburg, introduction to the city
Day 2: St. Petersburg Peter's fortress and the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
Day 3: St. Petersburg The Hermitage and the Winter Palace
Day 4: St. Petersburg Peterhof excursion
Day 5: Walking through St. Petersburg
Day 6: Moscow The Kremlin and the Red Square
Day 7: Moscow Excursion to Sergiev Posad
Day 8: Moscow The Moscow metro and the Museum of Contemporary History
Flights to Russia
If you fly out of high season, you can find cheap flights to St. Petersburg or Moscow (about € 160 i / v). Having to buy on short notice and over to fly in the middle of August, we did not find any flight through Europe for less than € 300 (because besides Russia we look at other destinations). In the end, we flew with Vueling, which was a little more expensive than Air Baltic, but it was direct. We left on a Saturday night from Barcelona to St. Petersburg (€ 175 / person) and returned from Moscow (€ 175 / person).
How to process the Russian tourist visa in Barcelona or Madrid
It seems that since April 1, 2013 it can be processed directly from the Russian consulate in Barcelona and the embassy in Madrid, although they recommend doing so through the Russian Visa Central. I leave the link of your web to fill out the form. Here I tell you how I processed it:
Russia is one of those countries that require travelers to have a visa to enter. Currently it has to be managed at the Russian Visa Central, as the Russian embassy / consulate has derived visa management to this company. Before processing mine, I had read that it was very complicated and that it gave a lot of headaches, but in my case it was the opposite. Of course, if you want to do it on your own, it is best that you start to process it a couple of months before so that you do not get a nervous breakdown. The documentation necessary to process the Russian tourist visa, which allows you to visit the country for 30 days, is as follows:
1. Application form. It can be downloaded from the Central website of Russian visas, which are in charge of management in Spain. It is necessary to fill it in capital letters and with very clear letter. The form must be signed by the applicant.
2. Two passport photographs. Although there are two on the web, they only asked me for one and they stuck it with glue on the form.
3. Passport with a minimum validity of 6 months and two adjacent blank pages.
4. Travel assistance insurance. The insurance has to cover the total stay in Russia. Attention because not all insurance companies are valid. Only those authorized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation are valid. In Spain, those authorized are: Compañía Europea de Seguros S.A., Mapfre, Prior Assistance (DKV), Schwarzmeer und Ostsee Versicherungs-Aktiengesellschaft SOVAG, AXA, Adeslas and Sanitas, among others. Insurance can also be contracted with another company, but then it will be essential that they issue an official document that demonstrates that they can provide the necessary services in the territory of the Russian Federation and that they have an agreement with a Russian insurance company. In order not to complicate our lives, we hire it with Mapfre. The good thing is that by not passing from the Urals, since we traveled to St. Petersburg and Moscow, we were able to take out insurance coverage for Europe and Mediterranean riparian countries That in cost € 23.42.
6. «Visa support». Here we have the mother of the lamb and what caused us to delay the visa process. Visa support is a document that justifies that you have an agency that answers for you in Russia. Here I had several doubts about how it had to be done, so I called the Central of Russian visas and they informed me that a letter was needed for each hotel we were going to stay during the trip. But, in reality, we later discovered that the invitation letter can be obtained without even having a hotel reserved.
In fact, there are agencies that charge you a bit for processing the invitation letter. In our case, as we had been told that we needed the invitation from the hotel, we were a little afraid to do it by agency and we dismissed this option.
He Hostel Gogol Mogol in St. Petersburg processed the letter for free for staying three or more nights there, but in Moscow every hostels they charge you the «Visa support». As my Russian teacher said: «Moscow is another country within Russia». We were watching hostels and the one who charged us the least was the Fresh Hostel, where we finally made the reservation. They processed the letter for 12 euros per person (some even asked for $ 40 per person).
And when the hotels sent us the letters, we saw that they were simple vouchers or vouchers from some agencies that had nothing to do with the hotel. He Gogol Mogol He sent us a voucher for the entire stay, but only with the name of that hotel in St. Petersburg (we still hadn't booked the one in Moscow) and the voucher of the Fresh Hostel It was for the entire period of the trip and included the names of the two hotels. So, when we went to do the visas, they only stayed voucher Fresh Hostel because that already included the data of the two hotels. I explain all this to you because, if I had known, I I would have expected to have both hotels booked and I would have told the Gogol Mogol to make me the letter including the two hotels. That way we would have saved the 12 euros.
It takes us two weeks to get the cards and, especially in Moscow, they are going at another pace. And between sending emails asking for prices, they answered and confirmed the reservation, the days went by and my despair at such slowness was increasing.
7. Bring the documentation and pay. Once you have all this documentation, you have to take it to the office of the Central of Russian visas. There is one in Madrid and one in Barcelona:
Madrid Office: C / Principe de Vergara 126, bjs 28002 Madrid. Telephone 91 423 00 17
Barcelona Office: Avinguda de Roma 67, bjs 08029 Barcelona. Telephone 93 444 88 31
The schedule is from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. from Monday to Friday. The day I went to process visas, I arrived early because I expected big queues to be summer, but it was not. The staff of the Russian Visa Central is very friendly, helpful and professional. We checked all the documentation to verify that everything was correct and, once they verified everything, I paid. In total, between fees and management, the visa costs 65 euros (currently € 58) and they process it in 10 business days. As it was summer, they delivered it to me in 13 business days. That's why it is better start processing a couple of months before. If you want to process urgently, it costs 120 euros (currently € 113).
How much does the Russian tourist visa cost?
It cost us 100 euros (€ 65 fees (currently € 58) + € 12 invitation letter + 23 medical insurance). It is a bit expensive, but I thought it would cost us much more. For visas of more than 30 days and multiple entries, I advise you to visit the website of the Central of Russian visas.
How to go from St. Petersburg airport to the city center?
You can take the bus line 13 or 13A, or vans that make shuttle with the number K3, K13 or K213 that are at the exit of the airport. Everyone stops at Moskovskaya metro station (Московская), but be careful because it is not the end of the line. He shuttle It costs 30 rubles per person and 20 rubles per suitcase. Once in the subway, you can travel to the closest stop to your accommodation. The subway ticket currently costs 35 rubles and they may make you pay 35 rubles more for the suitcase, although we were not told anything.
Accommodation in St. Petersburg
Gogol Mogol Hostel
In St. Petersburg we stayed at the Gogol Mogol hostel. You can read a detailed review in the entry about the Gogol Mogol Hostel. Although if I had known at the time we would have stayed in an Air B&B apartment, since there are very central and economical, as per This or this example. If you want to try the experience, you we invite you to try it With this $ 20 discount.
What to visit in St. Petersburg?
In St. Petersburg we spent five days. With a city that has more than 400 museums, there is much to visit, but this is the highlight of what we saw:
It is the point where Peter the Great began the construction of his new capital. You can walk through the fortress for free, but you have to pay to access the churches, palaces and exhibitions it contains. We enter the cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, which costs 200 rubles (currently 350 rubles) and the audio guide 250 rubles, although you can save them because the interior is quite disappointing. You can find more information in the official Web.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood
It is the prettiest church we visited in Russia. Not only for the exterior, inspired by the St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow, but for the interior, completely decorated with mosaics with a mixture of art nouveau and Byzantine styles. The entrance during the "white nights" costs 350 rubles, the normal entry 250 rubles and the audio guide, 200. More information on the official Web.
The Hermitage and the Winter Palace
The museum of Hermitage He deserves a full day at least and, even then, you will not see even 10% of everything it contains. It is advisable buy the ticket in advance on the web, since the line at the box office is hours. At the box office it costs 400 rubles (currently 600 rubles), and only by buying at the box office you can access discounts for students. The web entry is more expensive if purchased in the English version ($ 17.95). However, if you buy the ticket in the Russian version from the museum's website you will get cheaper (580 rubles for one day and 1000 rubles for two). To buy it without problems you can use the Google Chrome translator.
You can also rent an audio guide, which will be very useful when it comes to touring the rooms. You can also eat in the cafeteria that, surprisingly, does not have excessively expensive prices.
Excursions from St. Petersburg: Peterhof Palace
It is one of the most popular excursions from St. Petersburg. The cheapest way to get to Peterhof is with buses leaving from the Avtovo metro station (Автово) for 60 rubles the way. Peterhof is a spectacular summer palace with a style very similar to that of Versailles. The bad thing is that it is very expensive and you have to pay for each part you want to visit. In the end, we only visited the gardens, which are very extensive and beautiful, but the visit let us down a bit.
The entrance to the Peterhof gardens costs 450 rubles (currently 500), to the Grand Palace, 550 (currently 600), to the royal church, 360 rubles (currently 500), to the Monplaisir Palace, 360, to the Special Treasury, 500 rubles , to the caves of the great waterfall, 300, to the Catalina building, 360 rubles. To know the prices and schedules of all the Peterhof enclosures, you can check their website.
How to buy the train ticket from St. Petersburg to Moscow online?
Our trip to the European Russia It was divided into two stages, one of five days in Saint Petersburg and another of three days in Moscow. You can go from one city to the other by plane or train. The problem of going by train is that in high season the tickets are usually sold out, so it is advisable to buy it before going.
When we travel, the official website of the Russian railways I was only in Russian. Fortunately, it now has an English version. To buy train tickets on the official website we recommend this excellent tutorial from the travel blog Edu & Eri trips. In addition, the tickets can only be purchased 45 days in advance.
Finally we bought two train tickets in a 4-person cabin on the night train Red Arrow (Krasnaya Strela / Кра́сная стрела́) that leaves Moskovsky (Moskovsky vokzal) station in St. Petersburg and arrives at Leningradsky (Leningradsky vokzal) station in Moscow. We chose second class (compartment of 4) for the price. The ticket in cabin of 4 cost us 5425 rubles. The private two cabin was leaving for about 18300 rubles per person.
Accommodation in Moscow
In Moscow we had a hard time finding accommodation. Either it was very expensive, or they had no double rooms available, or they asked us for a money for the invitation letter. After much searching, we were confirmed by Fresh Hostel that had a family room that left us for two at double price.
The room with shared bathroom and without breakfast cost us 2300 rubles a night. For the invitation letter they charged us 500 rubles per person, and to formalize the reservation we had to pay the first night in advance.
Currently, with the devaluation of the ruble can be found great hotels in Moscow at a great price.
What to visit in Moscow?
As we were only in Moscow for three days, this is the highlight of what we visited. Obviously, Moscow has countless other interesting places to visit.
The Kremlin and the Red SquareIt is the most emblematic point of Moscow and to which you have to dedicate at least a whole day. It is also worth visiting when it starts to get dark to see everything illuminated. We visit the Kremlin and St. Basil's Cathedral. Despite what one might believe, the Kremlin not only houses the current government of Russia. As it has been the government headquarters for centuries, there are also various churches inside and it is well worth it. The entrance to the monumental complex of the Kremlin costs 350 rubles, the audio guide in Spanish 200 rubles and the entrance to the armory 700 rubles. You have to leave the backpacks in the slogan to the right of the Kutafya tower down the stairs to the Alexandrovsky garden (100 rubles). Tickets can be purchased at the ticket offices on both sides of the tower and those in the garden. The Kremlin closes at 5.30 pm, but attention, because the audio guide has to be returned before 17, time at which the lockers are closed.
In the Red Square you can also visit the State History Museum, Lenin's tomb, Kazan Cathedral and the GUM department store.
The St. Basil's Cathedral It is undoubtedly the best known image of Russia, but after visiting a dozen Orthodox churches, the interior disappointed me a lot, especially after paying 250 rubles plus the permission for photos of 160 rubles. Therefore, if the greatest illusion of your life is to enter the cathedral of San Basilio, do it before visiting other churches. You can also rent an audio guide for 200 rubles.