Remote Russian Bargains
Most things in Russia are less expensive than when I was last there in 2011, but if you venture into the boonies there are some true bargains. The ruble is worth only about half as much in U.S. dollar terms as it was four years ago, and in places like the Kola Peninsula it still goes a long ways.
This peninsula juts into the White Sea a long ways north of St. Petersburg, and is the setting for the fascinating recent Russian film "Leviathan." If you are interested in this region, check the Website www.kandalaksha.su for information on local hotels and apartments as well as nearby attractions.
Hotels in the area average about $40 per night, while private accommodation goes for as little as $20 a night.
The man who maintains the site also offers services as a driver, guide and interpreter, as well as a room in his own apartment for $25 nightly. He used to run the very useful site called www.cheap-moscow.com site, and still rents out his Moscow flat. The cost now is $1100 a month, down from $2000 just a few years ago.
Another site worth a look is the Real Russia channel on www.youtube.com. It is maintained by a young man who lives in Ufa, a city in the Urals. There isn't a lot I have found of use to tourists, but it provides a very interesting glimpse of ordinary life far from the big cities everybody visits. I've never been to Ufa, but while travelling in Jordan in 2003 I met a very pleasant woman from there who was hitchhiking through the Middle East on her own.
If you venture outside the big cities, you are likely to have more adventures and meet friendlier people, while saving money. If nothing else, you can discover places your friends are unlikely to have visited.