Monday, October 10, 2011

Budget Travel Russia

Russia must be one of the most difficult countries in the world for the average budget traveller. The main reason is the plethora of restrictions that the Russian Federation continues to impose on foreign visitors--not just expensive visas that are difficult to obtain on your own, but registration requirements that make it almost impossible to travel around the country other than on a pre-arranged itinerary.
Therefore, a Website like is a welcome addition. Much of this site is still under construction, but what is there is useful, especially information for those planning to travel across the country on the Trans Siberian Railway. The site offers advice on what to bring, even on which berths to choose depending on your budget and number of companions, if any.
The site inlcudes helpful links to hostel and hotel booking services, as well as information on some of the country's best known tourist attractions. Once all the items listed on the home page actually exist, the site will probably be even more useful.
According to some surveys, Moscow is now the world's most expensive city. Having been there recently, I do not believe this. Perhaps for certain types of top end travellers and expats living there it is true, but certainly not for the average visitor. A ticket on the very extensive Moscow Metro costs about $1 (compared with $3 in Montreal,) and it is possible to find a quite decent hotel room with huge delicious buffet breakfast for less than $100 a night. That is very hard to do in most large cities of North America. Food costs are comparable to those in North America, and some items (vodka, beer, wine) are considerably cheaper.
This is somewhat tongue in cheek, but another method to visit Russia on a budget is to visit Ukraine instead. Ukraine does not have the extensive visa and registration requirements that plague the Russian traveller, prices there are comparable to or lower than in Russia, and the country is quite similar. In fact, the Russian culture which has now spread so widely, across the largest country in the world, originated in Kievan Rus.

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