I’ve just returned back from the land of Peter the Great – St Petersburg! It was definitely an interesting trip and we got to learn some history along the way. Russia has always been one of those countries I’ve wanted to travel to but was a bit scared to do so. Luckily this time a well traveled friend of mine agreed to come along.
What many of you might not know is that Russia is not actually that far!!! Especially St Petersburg which is right at the western border and is only a 3-4hrs flight from London!!! So really a weekend is very much doable and that’s what we did. However what I didnt realised was what an adventure it was going to be!!! This starts from getting the visa to even just trying to get into the Hermitage museum!!! Although it was stressful at the time It at least allows me to share tips with you so that you can avoid what we had to endure!!!
So to be honest this can be time consuming as you’ll require an array of documents, the actual requirement depends on your nationality.
There are a couple of ways you can obtain a visa, you can either apply via an agency which can be quite expensive or you can apply directly via M/S VFS Services website where you can find all the necessary info. You basically need to fill in the online form, print this out and then go to one of the visa centres to apply in person bringing all the necessary documents. 2 of the documents needed for a tourist visa are a Tourist Voucher and a Tourist Conformation. These you can ask your hotel to prepare for you. One tip is make sure you check out that the centre is opened beforehand as they are closed on Russian National holidays as well as the local holidays. We along with approx 10 others turned up at their doorstep on 8th March – International Women’s Day and waited 30mins before we gave up!!!
I’ll be sharing with you our itinerary in the next post but for now I wanted to let you give you some tips regarding the best way/how to buy tickets for the most well known attractions. Also to help you to save time and stress when visiting these places
Hermitage museum – you can prebook your tickets online here and randomly you have to pay in USD. This is actually more expensive (approx £7 vs £11) than buying in the day but if you have a look at the queue below then I think you’d agreed that the little extra is well worth it!!! Make sure you bring your voucher on the day with your ID.
The quickest way is just walk through the the main gate, go straight to the entrance and show the security guard there your voucher. He’ll let you in then you have to go to the information desk where they check your ID. Then point you to the counter 2 to pick up your actual tickets. Do not go straight to the counter first because they won’t give you your tickets!!!
Beware that it’s very unorganised inside so be prepared to push in and others pushing in front of you!!! Once you have your tickets you’re ready join the thing of people to start your visit!!! Don’t worry about the crowd, it looks like a lot of people but actually moves pretty quick!
Peterhof – it is not necessary to book ahead to visit. The queue is not that long and there’s also machines you can use. Note that the only tickets you can buy before entering the actual complex (via a barrier) are for the lower garden and smaller museums only!!! After you are inside, just follow the crowd walking towards the top of the main fountain. On your left you should see the entrance for the Grand Palace where you can buy your tickets and paid for an audio guide. I call this place a pay as you go as it seems you have to buy a ticket for every place you want to visit!!!
Great Palace of Tsarskoye Selo (Catherine Palace) – again you should prebook your ticket here to avoid the queue especially as they are timed and you can only buy the ticket at the time you want to visit! We had to queue for 20mins to go in!!! Remember you’ll need to exchange your voucher for the actual tickets!!! If you do not want to prebook your tickets then you’ll have to buy a ticket into the park first then go straight to the palace’s entrance and check if there’s any tickets available for the latest time slot. If not then they’ll tell you what time to come back.
Ok that’s all for now, next post I’ll be sharing with the places we’ve visited and food we ate on our Russian adventure!!!
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