A very frequent question of those who decide to travel to Russia is whether to make the trip through travel agencies, or if they could do it on their own. In this post, I will give you a series of tips and analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each option, so that you can decide how to do it.
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THREE OPTIONS of traveling to Russia
When traveling to Russia you can choose three options:
- Organize the entire trip on your own, that is, you take care of everything: book airline tickets, accommodation, travel itineraries, ticket purchases to museums, palaces, restaurants, shows, etc.
- Organize a part of the trip on your own (mainly airplane, accommodation and restaurants), but hire guided tours with local agencies.
- Leave the entire trip organization to a travel agency that takes care of all aspects.
What is the best way? Well, it will depend on each one. In this article, I will give you a series of tips and I will analyze the advantages and disadvantages of each option, so that you decide which option suits you best, according to your preferences, time and budget.
OPTION 1. You will take care of everything, without the need for travel agencies
Today, through the Internet and from your home computer, you can easily organize a trip to Russia. In fact, in this blog you will find all the information to organize your trip to Russia at your leisure, and without having to go to intermediary agencies.
What are the minimum requirements to organize the trip for free?
I would say that to make a trip to Russia on your own, you only need two requirements:
- An informal requirement: a lot of desire to travel (regardless of age) and, above all, to eliminate these cliché thoughts from your head: that Russia is an insecure country, that there is a lot of mafia, that paperwork is complicated, that it’s not a country to go with family with children, etc. All these topics are false: Russia is a totally safe country, paperwork is not as complicated, as it seems and planning a trip to Russia is not complicated if everything is prepared with a little patience and time.
- A formal requirement: have a valid passport and obtain a visa in advance, which is nothing more than an authorization for entry, stay or transit in the territory of the Russian Federation.
Requirements that are not necessary:
- It is not necessary to know Russian, though it is clear that some minimal notions of Russian and the Cyrillic alphabet always come in handy. In any case, in English it is also possible to be understood in the big capitals, especially among the younger people, though it must be said that the level of English of the Russians is not very high.
- It is not necessary to have a lot of money. You can travel to Russia in very different ways, both low cost and staying in 5-star hotels, or in an intermediate way, staying in apartments or in 3-4-star hotels. With the sharp devaluation of the ruble in recent years, Russia has ceased to be an expensive country.
The advantages of organizing a trip to Russia on your own are several: first, the satisfaction of being able to organize everything by yourself (it can even be entertaining); secondly, the trip will normally be more economic; and, thirdly, you can organize the trip in a way that suits your needs, according to your preferences and with the possibility of improvising on the go.
It also has its drawbacks: in the first place, it will take you more work and time to make all the preparations (there are people who can find this stressful). Secondly, if you don’t speak Russian, communication problems may arise during your trip. These inconveniences can be eliminated in part, using the option 2 mentioned below.
OPTION 2. You can handle almost everything, but you can still hire some guided tours with local agencies
This would be an intermediate solution between traveling on your own or doing so with a travel agency. It is an option that more and more people use. I regularly use it when I travel as a tourist to other countries.
It consists of organizing a part of the trip on your own (mainly the flight, accommodation and transportation), but hire some guided tours in English with local agencies, such as:
- Take a free tour of Moscow, Petersburg or other Russian cities, to locate yourself in the city with an English guide that explains everything.
- Hire guided tours in English to visit certain museums (such as the Kremlin, the Hermitage, or Peterhof Complex, for example) or to make thematic visits (for example, the Moscow Metro, the Soviet Moscow, etc.)
- Get on the tourist bus to visit the city at your leisure, or take a cruise in St. Petersburg or Moscow.
- Buy the Moscow Citypass card or the Petersburg CityPass card, which gives you access to many tourist attractions, museums and palaces.
- Take a bike tour of the city or even sign up for a master class of painting Matryoshkas or Russian cuisine.
In short, the possibilities are many and will depend on the preferences of each one. In this blog, for example, there are articles with itineraries to visit the most important of different cities such as Moscow or St. Petersburg, which you can do on your own or combine with guided excursions:
- What to see and do in Moscow in 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5 days
- What to see and do in Saint Petersburg in 1, 2, 3 or 4 days
Where do I book guided tours of Moscow, St. Petersburg or other Russian cities?
It is now very easy to hire all these excursions through the GetYourGuide platform that unites Russian local agencies with travelers. You can find a wide variety of guided tours in Russia, as well as buy tickets for concerts or tourist cards of each city.
OPTION 3. You like to get everything done: travel agencies to Russia
The third option is to hire an organized trip with a travel agency. There may be several reasons to hire a travel agency:
- If you don’t have time to organize your trip (or you just don’t feel like doing it)
- If you travel alone and are looking for company
- If you are concerned about communication problems in Russia
- Or, simply, you are one of those who like to have everything done
Traveling with a travel agency can be much more comfortable, though this is also usually more expensive. The important thing is to hire a good agency, to organize good itineraries, to select good accommodations, to have a good guide and, at the same time, the prices must be attractive.
How many travel agencies to Russia are there? Which one I choose?
I can’t help you much in this, since I have never used the services of any travel agency in Russia, and I can’t give you my opinion first hand. There are many agencies that organize trips to Russia. Some are specialized in trips to Russia with pre-established itineraries, others organize custom trips, others make trips with people with similar interests, etc.
It is best to always read other users’ opinions through communities or websites such as Bookmundi.
Today, booking the right Russian tour or holiday can be time consuming. Which tour operator is qualified? What’s the right tour price? When you pay an upfront deposit to an unknown tour operator, is your money safe? Are the reviews seen on a local operators website genuine?
Bookmundi gives you a painless and easy tour booking process by:
- Connecting you directly with a local travel expert in Russia, if you need a customised tour package, and local travel advice.
- Only offering tours delivered by qualified and licensed Russian tour operators, supported by unbiased and genuine customer reviews.
- Giving you a Best Price Guarantee for all Russian tours offered.
- Giving you a safe way to pay for Russian tours, with Bookmundi covering all credit card fees, and not adding any extra fees on top.
Bookmundi is an online platform where you can find a wide variety of trips to Russia with pretty good prices . They organize trips to see the essentials of Moscow, St. Petersburg and the Golden Ring, as well as trips through the Trans-Siberian Route, or trips to more remote areas. It allows you to hire the trip online in three steps:
1. You can access their website and select the tour (there are about 160 different trips in Russia), for example, Russia Highlights:
2. Check availability and select dates:
3. Enter your personal information, make payment of a deposit and confirm your trip:
I hope this article has helped you decide between traveling to Russia on your own or doing it through travel agencies. Which option have you chosen and why?