At the end of summer September 2014, I visited Moscow, I was planning to visit Moscow this year and St. Petersburg next year. My trip was more frustration and some fun compensation. Let me explain my experience and you tell me if I need to repeat it again as my original plan.
Let us talk about the frustration first. As any frequent traveler suppose to do, I did not made my research first because if I did, I would not visited Russia, I will take my business somewhere else because I think there are other country who make it easier to people to travel without all this un needed bureaucracy.
After I purchased my ticket, I learned that as an American, I need visa to enter the country, which is not usually a problem in most cases but not this time.
It looked easy in the beginning because during my hotel reservation process, the travel agency told me all I need is the following:
- Paid hotel confirmation which he will email me one
- 2 passport size photos
- Complete Visa application on line
- My passport and must be valid for at least 6 more month from the entry date
After I completed the above requirement, I took my first day off from work; I discovered that he was wrong. The important document he forgets to tell me is a confirmation of hotel arrangements not from him but from authorized Russian travel company, or directly from the Russian hotel, showing reference number and confirmation number for the visa.
Due to the different daytime between New York and Moscow, I have to call the hotel several time to fax the require paper work several time to obtain this letter, each time I have to resubmit for different reason, the signature does not match or the passport copy is not legible or this or that, at the end this process cost me quite some of my time and money
- Copy of my valid passport
- Completed a hotel credit card authorization for $350 non-refundable deposit in case of cancelation event the hotel has 24 hours cancelation policy.
Finally, after I received my letter, I headed again to the visa center with another day off from my work, and then I took one more day off to pick up my passport when I called and learned that my visa process was completed, which took around 10 days.
The time for my trip has come, I traveled using Aeroflot, my trip was very nice, and the crew was helpful all the way. After we arrived to Sheremetyevo airport (it is very big airport). We took a long walk to wait in very long line in order to complete the entry process then I headed to collect my bags and go through the custom questions.
Finally, I am out of the airport looking for the train to take me to Moscow Metro line to get to my hotel. Suddenly, I find my self all he way out of the airport by the bus line.
Regardless all warning that I read about the unauthorized taxi in Moscow. I approached by one of them immediately by the airport exit. I showed him the name and the address of my hotel, he show my number 60 on his calculator, I immediately agreed after this long fly.
The ride in the taxi to the hotel took more than hour, during this time my driver try to make a long conversation speaking only Russian. I kept smile without understanding a word of his conversation, after all, he was a nice old man try his best to make the distance look shorter during the heavy traffic.
I like my driver so I asked him for his business card and asked the doorman to translate for him if I can call him sometimes during my stay which he agreed. I used the Front Desk to call him each time I need to travel anywhere and this was the best idea I made because I used the hotel staff to translate to him in advance what and where I like to go.
I stayed in The Golden Ring hotel. My hotel was pleasant and good surprise, nice staff (doorman, front desk and concierge), my room was very clean and the daily service was perfect, In the beginning I was little worry when I choice unknown hotel (at least for me), but I was extremely happy at the end with the hotel experience.
I usually prepare for my trip with extensive research, I plan in advance what I need to visit and see in each day. I was able to do everything I planned and more because during my visit the sun was down after 9 PM, so I have a very long day to do more than what I was planning.
At the end I enjoyed my visit but I am not ready to go through the same process to visit St. Petersburg. I feel I can have it at the bottom of my list for now.