Planning: Paris and St. Petersburg, done. Moscow, well…

Posted in: Practical Info


Does Tallinn, Estonia hold the key? Photo by Elmada.
Does Tallinn, Estonia hold the key? Photo by Elmada.

Next Friday, January 16, I’ll be heading off to Paris for a week of hotel visits. Paris is always a joy, even in the midst of a cold January, and I’m looking forward to sleeping in three different (and yet unnamed!) hotels while spending my days visiting and reviewing about 40 others. Finding and booking those three Paris hotels was a cinch (thanks, CheapoSearch!).

A Russian Journey

The real adventure, however, starts the following Saturday, January 24, when I’ll be flying to St. Petersburg, Russia. I’ll spend eight days in the culture-rich city, sleeping at a friend’s apartment. As the St. P. visit will be mostly vacation, I haven’t decided whether or not to do a “mini-guide” to the city’s budget hotels, although I’ll certainly write some blog posts.

I had originally decided to follow St. Petersburg with a quick two-day trip to Moscow. I posted last month about the difficulties I experienced in finding an affordable hotel in the Russian capital and asked for advice. Readers responded — mostly directly to me via email, with very helpful suggestions.

The Moscow hotel search

I had some demands: As I will be traveling with a computer and a couple suitcases, I wanted something more secure than a hostel. As I’ll be hitting the road on my own and don’t speak Russian or read Cyrillic (yet), I wanted to find a hotel that was easy to find. And as much as I love B&Bs and small pensions, those in Moscow that I found didn’t have any user reviews. The thought of buzzing up to an unverified apartment in Moscow gave me the chills.

Every central hotel I could find, however, charged more than $300 per night. The room rates were simply outlandish. Seriously, if you want a good laugh, do a quick search and see what you come up with!

I rejoiced on January 1 when I found a “small single” room in the Kebur Palace, a 4-star hotel, for about $155 a night. I booked it right away on a Russian hotel reservation website. My celebration was cut short, however, when the agency emailed me a “reservation declination” stating that, in fact, the hotel didn’t really have the “small single” available for my dates, but did have a “superior single” for $285 a night available… Throw in Moscow’s steep hotel tax, and the total came out to about $672 for a two-night stay.

I told them, nyet, it was simply too expensive.

They wrote back with another “affordable” option, the Peking Hotel. The Peking is a well-known 3-star hotel, built in 1955 and sports an impressive Communist exterior. Today it offers renovated rooms of both “standard” and “deluxe” categories. The reservation service offered a single for $190 a night. I wasn’t happy, but it was far cheaper than any other central hotel I had found. With tax, the total came to $450. Ugh.

Yet… it wasn’t really a reservation. My “request” had to be confirmed by the hotel. That should have taken a day. Five days have passed and still no confirmation. No word. No hotel.

And that’s where I find myself today, dear reader. I admit it, Moscow has proven to be a bigger challenge than I expected.

The solution?

I called Continental Airlines this morning and was told I could change my flight for $150. I’m seriously considering dropping the Moscow adventure altogether, and instead heading to Tallinn, Estonia from St. Petersburg. Tallinn is already known as a budget-friendly destination with its own rich history.

I could spend several days in Tallinn for a fraction of the cost of the Moscow hotel alone, and even put together a “mini-guide” while I’m there!

What do you think?

Should I make the most of  Moscow or drop it and head for Tallinn? Please leave your comments and advice. At this point, I’m open to anything! Thanks!

About the author

Tom Meyers

About the author: Tom Meyers created and launched EuroCheapo from his Berlin apartment in 2001. He returned to New York in 2002, set up office, and has led the EuroCheapo team from the Big Apple ever since. He travels to Europe several times a year to update EuroCheapo's hotel reviews. Tom is also a co-host of the New York City history podcast, The Bowery Boys. Email Tom. [Find Tom on Google Plus]

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8 thoughts on “Planning: Paris and St. Petersburg, done. Moscow, well…”

  1. Pingback: Cheapos at Work: Off to Paris, St. Petersburg, and… | Budget Travel Tips - EuroCheapo

  2. I would take the night train to Moscow even if for one day.. There are so many trains that you could easily arrive at 6am and not come back until 1am, so would have lots of time to take in some main sites. I have been to Russia many times, but have to say that the most lasting impression is standing on Red Square. Go to Moscow!

  3. It’s best to do what you are comfortable with. If you really want to go to Moscow, than you should go. The idea of taking night trains there and back is a better one. Make sure you plan that day really good and take care of yourself. 😉

  4. Hi poetloverrebelspy —

    Thanks for your help. I know, after going through the whole visa process, I’m tempted to try to see as much of Russia as possible. It is good to know about the “Kamera Khranienia.” I’ll keep that possibility in mind.

    I suppose another possibility would be to take the night train down from St. Petersburg during my week there, stay for the day, and then take the night train back! That way, I could leave all my things in St. Petersburg and just visit Moscow for the day. And I wouldn’t have to find a hotel.

    Where have you stayed when you visited Moscow?


    Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that it’s best to visit a city when you can really spend time and get to know it and get a feel for what it’s like to live there. I’m assuming then that you wouldn’t be into my idea for spending one day in Moscow, before taking the train back to St. Petersburg?

  5. In a way I agree with Cordy, Moscow is an awesome city to see and you should certainly visit it. But also, Moscow is the most expensive city in Europe…and if you don’t speak Russian is a real handicap. Not because you won’t be able to read the names of the streets but because if something happens, English will not help you at all. It’s a much safer idea to go with someone who speaks Russian or have a friend who lives there to show you around.
    I’d suggest Tallinn at this point mostly because you’ll have a great time and see it in a way you should. Go to Moscow when you are ready to spend more than half a day, you’ll get more out of it. And the goal is always to see and enjoy the place you are going to than to add just another destination to your map…

  6. Tom, I love both Moscow and Tallinn. The latter is a great city. The former is a world capital. There is really no comparison.

    You have already paid for your Russian visa. USE IT.

    Cordy, do you have a spare room (or know someone who does) where Tom could stay? Cheapos, we’ve got to help Tom out here!

    FYI, you can store luggage easily at any train or bus station in Russia at the “kamera khranienia” — it’s a staffed storage room that you might have come into contact with in other parts of Eastern Europe.

  7. Hi Cordy —

    Thanks for your comment. I must admit, you bring up an interesting idea. If I did come into Moscow just for one day, where would I be able to put my luggage? Can you keep luggage safely at the train station?

    And Luc, thanks for your thoughts. I’m not making excuses about going to Tallinn :) The more I think about the city, the more I want to go there, too. Do you have any recommendations about things to see in Tallinn?

    Many thanks,

  8. Being a muscovite I suggest that you should not drop Moscow altogether, in spite of the fact that it’s really one of the most expensive cities in the world.
    What I mean is that you might arrive there from St.Petersburg by a night train, which should be rather comfortable nowadays, and spent a day around Moscow without staying for the night; and then take a night train, or a flight to Tallinn from Moscow.
    I realize one day is not enough to see Moscow in detail; but to my knowledge making a couple of visits to places of interest at your choice is quite manageable.


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