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.
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!