How I Plan On Redeeming Miles To Russia

My current trip to Colombia has inspired me to want to visit some more “off the beaten” path places. Not that Cartagena or Bogota are really “off the beaten path,” but rather they’re not tourist hotspots for Americans. In other words, they’re not Rome, Paris, or Bangkok.

One country which has always intrigued me is Russia, though I’ve never really had the desire to visit. I also realize it’s not exactly the most progressive country on earth, though I figure you generally learn more from visiting places which are outside your comfort zone, rather than places with similar cultures.

While most of my travel is planned last minute, I’d love to plan a trip to Russia for summer, given that the weather is best that time of year. Furthermore, I’ll need a visa for Russia, so I should plan in advance since I realize it can take a while to get that processed.

I’ve been looking at the various options for booking award tickets to Russia. It’s generally not a bad place to redeem miles to, given that Western Russia is considered to be part of Europe on most airline award charts, even though it’s quite a ways from Western Europe.

With that in mind, I figured I’d explain my thought process as I begin planning:

Singapore Airlines first class from Houston to Moscow

Unarguably the most comfortable way to get to Moscow is in Singapore Airlines first class, as they fly between Houston and Moscow.

Singapore-777-Suites
Singapore Airlines 777 first class

Given the economies in both Houston and Moscow, first class award availability is wide open in the market. The redemption value is fantastic as well — Singapore KrisFlyer charges 57,375 miles for one-way first class between Houston and Moscow, plus about $200 each way in taxes and carrier imposed surcharges.

KrisFlyer-Russia

KrisFlyer is transfer partners with all four major transferrable points currencies, including Citi ThankYou, so these points should be quite easy to come by.

Aeroflot business class from Los Angeles to Moscow

Aeroflot flies nonstop from Los Angeles to Moscow, and they operate the route with their Boeing 777-300ERs, which features decent fully flat business class seats, similar to business class on American’s A321s, Qatar’s A320s, and Air China’s 777s.

Aeroflot

Award availability is quite good, and my initial thought was to redeem miles for one-way business class on Aeroflot. That’s because Singapore Airlines obviously has a better onboard product, but I also wanted to review Aeroflot, so figured I’d fly them in one direction.

Delta SkyMiles charges 62,500 miles plus ~$200 in carrier imposed surcharges for the one-way ticket in Aeroflot business class.

Delta-Russia-Award

On one hand it sort of kills me to pay more for Aeroflot business class than Singapore Airlines first class, but at the same time I know Aeroflot would be more interesting to you guys.

But is there a better value?

I actually thought the above two values were quite good to begin with, but then I remembered something. Korean Air SkyPass is a Chase Ultimate Rewards transfer partner, and points transfer at a 1:1 ratio. I’ve written extensively about Korean Air SkyPass, and in particular about the value of redeeming Korean Air miles for Korean Air first class, given how readily available award space is.

You can also redeem Korean Air SkyPass miles on partner airlines, though the “catch” is that you can only do so for roundtrip tickets.

I remembered that Korean Air charges just 80,000 miles for roundtrip business class between the US and Europe:

Korean-Air-Europe-Award

Then I checked their regions chart, and confirmed that West Russia counts as Europe:

Korean-Air-Award-Regions

Usually the downside to redeeming Korean Air miles for transatlantic business class is the carrier imposed surcharges. For example, Delta, Air France, KLM, etc., charge $850+ in carrier imposed surcharges for a roundtrip transatlantic business class ticket:

AF-Fuel-Surcharges

However, Aeroflot only charges less than half that for transatlantic business class, which you’d also pay on an award with Delta SkyMiles anyway, since Delta passes on Aeroflot surcharges on award tickets:

Aeroflot-Fuel-Surcharges

There’s another benefit — Korean Air allows stopovers on award tickets.

So for 80,000 SkyPass miles and ~$400 in carrier imposed surcharges I could book Los Angeles to Moscow, have a stopover, then book Moscow to St. Petersburg, stay there, and then book St. Petersburg to Moscow to Los Angeles.

In terms of value it’s tough to argue with that. Not only is the redemption cost super low, but with the free stopover Korean Air allows, you’re basically getting that Moscow to St. Petersburg flight included on the award at no additional cost.

Bottom line

Redemption values to Russia are actually much better than I was expecting. Deciding how to book a ticket there is really an exercise in marginal value.

On one hand, flying Singapore Airlines first class to Moscow seems like a no brainer. At the same time, I’d like to review Aeroflot business class.

But that Aeroflot award would cost me 62,500 SkyMiles one-way, and I’d have to pay for the flight between Moscow and St. Petersburg after my stopover. For an extra 17,500 miles I could simply book Aeroflot business class both ways and include my flight between Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Which option would you go with for redeeming miles to Russia?

Comments

  1. Ben,
    A friend of mine is planning a trip doing Aeroflot business class in the summer. Hope you all have a good time. One thing I know is that the curtain that separates the coach from business is not see-through for a reason. 😉 Food is decent even in coach.

  2. I know trains don’t seem to be your preferred method of travel, but the “Red Arrow” train between Moscow and St. Petersburg is supposed to be pretty cool. I think they also have a bullet train now on the route. That way, you’d get to fly both products and not worry about the one-way flight.

  3. Ben: You just posted a report about “tourist traps”, and how in top season they can be less than pleasant. I think you’d be way better off going to Russia in Springtime, like early April. No tourists, light snowfall and crisp days, empty restaurants and museums, no mosquitos. Our trips there in April were awesome. Just sayin’.

  4. While I enjoy reading Ben’s blogs about travels, he is starting to strike me as an elitist pseudo-cultured typical American gringo for whom, it turns out, Cartagena is not a real tourist hotspot and, as I’ve read in his earlier posts, not a safe place to travel, and Russia is not a progressive country. Just to enlighten Ben, Moscow and St. Petersburg, 2 of the largest Russian cities, are very progressive and more progressive than many of the US cities. Moscow is one of the cleanest, safest and well-lit cities in Europe with hundreds of things to do 24/7. There are no such parts of ANY Russian city where even police would be afraid to come (parts of Bronx and Harlem, Compton in LA, East Palo Alto in Bay Area, etc). There are a ton of fine dining restaurants in Moscow where you can have a dinner at ANY time of the day and night, including 2 or 3 in the morning, not some Denny’s or routine diner’s crap. Neither Colombia, nor Russia are notorious for weekly mass shootings in schools, malls, gas stations, cinema houses, etc as it happens in the US. These are just a few things for Ben to learn. Good luck collecting travel points, Ben! Maybe try getting to know another culture, or language, for a change!

  5. Aeroflot both ways! There aren’t many reviews out there, you may get different experiences in each direction that’s worth writing about and you can write about their short haul service!

  6. You do realise Western Russia is actually in Europe geographically right not just on airline rewards charts? Probably accounts for why they put it in that category!

  7. Oy vey – you consider Russia “off the beaten path”?

    For someone that travels 400k miles/year it’s quite amazing how little of the world you have really seen.

  8. There’s another option not listed here – British Airways First Class. BA operates this route seasonally with a 4-class 777. Not bad for a 4 hour intra-Europe flight!

  9. @Stas Yeah, I’m sure the police aren’t afraid to go anywhere there are tourists, they couldn’t look for bribes if they were. Apparently I was lucky to only have one shake down attempt while in Moscow.

    Certainly would be outside your comfort zone Ben, and I’m not sure how I’d feel being a gay man travelling in Russia right now.

  10. @stas

    Russia is well known for their harsh stance on homosexuals. Check hrw.org.

    I would never call them progressive because of that. Fine dining has nothing to do with progressive.

  11. @Stas sounds like you’re reading into things too much and making assumptions that you can’t support. Russia is NOT progressive in terms of LGBT rights, which is clearly important for travel related purposes. You actually just come across as a bit jealous.

    @Brandon – Aeroflot does indeed send the 777-300ER, especially at peak times like summer 🙂

  12. @Lucky – Maybe I’m missing something here, but since you’re a oneworld guy, why didn’t you mention S7?

  13. I would just do an open-jaw if they allow it, or skip SVO and fly out of VKO. Cheap as dirt fares there usually.

  14. Aeroflot both ways, there are MANY more reviews of Singapore F, than of Aeroflot J. You will probably get differing experiences, and you could fly Aeroflot short-haul as well. In your situation, that would be the no-brainer.

  15. Russia isn’t the most progresse country in the World, but I doubt it is really that dangerous. If you’re gay, you should just behave well and nothing will happen. AFAIK your passport doesn’t state that one is gay…

    Btw I’m gay and I haven’t had any problems in Moscow

  16. if you are not a flaming queen in Russia there would be no issues. I stayed with my bf in the same room one King at the ritz I had no problems no one said anything. people just don’t appreciate flaming queerness in their face over there. behave like you would in the Arab states he loves going to and no problems.

  17. Darn, 2 days ago I paid $287 for a one-way economy ticket JFK-SVO. It was $420 round-trip! Would have loved to have picked up SkyPass redemption if they allow one-way awards!

  18. @Ed, I’m in the same situation, you MUST use a US passport if you live in the USA. I tried my EU passport and had to resubmit my visa application.

  19. Would recommend visiting Russia and especially St. Petersburg, you should not worry about the negative warnings about gays shouldn’t going. I have lived and hold citizenship there, I now live in the UK with US citizenship. Many of my friends are gay and have lived in Russia all of their life, almost none of them have been publicly criticised. Urban Russia is becoming way more acceptive. Also getting a visa is quite simple because in most cases you don’t even have to go to the consulate. I wish you good luck with your future travels!

  20. Be very careful lucky as russia doesnt like homosexuals and will lock men and women up who are known homosexuals and lesbians.
    Please dont bring partner and be safe.

  21. You should be able to do the same r/t itinerary for 80K Alitalia points, transferred from AMEX. Stay at Four Seasons St. Petersburg, it’s outstanding.

  22. Where to begin…

    Firstly, I am delighted that you want to visit Mother Russia. Moscow and St. Petersburg are both uniquely magnificent. Petersburg (my mother still refers to it as Petrograd) will require a bare minimum of three days. Many people love the W hotel in Petersburg, though I prefer the more traditional Astoria. Ben may be tempted by the Park Hyatt in Moscow. I personally found it to be solidly mediocre.

    Secondly, very many of us would love to read of your impressions of Aeroflot.

    Thirdly, I am sure there will be much discussion of an openly gay man visiting Russia. Caution is always advised; however, I certainly felt no intimidation or was ever made to feel ill at ease while visiting Moscow or Petersburg. The gay communities of both cities are still quite vibrant.

  23. @ Lucky — living in Houston I personally love Houston-Moscow route that Singapore Airline flies but since you’ve already reviewed it, doing Aeroflot at least one-way would be educational to the readers.

    FWIW, a friend of mine who flies Aeroflot regularly thinks it’s better than, say, Air France (at least, when comparing Y). She also enjoyed their J product, especially the food but, of course, 2-2-2 J config isn’t optimal and it depends on yor neighbor as well.

    A great use of BA Avios is for infra-Russia or Russia-Europe flights on S7 airline as long as you don’t go past Ural Mountains. Flights to Siberia or Far East are quite long so may have to look at other programs (I think there are some that don’t separate Russia into separate charts). And S7 has a pretty nice J all things considered.

    Lastly, given a favorable dollar-to-ruble exchange rate, paying cash for tickets to/from Russia or intra-Russia is always an option.

    P.S. To elaborate on a previous comment, Russia is located in both Europe and Asia with Ural Mountains serving as a natural boundary between European and Asian parts. So Moscow and St. Petersburg are (Eastern) Europe but Siberia (e.g. Novosibirsk) and Far East (Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, Sakhalin) are considered Asia. Ural region is split geographically but I think airlines may treat it as Europe, e.g. Yekaterinburg (SVX) is considered Western Russia by Delta even though its geographically in Asia.

  24. Russia is definitely on the to do list, just gotta figure out the visa. Would be cool to see a review of the trip. I want to do the Trans-Siberian railway across the country. Think that would be awesome to hit Moscow and St. Petersburg first then cross the country, see the east coast and connect to somewhere in Asia to fly home. Would be interesting also to visit Mongolia and Kazakhstan.

    If you’re wanting to continue reviewing different product then Aeroflot is a no brainer. Go for it and post lots of pictures.

  25. I’ve flown both, SQ IAH-DME about 100+ times. Last time I flew Aeroflot they still didn’t even have full recline in J (my work would only pay for J). I’ve flown in F and J on SQ and frankly don’t think it’s worth the extra points or miles to fly in F. The few times I flew in F, I actually was confused; other than the PJs and a slightly larger TV, it was essentially he same (I love the food on SQ in J). Try to sit in rows 11 or 14; the windows in 14 are designated as “baby changing” (??) but if you ask they will put you there, esp if you are KrisFlyer. The other option, which I did a lot because SQ does not fly on Mondays, is BA through London; the layover is very short and it is a 777 on the connecting leg. (I’ve done Lufthansa through FRA quite a bit too (great use of UA upgrades from J to F, about 95% success rate) but the connection is awful).

    In Moscow I generally stayed at the Park Hyatt, which is a great location but outdated design-wise. Good gym and nice rooftop bar. The Lotte is in Novy Arbat, so out of the way a bit but pretty luxurious (and a chain I’ve never seen you refer to, so maybe a good experiment; it is definitely one of the nicest hotels in Moscow). The Ritz is also very nice with a good gym and right by the Park Hyatt. Same as the Starwood Luxury Connection hotel there, I only stayed there once, but it was similar to the Ritz. Traffic is awful so always take the metro if possible, it will save you 95% in fare and 95% in time. Moscow is a dreary place with little to offer, frankly, but you can be mildly entertained for 2-3 days.

  26. Why not use your avios and fly between Moscow and St. Petersburg with S7 airlines! Would be fun to read about a new product!

  27. Been to Msocow a dozen or more times on work. Park Hyatt location is great but otherwise is mediocre. Not been there since the Four Seasons opened but then again you cannot stay there on points

    Taken the bullet train to St Petersburg. It’s quick, functional and serves a meal that is edible. I might prefer it to avoid the circus of an airport

    The Europa is a great hotel to stay in St Petersburg. It is a lovely city ( I found Msocow quite striking too).

    If you are planning to go to Russia I would recommend visiting Suzdal too.

    I have typically flown Emirates from the west coast.

    I prefer Russia in the shoulder season. Since I used to commute to Astana and can handle the cold the winter is great too. I would avoid peak tourist season

    All the best

  28. Ben, if or when you search for a hotel in Moscow may I suggest you take a look at the Radisson Royal. It’s in a lousy location but the decor is fun in a really OTT way and the facilities are pretty good. But most interestingly, the hotel is located in one of Stalin’s seven sisters, which were the Soviet skyscrapers that once dominated Moscow’s skyline. They’re fascinating from an architectural viewpoint.

  29. I agree with the above comments on a relative tolerance of Russians to gay people. Although Russian authorities are too moronic to have adopted laws against “homosexuality propaganda”, in general, Ben should feel safe and will have no issues.

  30. I’ve been itching to do that SQ route from Houston — what a great value.

    The premium fare deals thread on FT said that there were some great values in J on Finnair from Moscow to BKK via HEL (and the HEL-BKK segment is on the new A350).

  31. You have to stay at St. Regis Moscow, you will love it, it’s better than the ones in the middle east or Asia!

  32. Good ‘Ol DME! Been there, done that, and on the very cheap.

    In 2009, UA was about to start the now-defunct daily capital-to-capital service between IAD and DME. To inaugurate the route, UA invited a number of their 1Ks to fly very cheaply, and yours truly was one of those targeted! Including the costs to fly LGA – IAD and back, the round trip (LGA-IAD-DME-IAD-LGA) went for a grand total of $365!

    I arrived in Moscow in early May during the Russians’ celebration VE-Day (defeat of Nazi Germany). Stayed at the very first Hilton in the Russian Federation, the Hilton Moscow Leningradskaya — a renovated “Stalin Skyscraper”, one of several such structures around the city that are almost as iconic as the gold onion-domed orthodox churches.

    At the time, it was a great city and I had a lot fun, walking almost every although there was good public transportation.

    I do not know about the gay scene, but Putin’s Russia is not that enlightened…yet — unless you are hetero in which case there is open sex entertainment galore; “The Rasputin” and “The Night Flight” are still memorable… 😉

    Enjoy!

  33. Ben, Love your blog!
    Why not try getting a flight with the Ilyushin Il-96 widebody aircraft. This would be probably one of the few opportunities to review this baby. Would it be the cradle of comfort? No. But historically speaking this aircraft is super interesting and would be a kick for enthusiasts like us.

  34. Well seeing how I am from Russia and lived in both Moscow and St. Petersburg I can tell you’d be a fool not visiting St. Petersburg 🙂 it’s by far the most beautiful city in Russia with much friendlier people.

    Let me know if you have any questions about the visit, I’ll be happy to help.

  35. Ben,

    My wife and I are flying to Russia together with her parents this July on Iberia through Madrid in business. Used AA miles for that.
    Plan to spend more time in St Pete and visit palaces that are outside the city. There is a bullet train between Moscow and St Pete, called Sapsan. Trip takes about 4 hours and takes you to city center without airport hassle.

    Enjoy!

  36. How is Bangkok a tourist hotspot for Americans? I’d say it’s far more so for Europeans and Australians.

  37. Or, to put this another way: Rome has tons of service from the United States. So does Paris. Bangkok, on the other hand, has had so much success as an American tourist hotspot that both Thai Airways (the Thai national carrier) AND a major USA-based carrier (United) have dropped direct service, and you have to use partners to get there on one ticket.

    Now if you had said “London” instead of “Bangkok”… 😉

  38. I went to Russia last summer and highly recommend it! We did St. Petersburg and Moscow…stayed at the Four Seasons in Moscow, BEST location and fantastic property! Never saw another American the entire trip, but lots of Asian tourists. There are so many iconic sites in Russia, it’s very much worth a trip. My blog will have a trip report on both cities in the next two weeks.

    milestravelingteacher.com

  39. I’ve been going to Russia for the past 15 years. Must be approaching 20 trips. First time rec: split your time between Moscow and St. Pete’s. St. Petersburg gets all the attention, and rightfully so. That said, Moscow is brimming with history, and should not be overlooked.

    I second the suggestion to take the overnight train (at least 1-way) between the cities. If you’re looking for a small taste of local culture, there’s no better way than going by train. If you’re feeling especially adventurous, book into a sleeping compartment with 4 bunks. This is an experience not to be missed.

    It’s just a pity that you can’t experience that old bastion of Soviet style, Hotel Rossiya (aka world’s-biggest-hotel-turned-Europe’s-biggest-hotel).

    Also second the Astoria in St. Pete’s. If you want classic Russia, go here.

  40. another SQ suite/first with dom/krug/caviar … yawn …

    New airline and new country, definitely a crowd pleaser.

    Really appreciate your effort on exploring new airline, new products (not only First class but business class). Definitely adds more ‘diversity’ in this blog 😉

  41. Getting a Russian passport is not that difficult. It just takes time. The hard part is getting a multi-year visa. I go every year and have yet to be approved for a 3-year visa. A small annoyance, but the Embassy is fairly quick and you do not need to hire an outside service. You can do it all via mail. Just make sure you have enough pages.

    I have flown on FinnAir out of Helsinki, but mainly out of Atlanta or NYC on Delta/Air France/Aeroflot. I’m curious about the LAX to SVO award route. It never crossed my mind and sounds fun.

    I agree with an earlier comment. The larger Russian towns are very progressive and contrary to belief, Russians are very welcoming. I typically go to central Russia. The trains are not bad between the two key cities. Otherwise, you have a selection of older trains. Not bad, but not the California Zephyr.

    Be sure to grab some kvass and have fun!

  42. Really! You think Thailand receives more US tourist than Colombia? Sometimes you get disconnected from reality. Colombia gets roughly 50% more US tourist than Thailand. It may not be a super touristy place but you are ignoring the basics, Colombia is very close to the U.S. and culturally it has been more connected to the U.S.

  43. Been thinking about the same trip…with the same trepidations about supporting the Putin regime. As for the visa, I think there might be some liberalization for visitors to St. Petersburg. I think cruise ship passengers already get a “visa free” stay, not unlike the TWOV for China. Thought I read that they were going to expand that visa to airline passengers?

  44. Are there any nonstop flights between St Petersburg and Tallinn. Otherwise it’s train to Helsinki and then ferry to Tallinn. (The direct train between the two doesn’t get good reviews.

  45. It’s interesting to note that the Krisflyer partner award chart from US – Europe in first class is only 100K miles while the charge for the direct SQ flight from IAH-DME costs 115K miles. Would it be possible to add a United Airlines leg, say from Chicago to Houston, connecting to the Houston to Moscow on Singapore Airlines in First Class and access the partner award chart rate of 100K miles RT? This seems interesting since booking only the SQ flight from Houston to Moscow would be 115k miles RT, but adding a partner airline leg to the core Singapore flight would seemingly allow one to access the partner award chart with the cheaper price. Is this correct?

  46. Nah, go with singapore and you can book Moscow-St Petersburg on S7 using BA Avios for 4.5K economy or 9K business with $7 tax so. (if you book before the BA devaluation of course)

    Alternatively, you can also route with Lufthansa (through germany)

  47. Interesting comments about Americans in Bangkok. I am sitting right now in the Royal Silk lounge of Thai Airways after spending five days at the Hyatt in Bangkok. Very few Americans anywhere–on tours, walking around, or even at the Hard Rock Cafe yesterday!

  48. Having made a similar trip in November, I totally agree the train is the way to go between Moscow and St Petersburg. Travel time from city center to city center in 4 hours, comfortable seats and a decent meal for $100. Don’t fly, see the countryside.

  49. Greeting! Welcome to Russia. You don’t need to fly from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Use train Sapsan. More comfortable and faster.

  50. Hey are you planning to fly Transaero? Their first class is supposed to be quite OTT in terms of decor, similar to EK

  51. Personally Russia is one of my least favourite places to visit although I have only been in winter. Whilst st Petersburg is beautiful and the hermitage is spectacular, we saw a guy get killed in a rta when we arrived, were accosted by the mafia at the airport, found a stalker and were robbed. I’ve been to over 70 countries and it’s the only one where all those things have happened. I found Moscow dreary by comparison. My advice is to go but go quickly. I appreciate there will be Russia lovers everywhere but each to their own.

    I have a problem with a country which is openly racist, and uses corruption to secure the World Cup. Of course I’m a little biased as I’m British!

  52. Why would you want to spend one cent in a country that actively persecutes people like yourself? It’s offensive to those who live there under that persecution that you can so casually dismiss their tribulations.It’s like a Jew visiting Nazi Germany in 1938 for a holiday …..it’s just wrong. I can only imagine your friends in WeHo would be horrified.

  53. Ben, knowing you also have a German passport, if you consider only staying a few days in St Peterburg you could consider the visa waiver program. It applies for this city only and if I remember well is for stays under 5 days. This you avoid the hassle of the Russian visa application.

  54. Lots of advice being given. I’ll only add that you need to go to St Petersburg during the White Nights. You’ve probably been north of or near the Artic Circle before, but the city really is beautiful in August when the sun barely sets.

    Not sure if I would recommend the overnight train from Moscow. Did that and the Trans Mongolian 18 years ago. Don’t think you are the type who would enjoy long (as in really, really long) train rides. The overnight between Moscow and St Pete is nothing special, but the cities themselves are magnificent. Just beautiful places, especially in the summer.

  55. By the way, do you know whether KE Skypass still allows intra Africa awards? I downloaded the membership guide but there’s no mention of flights departing from Africa.

  56. On the one hand, given the differences between your two LA/Changsha flights on Hainan, taking Aeroflot both ways could provide a more in-depth sense of the airline. And you’d get to test out a domestic Aeroflot segment as well.

    That said, I couldn’t fault anyone for going with SQ F!

  57. Lucky, I am an American who resides in Russia. I think it will be cool for you to fly Aeroflot. I am an Aeroflot Gold member, which is basically their elite plus program. I fly them quite often. As for a visa, the process is a bit cumbersome, but not too hard. You will need an invitation from an organization (hotel, tour company, etc) first. My advice is to use a company like Travisa to obtain this. It is quite simple. While I have never had a tourist visa (only student and work visa), my mother has used the service to get an invitation for a tourist visa (my invitations came from a university and a company, so I did not need to get a tourist invitation). You will not need to be interviewed. I have had 3 visas issued by the Russian consulate in Houston, no problem. The consulate will not accept visa applications by mail. You must take it in person, or have a company do it for you. I always use Travisa to handle the process, which makes my life easier. I mention Travisa just because they are authorized as an agent by the consulate. If you need any clarifications on the process, just ask. As for safety in Russia, it is like any other place. You won’t be targeted for being gay. Others who are going on about that are misinformed. I would advise spending more time in St. Petersburg than Moscow. I also highly recommend a visit to Vladivostok, in the far east (where I live). The scenery is stunning. Business class on Aeroflot is not glamorous, but it’s not bad either. I am eager to hear your opinion on that, and how it stacks up to other products.

  58. Lots of people talk about the overnight train from Msocow to St Petwrsburg. The train I took did it in around four hours.

  59. I remember the good old days of flying interflug from the east berlin airport templehof to moscow.
    On board your iluysian jet were wooden seats at your comfort and potatoes potatoes potatoes, chicken and vocka as much as you liked.
    The trips were memorable and the gay scene was underground and downright frightening.

  60. I am your regular reader, and if you need any help with Russian visa just get me know.
    As I could guess you have US passport and in according with Russia-US visa agreement, you need only invitation from any Russian company, which I could provide from our enterprise. Also

  61. I was in St. P and Moscow last summer.

    Agree with folks that recommend using a Visa service.

    Stayed at the Four Seasons in St. P. It has a wonderful restaurant, bizarrely lit gym, and excellent location.

    Also agree with folks recommending the 4-hour train b/n St. P and Moscow.

    Both cities are two of the cleanest I have ever been to… hardly a scrap of garbage on the streets, and yet ironically, not a garbage can in sight.

    Also, check out Meat-head.ru … good steakhouse.

    The Russians I met were nice. I look forward to returning.

    Craig

  62. @F @Beachfan @Mark I Many of you are criticizing Russia cause they don’t accept homosexuality and I think it’s wrong. First of all Russia is not the only country in the world with this sort of policy. Then I don’t think that all the readers of this blog are gay, so this is a problem which only a few people will experience. Finally as @Bongo you just have to behave like a normal guy and nobody will tell you nothing (I assume it’s not so difficult to not show you’re gay for a few days)

  63. I just got a 3 year multi-entry visa for Russia, lots of time consuming paperwork.

    $160.00 if you “do it yourself”, first the online application, and then going to consulate or wherever your jurisdiction is. Easier to pay the $$ to a visa service and have them do it. Total was $295.00 plus Fed Ex to send it back. I took it to the visa service in person. Lived in Moscow for six years – don’t skip Moscow in favor of St. P. Both have their beauties. All Russian Museum in St. P. is a gem. Take the fast train to St. P. I’ve taken the overnight many times and always becomes a well remembered travel story. The upside is that it is probably shorter than flying by the time you get to SVO, and then from St. P. back into town. Train stations are both centrally located: Moscow and St. P.

  64. To Fruitti Tuitti – Do you remember the wooden toilet seats on the the Iluysian and boarding from the tarmac up through the “belly” of the aircraft?

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