|Subject: Re: Russia - tour vs. independent|
I have been to Russia a number of times as an independent traveler.
As with traveling to any country independently you must first do your homework. Use the internet.
For Russia one of the first things to do is learn the Russian alphabet, you will not find many words written in English. You need to be familiar with a travel dictionary. Make up cards with Russian words that you know that you will require, most word processing programs have the capability to type the Cyrillic alphabet. I had a card that had the words for Please I wish to purchase two tickets to .... and then I would list the cities.
Be familiar with the maps of the cities and the metros, try to get maps that have English and Cyrillic. Subway signs are not in English.
Use the services of the local travel agencies, especially if you wish to purchase long distance train or air tickets, it will save you much time, but be familiar with what the cost would be if you purchased tickets yourself. Use local guides if you need them.
Watch out for the taxi drivers at the airports - they can be very expensive. If you travel lightly you can go from Moscow airport to the city using minibus and metro for less than a dollar, a taxi will want $50US
Make sure that you always have your passport, visa and embarkation card with you. Police may ask to see your documentation, it is the law that it must be carried. Be aware of the requirements for custom declarations when you arrive, undeclared cash may give you a problem when you depart the country. Your visa must be registered within 3 days of arrival.
Watch out for the drunks and the gypsy children, they will be your greatest safety problem. People generally do not speak English, but you will find that if you are having a problem that eventually someone will come that speaks English.
Independent travel in Russian can be difficult, but it can be done.