Subject: Re: Russia - tour vs. independent
Hi everyone:

Tours are not our thing either, however, when planning a trip to St. Petersburg our travel agent/friend thought we'd be happier with some guidance. Our tour was our own guide and driver who met us at the airport took us to our hotel, got us situated, got us to a place to exchange money etc. There was a schedule but we found the guide was flexible so it wasn't painful. We had enough free time to satisfy us. One day while we were sightseeing he took us through downtown and pointed out features he thought we might be interested in (GUM was one) and we parted company at the Europa Hotel where is told us to come to get a taxi to our hotel. He told us how much money to expect to pay for a cab from that point to our hotel. We spent the afternoon walking. One day we had the entire day off and asked if we could hire him to see the countryside and we enjoyed that very much. The time we had in the Hermitage was much to limited, but then you are talking to people who might spend four days at the Louvre. My husband collects beer cans, and Sasha made at least two stops on our way to the country at stores he thought might have interesting local cans. The only thing we would change upon a return visit would be to stay downtown. Our hotel was out a way and he advised us not to walk from downtown there, altho the distance wasn't too great to do so. We walked around the area trying to find the Metro, which he said was there, because we thought we'd head back to the Hermitage. Turns out we had walked past the metro entrance a half a dozen times. Guess we're not too alert. Our concern about tours has always been the limited time you seem to be allowed per sight and the crowd of people. Having our own driver and guide solved one of those concerns and had we not chosen to spend our free time having him show us other sights I think we would have returned to things he had pointed out and had more time on our own to view them. What a beautiful city.

Best regards, Barb in Grand Rapids