|Subject: Scandinavia and St. Petersburg - Part 3|
This is the last part of my travelogue, my comments on money exchange, Internet access, and organized tour from this trip.
Money matters: I used ATMs to get local cash throughout Scandinavia. Rates were much better than the Forex (money exchange). Although there was a $5 fee from my bank per ATM withdrawal, my bank's customer representative just refunded me all the fees. (She told me to come see her about these fees after my trip, so I did this morning.)
Internet access: My husband runs a small business, therefore getting connected with the home office periodically is not an option but a necessity. He brought a lap top along, and when he could find a wireless connection, he used the laptop. He also used the laptop to unload all digital pictures from the memory stick every night.
In Helsinki we used free Internet at one of the public libraries near our hotel.
In Copenhagen, we bought wireless connection from our hotel, 24 hours for 100 DKR (US $1 = 6 DKR).
In Oslo we went to a smoky internet café, one hour fee was 55 NKR (US $1 = 6.5 NKR).
In Bergen, we again purchased 24-hr wireless connection from our hotel for 100 NKR.
In Stockholm, our hotel (Scandic) provides wireless connection for all rooms free of charge. That was great.
When the hotel did not provide wireless connection, we inquired about dialing up local AOL number, but were told by the hotel clerk that the local calls were very expensive. (About 3 krone per minute, about 50 cents). Therefore, it looks like from now on AOL is out and wireless connection is in.
About organized tour: This trip was my first multi-day organized tour, therefore I do not have any previous organized tour experiences to compare with.
On this tour, except the hotel in St. Petersburg which is far from city center, the rest of the hotels in Scandinavia were all centrally located and were all very good (Radisson, Scandic, First Hotel etc). Besides daily breakfast, only 6 dinners and 1 lunch were included in Scandinavia. However, all included dinners and lunch in Scandinavia were all very good.
Upon arrival at a new hotel, the program director would take us on a vicinity walk, pointing out where the ATMs are, where to change money, where the supermarket is, library for free Internet access, good restaurants etc. Then we'd have a half-day city tour on a bus. After that it is free time. In each city there was one optional tour. I have neither positive nor negative opinions about optional tours. Tour operators need to make money in order to survive and this is where they can make money, but it is up to you to join. In Scandinavia, every place that optional tours go, you can go by public transportation independently too, so it really is an option.