►Types of Hotels in Russia
When it comes to the question of accommodation in Russia, there are a lot of options, from luxury hotels to cheap hostels. However, in Moscow and St. Petersburg the best and most interesting places for most foreign visitors the actual number of hotels can't serve the flow of tourists that arrive during the high season. The best approach to solving the scarcity problem is to book everything well in advance rather then risk breaking or even canceling your trip. There are many travel companies in Russia that assist you with your bookings in advance. Along with this you can contact the hotel personally, using e-mail or by phone, however, it is probably best to go through a travel agency because frequently they will have better rates than the rack rates that the hotel will offer direct.
Hotel personnel in the large Russian cities usually speak English. Usually, they will ask you to pay a full prepayment or partial prepayment using your credit card. If you don't want to do it all yourself, you can use a travel agency. This strategy saves you time and energy while also providing you with more information on the city you plan to visit; in most cases it is also cheaper. An agency can help you book theatre and museum tickets, provide you with a guide; organize fascinating excursions, and help you with moving around. But the most important thing to remember is that everything needs to be organized beforehand!
St. Petersburg has lots of opportunities for people to find great accommodation. Guests coming to the city can choose from luxury five-star hotels in the heart of St. Petersburg to nice mini-hotels and bed and breakfasts, to private apartments as well as some very cheap youth hostels. It all depends on what you require and how much you want to spend.
The St. Petersburg hotel business is developing extremely quickly as every year the city receives more and more visitors. The city's tourism and service infrastructure is also developing to satisfy the increasing demand. Not many years ago there were only a few hotels in the city all in the Soviet style and also with old, Soviet style conditions, with rules such as no guests after 10 pm! Foreigners were watched all the time and there wasn't any chance to just relax and enjoy the trip. Now everything has changed; many of the old hotels have been newly renovated and now they are quite fancy and very comfortable (but with high prices of course).
A large number of bed and breakfasts (called mini-hotels here in Russia) and quite a few cheap hostels have appeared in St. Petersburg over the past two years. In the past, there were many communal apartments in the city center. Communal apartments are basically large, pre Revolutionary apartments where a few families were placed to live together after the Revolution - each family to 1 room with communal use of the bathroom and kitchen - not much privacy. Every year, there are less and less of these places. Since the economic situation in Russia has changed (and is changing every month), wealthy people have quite quickly purchased lots of property in downtown St. Petersburg, completed renovation and either live in these apartments or rent them out. Since apartments in many ways are more comfortable than hotels and less expensive, this has become a very popular way to stay for guests coming to the city for short or long trips.
There are quite a few agencies that rent apartments and also organize stays in mini hotels and bed and breakfasts in St. Petersburg and in Moscow, among them are City Realty and Best Hotels Russia. So, if you plan ahead, there are a lot of options. Just dont be late accommodation fills up very quickly here.
Keep in mind that the high seasons in St. Petersburg are: summer especially the White nights season, which lasts throughout June and some of July also. Christmas and New Year's Time from the 15th of December to 15th of January are also very busy. Spring is also a nice time to come and you will have more luck with accommodation and better prices.
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Types of Hotels in Russia
Let's stop here and pay more attention to the difference between the types of hotels in Russia. In Moscow and St. Petersburg you can find international-standard hotels. The other large Russian cities such as Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, Khabarovsk and many others are still a bit behind the times, but usually have 1 or 2 hotels of an international standard. We'll focus mainly on St. Petersburg and Moscow in this article.
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Luxury hotels of Moscow and St. Petersburg have the same standards as any International five stars hotels. Therefore, the prices here are on par with or even higher than in Paris or New York because the lack of supply of rooms. Usually staying at these hotels guarantees you the best accommodation and the best service levels in Russia. Staying in such hotels is a great pleasure; however, the prices can be intimidating. Good options in this category are the Metropol or Golden Ring in Moscow and the Grand Hotel Europe or Emerald Palace in St. Petersburg.
Russian Budget and mid priced hotels. Fortunately, there is a large lower-priced and budget hotel market as well. There are a large number of such hotels in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Beware though, many of the hotels in this range claim to be four star hotels. This is a slight exaggeration as they are mostly three or three-plus star hotels. This is usually standard practice in Russia. A general rule is that the only "truly rated" hotels are the five star ones. A decent choice in this range in Moscow is the Ukraina, Irbis and Zarya and in St. Petersburg is the Petro Palace Hotel, Rossiya and Andersen.
Budget hotels can be quite nice although some of them are still done up in the Soviet standard. This means that the hotel itself may not have Western- style renovation and the services and the hotel's general style may leave you disappointed if you are used to traveling in other European countries however, it is an experience! "Funny" budget hotels in Moscow are Arena and in St. Petersburg the Hotel Kievskaya and Sovietskaya.
In Soviet times there were many very strange rules in such hotels which would've ruined your entire trip. As noted above, authorities watched foreigners at all times. This means that not only would they know when and where you were travelling, but also who you met and who visited you. You had to leave the keys when you went for a walk or meeting and ask for them when you came back. Conversations about privacy weren't very funny during these times. There was usually a lady that sat on a chair in the hallway on every floor in the hotel who kept track of all of the guests actually, even today some hotels retain this practice.
Nowadays, of course, the client has some rights. Most likely you will be treated well, but be aware that the Soviet style hasn't completely disappeared and in smaller towns you might have a chance to encounter it. At the same time the smaller towns of Russia are famous for their warmth and hospitality! There are a lot of budget hotels that are very nice and cheap and will offer you good service. Basically there is nothing to worry about.
Russian Bed and Breakfasts or Mini-Hotels are, as mentioned above, a relatively new appearance on the Russian accommodation scene. All these hotels are owned by individuals and not by the State, which in previous times was completely impossible and against the law. Nowadays in Russia there is a lot of privately-owned real estate. This changes have allowed the opening of a large number of Bed & Breakfasts. Because of high real estate prices in Moscow, Moscow does not have a large amount of Bed and Breakfasts but they are turning up in many provincial cities.
Most of the Mini Hotels are very nice and offer high quality services. Some of the Mini Hotels in St. Petersburg are Western owned and managed. They are located in old, but beautifully renovated buildings in the center. Usually Mini Hotels have one or two floors, an entrance from the building's main stairwell and are very nice and comfortable. A good example of a nice bed and breakfast is the Northern Lights Hotel located in St. Petersburg.
Sometimes youth hostels are a good choice. There are still not many in Russia, but they are growing every year. So if you are a student or are really looking to save some money you can book with one of those places.
Travelers to Russia who want the privacy and security that come with an apartment have the option of short-term rental of vacation apartments. These are often fully renovated to a western standard and are centrally located, allowing the traveler easy access to all of the major cultural attractions of the city. For apartment details and lease information we recommend contacting City Realty, as they have the largest rental database in both cities and have a friendly multi lingual staff with a lot of experience in managing and placing travelers in apartments in Russia.
►More information on accommodation and travel to Russia can be found at Express to Russia. You can also book hotels and beds and breakfasts through our site, and find a list of popular hotels in Russia and bordering countries.
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