Question related to my trip to Russia and possible other countries

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by Vash01, May 7, 2013.

  1. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Julia, Elena, Anna, Liza, and Vera

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    I have made plans to go on an escorted tour of Russia (St. Petersburg & Moscow), and a separate tour on my own to Warsaw & Wroclaw to visit a friend in Poland. Now I am considering adding more countries to the trip (Lithuanica, Latvia, Estonia) which would decrease my time in Russia somewhat, and add 6 days to the total trip, but I am OK with it. I am trying to compare costs of the two options to finalize the decision.

    The transfers, entrance fees, etc. are covered in the tour, but not all the meals. The breakfast is covered (buffet) but not lunch or dinner (just 3 dinners are pre-paid). With a 6-day difference, the costs of food & incidentals could be significant.

    Initially the cost differential seemed to be within a couple hundred dollars, but when I started thinking of the cost of food, shopping, etc., the difference was more.

    One thing that would help is to find out the cost & the type of food available. If anyone has any idea how the food prices in that part of the world compare with the USA, it would be helpful. I am a vegetarian, and I don't know what kind of food would be available there. Do they have plenty of fruit & vegetables? Is bread very common and inexpensive? I am perfectly OK with carrying my peanut butter sandwiches for lunch, but may need a proper meal in a restaurant in the evening, after sight seeing. I plan to look up Frommers and other travel books to get more information, but if anyone on fsu has first hand experience, that would be valuable.

    Regardless of which option I choose (Russia + Poland) or (Russia + Poland+ Baltic states), I am excited about the upcoming vacation. If there is something that I should avoid, or should be careful about, I would appreciate knowing that also.
     
  2. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

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    Do you inexorably find yourself spending a lot on shopping when you travel? I think that's more a factor than food. The food in that part of the world will be less expensive than the U.S.. And if you don't spend another six days over there, you'll have to come home and buy food here for those six days. OTOH, buying a plane ticket at another time so that you can visit these countries would be very expensive. I'd stay longer and visit these other countries. Of course, my opinion is colored by the fact that I'd really like to visit the Baltic states and Poland.
     
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  3. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Julia, Elena, Anna, Liza, and Vera

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    I do tend to shop a lot, and will have to be careful, especially in Russia. I love buying gifts for others and also souveniors for myself. I have a collection of T-shirts, so I am sure I will buy some of those. Thanks for reminding me of this. :)
     
  4. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    Poland is cheap. You can get a decent hotel for $50/night. Hotels in Wroclaw cost a little more than hotels in Warsaw, but they're still really freaking cheap. It's the airfare to Poland that's expensive, everything after that is very affordable.

    Just to be clear, when I say Poland is cheap I am comparing the costs of Poland against the costs of the NYC area.
     
  5. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    Since you are vegetarian, I'd suggest that you do research, in advance, of what foods/meals are commonly available in these areas, and decide which ones you can and cannot eat. I suggest that because some items appear to not have meat in them, but the broth, for example, would be meat based. And generally speaking, in that part of the world, much of the cuisine is meat based, and asking which items are vegetarian/without meat on a menu may end up with you having items that don't have chunks of meat in them, but did have meat products used to make them, completely innocently on the part of the waitstaff.

    There are some actual vegetarian restaurants in Poland:
    http://www.lonelyplanet.com/poland/restaurants/vegetarian

    I found food in Poland to be very inexpensive, compared to what I'm used to in the northeastern US. I wasn't going to any fancy places, though. I went to milk bars and similar, as I was there on the cheap. I could get a multi course meal for about three Euros or less, but I'd imagine regular restaurants would be more expensive than that.
     
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  6. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Julia, Elena, Anna, Liza, and Vera

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    Thank you Garr. Good point about the meat broth. I even have to ask here in the USA if the soup contains any meat or chicken broth.

    I was advised to let the tour director/manager know about my food needs. Not sure yet when or how. I may just stick to fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, and potatoes, plus milk, yogurt, and cheese. I am considering carrying with me a jar of peanut butter as insurance. I can always find bread and make a PB sandwich with it. May be I could pick up a bag of apples from a nearby store.

    I am sure I have put my friend in Wroclaw in a tough position with my vegetarian diet. :) but she will be able to tell me in advance what to expect in terms of food.

    Since there is enough time, I am considering visiting Krakow for day (possibly from Wroclaw). Anyone knows if they have one day guided tours, or would I have to do it on my own? Not knowing the language could be a big hindrance.

    I am going to B&N in the next few days to look up travel books on Poland. They often have lists of restaurants.
     
  7. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Pink Bitch

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    I'm vegetatarian and I've never had any problems in Europe, and I've been to Poland and Estonia.
     
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  8. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    There is a nice little vegetarian restaurant in Wroclaw just off the market square called Złe Mięso (Evil Meat). They also have supermarkets in Wrocław. It's a rather modern city. ;)

    Kraków is just a bit too far for a day trip from Wrocław, but there is cheap direct bus service that runs regularly. It's 3 hours one way by direct bus. It's a bit of a free for all getting on the bus so if you don't know any Polish and can't follow the insanity unfolding it could be challenging. The hotels and transportation hubs are English speaking so you'll be fine on the roads more traveled.

    Hotels in Kraków are also inexpensive.
     
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  9. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Julia, Elena, Anna, Liza, and Vera

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    Since some of you have been to Poland, what places do you recommend I visit there? Obviously Wroclaw (and later Warsaw). Do they have any one-day sight seeing tours of the vicinity? I googled but all I could find were city tours.

    Is it worthwhile to make an overnight trip to Krakow? I think it's too far from Warsaw. I may be able to take a train there. The bus described by Southpaw sounds a bit too challenging for me. :)
     
  10. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Pink Bitch

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    If you go to Krakow, you need to go to Auschwitz. There are guided tours you can take, but make sure they leave you enough time to walk around Birkenau. Mine didn't, so I had to ditch my tour group and make my own way back to Krakow (not a huge problem).
     
  11. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    Kraków is worth the trip, but if you're going to visit Auschwitz then you should do two days. Auschwitz takes up a big chunk of time. If you had to choose between Warsaw and Kraków I would recommend Kraków. Warsaw was destroyed in the war and was rebuilt, Kraków emerged intact and whole. You have a friend in Wrocław so that's worth the visit, but for straight up Polish tourism Kraków has a lot to offer.
     
  12. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    I really loved Krakow. Great city, lots of life, interesting architecture.
     
  13. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    The fun I had when I was in Warsaw had nothing to do with Poland. I may as well have been in Dublin. :lol:

    In Krakow I highly recommend the Polish Folk Art Museum which isn't far from Wawel Cathedral. Krakow is very walkable, the area around the market square is where everything you need is located. Same with Wroclaw.
     
  14. BittyBug

    BittyBug Kiteless

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    Try the Cafe Botanika in St. Petersburg. You can also go to the Kuznechny market for a plethora of fresh fruits, vegetables and pickled items.

    But otherwise, good luck. :saint:
     
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  15. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Pink Bitch

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    Communism Tour

    I want to ride in a Trabant and see a Communist apartment.
     
  16. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Julia, Elena, Anna, Liza, and Vera

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    Krakow sounds very interesting. I was thinking that Auschwitz would be too difficult to handle emotionally.
     
  17. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    I did that tour. I drove the car. It was painted pink leopard.
     
  18. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Épaulement!!!

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    Not in Moscow. Very expensive.
    Yeah. Did that tour too, in my case, for realzies. :shuffle:



    I've only been to Lithuania (Vilnius and Kaunas) and recall thinking it was beautiful. Whatever you do, don't go to Pripyat in Ukraine.. Caught the beginning of the movie Chernobyl Diaries and WARNING!

    PLOT SPOILER AHEAD....



    A group of rude Amerikan tourists thought it would be a great idea to visit the site of the worst nuclear disaster in history. :rolleyes: I thought to myself: I bet they get eaten by radioactive zombies. And guess what, they did! :lol:
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2013
  19. Allskate

    Allskate Well-Known Member

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    Vash is debating whether she can afford to add the Baltics (and perhaps Krakow) to the Russia and Warsaw/Wroklaw part of her trip. The Russia part is happening, though it sounds like Vash may reduce the amount of time there if she goes to the Baltics and Poland. I don't think food is going to be the primary expense resulting from extending her trip by adding the Baltics and Poland. Transportation and hotel (and perhaps shopping :lol:) will the pricier part, especially since Vash will have to eat wherever she is and she is willing to eat peanut butter (or bread and cheese, etc.) instead of eating out.
     
  20. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Julia, Elena, Anna, Liza, and Vera

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    LOL Allskate. I think I will get tired of the bread+PB very quickly, and may want to eat a proper meal at least once every two days. :)
    Luckily in Moscow one dinner is already included, and I am getting a 'free' buffet breakfast daily. I can fill myself up at that. :)

    You are right on about what I am debating about. I have already added the Baltics part to my trip. The hotel & transportation are already included in the tour (and I paid a little extra to add those countries to it). Three more countries means more souvenirs. That's why I will need to budget and not get carried away whenever I see interesting things at every place.
     
  21. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    I knew it would be for me as well. So rather than go there and sob all day, I went to see the salt mines.
     
  22. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Julia, Elena, Anna, Liza, and Vera

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    Another question- was it easy to find English speaking people in Poland- and tour bus guides?
     
  23. PrincessLeppard

    PrincessLeppard Pink Bitch

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    I didn't haven any trouble finding English speaking people or guides.
     
  24. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    In Poland everybody in the tourist areas speaks English. Hotel clerks, tour guides, ticket agents, wait staff, museum staff, blackjack dealers, bartenders. Tiny little train stations out in the sticks are a different story, but you're not headed for the sticks so you'll be fine with English.
     
  25. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Julia, Elena, Anna, Liza, and Vera

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    I am having a tough time finding reasonably priced (and timed) flights between Krakow & Wroclaw. I was thinking of taking the Auschwitz tour from Krakow (after much thinking, it's history), but that created a triangle - Warsaw, Krakow, Wroclaw. I may just try to get a one day tour from Wroclaw to Auschwitz & if possible Krakow too. My time is very limited so I don't really want to take the train (plus the comments here about those toilets scare me).
     
  26. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    Here's one Auschwitz tour from Wroclaw that I found just to give you an idea of time consumption and pricing. It's an full-day excursion, and the price of the transportation and tour guiding does not include the cost of admission to Auschwitz. The ratio of zloty to American dollars is roughly 3:1 so 300 zlotych is about 100 dollars.

    You'll have to dig into the website yourself, the link doesn't take you straight to the Auschwitz tour so when you go in through the English speaking channel look for the "Tours" link in the upper right corner and it will be in there.

    http://www.wroclawsilesiatours.com/
     
  27. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Julia, Elena, Anna, Liza, and Vera

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    Thanks. It's not clear to me if I could join a group that's going on the tour or not.

    I also found another sightseeing tour.
    Wroclawsightseeingtours.com

    They have glowing reviews but the question remains- would I have to go by myself or could I join a group that's going? - I am going to send them an email to see what they say. For a single person it's quite expensive and I don't want to go alone on a tour.
     
  28. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    I looked at what they offer and really, for $150 I don't think it's all that expensive for 11 hours of education. You're getting private transportation to Auschwitz AND admission AND informative tour guide services during the journey there and back. The thing about tour guides is they're paid to talk to you, and you can ask all sorts of crazy questions that come into your head. For instance you'll be driving down the road and see something along the way and you want to know what it is. You say "Hey, tour guide, what's that crazy thing?" and the tour guide will give you an answer and tell you all sorts of stuff. Your tour guide in the vehicle likely won't be your tour guide at Auschwitz - the official Auschwitz tour guides usually handle that part. But you would have a built-in traveling partner and local expert in the vehicle who's being paid to talk to you at your disposal. And you don't have to worry about getting lost or dealing with the crazy Polish trains.

    Look at it this way - a skating coach can get $50 (or more) for 30 minutes of instruction. So that same $150 for 11 hours of an Auschwitz tour would only buy you 90 minutes of skating lesson time, and that's not including the ice time.

    It's worth the investment, believe me. Seeing it in person is a much different experience than movies can ever provide.
     
  29. Vash01

    Vash01 Fan of Julia, Elena, Anna, Liza, and Vera

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    That's very persuasive, Southpaw. It would just feel odd to go all alone with the tour guide (stranger) in a country that I know virtually nothing about. I won't even know if my i-phone would work there, in case I had to call my friend in Wroclaw.
     
  30. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    I did the Commie tour of Krakow by myself and it was fine. Granted, we had some common ground to start with but it was perfectly comfortable. I wish all my tours could be private. :lol:

    Email this group and see if they would put you in as a single with another group. I imagine that's how they would do things in order to keep operating costs down.