Back in April. I wrote a post about choosing my next value travel destination by using the “Big Mac Index”. One of the selections that appeared on this year’s index was Russia.
Russia can be a challenging vacation destination for most travelers for the following reasons:
- Getting the dreaded and complicated visa (requiring invitation letters, employment, travel, & housing history, etc.). The minimum cost for a 3-year visa is $160, and more if you use a visa processing service.
- Language and cryllic alphabet issues
- The tourist infrastructure in general
- Reputation of the locals being unfriendly to tourists
Hopefully I can show you how my wife and I conquered this 9-day trip on our own. We were able to overcome the four issues and had a great cheap vacation experience.
The trip was inspired after we booked a cheap fare on LOT Airlines for $376 each, round-trip in economy. During our research, we were happy to discover that Club Carlson had a lot of great properties in Russia. This gave us one last chance to burn Club Carlson points using the “BOGO award redemption benefit that was once part of the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature® Card. Like Angelina & others, I really loved the BOGO award night benefit and am sad to see it go.
We ended up choosing the following hotels in Moscow and St. Petersburg because of the good reviews, and since they are close to public transportation. We made sure we printed Google maps for directions.
Dad Tip: Download the Moscow metro app – it’s a lifesaver. You can plan your itinerary and cross reference the Russian station name to the English name. And best of all, no wifi connection is needed.
Dad tip: Make sure you bring cash in case your ATM or credit cards do not work. We had this issue, and had to call AmEx and Visa to resolve.
Park Inn Sadu Moscow: For 44,000 Club Carlson points, we spent 2 nights here (price reflects the BOGO points benefit). We This hotel was clean and walking-distance to most attractions English was spoken at the front desk, and there was a free breakfast with a large selection.
Getting there: From SVO airport, we took the airport express train to Beloruskaya, and then switched to metro line (green line) and took it two stops. Then we switched to the gray line for 3 stops to Polyanka. When you exit the station, turn right, and cross the street. In about 500 yards, you will see the Park Inn.
Radisson Royal Hotel Moscow. For 50,000 points total, we spent our next two nights at this awesome hotel. This is one of Stalin’s 7 sisters iconic symbols, a 5-star property, with an incredible olympic-sized swimming pool, saunas, spa’s, the works. The breakfast was comparable to a 5-star U.S. breakfast for $35 a person
Getting there: To get to this hotel from the Park Inn Sadu, we took the grey line 1 stop to Boriskavaya, and switched to the blue line to Kievaskaya. Then you exit the station, cross the big street, look for “Plaza Europe”, continue 2 blocks, and then you will see this iconic hotel. The only issue we had at this hotel was the spotty wifi, which made FaceTime with the grandkids impossible.
After 4 days in Moscow, it was time to visit St. Petersburg. We burned 9,000 Avios for both of us to fly from DME to LED (St. Petersburg). To get back to the airport from the Radisson Royal Hotel, we took the metro 4-stops to Pavelstaskaya to catch the express train to airport.
We found St. Petersburg a lot easier to navigate for English speakers, and the metro stations show both Russian and English names.
St. Petersburg Hotels
Park inn Nevsky: For 38,000 points, we stayed two nights here. This hotel was clean, but had smaller rooms, and was close to the metro.
Getting there: To reach the hotel from the airport, we took bus 39 to Moskovskaya metro station, which was about a 20-minute ride. Then did took the blue line for 5 stops, then switched to the red line at technology institute, and then continued 3-stops to Ploshad Vosstana. Look for Nevsky exit, and you should be able to see the Park Inn.
Radisson Royal Hotel St. Petersburg: Our last two nights in St. Petersburg were spent here for 70,000 points. This property is about 7 blocks from Park Inn Nevsky, and it was a nice boutique hotel. Rooms were a good size and it was walking-distance to most sights.
Overall I feel like I was able to get a ton of value out of my Club Carlson points right before the BOGO award changes took place, and to put a spin on the devaluation news, it really did inspire me to take this trip.
In my next post, I will share all of the activities and tourist attractions we did.