Tag Archives: hotels

Practice what you preach: Travel Planning

All the latest posts have been about my resent trip to Russia. I know this travel destinations sounds a bit exotic to many people, therefore I wanted to share my travel experience in Moscow. But at the same time I havent forgotten other travel related activities & planning some other trips as well. But before that here are 3 reminder things about planning a trip:

1. Of course, when we think about trip & related expenses, first advice from everybody is plan in advance. What comes to this trip I did it – got flight tickets already in December ( 4 month before the trip). Since then I’ve been comparing the prices that been offered as a ‘special deal’ and can say that the price I bought the tickets was one of the best. Few times for the short period there were some offers with prices close to one I had but basically it showed that as it gets closer to departure date a ‘special deals’ or ‘sales‘ prices don’t go lower that the basic level price, if booking good time in advance.

Moscow. Sheremetyevo Airport.

Moscow. Sheremetyevo Airport.

2. Other thing I wanted to mention is a hotel reservation. Earlier on to book a hotel room in Russia with international booking engines was almost impossible. There were just few international brands with 4-5 star hotels. What I was usually doing for my Russian trips, is doing search on local russian sites & then looking for the website of particular hotels I was interested. That way I could get at least reasonable price range for 2 – 3 star or private hotels.

When planning my trip to Moscow this year, out of curiosity I did a search on Booking.com – the hotel booking site I use for European destinations. Big was my surprise to find that they have added many hotels and even hostels with reasonable prices for Moscow and Russia in general.

What I like about Booking.com is that you can find hotel reviews there. For booking a hotel in Moscow that is very important because many ‘hotels‘ arent really a hotels, but just one floor or even one very big apartment as a ‘small private hotels’. Last time I visited in Moscow I actually stayed in one like that. The best things were central location and the price  around 2000 rub. Not so good things – that is a big apartment were you rent just one room ( with shared kitchen, shower &WC); furniture in rooms are not the best quality; no internet access.

3.  Last thing I’d like to mention here is – get off the beaten tracks. And here I mean your habits of planning the trip.

For several years I had clear picture what is the best way to plan my a trip to Moscow. As mentioned before, I was nicely surprised to about opportunity to book a hotel in Moscow on my favorite booking engine and was about to do it. In the last moment I decided to check out the special offer from event organizers.

I know the hotels they were offering – the good ones. And I knew the price range of hotel rooms there. From my experience before I knew that mostly every time hotels offered by organizers are good but they cost much more I’d like to pay. Definitely not a budget friendly ones. So I just do my own research & find the one  nearby area.

Same was about to happen this time as well. But for god knows what reason I downloaded a hotel registration form. And what I see there? Both 3 and 4 star hotels are offered with very reasonable price. Of course I want it. Why I didn’t take the offer before? Because I knew the price for that hotel & I could not imagine that special discount for event participants will be so big…

What I wanted to say here is that even you’ve been doing something for years & you think your solution is one of the best one, check out the some other options that are a bit outside your regular beaten trap. Because it might happen that NOW there is a better, cheaper or more convenient way…

What comes to me – I’m about to try one more thing I havent done – use Priceline.com for bidding on hotel room for one of my next trips.

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All set & ready for the trip to Moscow

Yesterday I got my travel visa to Russia. So I can say that I’m all set & ready to go to Moscow. Well, I’ll go in a week but right now I already know what my plans will be there. It’s not that I’ve been planning this visit a lot. I’ve been in Moscow before &  I know what I’d like to do.

St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

View of the St Basil's Cathedral on Red Square

This time my trip to Russian capital is more like business trip, therefore there will be 3 evenings & 1 day for visiting the places I’d like to see. Because of tight schedule there are things I know for sure that I’ll do & when.

1. For fastest & most convenient way from Sheremetyevo Airport to the central part of Moscow is by AeroExpress. This direct train service is very good & comfortable way to the Belorussky Train Station. From there I can take a Metro to the place I need. I expect total travel time around one hour. For the city in size of Moscow, this is fast. And price for this convenient trip is reasonable – 320 RUB for the train & 28 RUB for the Metro.

2. What comes to the Metro, this is one of the best ways to get around in city. Inside the Circle line is the central part of Moscow with many sightseeing places & attractions. If you stay in Moscow for at least few days, I suggest everyone to get a card of 10 rides for 250 RUB. That will make entrance to the metro smooth & more convenient.

I like using Metro in  Moscow. It provides fast & easy access to many sightseeing  places. Many Metro stations are deep underground therefore for many people it might be as a small adventure as well. It kind of gives the feeling of the place. Besides – all the Metro stations inside the Circle line are like a piece of art. Get a map of Metro & explore underground Moscow.

Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

Take a walk in area around Cathedral of Christ the Saviour

3.On Thursday evening I’ll visit Cathedral of Christ the Saviour – one of the places I like to visit every time I’m in Moscow. Cathedral itself and area around is very nice & impressive ( after the visit to the Cathedral I would suggest to take a short Moscow River sightseeing cruise nearby to see Kremlin). In the nearby area there are few Museums to visit as well. Why Thursdays are good for museums? Because in many museums there is a late night entrance – you can see exhibitons till 8 or even 9pm. Works good if I’m busy during the day.

Last time I was in Moscow I found out about this by chance. I went to Pushkin Fine Art Museum and besides great exhibition of Japanese Art there was a musical performance at that evening as well.  So now I’m suggesting to everyone – use the opportunity of thurdays. What comes to Russian museums – they are great & worth to visit. State Tretyakov Gallery is national treasury for  Russian fine art but Pushkin Fine Art Museum has one of the most representative collection of foreign art.

4. Last day of my visit I’ll have free for myself. That means… actually I havent decided yet 🙂 There are many places to see or many things to do. I’ll be staying near VDNH – large exhibition center and park. Might be there will be something interesting or check out Kva-Kva Aquapark – one of the largest water parks in Russia. Great fun for children but adults can check out list of special night events. Ok, maybe no the Aquapark  this time because my hotel will have a large swimming pool with some slides & SPA center…

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Seasonal accomodation in Europe.

It’s wintertime here in Europe. As you know its cold and we have a lot of snow for a few months. Creative and business minded people are using this.

For people who are looking for extreme experience there are several winter accommodations – hotels or igloo’s build from snow.  Rooms are created by ice artists. Each year the places are a little bit different because these hotels are seasonal 🙂

Room temperature in ice hotel is 0 to – 6 C ( 32 – 21 F). Imagine – you  sleep on reindeer skins in special sleeping bags. In the morning there is hot lingonberry juice  served. For more fun you can try ride with the snow-mobile or dog sled.

There are several ice hotels are located in Scandinavia. Most famous are original ICEHOTEL is located in small village Jukkasjarvi, Sweden and SnowVillage in Lainio, Finland. Both these places are around 200 km above the Arctic Circle. The new entry in this category is Kirkenes SnowHotel in Norway.

Check out before they are melted!

P.S. If you are not for so extreme adventures but wanna feel, how it is to be there – visit ICEBAR in Stockholm, London, Copenhagen, Tokio or Oslo.

Budget Travel Resolutions for 2011

Time before New Year is the one when people are thinking about the good things they intend to do next year. If you like traveling, then there are few resolutions you should consider. If you are already doing some of this then take it as a reminder of  things for budget friendly traveling in 20011.

1.- Plan your trip and book transportation, hotel in advance.

This will save you a lot of money, if you’ll make flight reservation 5-6 months in advance. Think about possible travel options  and do a little online reasearch.  You’ll see that there are many great deals right now to choose for next summer traveling. Same applies for hotels.  Few days ago I was checking hotel prices in Paris for June and actually few budget friendly  accommodations with good location were already fully booked.

I know many people will say that last-minute deals are better. Well yes – they are better if to compare with prices 2-3 month in advance because airlines/hotels try to sell out last empty places. But if to compare those prices with the ones that are booked 5-7 month in advance, then they don’t seem so great any more.

2.- Sign up for Twitter and Facebook!

Are you familiar with these social media networks? Many travel related companies – airlines, hotels, attractions are often posting special offers and rates to their fans and followers. Sign up for an account and follow the brands you might be interested.

3.- Avoid unnecessary hotel add-on fees!

When booking a hotel read all the small print what comes with the great deals – resort fee, breakfast bill, parking fee. Besides – before using ‘room service‘ or ‘local phone calls’ check the price for these services.  Be aware of the prices of in-room mini-bars. many of them are with sensors for removed items and $5 mini-candy bar will be added to your bill.

4. – Practice light traveling.

10 day vacation doesn’t require 4 bags per person. Lately many airlines practice baggage fee for checked-in items.  Actually there are charges for over-weight luggage as well.  They are not dramatic but count how many times you will need to pay for transportation/ storage per piece and count.

It is allowed to take on board 2 pieces of carry-on luggage – a bag and a purse or laptop case. If traveling doesn’t take more that a week then with this amount of luggage you should be fine. Just think of the items that are really necessary and which ones you maybe will need ‘what if… happens’. Read more at travel packing advice.

5. – Look for hotels with complimentary breakfast and free wireless Internet included.

Dont expect that every hotel will provide these services. even if the room price seems great, count how much it will cost if you will have to pay additional $10 up t $20 per breakfast every day and $3 to $5 per hour for internet access.