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What private tour company to choose

We will be in Russia, st.petersburg for two days(cruising) and we are undecided about what cruise company to go with. They all look to be about the same price and offer the same tops. We are a family of 6 adults and would like to tour with a guide, just the six of us. We are not big history buffs but like a little history and want to get a feel of the city leisurely not to jam packed.

Thanks a bunch
Maria

Posted by
11153 posts

The Cruise Critic forum I posted about in your other thread had a question about this once, and the consensus was the almost everyone was pleased with the company that they had used, but no one had taken more then one company's tour, so they couldn't really compare them.

Here's that thread; I haven't read it recently so I don't know if it has more recent specifics: http://boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1640607

Posted by
5700 posts

We spent 9 nights in an apartment in St. Petersburg last fall and did most of it on our own but we did book a tour through Tours by Locals for the Catherine Palace and were extremely pleased with our guide Nicolai, the price and the service. I have no idea if they are all that good, but I know they have a bunch of tours oriented to cruisers on their web site and the cost for 6 is not likely to be a lot more than for 2 -- certainly not 3 times as much. You could get a private tour for 6 rather than being part of a huge group. I'd take a look and see if any of those look like something you want.

Posted by
7 posts

You can try the selection of tours on Viator.com which is sort of the tour equivalent to what Booking.com is to hotels, a large agent.
None of the cruise oriented companies are bad but some more honest than others. A recent expose in a local newspaper laid out a case of a lot of corruption with the largest company that gets promoted the most on Cruise Critic. Trip Advisor which owns Cruise Critic seem to make it easy to manipulate forums and reviews with a lot of fakes. One company that grew from nothing to netting many millions a year did it by employing teams of fake posters for generating reviews and dominating forums. If you see a question being asked, regardless of the company that is the topic, you will see a dozen of the same high post count "members" with thousands of posts, and almost every one of the posts is promoting one company. I know the area intimately and would not go by any recommendation by regulars on either of those two communities.
The good thing however is that everyone seems to be very pleased with their tours regardless of which company. Figure a full two day tour with all the must sees in a small group now is about $240. More if including more expensive destinations, less for a more relaxed pace. Be prepared for the workout, you will do a LOT of walking and will see a lot so even the relaxed pace tours for around $200 are still very full days.
Toursbylocals is a booking agency for private guides. There are good and bad aspects of private guides without company affiliation. One thing paradoxically, they charge a lot more per tour or hour than a commercial tour operator. Some of the same guides advertize on http://tourguides.viator.com/ for about 1/2 the price, and about 20% less than that if you contact the guides directly without using a booking agency.

If you only need a guide for one difficult-to-do-on-your-own like Catherine Palace, the cheapest way is booking a day group tour with the many bus tour companies with kiosks on the Dumskaya and Nevsky intersection at the end of Gostinny Dvor shopping center on Nevsky, across the street from the Grand Hotel Europe. Go buy passage before 10am and two tours a day go. The reason for booking one of these, besides the lower price but it means you can even get a ticket. During the summer you are likely not to be able to get a ticket for the palace at all without being part of a group because between cruise tours and these tour buses all the allotted tickets each day are already spoken for. In the fall or spring you can just go to Pushkin and buy a ticket to the park and the palace off the street, but not in the summer.