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Questions for Alumni of RS Tallinn, Helsinki & St Petersburg Tour

A few questions for those who have gone on the RS Tallinn, Helsinki & St. Petersburg tour. I’m going on this tour in June and am thinking of adding some days in St. Petersburg after the tour and would love to hear from those who have done that re how many days added, what additional sights did you see, etc. I’m 66 and will be traveling solo. Like walking around outdoors, architecture, history, museums (but if weather’s nice like to break up museum visits with other sightseeing), hearing back stories about neighborhoods, and seeing “off the beaten path,” fascinating sites (if area is fairly safe). Also did you go to any of the White Nights events? Thanks in advance!

Posted by
14 posts

I took this tour solo in 2017 and am about your age I arrived in Tallinn one day before the tour ( after 6 days in Munich) and spent 4 additional days in St. Petersburg. I had a fabulous time! I purchased tickets to classical music concerts and the ballet well in advance for a free tour evening and 2 evenings on my own. I went to various museums ; shopped; wandered /walked around day and night until 10 pm; took buses and trams; went to churches and Russian Orthodox monasteries; got lost; ate amazing food [Georgian, Armenian, Russian}; drank kvass; and felt very safe. I loved it! I was there in mid-May. I advised my tour guide that I was staying longer, and she showed me and the group various walking shortcuts to take to get around, as the blocks are quite long. All of my tourmates left the day the tour ended; I stayed in the tour hotel for the extra days. Before I left home, I memorized the Russian word for "Ladies Room". I also learned the words for (and how to say) "Restaurant" and "Thank you" . As soon as you arrive, you will see and the recognize the words "entrance" and "exit". Only cab I took was to the airport in St. Petersburg.
It is a wonderful tour -enjoy it

Posted by
125 posts

Wow, mefell, sounds like a fantastic time! Thanks for your detailed reply. I think that I’m going to love this tour!

Posted by
1942 posts

A friend of mine took this tour just this past August and loved it. She left the last day of the tour and said she wished she had had at least one more day in St. Petersburg. I’m considering this tour based on her recommendation for 2021, likely in May.
I’m sure you will enjoy yourself.

Posted by
1941 posts

Another thought to offer....

I'm taking this tour in 2020 and have booked 1 extra night in St Petersburg plus 4 nights in Moscow. I figure, if I'm going to the trouble to get the Russian Visa, I'd like to put it to as much use as possible!

I'm working with the travel agent recommended by Rick Steves for pre- and post-tour arrangements (hotel, trains, transfers and activities) and found her to be very responsive and full of ideas!

Posted by
125 posts

Judy B, thanks for relaying your friend’s positive experience with this tour and St. Petersburg.

CWsocial, I’ve been considering adding some days in Moscow in addition to St Petersburg. Haven’t decided yet. I feel a little intimidated by going to Moscow and making all the Moscow arrangements on my own with no firsthand knowledge of that city. So maybe using the recommended Russian travel agent would be a good idea. I’ve actually never used a travel agent for my trips. Does the travel agent charge an overall fee or add commissions to any bookings which she makes for the traveler?

Posted by
1939 posts

Although it was a couple of years ago, I did take this tour. We stayed three nights before the tour started in wonderful Tallinn and stayed two additional days in St. Petersburg after. We visited Peterhof, taking the hydrofoil out and back. We also visited a very small communist museum manned by several ladies in their 70s who were wonderfully full of interesting information! I am sorry I can't recall the name, we just happened upon it one day while out walking the streets. BUT, I so wish we had been able to extend our time, gotten more use from our VISA and visited Moscow. Several of our tour members did this, easily taking the train from St. Petersburg to Moscow and flying home from there. I was (am still!) so wishing we had done this, too....It's a wonderful tour and I absolutely fell in love with Tallinn. I highly suggest you plan some extra days there!

Posted by
125 posts

Andi, I do want to visit Peterhof and the communist museum. Also the Faberge Museum - and many other sites. The list keeps getting longer!

Andi, what did you do in your free time in Tallinn?

You guys might be convincing me to include Moscow too.

Posted by
503 posts

Hi, Valerie, I have not taken this particular tour but have been to both St. Petersburg and Moscow. They are both wonderful cities and would encourage you to try to fit Moscow in when you do the tour. It would be a shame to travel so far to Russia and not see Moscow.
We took the train from Moscow to St. Petersburg and if I remember correctly, it was a direct train, did not have to switch anywhere.

Posted by
1941 posts

Hi Valerie,

I feel a little intimidated by going to Moscow and making all the Moscow arrangements on my own
I completely understand and felt a bit intimidated as well. The more research I do, the more it's feeling like planning a visit to any other city. I'm really appreciating this thread to get some reassurances.

I’ve actually never used a travel agent for my trips.
I hadn't either! Well, not for personal travel.

Does the travel agent charge an overall fee or add commissions to any bookings which she makes for the traveler?

I asked and she told me that her fees are built in to the bookings. She has booked our hotel and will be helping with the purchase of train tickets and to arrange transfers to the airport and to/from train stations.

In fact, for our hotel it was the opposite. She offered a range of hotels - different price points, locations and amenities - and was able to get us a better rate than I could see directly on the website for the same room type, saving us $140 over the 4 days.

I feel she is adding value in other ways, as well. She has offered ideas for activities, in areas that we expressed interest in, that I wouldn't have known about.

For instance, she has also told me that she can get tickets for folk dance shows in St Petersburg and Moscow for less than their website prices, which we plan to take her up on for free evenings in St Petersburg. (If this type of performance interests you, I'm happy to tell you more.)

Posted by
1941 posts

OK, and while we're encouraging you to add days to your trip for Moscow ….I'll also mention that I am going to Riga beforehand. Again, I figured as long as I'm "up there" I might as well!

But I'm retired. If time was a constraint and I had to choose one, as I told my still-working friend who is going with me on the tour, make it Moscow to make the most of the effort and expense of our Russian VISAs!

And as it turns out, we got a pretty good deal on round trip flights from Denver to Heathrow and flying back from Moscow. Then I just bought separate flights to Riga and a few days later to Tallinn.

Posted by
1941 posts

To Lisa's point about the trains between Moscow and St Petersburg, the travel agent was able to provide me with the times of the trains, which open for booking at 120 days prior. She can arrange for the tickets to be delivered electronically or to your hotel in St Petersburg, if you're going there first, as we are.

I'm sure we're all capable of finding all of that ourselves. But it's saved me the time and allows me to focus on researching the fun stuff!

Posted by
125 posts

Thanks, CWsocial and Lisa, for your replies. I am still working full time so I do need to pay some attention to the length of my trip. Though taking 2 1/2 weeks should be fine as long as I have arranged back up coverage for my job. I do try to have 2 more days off after returning home to do laundry, catch up on sleep, etc. and to ease my transition back to “real life”. :-)

Posted by
1939 posts

Hi again Valerie. I just revisited this thread and have been trying to remember the new name of the Brew With A View tour we took during one of our extra days in Tallinn. Looks like it's now named Est Adventures and here's the link I found through google: https://www.estadventures.ee/view-with-a-brew/. I think Andrew is the founder. Good reviews on Trip Advisor. You might want to check it out. We had a lovely tour with a charming young Estonian woman who grew up in Tallinn and was very good at imparting the history of her city and country and also at taking us to wonderful little places we never would have found on our own. We sampled beers and other drinks along with snacks local to Estonia and Tallinn. It was a wonderful time! Check it out if it sounds like something you might be interested in doing. Other than that, we just walked all over town, stopping in at anything that looked interesting. Several older women had a market set up along the city walls with their beautiful handiwork for sale. I spent a lot of time there! There will be ideas for places the tour won't be visiting listed in the information specific to your tour on the Rick Steves website, too. If I think of anything else, I will send it on to you!

Posted by
13 posts

Hi, I just took the tour early Sept 2019. I flew into Riga because it was cheaper than Tallinn and I absolutely loved it there. I took the 3 free tours in two days in Riga and was so happy I did. If you think you might go there and want more info please private message me. Also I went to Moscow and I recommend that to everyone. Sort of the highlight of the whole trip since I’m about to turn 65 and Moscow is the place I needed to see.
And finally we had Etalka Parine Berecz (excuse spelling) as our guide and she was the BEST!

Posted by
125 posts

Andi, thanks for providing details on your sightseeing in Tallinn.
schase2001, thanks for the Riga info and your offer to provide more details if needed.

I may decide to postpone a Russia trip to another year for various reasons, but even if I do that, it’ll be great to have a head start with the information which the posters in this thread have provided. Thanks, everyone.

Posted by
1942 posts

Well, I switched to this tour for the 9/07-9/15 itinerary when my traveling companion deferred the Best of Germany tour till 2021 for family reasons. It took about 5 minutes and I was on the phone with the RS office. Done.
I’ve bookmarked this thread to help me make several decisions about where to fly into and out of. Also, how many days pre- and post- tour? I wasn’t planning on Moscow but some of you are very positive about its attractions. I will think about contacting the travel agent that RS recommends to aid in my planning.
Wow! I just returned from the Munich Salzburg Vienna tour in early December; I’m still savoring the memories. I’m writing a trip report and promise to actually post it on the forum.

Posted by
1941 posts

Hi Judy, congrats on (re)booking to the RS tour. I'm booked for it this spring.

how many days pre- and post- tour?
I'm flying into London (more on that below, regarding flights) and then Riga 3 nights (I've wanted to go, and I'll be so close!) and 2 extra nights in Tallinn before the tour plus 1 extra night in St Petersburg.

I wasn’t planning on Moscow but some of you are very positive about its attractions.
We're going to Moscow for 4 nights post-tour. I figure I'll have gone to the trouble of getting the (expensive) VISA, I might as well make the most of it. I'd have preferred longer in Moscow, but my roomie couldn't swing it.

I will think about contacting the travel agent that RS recommends to aid in my planning.
I've been using the recommended travel agent post-tour. Marina has been incredibly responsive and helpful in making decisions. She helped us choose a hotel and booked it for us. We've booked our transfers through her, including the train from St Petersburg to Moscow and a guided tour in Moscow.

where to fly into and out of
[I'm flying from Denver.] I initially researched flying into Tallinn and out of Moscow. That turned out to be waaaaay more expensive. Instead, I booked a flight to London, then back from Moscow that was less than half the price. I'm spending a night in London and bought a separate ticket from Heathrow to Riga and from Riga to Tallinn. Even with the hotel in London and 2 extra flights, it was cheaper than the flight I had found into either Riga or Tallinn. And I got an extra city (Riga) in the bargain.

Posted by
1 posts

I took this tour in 2018 and spent 2 days in Riga before going to Tallinn. No problems with finding people who spoke English. There's lots to see in town. I walked easily from the hostel to all the sights. I'm 75 and had no safety concerns. I took a delightful bus tour from Rig to Tallinn (tallin@traveller.ee) +372-5837-4800. It started at 9 am and cost about $80. The van seated 10 people. We were from Greece, Romania, Germany, England and me. We stopped at the training facility of the Baltic and Russian bobsled and luge teams, a Latvian medieval village and fortress ruins, a National Park to see sandstone cliffs, lunch at a small city on the border of Latvia and Estonia, a military museum and Viljadi, an Estonian medieval village and fortress. The countryside was beautiful!! We arrived in Tallinn about 8:30 pm. A lovely day!!