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Archive for March, 2013

As the Russian city of Sochi prepares to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, Russia becomes the new ski destination that should be at the top of everyone’s wish lists. Since it was announced that Sochi would be hosting, back in July 2007, the mountains around the city have been changing. New ski areas have been set up – complete with mountain restaurants – and old, slow chair lifts have given way to the Olympic luge and bobsleigh runs.

Three resorts have been set up in the Sochi area; Rosa Khutar is the main one, followed by Gazprom and then the smallest of the three, Mountain Carousel. While the resorts are still very much in their fledgling stages, the site of the Winter Olympics on the horizon is sure to persuade investors to continue developing the area to cater for more skiers and snowboarders. With that promising thought in mind, here are some top tips to help you get the most of your ski holiday for the least amount of money.

Travel

Obviously it depends where you’re travelling from, but it is fairly likely that Western European destinations are closer to home so your journey to Russia may end up being more expensive. However, book up to a year in advance to get the best deal, and the experience of a new, beautiful ski resort and a lack of heaving crowds will no doubt make up for the extra cost. You could even spend a week skiing before spending another few days exploring some of the surrounding area, or head over into Georgia.

Other means of reducing the cost of your travel may seem fairly trivial, but it will be worth it when it’s all totted up. Consider your transport to the airport from home, for example; there are good public transport links to major airports, so book a train a month or so before you travel and you could end up saving a small fortune on that alone. There is the option of asking a kind friend or relative for a lift, but it’s probably kinder to ask them to drop you off at the train station instead. Sorting out travel at the other end is key too, although this will normally be included in a ski holiday package. As the whole operation is relatively new, it’s best to ask a travel agent about airport transfers, rather than trying to book it for yourself.

Please do not forget to arrange your Russian tourist visa before travelling to Russia.

Food and accommodation

Booking your accommodation last minute can quite often be the cheaper option, but with a relatively small range to choose from it might be better to book in advance. There are a number of websites offering cheap ski deals for accommodation that will identify the most appropriate package for you. It’s important to decide whether you want self-catered or catered accommodation before you go; if you opt for catered, it might seem more expensive but it will save you having to cook when you get back from a hard day of skiing each day and will leave you able to relax with a cold drink while someone else does the work for you. Self-catering can be a good way to save some extra cash, but it’s worth checking the availability of food shops in the resort before you go to make sure that you will easily be able to get everything you need. It may even be a good idea – if you’ve got some extra weight to spare on your luggage allowance – to bring some staple foods with you so you don’t have to spend money on mountain food prices. As it stands at the moment, there is little choice for accommodation at the moment, but new hotels are being developed, so keep an eye out for any changes.

Ski passes and insurance

Whatever you do, make sure that you don’t get persuaded into buying something you don’t need. As it stands, the only way to get from one resort to another is by taxi, but you may decide during the week that it’s worth it. Each of the three ski resorts in Sochi has its own ski pass, and at the moment there is no option to buy one that will cover you for all three resorts. As a result, it’s better to buy one to start with and then see how you go. It will be cheaper to buy a couple of one-day pass for one of the other resorts than to buy one for the whole week, especially if you don’t know if you will be using it or not. The same goes for insurance; if you’re unlikely to be skiing off piste, then make sure that you don’t get talked into buying insurance that covers you for it as it will be considerably more expensive.

Russia may be new on the scene in the world of snow sports, but come Winter 2014 it’s going to be firmly on the radar. If you want to get ahead of the crowds and be able to proudly say that you found it first, get booking before everyone else catches on.

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Fed up with the usual annual trip to the Costa something or other? Why not plan something a bit more special and take a trip to Russia? Many still think of Russia as being positioned well behind the iron curtain, but hop on a plane in London and you could be stepping off in Moscow in as little as four hours!

Russia, with a population of around 145,000,000 has a long history and a rich and diverse culture. Everyone is familiar with the unique architecture of the Kremlin, and the sense of a bygone era experienced when standing in Red Square gazing at the amazing views is almost palpable. Images of Lenin and Stalin, of Rasputin and revolts inundate the mind like a uniquely original adaptation of Doctor Zhivago or Fiddler on the Roof.

Food

Asked to associate a food with Russia and most will say ‘Borshch’ or ‘Caviar’. However, there is so much more than the famous beetroot soup and the eggs from the sturgeon, even though both are world renowned. Other well-known favourites include chicken Kiev, Pelmeny (pastry covered balls of minced-meat) and beef stroganov. As Russia is a country associated with long, harsh winters, the majority of dishes are meaty, designed to fill the stomach and warm the cockles.

Drink

The history of vodka in Russia dates back to the 10th century when, it is believed, Prince Vladimir chose Christianity over Islam in order to drink alcohol. Some historians state that it dates to the 15th century when monks learned the craft of distillation. Like whisky, vodka was used by early doctors as an antiseptic and to help alleviate pain during surgery. Whatever the true origins are, Russians need little excuse to break out a bottle or three, and it remains the favourite tipple drunk at birthdays, weddings and funerals, of which there certainly seems to be a lot of.

Travel

Russia is a huge country and this means that visitors have to carefully plan their journey well in advance. It is extremely worthwhile checking out a reliable website for and up-to-date information and advice on what to do and see. Just go Russia is such a site and it offers all sorts of helpful hints on where to go and what to do. The national tourist board also gives advice on Visas. Remember that winters are exceptionally cold, so only go during that time if lots of snow and ice combined with below freezing temperatures conjures up images of fun.

St. Petersburg

One place well worth a visit is St. Petersburg. An entire vacation could be spent in this marvellous city without scratching the surface of her hidden attractions. However, any visitor should make an effort to see at least one of the world-famous imperial palaces which have housed the Emperors of Russia since Peter the Great. Tsarskoe Selo and Peterhof are favourites.

Take a train

The Trans-Siberian Railway can be used to get from Moscow to Vladivostok, Beijing, Japan or Korea and tourists can board the train in London. From Moscow, the train to Vladivostok usually takes around seven days, although slower trains take nine. It is possible to take even longer and stay at pre-arranged stops along the way. The distance between Moscow and Vladivostok is 9,258 km or 6,152 miles. Trains comprise of both first and second class berths. It is also possible to board the train in St. Petersburg.

Safety

The wise traveller prepares for any eventuality and, although adherence to the well-worn tourist trail should ensure relative safety, there are always gangs on the prowl for unwary tourists. Falling ill or being robbed of your money, passport or other personal belongings is always a major concern for any traveller, so it is of utmost importance that some sort of insurance policy be taken out prior to departure. The needless stress of worrying about what to do in the event of an emergency can easily be averted by taking out a policy with a reputable company. The last thing you ever want to do on vacation is burden yourself with unnecessary worry. Russia is a huge country and the police are not always able to supply help. Especially in rural areas, communication may prove to be a problem. It is therefore essential to take the necessary precautions in order to avert potential problems.

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