Moscow Stories and Tips

The Budget

The brochure price for a river cruise is not as all inclusive as the brochure would lead you to believe. Be
sure to read ALL the fine print to learn what is not included in the “all-inclusive” price. Here is what we
spent for two on top of the advertised price:

Taxes & fees: $180

Passports: $150-180 (depends if new or renewal)

Russian Visas: $390

Tips: The cruise company suggested $15 a day per person for the crew plus $6 a day per person for the
Cruise Director. Other sources said $5-6 for the crew per person, $2-3 for the Cruise Director. Local
guides, $1-4, bus driver $1-4 (Hint for tipping: a 50 ruble bill is just about $2 in 2006).

Souvenirs: $520.

Optional Tours and tips for bus tour guides/drivers: $500. Optional tour prices ranged from $18-44 for
each half-day tour (3 to 4 hours, plus admissions). This is noticeably cheaper than optional tours cost in the
EU.

Carry lots of US$ or Euros in cash. Many merchants will take $ in payment, and they do not seem to rip
you off on the exchange rate. We met a couple who could not cash American Express Travelers checks at
a bank in St. Petersburg. Note: there is an Amex office in both Moscow and St. Petersburg where you can
cash their Travelers’ checks. Good luck on finding it. Generally, exchanging currency at a bank gets the
best rates. As in all foreign currency exchanges, you will never get the price advertised. There are
unstated fees.

It was sometimes cheaper to pay in $ than to use rubles from an exchange at a bank.

To convert rubles to $ in your head to figure out prices: The exchange rate was $1=26+ rubles when we
were there in May, 2006. 26 to 1 is almost 25 to 1, which is workable math. Multiple the ruble price by
four, and shift the decimal point two places to the left. Thus, 250 rubles = $10 (250 x 4 = 1000. Decimal
move two places = $10) Actual value = $9.58, so our estimation system came pretty close. If you want to
get even closer, after preforming the above calculations, subtract 5% (take 10%, then divide by 2).

Look for early or last minute booking discounts. Sometimes these come from the cruise companies
themselves, but often they are only offered through certain travel agencies who specialize in this sort of
thing. We used early booking deals through River Discounts for our three river cruises as we couldn’t find
any lower rates anywhere else. As for airfare, sometimes it cheaper to do your own, sometimes it is
cheaper to use the cruise company’s special rates. The only way to tell to search and compare.

If you find an unlikely last minute discount, there will be high extra fees for expedited visa service.

Don’t forget to check on the current damage being done to your foreign travel budget by GW Bush’s stupid
economic policies, which have raised prices far more than the soaring price of oil. In the last year of the
Clinton Administration, $1 bought €1.15. Today, the rate is $1= 0.78. A €20 meal in 2000 cost
$17.40. That same meal today costs $25.60. Last year, $1 bought almost 30 rubles. When we were in
Russia, $1= 26 rubles. That is about a 15% price increase in everything an American tourist buys in
Russia, and the Central Bank in Russia is subsidizing dollars. Last year in Prague, we got 26kr for $1.
The rate now is 22kr for $1. The $18 diner for two we had last year costs $21 this year.

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