Birthday in Russia: OVERVIEW

Overview post on my Russia trip!!!!! Quick one because aku actually dah malas lolol

Our Travel Dates

5 May 2016 to 13 May 2016

Flight Itinerary & Journey Duration

Singapore to Moscow via SQ: Depart SG at 2.30am, arrive Moscow at 8.10am (10 hours 40 minutes)
Moscow to Singapore via SQ: Depart Moscow at 2.20pm, arrive SG at 5.35am (10 hours 15 mins)

Time Difference

Russia is 5 hours behind Singapore (If it's 12.00pm in Singapore then it's 7.00am in Russia)

Weather During Our Stay

On average 16 to 20 degrees during the day, between 8 to 12 degrees at night

Why We Chose to Travel to St Petersburg & Moscow

Because... kita gatal nak experience something different...??? Hahahaha! I was just too intrigued and wanted to experience Russia for myself so we went through lautan bara api (at least that's what their visa application process felt like at that time......) to get our asses down there. No other reason, to be honest hahaha.

Where did We Stay at in St Petersburg & Moscow

We stayed at Golden Triangle Hotel in St Petersburg and St Regis Moscow Nikolsvaya in Moscow. Both hotels are right smack in the middle of the busy central area so we were very happy about that!

In terms of comfort and service, it was decent at Golden Triangle (basic breakfast, printing services, sufficient bed and bathroom) and (obviously) fantastic at St Regis. I mean... macam mana lagi aku nak gush pasal St Regis punya layanan mesra la kan nanti korang campak senapang gajah kat muka aku HAHAHA

Which Attractions did We Visit in St Petersburg & Moscow
Availability of Halal Food

Food that is officially halal certified is difficult to find in the central parts of St Peterburg and Moscow. There are options, but they are either very difficult to find (we gave up after spending 1++ hours looking for a halal cafe in St Peterburg) or they are out of the way (terceruk at jauh tercampak locations).

So if you're the sort who is very, very strict i.e. MUST ada official certification from official body segala then Russia is most definitely the place for you to go to mati kebuluran hahahahaha. (I'm kidding. It is not your place. At all. Not kidding about you will mati kebuluran part though) We're not the sort who are super strict about certification, especially when we're overseas, so we made do with pastries, vegetables, seafood and pasta for most of our meals and ate/ordered from one halal place each in St Petersburg (Tandoori) and Moscow (Pizzarion).

Transportation Around St Petersburg & Moscow

With the exception of our guided tour around the Moscow Metro (look at us losers touching the dog sculpture in one of the metro stations which locals believe will bring good luck..........), we didn't take their public trains because we stayed in hotels which were located in the heart of the action and all of the attractions/museums were within walking distance. We did take Uber twice in Moscow though, and had the luck of getting drivers who spoke and understood basic English. And the fares were so cheap as compared to Singapore!

As for airport transfers, we made prior arrangements with Welcome Taxi. Highly, highly, highly recommended. Super reliable and super affordable. Standard of drivers differ but generally they will do their job well and will drop you off safely at your destinations. (What I mean by difference in standard of drivers:- Our driver in St Petersburg was polite, well-groomed and helpful whereas our driver in Moscow was a little unkempt and his car was dirty on the outside but he spoke pleasantly and wasn't rude or creepy or anything so we didn't mind)

Where to Buy Souveniers

There are many souveniers booths and shops littered around the central area. We bought souveniers from a mix for souvenier shops, souvenier booths and the departmental store at GUM. We also bought beluga caviar for ourselves and IT WAS &#$&^#$&*#$( SO SEDAP FOR WHAT patut la mak dalam cerita Batu Belah Batu Bertangkup sampai merajuk tak dapat makan telur ikan terus kena telan dengan batu belah batu bertangkup HAHAHAHAHA

Availability of Wifi

There are cafes which offer Wi-fi but they are few and far in between - Wi-fi is not readily available in and around St Petersburg and Moscow, so it was a good thing we bought SIM cards at the airport! I think we paid slightly less than SGD20 per person for the SIM cards. We usually sewa portable wifi router from Changi Recommends when we travel but they don't offer any for travel in Russia (wtf...) and other companies who offer wifi router rental for Russia travel were gonna charge us almost SGD300 for 9 days usage. Harga go and die pls.

Anyway, the hotels we stayed at in St Petersburg and Moscow provided free Wi-fi so no issues on connectivity bila kita dah kat dalam our hotel rooms.

Shopping in St Petersburg and Moscow

Saliheen and I didn't really shop in St Petersburg and Moscow because there weren't anything we wanted in particular. I bought one piece of dark olive t-shirt in Zara though, they miraculously had a piece of clothing in my size on sale ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Would We Return to Russia for Vacation

No, I would not make a conscious effort to return to Russia. And Saliheen agrees with me. Haha!

To be honest, it's too much work and inconvenience to get there and be there, but the pay off is not that satisfactory, as compared to travelling to other states/countries. 

I'm so used to being able to travel to most countries with my Singaporean passport (spoilt Singaporean...) so going through the visa process to travel to Russia is already an experience in itself: You have to complete the form, attach copies of various documents and colour photograph whereby your facial expression has to be neutral (???), submit in person to the visa centre and then you have to return to the centre to collect your visa after it is approved. It's not complicated la, just paperwork and legwork that requires some effort and time.

And then when you arrive in the country, you have to navigate through other leceh things; constant queue cutting at waiting lines (provided you can find the right one anyway), confusing signs, difficulty in communication because not many locals speak English, very limited options for food, unfriendly locals and officials. 

We were particularly ticked off by the immigration officer at Domodedovo Airport who stamped our passports just before we boarded our plane back to Singapore; she stared at us in an intimidating and hostile way and it was obvious she wanted to make us squirm in discomfort. She also made a VERY deliberate show of slooowwwly checking our records and stamping our passports. And by slowly, I really mean slowly. Like, you know that slow sloth sequence in the movie Zootopia??? That slow, but not that funny at all. It was unsettling.

Saliheen got so upset, he said that's probably the woman's way of making sure we never want to step foot into her country again. She didn't really have to worry though, because we most probably won't (unless we have to be there for official stuff like work... which is unlikely) 

Don't get me wrong; I think Russia is a truly fascinating and beautiful country; and their museums and attractions are unreal (in a good way) and worth a visit if you ever get there. But it's the sort of country I only want to go to once for a unique experience. I'd rather spend my tourist money in a country that welcomes me next time! (WHICH I DID HAHAHA)

The Total Expenditure

I usually share my expenditure details because I get queries on travel costing sometimes and want an easy way to refer people who ask, but I don't anticipate getting queries for travel to Russia HAHAHAHA so I'll skip this part this time round. (Also as I said, I tengah malas hahahaha)

Anddddd I am finally done with my Russian entries wtf. I wanted to publish all my Russia-related entries before I headed to London but as we all know that didn't happen because aku dah pergi, aku dah jalan and aku dah balek dari London pun hahahahaha tsk tsk tsk tak guna betul ah the blogger in me ni

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