Monday, June 14, 2010

2 Mailbag Monday: June 14, 2010

We are planning a trip to Moscow and St. Pete in July and I was really curious about something. For central Moscow, do you REALLY need a guide. I've done my research and mapped out everywhere I want to go within walking distance of the Kremlin. The issue is that a Russian told me that you can't simply walk up to the Kremlin, St. Basil's, etc. pay your admission fee and enter. You cannot enter unless you are accompanied by a licensed tour guide or on an official group tour. It would make sense if they were trying to protect their tourism industry, but is this Russian misleading me to help out a tour operator friend? Or is it not required, but highly recommended? That is, you get to jump the line with a guide. Or can you simply walk up, pay and enter?
-Bruce S., Charlotte, NC USA

We did not have a guide for any of our time in Russia and did not have any issues accessing the sights. I don't think there are any situations where a guide is required. 

As you mention below, tourists with guides are often able to jump lines so that is something to consider.  I think the biggest challenge is that not many people speak English, and in our experience people were not really willing to try to communicate with us. So again, having a guide would certainly be an advantage in that regard.

The key to doing Russia independently is to do a lot of research ahead of time and map things out for yourself--which it sounds like you've already done. We think you should be fine without a guide!

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