Russia is a country that I was intrepid about visiting alone. Even though I was an experienced solo traveller, I was worried about the language barrier. If you are planning a trip to Russia, I recommend taking a Russian tour. In this article, I share my experience of travelling solo in Russia, why I recommend taking a tour here, and recommended companies to use.
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- My Solo Trip To Russia
- Why Take a Russian Tour?
- Best Tours To Russia
- G Adventures: Russia
- Intrepid Travel: Russia
- Topdeck: Russia
- Travel Talk: Russia
- Moscow and St Petersburg Tours
- 6 Days: Highlights of Russia
- 8 Days: St Petersburg to Moscow
- 12 Days: St Petersburg to Moscow
- 16 Days: St Petersburg to Beijing – Trans-Mongolian Adventure
- Russian Visa
- My Russia Trip Cost
My Solo Trip To Russia
Russia was nothing like I had expected. Instead of grey monstrosities, there were palatial apartment blocks, libraries that looked as though they had been plucked out of a Greek classical movie, and pastel-coloured buildings. The grandeur continued inside the metro system with ornate decor within its stations and chandeliers resembling more of a palace lobby than a functioning train system.
Even the parks had everything you could think of. Boating lakes, fountains and a giant (and I mean giant) statue of Peter the Great which stands 98 metres high near a small island in the Moskva River. Walking around Moscow it became evident that no money had been spared on this city, and I couldn’t help wonder if this really was a true representation of the Russia that I had come to see…
In the last 18 months, I had travelled to 13 of the former Soviet States, and now I was here, in the mother of them all: Russia, a country which totally surprised me but as a woman travelling here solo, I felt very alone.
Russia Group Tours: Why Take a Russian Tour?
There’s no doubt that Russia is an intriguing place to visit and taking a tour here shows you a different side of Russia that is portrayed in the West. Russia is the largest country in the world. It’s colourful, grand, and a cheap country to visit but it does come with its challenges too, mainly the language barrier. I travelled here independently and felt very isolated during my trip. I struggled with the language and didn’t feel confident enough to travel outside of the cities to see the real side of Russia.
As an experienced solo traveller, I was surprised at my lack of confidence here. I did get sick which obviously didn’t help but I struggled with the culture and felt very isolated. If you are planning to travel to Russia I definitely advise taking a Russia tour to explore the country.
You may be able to get around the language barrier in cities such as Saint Petersburg or Moscow but if you want to go to Russia and travel further afield to see the countryside and one of Russia’s oldest towns, then guided tours of Russia make visiting the county so much easier.
Russia is so vast that booking a tour of Russia ensures that not only will you feel supported during your stay but your whole Russian trip is taken care of for you and all you have to do is just turn up! It makes it so much easier.
Best Tours to Russia
Known for the Trans-Siberian railway, Russia has so much to see. Aside from Moscow and Saint Petersburg, there are Russian towns such as Pushkin, home to Catherine Palace & Alexander Palace: Ulan-Ude, a Russian city with the Lenin Head Monument, and Yaroslavl, part of the Golden Ring of ancient Russian towns known for its Savior Monastery, and Yaroslavl Museum.
Then there’s Lake Baikal, an ancient Siberian lake which is the world’s deepest, and Sochi, a beach resort on the Black Sea coast with neoclassical architecture where you can enjoy the summer months or go skiing in the nearby Caucasus Mountains in the winter.
For tours to Russia 2021 and beyond, below are a list of the best Russian tours for solos. As well as Golden Ring Russia tours, they offer full Russian holiday packages and Russia tours from the UK.
G Adventures: Russia
If you feel more comfortable in a group for either part of your trip or the whole duration, G Adventures is a responsible tour company that mainly caters for budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there. I have personally used G Adventures and you can read my review here.
Intrepid Travel: Russia
Intrepid Travel is similar to G Adventures with an average of 12 people on each tour. Over 50% of people who book their trips are solo travellers. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence the trips can appear a bit more than G Adventures.
With both G Adventures and Intrepid Travel Russia, you share a room with someone of the same gender. There is also the option to pay extra for your own room.
Topdeck: Russia – 18 to 30s
If you are aged 18 to 30 and looking for an authentic and fun trip, Topdeck is perfect for solos. From festivals, city breaks and tours in Europe, North America, Africa, Australia and New Zealand, they offer value tours for the fast traveller as you get to see a lot in a short space of time. Topdeck combine Russia with neighbouring countries so you can explore more than one country on your trip. Read the Topdeck review here.
Travel Talk: Russia – 18 to 39s
Travel Talk is a budget-friendly tour company for adventurous and cultural travellers. Designed for 18 to 39-year-olds who are looking for affordable tours with a premium service, they offer group tours to Russia and other destinations. Travel Talk uses a higher standard of hotels than Topdeck and G Adventures and their prices are more competitive. Instead of local buses, they use premium transportation. Although the tours are cheap, in addition to the tour price there is a local payment which is paid in the local currency when your trip starts. It doesn’t cover entrance fees and meals. Read the Travel Talk review here.
St Petersburg and Moscow Tours
Moscow and Saint Petersburg are two of the country’s most well known and most visited cities. In Moscow, you can wander around the Red Square, see the museums and churches that make up the complex of the Kremlin, including the iconic St. Basil’s Cathedral, as well as spend an evening indulging in Russian ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre.
In Saint Petersburg, you shouldn’t miss the famous Hermitage Museum and Winter Palace which takes a whole day to explore, the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood (which looks slightly similar to St. Basil’s in Moscow), and a picturesque river cruise through the city’s canals. Instead of visiting just one city and paying for a tour guide in St Petersburg, Russia for example, you can hop aboard a tour in Russia and see both cities.
Listed below in this article are some of the best St Petersburg to Moscow tours. You don’t have to fly into St Petersburg to start either as you could take a Russian tour in reverse and join one of their Moscow to St Petersburg tour packages instead.
The Russian tours are listed from 6 days to 16 days. There are longer ones incorporating more of Russia but these are ideal if you only have one or two weeks to explore the country and want to see as much as you can in the time that you have.
6 Days: Highlights of Russia (Travel Talk)
Out of the three tours that Travel Talk offer to Russia, the Highlights of Russia is their most budget-conscious one. Beginning in St. Petersburg you get to explore the canal city that was founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703. This former capital of Imperial Russia is beautiful with canals and palaces. See the Hermitage Museum and the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood before an optional visit to either the Peterhof Garden or Pavlovsk Palace.
Experience a night on a sleeper train bound for Moscow and take a guided tour through the city’s heart. An optional activity includes a tour of the World War II Museum. Walk around the Kremlin and take in its impressive buildings, finishing your tour at one of the oldest streets in the capital which was home to many historical figures.
The tour includes your airport transfer, 4-star hotels and sleeper compartments on the train (4 berth), your guide and 4 breakfasts. If you have longer, join their 7 days Golden Ring of Russia, or 9 days Best of Russia tour.
8 Days: St Petersburg to Moscow (Topdeck)
If you only have 8 days, you can hop aboard the Russia sector of the Red Star Special and join the group for a week of soaking up the culture and enjoying the Russian nightlife. Joining the tour at St. Petersburg, you meet your tour leader and fellow adventurers before taking a driving tour with a local guide around the city to see sights such as the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood.
The next day you are whisked around palatial buildings to see the Hermitage Museum then taken to the city’s main shopping street. You then get to explore the countryside on a trip to Novgorod, a World Heritage-listed city before heading to Moscow to see the infamous Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral and the Red Square.
If you love the arts you could take the opportunity to spend an evening at the Russian ballet, or delve into the country’s history on a visit to Lenin’s tomb and under the city on a metro tour. The main guided tours are included in the tour price as well as your coach transport and hotels. As a solo traveller, you will need to share a room unless you prefer to upgrade.
12 Days: St Petersburg to Moscow (G Adventures)
Travelling along the back roads of Russia you begin in Saint Petersburg visiting some of the city’s highlights before driving to Sortavala to visit the marble quarries at Ruskeala. Take a guided tour of Petrozavodsk, named after Peter the Great, hike a Nature Reserve and take a boat trip to Kizhi Island.
Experience an overnight train to Sergiev Posad to see the Lavra and Monastery before taking part in a painting class. Accommodation is 9 nights in a hotel (sharing), 1 night in a guest house, and 1 night on a sleeper train. Most tours are included as well as the majority of breakfasts and 3 lunches.
16 Days: St Petersburg to Beijing – Trans-Mongolian Adventure (G Adventures)
If your dream is to travel to Russia and take a ride on the iconic Trans-Siberian railway I definitely recommend this 16-day Trans-Mongolian Adventure. Starting from Moscow you get to experience the famous Trans-Siberian Railway all the way to Beijing in China. See the iconic Kremlin in Moscow and marvel at Saint Basil’s Church before boarding the train through the Siberia taiga forests across the Ural Mountains.
Mingle with the other passengers aboard the Trans-Siberian whilst watching landscapes pass you by. Explore the village of Listvyanka, and the shores of Lake Baikal. Take a boat trip or try a Russian sauna before crossing the border into Mongolia to witness Mongolian throat singing, and learn more about Tibetan Buddhism.
The journey ends in Beijing where you explore this buzzing capital before seeing the Great Wall of China, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The adventure includes a night in a traditional ger, sleeping arrangements on the trains and simple guesthouses and hotels. Some meals are also included. You can also add on the Saint Petersburg Express before the trip.
Before you travel you need to Russia check if you need a Russian visa. As a UK citizen I needed to apply for a visa before I travelled. As I needed a Russian visa invitation letter, I used iVisa, a global service that helps different nationalities with visa entries around the world. The service I received was fantastic and I recommend them for a Russia visa.
My Russia Trip Cost
I spent two weeks in Russia independently without a tour. I have listed the costs of my Russia trip below to show a comparison against doing it alone and going with a tour. After working out my total costs, the guided tours to Russia are only a few hundred pounds more which is definitely worth paying to have the support, a guide who can converse in the language and a ready-made group of people to travel through the country with. Read below to find out how much my trip to Russia cost.
My Trip To Russia
- Visa, fast-track, and printing bank statements at the embassy = £190
- Cost of travelling to London to obtain my visa = £63
- Flight from London Stansted to Moscow = £154
- Train to London Stansted = £11
- Taxi from Moscow airport to the city = £56
- Moscow Hostel (Strawberry Duck) shared dormitory x 3 nights = £18
- Moscow Hostel private room x 3 nights = £107
- Moscow Hotel (Rainbow Apartments) x 2 nights = £50
- Tours in Moscow – walking tour = £13.50
- Tours in Moscow – river cruise = £5.50
- Metro = 50 Rubles a ride x 20 rides = £10
- Train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg = £64
- Saint Petersburg Hostel (Friends on Sennaya) x 4 nights = £21
- Saint Petersburg private room x 2 nights = £70
- Saint Petersburg Hostel (Like Home Hostel) x 3 nights = £17
- Tours in St Petersburg = £20
- Hermitage Museum = £20
- Bus to airport = 90 Rubles = £1
- Flight from Saint Petersburg to London = £112
- Train from London to home = £17
- Food = £10 x 14 days = £140
- Going out = £5 a day x 14 = £70
- Metro = 45 Rubles x 20 trips = £10
Total price of my holiday in Russia = £1240 (approx $1600 US)
I hope that this article helped if you are planning a trip to Russia. It is a fascinating country but it is so much easier to explore with others.