Friday, August 28, 2015

Tips before a trip to Russia, #2 - don't travel light

Okay, so we touched upon food & drink, cabin size, and general preparedness. When traveling for the first time to a foreign country, you should expect it to be "different". I don't see the point of traveling abroad if you're going to turn your nose up at local stuff and keep saying "we do this better at home". Which was the attitude taken by a few of my co-travelers.

But when in Russia, no matter where you hail from there are some things you can't possibly do "better", I suspect. No one can do Russian mentality and attitude as well as the Russians :-)

Back to hopefully-helpful tips: (the first four appear in my previous post.)

5. The weather: So what if the weather forecast displayed blue skies and warm temps? Who are you going to believe -- some pretentious little app on your smartphone, or your own experience that says "Weather is Fickle and Not to be Trusted"?  I consulted the Internet over and over again, as well as my Russian friend from exercise class. They were unanimous: Peter (the locals' name for Saint Petersburg) will be cool, Moscow will be warm, or hot.
For the first time in my traveling life, I decided to travel light. Big, big mistake. As it happened, Peter and the villages & towns along the river (Mandrogi, Kitzhi, Goritsy, Yaroslavl, Uglich) ranged from T-shirt weather to shivering-in-my-sweatshirt-and-scarf weather; while Moscow was downright cold in Israeli terms, i.e. 9-15 deg C (= 48-60 deg F). For locals that's super-mild, of course. I would have been far more comfortable had I packed a few more long-sleeved tops and a warmer coat.

T-shirt weather @ Peterhof Gardens

All bundled up on the way to Uglich. Nina in orange coat.

Which brings us to tip #6

6. Don't travel light: Last time I traveled to the U.S. and Canada (April-May 2015), I was determined to travel light. I knew that I'd never be far away from shops, whether in town or en route. Why, half the fun is saying, "Ooh, I've run out of body lotion", or "Gosh, it's cooler than I expected", and popping into a local shop. This was not the case in our Russian trip. The river boat, M/S Rublev, had a busy souvenir shop, but nowhere to buy toiletries or an extra pair of socks. The tourist-trap stalls do not carry bottles of cough syrup. And though I didn't look into it, I suspect a pair of Nikes costs far more on Nevsky Prospect than in your home town.

Among the items that I or my fellow travelers were happy they'd brought along were:
- Their fave brand of coffee/tea
- Their fave shampoo/conditioner
- Hair dryer, curling iron, hair-straightener
- Granola bars
- Tablet, iPad, (in addition to smartphone, obviously!) chargers for them and for any other electronic equipment
- Walking-stick with folding seat
- Umbrella

Small items such as lingerie and socks could be washed in the tiny washbasin in the tiny bathroom, using the complimentary bottles of shower gel or shampoo (because, for your hair, you'd obviously prefer using your own stuff); and they took a day or two to dry in the cabin. Larger items could be handed in. Laundry costs were around 70 rubles per T-shirt and 30-35 rubles for smaller items. Jeans probably cost more. So do you own math.

Items I could have done without:
- Book. I'm in the midst of The Reluctant Fundamentalist. It's interesting. I want to know what happens next. But I didn't have the time or energy to continue reading it on this trip. Hubby did find the time/energy to read books on his iPad. Don't ask me how.

7. Souvenirs: By now we should all know to beware of tourist traps, right? How much are you willing to pay for a matryoshka? How many of them do you need? How many of your friends and neighbors would really like to have one? The typical multicolored shawl or kerchief: Can you really tell the difference between an expensive authentic one, and a cheap synthetic imitation? Do you really need another kerchief? God knows I don't. Will your friend ever wear it, except, perhaps, on Purim? As for the coarse linen clothes and knits -- personally, I don't care for them; and if I change my mind, there are several Russian shops in the center of Rishon LeZion that carry them.
Keep in mind that you'll see more-or-less the same stuff everywhere you go, at different prices.
Yes, of course I bought a few souvenirs! I don't practice everything I preach; that would be inhuman.)

That's all for today; but there are more Important Tips to come!

1 comment:

  1. Agreed. If you're planning to travel to Russia, DON'T TRAVEL LIGHT! You need many things when you go to Russia.

    Augustus @ Peza zone