I thought that I had reviewed this company previously, but as I am researching places to go on vacation, I see I hadn’t posted it so in thinking it is better late than never, here it goes.
When traveling to a new city that has so much to see, it is essential to do your homework so that you can make the most of your time there. When traveling to a country with another language this is especially important as there may be language barriers if you don’t speak the language of the country. When we decided to travel to Russia, not only did we face that possibility, but the added challenge of reading the Cyrillic alphabet, made it even more of a possibility.
A friend who had been to St. Petersburg had previously took a trip to Russia recommended Experience Russia. When we looked in to the tours, we found that there were a variety of tours to choose from. In the weeks prior to our visit, we were in regular email contact with Mila who would also be our guide. In our exchange of emails, she gave us many options for tours as well as the ability to customize them to our needs and desires. She also arranged transportation for us upon our arrival and departure to the city.
You should note that in Saint Petersburg there are weeks’ worth of sights to see, but many visitors only spend a few days as a stop on a cruise. We opted to fly there as a few days in port on a cruise ship, didn’t seem to offer us the amount of time we wanted to see and experience the city, especially during White Nights.
Regardless of whether you are on a cruise or visiting the city for an extended time, a certified guide is must to ensure you visit the best sites of the city as well to learn about the history and significance behind the sites.
Much to our surprise, we learned also from Mila that becoming a certified guide is no easy feat as it entails several days of rigorous exams about history and the various attractions. Each day of the tour, Mila who is fluent in English, Mandarin and Russian, met us at the hotel and went over the day’s itinerary as well providing us with an in-depth historical background of the day’s sights.
She also provided us with several options of restaurants for lunch which were friendly on the wallet. It quickly became evident that she not only loves what she does, but also is very experienced at it. She was a walking encyclopedia of Russian history and culture. Having grown up in the city of Saint Petersburg, she was also able to provide us with the insight of a native’s perspective on historical events and in answering our questions about life in Russia.
With each stop Mila ensured that we saw everything and that our endless list of questions and that any desired photo opportunities had been taken. When entering the various stops, we noticed that there were many waiting in long lines to enter at some of the stops, but unlike many of the others who had to wait in the elements, we breezed by and were able to take in more of the sights and sounds in St. Petersburg. (And there a seemingly infinite number to see.)
It was as if she had a sixth sense for navigating her way through the crowds. With a liking to also stray of the beaten path, we had expressed that were curious about the subway system having heard that several of the stations are almost palatial or museum-like. The Avtovo station, for example, complete with chandeliers marbled columns and ornamental glass, is listed as one of the twelve most beautiful subway stations in the world.
After seeing several of the elegant stations (imagine that- hearing ‘elegant’ in the same sentence as the word subway), we suggested there be a tour of just the stations as well as the history and artifacts that are contained in the them. In looking back at our delightful visit to St. Petersburg, we were delighted to have arranged our tour through Experience Russia.
Given the depth and experiences Mila afforded us, we truly did feel we “experienced Russia”. In addition to being able to customize a tour fit to our interests and desires, Mila, was very knowledgeable, friendly and dependable which made for our days spent touring to be thoroughly enjoyable and went flawlessly. To top it all off, it came at a price which was agreeable.
In visiting the various attractions and seeing several guides from other companies who did not seem to possess the same level of professionalism and knowledge as our guide, we were even more pleased with our choice to use this company and will not hesitate to use it again when our travels bring us back to Saint Petersburg.