The start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup is now just days away with Beyond Travel general manager of sales and marketing Bryce Crampton offering tips to those agents with clients heading away to watch the competition that starts on June 14.
The team at Beyond Travel are Russia experts with Crampton explaining the biggest hurdle to visiting the destination that once sat at the heart of the USSR is obtaining visas and those intending to travel must be officially invited to venture in.
"You need to be invited to visit Russia and while there’s generally a formal visa application process, although there are a few exceptions, it doesn’t have to be difficult,’’ the Russia aficionado notes.
"Beyond Travel makes this easy for agents by issuing visa invitation letters free with hotel bookings and we provide a guide to make the online application process as easy as possible.
"When a visa is issued it’s for the exact days of a client’s tour or the accommodation booking and officials are very strict about this so travellers need to be reminded it’s vital they don’t overstay the dates in the paperwork and depart when they should."
Bryce says that because signage often isn’t in English engaging the services of a local guide will help travellers negotiate the settlements they visit, buy tickets at famous museums and palaces that can be crowded, and return safely to the hotel.
"Agents should encourage clients with some flexibility in their dates to arrive in Moscow on a Friday or Saturday because hotels in the capital can be expensive – it’s a business city so mid-week rates are highest – with weekend prices often 25 per cent cheaper,’’ the Beyond Travel boss explains.
"Russia uses the Cyrillic alphabet, which looks very different to ours, so travellers should learn a few symbols as that makes it easier to recognise streets and subway stops as well as decoding menus and maps.
"Drinking Vodka in Russia is an art and a great way to break the ice with locals but it’s always ordered straight – ordering with mixers is just not done – and served cold, and almost always accompanied by snacks like salami or pickles.’’
He also has a few tips on the must-see attractions in Russia’s biggest cities for those Aussie supporters making detours to Moscow and St Petersburg between Australia’s pool-round matches against France, Denmark and Peru.
"Pre-book tours that call at the more famous highlights – in Moscow the Kremlin and Armory, which is home to royal jewels and a collection of Faberge eggs, and in St Petersburg the Hermitage and Catherine Palace – as tourist numbers are limited and tickets sell out fast,'' Crampton says.
"Another must-see destination in St Petersburg is the Peterhof, which is modelled on Versailles and sits on the Gulf of Finland, and we recommend travelling by hydrofoil from the centre of the city and meeting a guide in the lobby who buys the tickets before leading a private tour through the gardens and palace."
For more information on Beyond Travel’s Russia day trips, tours, transfers and accommodation options visit www.beyondtravel.com.au or phone 1300 363 554.