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Northern Europe & Baltics Aarhus, Bergen, Copenhagen, Gdansk, Greenland, Helsinki, Oslo, Riga, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, Tallinn

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  #1  
Old April 10th, 2012, 11:10 AM
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Default How do you pay for your tour??

I was reading a Carnival Splendor Review from St Petersburg 2008. This is what one lady had to say about Alla Tours...

One thing to note about our private excursion. We each paid in full on the second day and were offered the option of $340 in cash or by credit card. Alla came on the bus before our tour to get our money. What those of us that opted for credit cards didn't realize was that she was going to take the $340 and convert it back to rubles and charge that to our card. Of course she gave us a rather crudy exchange rate when she did it (exchange rate was 22.3 that day and she used 24.5) so we will end up paying more for our tour...especially if the rate is even worse when it posts. So learn from my mistake and pay cash if you can.

This sorta concerns me as their website now says they no longer take cash. Has anyone else had this sort of problem. I find this a bit underhanded.

How do those of you who have recently taken tours in Berlin or Russia paid for your tours and how are some of you planning to pay?? Curious as "credit cards is the way to go" is what I have read everywhere... but now I wonder.
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  #2  
Old April 10th, 2012, 11:52 AM
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Originally Posted by CupKayke View Post
I was reading a Carnival Splendor Review from St Petersburg 2008. This is what one lady had to say about Alla Tours...

One thing to note about our private excursion. We each paid in full on the second day and were offered the option of $340 in cash or by credit card. Alla came on the bus before our tour to get our money. What those of us that opted for credit cards didn't realize was that she was going to take the $340 and convert it back to rubles and charge that to our card. Of course she gave us a rather crudy exchange rate when she did it (exchange rate was 22.3 that day and she used 24.5) so we will end up paying more for our tour...especially if the rate is even worse when it posts. So learn from my mistake and pay cash if you can.

This sorta concerns me as their website now says they no longer take cash. Has anyone else had this sort of problem. I find this a bit underhanded.

How do those of you who have recently taken tours in Berlin or Russia paid for your tours and how are some of you planning to pay?? Curious as "credit cards is the way to go" is what I have read everywhere... but now I wonder.
It sounds like she was either charging the bank rate or the rate had changed to me. In other words the poster may have been aware of the 'actual' rate that the central bank charges but the bank rate is always a smidge higher. As well, there is a time difference in Russia. We are using her next year and I did question her in this regard as I have a banking background. I do not have concerns in this regard. it's a shame that the op of this thread did not report what the final charge was to the credit card. That would have clarified things very quickly. The ruble changes often. since that is the currency of the country - the exchange will have to be charged in rubles - it could end up being less if it's value drops when the charge is placed or a smidge more. There is really no control over that.

Personally, I'm not concerned to use my credit card.
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Old April 10th, 2012, 01:59 PM
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We are booked with Alla for June and have discussed payment with them, we are paying cash in new $ bills, they are happy with this and so are we, we are taking some rubbles with us for the tip for the coach driver which will also pay for ice creams, toilets etc.
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Old April 10th, 2012, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Goldiedog View Post
We are booked with Alla for June and have discussed payment with them, we are paying cash in new $ bills, they are happy with this and so are we, we are taking some rubbles with us for the tip for the coach driver which will also pay for ice creams, toilets etc.
I am happy to hear Alla Tours will take cash again. I did read on an old thread where they took cash ~ "crispy"~ bills only ...but their current website says no cash. I would be fine with using them if they took cash so this is good to know as you are the second poster to say they said okay to cash. We will probably be using cash (Euros/Pounds/Dollars whatever they required) for any tour on our future Baltic cruise.
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  #5  
Old April 10th, 2012, 04:19 PM
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Default Alla response back then...

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Originally Posted by kazu View Post
It sounds like she was either charging the bank rate or the rate had changed to me. In other words the poster may have been aware of the 'actual' rate that the central bank charges but the bank rate is always a smidge higher. As well, there is a time difference in Russia. We are using her next year and I did question her in this regard as I have a banking background. I do not have concerns in this regard. it's a shame that the op of this thread did not report what the final charge was to the credit card. That would have clarified things very quickly. The ruble changes often. since that is the currency of the country - the exchange will have to be charged in rubles - it could end up being less if it's value drops when the charge is placed or a smidge more. There is really no control over that.

Personally, I'm not concerned to use my credit card.
I don't claim to be an expert in exchange rates as I usually just Google for the daily rate however, here is the reply the poster gave when asked about it on that thread...

Per Alla...

When you use a credit card, the exchange rate is set by the Russian Central Bank (or whatever) and the true international exchange rate is irrelevant. She had explained all this to me when I booked on the "public" vs a private tour.

Anyway, this may matter none to some but I think I would tend to be cautious and use cash... but to each his own.
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  #6  
Old April 10th, 2012, 05:24 PM
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we used a credit card with Alla last summer (2011).

I wouldn't say she "took" the money and charged it back to rubles, but it was processed as rubles. End of it all, at conversion, was about $5 US dollars difference - I actually think it was $5 less than what we were expecting to pay.

Not something of concern, especially when you consider that it was on day 2 - after we had a full 1 day tour - a tour that was well worth every penny.
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Old April 10th, 2012, 07:20 PM
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When I took Alla's tour in 2007, I paid cash. No problems there. She just asked for the bills to be crisp, new bills.

This August, I'm back to St. Petersburg again and taking a tour through SPB Tours and Viktoria has already told us that our payment will be due at the end of the tour, either in cash or credit. However, she has stated that if we pay credit it will be charged in Rubles (so then that means whatever the bank rate is that day) and they will charge an extra 3% handling fee for the credit (separate from what your own credit card may charge). I don't want to have to deal with bank conversion to Rubles or the extra 3% being charged, so I will be paying with cash
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Old April 11th, 2012, 07:28 AM
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Can't wait!! Thanks for sharing your experience with them. I was wondering if we should get some Rubles, but based on your info we'll wait and see.
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Old April 13th, 2012, 11:32 AM
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For those of you who have paid in cash for your tours, did you used larger or smaller denomination bills?
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Old April 13th, 2012, 04:19 PM
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For those of you who have paid in cash for your tours, did you used larger or smaller denomination bills?
I used large denominations, $100s, $50s and $20s

But, I took small bills with me $1s, $5s and $10s and was able to use those to haggle with street merchants selling all sorts of Russian souvenirs.
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Old April 13th, 2012, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by jstducky View Post
I used large denominations, $100s, $50s and $20s

But, I took small bills with me $1s, $5s and $10s and was able to use those to haggle with street merchants selling all sorts of Russian souvenirs.
Ditto..I had the exact amount (less the 5% discount for paying in cash) in an envelope to pay for our private tour...and made sure all my US$ I used were in good condition...
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Old April 14th, 2012, 12:28 AM
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I am using Alla so after I saw your comment about them not taking cash I contacted them and the answer I got was:

we accept credit cards - Visa and Master (NOT Amex, please) as well as cash - US Dollars, Euro, UK pounds, - whatever is convenient for you.
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Old April 14th, 2012, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by jstducky View Post
When I took Alla's tour in 2007, I paid cash. No problems there. She just asked for the bills to be crisp, new bills.

This August, I'm back to St. Petersburg again and taking a tour through SPB Tours and Viktoria has already told us that our payment will be due at the end of the tour, either in cash or credit. However, she has stated that if we pay credit it will be charged in Rubles (so then that means whatever the bank rate is that day) and they will charge an extra 3% handling fee for the credit (separate from what your own credit card may charge). I don't want to have to deal with bank conversion to Rubles or the extra 3% being charged, so I will be paying with cash
The last time we went we paid cash (to Denrus); new bills, etc. No problem with that.

We're going again this summer, with a different tour guide. It's a custom tour, so we're paying $366 per person, plus a 3% fee if we choose to use a credit card. That 3% comes to $21.96 for the two of us, which I consider a small price to pay for (a) the convenience of not taking so much cash, (b) the need to keep the cash unfolded and new-looking, (c) insurance against losing the cash (whether by my own negligence, a pickpocket, or whatever. Plus I'll get mileage points when using the credit card.

Yes, the card will be charged in rubles at the current government rate, and I'll check that a day or two before we leave the USA to make sure it hasn't shifted unfavorably (if it has, I'll probably take cash).

It's certainly a choice between paying in cash or paying by credit card, but when I actually worked the numbers the cost vs convenience factor was decisive for me.
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Old April 14th, 2012, 06:11 PM
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The last time we went we paid cash (to Denrus); new bills, etc. No problem with that.

We're going again this summer, with a different tour guide. It's a custom tour, so we're paying $366 per person, plus a 3% fee if we choose to use a credit card. That 3% comes to $21.96 for the two of us, which I consider a small price to pay for (a) the convenience of not taking so much cash, (b) the need to keep the cash unfolded and new-looking, (c) insurance against losing the cash (whether by my own negligence, a pickpocket, or whatever. Plus I'll get mileage points when using the credit card.

Yes, the card will be charged in rubles at the current government rate, and I'll check that a day or two before we leave the USA to make sure it hasn't shifted unfavorably (if it has, I'll probably take cash).

It's certainly a choice between paying in cash or paying by credit card, but when I actually worked the numbers the cost vs convenience factor was decisive for me.
I guess each person has to choose their priorities as to what is most important to them.

I understand what you're saying about 3% being such a small amount to pay for the convenience and not having to worry about paying in cash.

For me, I've never had problems carrying cash for any cruise I've been on (knock on wood). And I don't really worry about losing it as it'll go straight into the safe when I get on the ship.

When I look at an extra $23 for the convenience of paying with credit card, I see one week's worth of groceries for me most weeks. But then, I'm one of those crazy (my husband would say frugal) people that refuses to pay interest charges, bank charges, late fees, pay for most items at full price, etc.

I completely understand where you're coming from though. And yes, getting miles or rewards or what not off the credit card is enticing. I guess everyone needs to decide what is most important to them. That's the great thing about these boards, you can get a bunch of differnet opnions or ways of doing the same thing and you can decide what's best for you.
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Old April 14th, 2012, 06:29 PM
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I guess each person has to choose their priorities as to what is most important to them.

I understand what you're saying about 3% being such a small amount to pay for the convenience and not having to worry about paying in cash.

For me, I've never had problems carrying cash for any cruise I've been on (knock on wood). And I don't really worry about losing it as it'll go straight into the safe when I get on the ship.

When I look at an extra $23 for the convenience of paying with credit card, I see one week's worth of groceries for me most weeks. But then, I'm one of those crazy (my husband would say frugal) people that refuses to pay interest charges, bank charges, late fees, pay for most items at full price, etc.

I completely understand where you're coming from though. And yes, getting miles or rewards or what not off the credit card is enticing. I guess everyone needs to decide what is most important to them. That's the great thing about these boards, you can get a bunch of differnet opnions or ways of doing the same thing and you can decide what's best for you.
I admire you for avoiding these extra charges; it's hard to do these days without a lot of self-discipline. I don't worry a lot about losing the cash, but ever since my pocket was picked in Jerusalem I've been much more concerned about it.

But as you say, each of us has to decide what's most important for us individually. The choices and information you get on these boards is really amazing, whether it's about the $22 or choosing the tour company we'll use in St. Petersburg or anything else. I guess I'm lucky to be in a position where $22 isn't that big a thing to me, but I know there are people who save for years to take a cruise like this, and $22 becomes a major expense. And it's not just whether the $22 is affordable, as you say; it's a choice.

Of course, I economize in other areas. Instead of staying in a hotel in the UK before our trip, we're staying in a B&B. It's generally less expensive, and my wife and prefer the atmosphere of a B&B. But others like the amenities of a hotel, at whatever price point.

I'm glad we can discuss this on the boards here, not only for you and me, but for the lurkers who've been trying to make up their minds which way to go.

Thanks for the counterpoint.
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Old April 14th, 2012, 07:34 PM
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I admire you for avoiding these extra charges; it's hard to do these days without a lot of self-discipline. I don't worry a lot about losing the cash, but ever since my pocket was picked in Jerusalem I've been much more concerned about it.

But as you say, each of us has to decide what's most important for us individually. The choices and information you get on these boards is really amazing, whether it's about the $22 or choosing the tour company we'll use in St. Petersburg or anything else. I guess I'm lucky to be in a position where $22 isn't that big a thing to me, but I know there are people who save for years to take a cruise like this, and $22 becomes a major expense. And it's not just whether the $22 is affordable, as you say; it's a choice.

Of course, I economize in other areas. Instead of staying in a hotel in the UK before our trip, we're staying in a B&B. It's generally less expensive, and my wife and prefer the atmosphere of a B&B. But others like the amenities of a hotel, at whatever price point.

I'm glad we can discuss this on the boards here, not only for you and me, but for the lurkers who've been trying to make up their minds which way to go.

Thanks for the counterpoint.
Don't forget to notify your credit card company (which should be done anyway for any international travel to any foreign country) that you will be using it in Russia. Russia is on the high risk list and your card may be blocked if you use it there without notifying your card issuer.
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Old April 14th, 2012, 08:05 PM
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Don't forget to notify your credit card company (which should be done anyway for any international travel to any foreign country) that you will be using it in Russia. Russia is on the high risk list and your card may be blocked if you use it there without notifying your card issuer.
Right. Actually, it's a good idea to notify your credit card company any time you go out of the country (even to Canada).

And I was also advised by my cell phone carrier to notify them also when going out of the country.
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Old May 7th, 2012, 07:49 PM
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We are booked with Alla for June and have discussed payment with them, we are paying cash in new $ bills, they are happy with this and so are we, we are taking some rubbles with us for the tip for the coach driver which will also pay for ice creams, toilets etc.
Where are you getting your Rubles from ??
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Old May 8th, 2012, 03:14 PM
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We are using Alla Tours in July and this is the written information on their website about payment:

"Payment
We do not require any deposits for St Petersburg tours. Payment in full should be made on the morning of the second day of your tour.
Payment could be made the following ways:
1. We accept credit cards: Visa and Master. Other types of credit cards are not accepted. We will charge the sum of payment for the tour from your credit card in rubles. The currency exchange rate will be based on the one stated by the State Russian Bank on the day of payment but no less than 30 Russian rubles for 1$.
We do not put any bank surcharge on the top of the tour price!
2. Payment could be made in Euro, rubles, Uk pounds or USA dollar cash. Please be aware we won't be able to accept foreign currency (euro, UK pounds or US dollar bills) in bad condition: bills should be clean (have no writings, stamps of any kind), crispy and new (have no slightest defects/damages). It is the requirement of our banks and we must follow their rules. If this requirement is failed, the bank commission of such bills will be 10% off their value. This commission is paid by the clients."

Of course, if your credit card charges a fee, that will be on top of this.
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Old May 11th, 2012, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by cruiserdru View Post
We are using Alla Tours in July and this is the written information on their website about payment:

"Payment
We do not require any deposits for St Petersburg tours. Payment in full should be made on the morning of the second day of your tour.
Payment could be made the following ways:
1. We accept credit cards: Visa and Master. Other types of credit cards are not accepted. We will charge the sum of payment for the tour from your credit card in rubles. The currency exchange rate will be based on the one stated by the State Russian Bank on the day of payment but no less than 30 Russian rubles for 1$.
We do not put any bank surcharge on the top of the tour price!
2. Payment could be made in Euro, rubles, Uk pounds or USA dollar cash. Please be aware we won't be able to accept foreign currency (euro, UK pounds or US dollar bills) in bad condition: bills should be clean (have no writings, stamps of any kind), crispy and new (have no slightest defects/damages). It is the requirement of our banks and we must follow their rules. If this requirement is failed, the bank commission of such bills will be 10% off their value. This commission is paid by the clients."

Of course, if your credit card charges a fee, that will be on top of this.
We are using Alla tours in June.
Our credit card does not charge these transaction fees. Most banks offer this type of card.
We bought ballet tickets directly from the Mariinsky website. Our bank statement showed the cost of the tickets but no transaction fees. I checked the conversion rate when I booked. Our charges are about $5 less in our favor. We are very ok with it.
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