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St. Petersburg really Small Group Tour


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We just organized a private tour for three. We are not doing a standard tour since two of us have been to St. Petersburg before. I think I contacted 7 different companies. All of them were willing to accommodate the itinerary we chose. The prices varied with the lowest to highest having a $300 pp difference. We decided to go with TJ Travel.

Excellent choice, TJT has excellent reviews. You won't be disappointed.

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I did a two-day tour of SPB with TJ Travel last spring was very impressed. We had 10 people on a small bus with a tour guide that crammed in so much sightseeing and continually sharing history, information on sights, etc. She was willing to make adjustments to her schedule to accommodate us. I would highly recommend TJ!

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Looks great - thanks!

I hope that you choose a cruise that offers 3 days in St. Petersburg - that is the maximum one can stay without a visa on a cruise ship visit - you will get to see so much more over 3 days rather than one or two days. And yes, I agree - there is so much to see that choosing one's priorities is a difficult task. For example, it took me several trips to St. Petersburg to finally visit all of the palaces at Peterhof, the coach collection at Catherine Palace & Staraya Derevnya restoration & storage center. After my first visit via cruise, I went ahead and secured a visa - I am now on my 2nd 3 year visa and am planning a return visit this fall. ☺ I am fascinated by Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

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Looks great - thanks!

I hope that you choose a cruise that offers 3 days in St. Petersburg - that is the maximum one can stay without a visa on a cruise ship visit - you will get to see so much more over 3 days rather than one or two days. And yes, I agree - there is so much to see that choosing one's priorities is a difficult task. For example, it took me several trips to St. Petersburg to finally visit all of the palaces at Peterhof, the coach collection at Catherine Palace & Staraya Derevnya restoration & storage center. After my first visit via cruise, I went ahead and secured a visa - I am now on my 2nd 3 year visa and am planning a return visit this fall. ☺ I am fascinated by Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

 

 

 

We are coming on a cruise but are thinking of getting individual visas. Looks like SPB is easy to get around on foot or via public transport. Only puzzle is how to get from the ship to downtown. Suggestions? Thank you!

 

 

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We are coming on a cruise but are thinking of getting individual visas. Looks like SPB is easy to get around on foot or via public transport. Only puzzle is how to get from the ship to downtown. Suggestions? Thank you!

 

 

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1) taxi (would not be my choice as most drivers don't speak English & are fond of overcharging tourists)

2) Bus 158 from terminal (the bus goes around to all the port terminals) to Primorskaya metro station.

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We are coming on a cruise but are thinking of getting individual visas. Looks like SPB is easy to get around on foot or via public transport. Only puzzle is how to get from the ship to downtown. Suggestions? Thank you!

 

 

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If you are a US citizen then money wise paying for the Visa is almost the same cost as the 12 person 2 day group tour

 

We met Canadian citizens who had their own Visa (when we went Canadian Visa much cheaper not certain if still true) who had a very difficult time finding transportation back to the ship. They actually saw a mini van with crew members and begged them to take them back.

 

Finally all the signage is in Russian. They don’t even use the same alphabet. And the average citizen is not bilingual in English.

 

 

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Granted, I went 12 years ago so things might’ve changed, but we went thru Red October with another couple. It was just the 4 of us, our guide and our driver. We couldn’t get smaller than that of a group! Best experience ever and we were able to customize our tour along the way. Definitely worth the money!

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Last August, we booked the "Happy Tour" with BestGuides. It was a 2 day tour that was in an air-conditioned mini-bus with wiFi with a max of 12 people. It turned out we only had 7: my 3 and a terrific family of 4. Our guide was great and she made sure we saw not only what was on the itinerary, but we had some time, so we stopped at the Russian version of Walmart to buy some cool stuff to bring home, like chocolates and Russian Oreos.

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  • 1 year later...
43 minutes ago, Eartha Kitten said:

Closing the loop , albeit months later, we ultimately arranged for an exceptional and quite affordable private tour for our party of four with Dancing Bear tours.  I recommend them highly. 

Thank you for your recommendation. We'll be using Dancing Bears next summer for our group of 4. We planned a wonderful custom itinerary for the 3 full days we will be there. The communication with Julia has been excellent and I was able to get an early bird discount by booking last October. Her price was less than the big name companies often mentioned on cc. 

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We were a group of 6 and had two days in St. Petersburg with Princess Cruises.  From experience and reviews, we already knew that the waiting lines are just crazy long and you waste a lot of time waiting. I don't like waiting 🙂 [Click and drag to move]   Prior to getting there, we made sure we did a lot of research on the private tour agencies and what they offered, as well as their reviews. We came across Anastasia Travel,  https://anastasia.travel/ which apparently not only does tours in St. Petersburg but Tallinn, Warnemunde, Copenhagen. We didn't know about that, so you can check them out for those ports too.

They did a great job and organized our whole itinerary, starting from restaurant reservations,  booking ballet performances, to guiding us to almost all St.Petersburg's highlights. The best thing about the whole experience was that our guide was able to get us to the front of the lines because we were a small group. Our tour guide, Victoria was really knowledgeable and professional. For each tourist site, she had interesting facts and very detailed too, that really helped make our tours more memorable. I highly recommend them because they are very reliable and made our 2 days in St. Petersburg so enjoyable. I wish I knew about this agency on our trips to Warnemunde, Tallinn, Helsinki, and Copenhagen. Hope this helps. Have fun!

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On 11/28/2017 at 9:53 PM, fabnfortysomething said:

Alla tends to be one of those who does 16 seater vans

 

others run smaller groups

In fact you could do a tour with just 2 of you but obviously will cost more

 

If you ask for a private tour rather than a company who fills on a seat by seat basis then you will have more control on group size

The onus will be on you to fill the van but most people attract tour mates from their roll call

 

several years ago we used Anastasia for just our group of 3

next year we have booked TJ tours for a 6 seater van

we have 5 in our party already from our roll call

I'll have to endorse this. I used Anastasia Travels on my last Baltic Cruise and it was a delightful experience. It made the process seamless for me. You might want to consider.

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3 hours ago, Brantjudith said:

I'll have to endorse this. I used Anastasia Travels on my last Baltic Cruise and it was a delightful experience. It made the process seamless for me. You might want to consider.

we did in fact have a great tour with TJ Tours last July

we have now used and enjoyed private tours with 2 companies in St Petersburg-Anastasia and TJ tours

 

after we [eventually] got through Immigration we saw a sea of private tour guides holding up placards

 

largest tour operators appeared to be SPB and Tj

 

however I noted several other companies such as Anastasia Best Guides Alla and one for Dancing Bears which has had a couple of reviews recently

 

It appears the ships excursions have cause to protect their overpriced and overcrowded coach trips as there is a ot of competition amongst the private tour operators 

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The half dozen tour companies, most popular here, are all excellent and reliable.  I would not use any small, unpopular tour companies, due to the newness of it.  They may be fantastic, but why take a chance?  You can go to Trip Advisor to check on a company.

Edited by TravelingAPor
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8 hours ago, Brantjudith said:

I'll have to endorse this. I used Anastasia Travels on my last Baltic Cruise and it was a delightful experience. It made the process seamless for me. You might want to consider.

Yeah, as I mentioned above, Anastasia Travel gave us a memorable experience and I believe they take groups up to 8 people, which is not bad at all, compared to 16 (unless you are a big family and group of friends). It is less crowded and the guide can pay more attention to each one in the group.

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On ‎2‎/‎25‎/‎2019 at 8:09 AM, fabnfortysomething said:

we did in fact have a great tour with TJ Tours last July

we have now used and enjoyed private tours with 2 companies in St Petersburg-Anastasia and TJ tours

 

after we [eventually] got through Immigration we saw a sea of private tour guides holding up placards

 

largest tour operators appeared to be SPB and Tj

 

however I noted several other companies such as Anastasia Best Guides Alla and one for Dancing Bears which has had a couple of reviews recently

 

It appears the ships excursions have cause to protect their overpriced and overcrowded coach trips as there is a ot of competition amongst the private tour operators 

We have heard a few folks say that the best cruise ship excursion is not nearly as good as a private tour when it comes to St Petersburg.  Consider that the cruise ship excursions usually involve large bus groups (about 60) where private tours can be any size...but are often no more then 10-15.  The small number is a plus in many ways.  We have done St Petersburg on our own (we had personal Visas) and also with TJ Tours.  Our experience with TJ was simply amazing!  We had a group of 10 (organized by TJ Tours from separate bookings from our ship) and were transported a a near new Mercedes 20 Passenger van with our English speaking guide and driver who also spoke some English.   Other friends on our cruise used Alla and also loved their two day tour.

 

One huge advantage of our small group was when it came to lunch on our 2nd day.  We were on Nevsky Prospekt and looked at a few restaurant cafes.  Our tour guide then asked us to take a quick vote where we wanted to eat...which took a few seconds.  Once in the café restaurant,  everyone was on their own (not stuck at large tables with a group) and our guide made a few visits to every table in case we had any questions about the menu.  It turned out that they had a multi-language menu, accepted credit cards, and several of the wait staff spoke excellent English (they were mostly College Students working summer jobs).

 

Hank

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12 hours ago, cansas.piligrim said:

Frankly speaking small groups (less than 15 pax) are typical for new and/or small tour operators. They just don't have enough bookings to form a group of 15-16 people. At the same time reliable tour operators with good reputation  easily form a group of 15-16 people.
Of course it's for you to choose a tour operator. You can risk and book with a new company and get a great tour. From another side you can book with a very reliable company and turned over to be in a group of 6-8 people and to get almost an individual tour at the price of a group. Any way it is a lottery - you can hit a jackpot or not.
I personally prefer not to risk and stay with one of the key players in this market: Alla, Best Guides, Spb tours or TJ.

 

Agree

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Red Sun is a well established company with excellent reviews.  Hardly a risk.  We considered them before finally opting for Dancing Bear.  One needn't always go with the top 4 to have a wonderful time,  It's whatever floats your boatl. 

 

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  • 1 year later...

We had a tour with Red Sun Tours.
My wife had a hip replacement and we elected to go on a private tour to do sightseeing at our own pace. 

We were very happy with the tour, enjoyed every minute. Our guide had so great knowledge. We were really impressed.  

Our driver was very kind and accommodating.  
It was like to meet friends.

We plan to visit St. Petersburg again in near future. 
 

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There is a great choice for tour operators and it's very convenient that you can always find reviews on TA or here. As I've been already several times in St. Petersburg and seen most prominent sights, I wish to know something special about the city, so attention to details and personal approach are facilities I'm looking for. Big companies as it was mentioned above are reliable but due to a large flow of touris they may sometimes be a bit of impersonal

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I love really small, private group tours, something with a maximum of 10 persons in a group. I enjoy the tour better and I feel like I am fully immersed in the tour. It might be on the more expensive side but it's a better experience over all. 

 

I stumbled upon this video and I thought it might be helpful to anyone who's undecided on what to choose and book:

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wow, I'm just back to this forum (thinking of yet another Northern European cruise), and I'm noticing a lot of older threads are getting bumped! I'll post a link to this thread that's currently stickied to the top of this forum:

https://boards.cruisecritic.com/topic/2696545-master-thread-of-st-petersburg-advice-and-recommendations-from-cruisers-whove-been/

that contains a lot of advice posted at the end of last season (and since).

 

I've done both the 15-16 person tour (with SPB) and the personalized custom tour (with Red Sun Tours), and I'd obviously give the edge to the personalized custom tour if you can budget for it. But both were enjoyable and well-run.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 6/24/2020 at 2:10 AM, flowslow said:

I love really small, private group tours, something with a maximum of 10 persons in a group. I enjoy the tour better and I feel like I am fully immersed in the tour. It might be on the more expensive side but it's a better experience over all. 

 

I stumbled upon this video and I thought it might be helpful to anyone who's undecided on what to choose and book:

 

 

This is Anastasia from Anastasia Travel. We booked our St.Petersburg 2-day full excursion with them and we highly recommend getting yourself in a group of no more than 8! Ours turned out to be exactly what we wanted, something that is hard to get when booking tours anywhere really. We prefer booking our own tours rather than with the cruise line, and since St.Petersburg we learned that a small group is the way to go.

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What's with the flurry of posting advertisements for Anastasia? See post #49 - exactly the same video as posted in #51 above.

BTW ... due to Covid 19, Russia's borders are currently closed.

Edited by dogs4fun
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