Ask Harriet: Traveling like locals in Russia

When I'm traveling in a new place, I love to get around like the locals. And this feedback from Janet Maclaren of New Bern, N.C., shows that I'm not the only one! It's great that our Russia Revealed Program Directors are helping travelers do just the same thing.

The Metro was … amazing, with the central stations being huge and artistic monuments. Some concourses had chandeliers, mosaics and sculptures. One even has marble from the original Cathedral of Christ the Redeemer. My friend and I even managed to use the metro on our own, with a map and our very few Russian words. We had initially been shown by Igor how to use it, where to buy the tickets and how much to pay.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me and other Grand Circle Cruise Line travelers, Janet. I loved hearing what you had to say, especially because Alan and I are patrons of the arts. I hear time and time again that the artwork literally below travelers' feet in the Moscow Metro is one of the most delightful surprises on their trip. (One of the rare examples of the vestiges of communism—when the government sponsored such art—that left a positive legacy.)

As for the trains themselves, a ride in Russia, in most other European countries for that matter, puts into perspective how much more efficient public transportation is overseas. It’s part of the real-life experiences that we like to provide at Grand Circle, and I’m so glad that our top-rated Program Director Igor Litvin was so helpful. Born and raised in St. Petersburg, PDs like Igor make it easy to show you how the locals live. But part of traveling is learning by doing, so I was really pleased to see that you and your friend took Igor’s language and transportation tutorial and ran with it. (Or, chugged along with it, so to speak.) What a great example for other travelers!

Ask Harriet

Six of one, a half-dozen of the other. All fine when you’re talking about apples or eggs, but what about when the River Cruise you want to sail on goes in two directions depending on departure date? Every now and then we get questions like this, and at times it can be more apples to oranges—which is why we had an associate in our Moscow regional office weigh in.

Q: I am interested in Russia Revealed. Which direction is better—Moscow to St. Petersburg, or St. Petersburg to Moscow? Also, July or August? Thanks for your help.

—Florence Myers, 11-time traveler

A: Regional associate Alexander Kiryutin, suggests reserving a departure that coincides with weekends in St. Petersburg. Like many older cities featuring many canals, traffic can be a bit hectic there on weekdays, Alex said. Moscow traffic isn’t as problematic because that city is more modern, he said.

As for which month to travel, Alex suggests late July and the beginning of August, although that is just a loose guideline. July tends to be warmer, but there’s a greater likelihood of rain in August, he said. For more of what to expect in terms of weather patterns, consult the Regional Climate Information portion of the Russia Revealed Travel Handbook, available by clicking here. But those details are a loose guideline. As we all know with weather, as with traveling, it’s best to expect the unexpected—and pack a raincoat, sweater, and sunblock.

Do you have questions for me about trips you’re taking or vacations you would like to go on with Grand Circle Cruise Line? Please email me at I look forward to sharing what you have to say!