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Tag: decisions decisions

Choosing the route to Russia

Right this way.
(I can’t find a proper attribution for this image but I wish I could because I looooove it.)

You wouldn’t think choosing a route through Europe would be such a palaver, but oddly enough, the very start of this trip is the thing I’ve been having real trouble deciding on.

I’m currently stacking up a list of places and things I want to include in Russia, Mongolia and China – and there’s PLENTY to stack up. And once I get to southeast Asia I’m just going to kind of thaw out from nearly 2 months in the frozen Northern hemisphere and go wherever my whims take me (which will be mostly amazing beaches interspersed with epic wanders around cities whilst stuffing myself with amazing street food). But getting to St Petersburg is one of those things I realised today that I need to stop overexamining all my options for and just buy into one. I think I’ve finally bullied myself into doing it (with a little encouragement from Kristina to be fair).

Here’s what I was trying to chose from:

Via Belarus

Pros: No problems with getting trains all the way through. Also the most direct way.
Cons: You need a transit visa just to pass THROUGH Belarus on the train. That’s £42. And if you want to stick around and look at some stuff, you need a tourist visa (£90) and an approved hotel booking. MEH.

I’d SO much rather go a less-direct route and spend that visa money on seeing another city. So I never really loved the idea of this route.

Via the Baltic states

Pros: Get to see Lithuania, Latvia, and possibly Estonia. Avoids Belarus visa malarkey.
Cons: There aren’t trains running all the way through because of all sorts of rail work. And now the direct overnight train from Vilnius to St Petersburg is being discontinued.

This was originally my preferred route. It takes a bit longer, but I was keen to see Riga, Vilnius and Talinn. And any smaller places in between that some of the coach replacement services would have dropped me in. But then that train to St Petersburg got scrapped, which makes this a kind of nightmarish route to choose in terms of planning and saving any kind of time or money. And it would be a whole lot of buses. Which also: Meh.

Via Scandinavia

Pros: I LOVE SCANDINAVIA. This would take me through Helsinki as well, which would mean I’d probably get to see Carolina and Johanna again which would be awesome! Trains most of the way, plus one ferry. Avoids Belarus.
Cons: A bit pricier. And I’ve been to most of the places I’d be hitting already. And not strictly doing the whole way there on a train.

The thing that bothers me about this route is the fact that I’m giving up the Taking The Train All The Way thing. I know that would have been the case with the Baltic states, but it somehow seemed more legit because the buses were only necessary as the rail route was in a state of being worked on. So. I’ve just been trying to decide how important the train thing is to me. For months now.

Via Ukraine

Pros: Avoids Belarus. All on trains. Get to see Kiev.
Cons: Ehhh. I’m not sure going through Ukraine in the current political climate is the best plan.

I’d love to see a bit of Ukraine, and the gov.uk advice on Kiev isn’t as scary as the advice on Crimea and some other areas (‘leave now’). But I’d also be crossing the Ukraine/Russia border, which: inadvisable, it seems.

 

That being said, Russia itself is not exactly in the rosiest light at the moment. I’m not super worried about this, nor does the UK government seem to be, in terms of general travel advice for the majority of the country anyway. But it’s been an underlying concern throughout my planning. (More on this in a later post, for sure.) Hopefully things get better rather than worse. I imagine they’ll do a lot of staying the same though.

It’s been looking for a while like Scandinavia is the answer. I should just suck it up over the ferry thing. I’d be going all the way to Stockholm by train, then getting a quick boat to Finland, and back on the train from there.

I’ve taken part of this trip before. When I was backpacking I did Copenhagen to Stockholm and then Stockholm back to Hamburg on the train. They accidentally put me in first class on the Copenhagen to Stockholm leg, and on the way back I remember meeting loads of lovely people on the train. It’s not a bad decision.

Plus: Denmark, Sweden and Finland in winter (or anytime)? SWOON.

So that’s that. DECISION. BOOM.

Paris: Less money or less hurry?

I’m going to London in February for bridesmaid dress acquisition, and I’ve been planning to use it as an excuse to go to Paris as well. Originally, I was going to get the train down and use some air miles for a Eurostar ticket. (I reeeeeally want to go on the Eurostar!)

Then I saw that I’ve already missed out on super cheap train tickets to London and if I do it by train, I’d spend way more on transport than if I used my miles to fly, because I can get a flight to Paris with a stopover in London on the way home for 9000 miles and £35.

The main problem with this is that I would SO much rather take the train. But I can’t justify spending nearly 3 times as much for the privilege.  Not this time anyway.

So I may be resigned to the flights. And now I’m trying to decide if I should just go for a more full-blown holiday in Paris as well.

Initially I was going to spend three nights in the cheapest hostel I could find and just wander around for two days. Now I’m wondering if 5 nights in someone’s lovely little airbnb’d flat is a much better idea. It will cost much more, but A: I’ve never done airbnb before (exciting!), and B: if I do 2 full days in Paris and one full day in London, I’ll be spending an equal number of days doing the actual traveling between them all.

On a train, that might be ok, but three days in airports, especially when one of them is effing Charles de Gaulle (my least favourite, thus far, in the world), does not a relaxing time make. And saving money is an important goal here, but so is meaningful travel.

And an excuse to sit at a different cafe every morning drinking coffee in no hurry to go anywhere at all.

And food.

So.

I don’t want to go to Paris just to tick it off. I want to do it properly.

Sometimes I feel like I think too much about these decisions when I should just go for things a little more impulsively. But we’ll see how I feel about the price tag of this plan in the morning. (Be sensible, Kate, you just paid off your credit card!)

In the meantime, any Paris-related suggestions greatly appreciated.