Are you dreaming of a mid-winter getaway? Looking to indulge your caviar tastes on a Buffalo Blue Cheese Combos flavored budget? Want to visit a banya where you can be sure the branch-beating part of the experience is authentic? Thinking hypothermia would add a little excitement to your trip? Consider hopping a plane to Russia, ASAP.
With the ruble having lost roughly half its value recently, Russia is becoming a hot, albeit frosty, destination for deal seekers. "The ruble is devaluing at a crazy pace," said Gwen Kozlowski, general manager of Exeter International in Tampa, Fla. "For fast, savvy travelers, there are deals to be had." Those deals are predicated on the fact that the ruble has tumbled this year. Where it traded as high as 32 to the dollar a year ago, it hit a low of 74 three weeks ago before strengthening to 63 in early January. For products and services priced in rubles — restaurants, tour guides, museum admissions — that translates into savings of 50 percent or more for penny-pinching visitors...Moscow, meanwhile, is undergoing a culinary boom and the ruble's collapse means you can experience it without going bust. Although based in in St. Petersburg, Elena Kachevskaya of the Express to Russia tour company recommends the iconic Café Pushkin, where you can enjoy dinner for two without drinks for less than $150 versus almost $300 last summer, or the year-old Restaurant Ugolyok, where you can get in and out for $30 or so.
"If you really want to get a feeling of what Russia is like, go in winter; you'll meet more Russian people and see fewer tourists," said Paul May, head of sales and marketing for Express to Russia. "It might be cold outside but if you bundle up, you'll have a good time."