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Russia - Getting There


   In theory, it's not very hard to get around Russia. Aeroflot, Transaero and dozens of "baby flots" have an ambitious flight network covering the country. For those looking for cheaper transport, trains serve just about every sizeable city, while buses and boats fill in the cracks.    Traveling in Russia gets complicated when you leave the beaten path.
   All roads, rails and runways lead to Moscow, and if you're traveling to or from the capital, it's possible to have a straightforward journey. But if you're headed in an unorthodox direction you may find yourself waiting a couple days for a plane or schlepping hundreds of kilometers in a beat-up old bus.   One strategy for avoiding problems is hiring a tourist agency to plan things for you. The only problem with hiring somebody is that you never quite know what you're getting into.  
     Moscow and St. Petersburg are served by most major European carriers, a handful of Asian carriers, and Delta. Lufthansa has flights from Germany to several other Russian destinations including Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Samara and Perm. British Airways flies five times a week to St. Petersburg from London's Gatwick Airport.
   For internal flights you'll have to travel on a Russian airline.    Aeroflot and Transaero are Russia's most respected carriers. Both fly Western planes on many routes and are building alliances with Western airlines. Smaller baby flots are generally less reliable. Regardless of whom you fly with, Russian airlines tend to have habits (canceling your ticket if you don't confirm, for example) that Western carriers couldn't get away with.   
   Maybe because Russia has so many two-bit airlines, it has thousands of two-bit airline ticket agencies. In Moscow and St. Petersburg, their penetration levels rival obem valuti, and they're not hard to find in most provincial cities.   It's possible to rent a car in Moscow and St. Petersburg, but driving a car often proves
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difficult. Especially in the capital, bizarre traffic patterns (left turns are rare) and bad driving habits (nobody bothers with lanes) creates huge traffic jams and makes driving a challenge for the untested.  Several rental services offer pick-up or drop-off at Sheremetyevo-2.   If you don't want to drive, many firms offer cars rented with a driver, sometimes even at reasonable prices. In provincial areas drivers can be hired at bus stations and train stations for a pittance.

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