The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, 10 nights' accommodations, sightseeing tours, overnight-train tickets, and tickets to the Kirov Ballet, the Moscow Circus, and the Kiev Opera House, from $1,599 per person — plus an estimated $595 in taxes.
When: April 30, 2008; add $300 for May 1-May 15; $500 for May 16-June 10, Aug. 16-Sept. 15; $900 for June 11-Aug. 15. Note that as of press time, we were assured it was still possible to make a booking for the April 30 departure.
Gateways: New York City; add $200 for D.C., $275 for Chicago, $500 for Denver; additional cities available. Taxes and airlines may vary depending on your departure city.
The fine print: Additional airport taxes, departure tax, fuel surcharges, local tax, and a September 11 fee are $595 per person. Hotel taxes and three breakfasts are included. A visa will be necessary for travel; you can get one through the tour operator for $195. For more Russian visa advice, see our article. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $695. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: Eastern Tours, 800/339-6967, traveltorussia.com.
Why it's a deal: The package will take you through St. Petersburg, Moscow, and then Kiev. A recent Kayak search for a multicity round-trip fare (from New York City to St. Petersburg and then back from Kiev) yielded a $913 flight. For an additional $1,281, the 10-night tour will include not only the international airfare, but also train transportation from city to city; tickets to the ballet, opera, and circus; three breakfasts; sightseeing tours; and 10 nights' accommodations. You also get the convenience of having virtually all your trip details arranged in one step.
Trip details: The 10-night Three Capital Tour will take you to European-feeling St. Petersburg, chaotic Moscow, and Kiev, on the banks of the Dnieper, with overnight train rides, guided sightseeing tours (by minibus), and time left over to explore on your own.
After arriving in St. Petersburg on Finnair, Lufthansa, or Aeroflot, you'll check in to the centrally located Best Western Hotel Neptun for a three-night stay. The hotel, besides the basic amenities, has bowling and billiards, and it's close to the Russian Museum and the Alexander Nevsky Lavra Monastery.
The next morning brings a three-hour city tour and a visit to the overwhelming State Hermitage Museum, a series of five gold-encrusted buildings that house nearly 3 million works of art — from Michelangelo's Crouching Boy to Dance, Henri Matisse's 1909 masterpiece, to 322 portraits of notable Russians. The evening will treat you to a performance by the Kirov Ballet.
You'll have a day to explore St. Petersburg on your own, and then you'll catch an overnight train to Moscow (you'll sleep in a private compartment for four with blankets and pillows). Upon arrival, you'll set out on a sightseeing tour to introduce you to the city; highlights include the Kremlin and Moscow's many famous cathedrals.
After checking in to the Vega Izmaylovo, your base for two nights, you'll spend the evening enjoying the Moscow Circus. You'll have the entirety of the next day to explore the city on your own. The 1,000-room hotel was built for the 1980 Olympics; it houses five restaurants, shops, a sauna, and a nightclub.
Another overnight train trip will take you to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. After breakfast and another sightseeing tour, tour Sophia Cathedral, one of the best-known landmarks in the city. That evening, enjoy a performance at the Kiev Opera House. Accommodations for two nights are provided at the 16-story Hotel Slavutich, where you can relax at the restaurant, bar, or casino. You'll also have another day without plans to spend seeing Kiev before returning to the U.S.
You can add on nights in any city for an average of $200-$240 a night, though you'll pay a fee for arriving before or after the group (call for details).
The valid travel dates for this package include Russia's high season, May and June, when temperatures are typically in the 60s and 70s, perfect for touring.
For more tips on what to do, visit Russia's official tourism site and see the U.S. State Department's Russia travel fact sheet. You can find the latest exchange rate, the weather forecast, and the local time at .