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A trip to Bolshoi theatre - help needed

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A soon to be 80 years old ballet lover would like to celebrate his big birthday by going on a trip of his lifetime to Moscow so his biggest wish of seeing a ballet in Bolshoi theatre can finally come true. 

Have any of the forum members been there? Where one should start? By getting the ballet tickets first and then appropriate flights and hotel? I quickly looked at Bolshoi tickets website and a random one in October was sold out mostly and a price of an “economy” ticket somewhere at the back was above 500 US$??!! That can’t be true? I’d appreciate any help. The birthday is in March so I think he’d like to go in April/May si the weather is nicer 

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It was such a long time ago when I went to Moscow that everything will have changed, but I do remember it was very cold in March, the paths were all covered with thick ice, I think April or May would be much better.

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I have been in May and the weather was really good. Warm enough to enjoy the river trip but not too hot to be walking around.

I would buy Bolshoi tickets online first (to be sure!), although I am not sure how far in advance the bookings open and there is always the need to balance that purchase against the desirability of finding flights at an affordable price.

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I was on the London Festival Ballet Friends trip in 1986 which was at the end of April/beginning of May.  It was COLD for the first few days and then the temperature really ratcheted up!

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You need to remember to look into visa requirements too, which can take some time.  Have you considered the Mariinsky?  Moscow is well worth visiting, but St Petersburg is more beautiful and has the added attraction of the Hermitage.  You should definitely buy ballet tickets before booking the rest of your travel.

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If you’re thinking about early May worth checking about the Victory Day parade (9th May) in Moscow - terrific fun  to be in the area when I lived there 15 years ago but I don’t know what restrictions it places on access and travel.

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Posted (edited)

I can't help with Bolshoi/Mariinsky tickets (I wanted to go when I went to Russia but as I went in Summer ironically I think they were over here!). 

 

What I will say is St Petersburg is worth a trip if you are travelling all that way (and going to the hassle of getting a visa). It's an overnight train (or I believe you can get a high speed train for 4 hours?) so certainly worth it for an extra few days of sightseeing. I found both cities to be very expensive though (we're talking London prices, if not more), but if it's a birthday 'blowout' trip then you're perhaps expecting this. 

 

Visas are a nightmare, it may have changed since I went but you have to come to London to give fingerprints, and you need to book hotels in advance to get a letter of invitation - or do what most do and go through a travel agency who do that side for you. I used Real Russia and found them to be a reputable company, super professional and reasonable pricing for the visa service. (I don't work for them I promise!). 

 

Depending on when ballet tickets are sale I wouldn't wait to book travel/accommodation to be honest - if you want the more reasonable/nicer places I think they do tend to go early. Saying that, I went during summer which is perhaps more peak season, but still depending on your budget it may pay to book some places, that you could always cancel/shift dates if ballet dates don't concur. You could probably book flights a bit later. 

 

If you have specific questions on Russia happy for you to give me a message - I'm no expert but I have been as an independent traveller (and most people I found do tend to go on tours) so I am happy to answer some questions if you want! 

Edited by JNC
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1 hour ago, maryrosesatonapin said:

Have you considered the Mariinsky?  Moscow is well worth visiting, but St Petersburg is more beautiful and has the added attraction of the Hermitage.

 

My loyalties lie with Moscow so I'm biased!

 

St Petersburg is better geared up for tourists and is indeed beautiful, but to me Moscow is more, well, Russian - really fascinating and with buildings of note from both the early Tsars to the Stalinist era (the Seven Sisters - Moscow State University particularly - are a striking part of the skyline). The Pushkin and Tretyakov museums are not to be sneezed at, either. (Repin's famous portrait of a dishevelled Mussorgsky at the latter is a personal favourite.)

 

Everyone will have their own preference though!

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If the dates fit then packaging it can take a lot of the visa hassles away and be cheaper. Sixteen years ago we found it was half the price to go with Jules Verne than independently although at just 30 then we were about half the age of everyone else! We did everything independently once in St Petersburg although there were tours if people wanted them - I think everyone else did. I wish we'd done both cities, but we just did St P which was glorious. Sadly I wasn't a ballet fan at the time so didn't even try for tickets. A big regret! It was April and very wet! 

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Happymum said:

A soon to be 80 years old ballet lover would like to celebrate his big birthday by going on a trip of his lifetime to Moscow so his biggest wish of seeing a ballet in Bolshoi theatre can finally come true. 

Have any of the forum members been there? Where one should start? By getting the ballet tickets first and then appropriate flights and hotel? I quickly looked at Bolshoi tickets website and a random one in October was sold out mostly and a price of an “economy” ticket somewhere at the back was above 500 US$??!! That can’t be true? I’d appreciate any help. The birthday is in March so I think he’d like to go in April/May si the weather is nicer 

 

In daydreaming moods I have sometimes checked out tickets at the Bolshoi and the cost decidedly woke me up from my dreaming --they really ARE that expensive. However different ballets may have different price points...Mariinsky is a bit cheaper, but if it is an 80-year old ballet-lover's dream to attend a performance at the Bolshoi theater, then that pretty much settles the priorities for Moscow and the Bolshoi. Likewise you can enjoy good ballet performances at the Stanislavsky theater nearby in Moscow and presumably cheaper--but the Bolshoi is the Bolshoi. Or almost.  That is, I'm sure it's part of your friend's wish to attend a performance in the "historic" Bolshoi theater rather than the smaller new Bolshoi theater they opened right by it; some Bolshoi performances are scheduled at the new theater. I have even read one fan who said she preferred the new theater for ballet because it isn't so huge and I would not be surprised if tickets there were cheaper, but obviously you will want to pick a week for your visit when at least some of the ballet performances are scheduled at the "historic" theater.

 

One other thing that you probably already know -- but just in case not -- is that the theater lists two ticket prices, one for locals and one for visitors from other countries. The latter price is much more expensive and my understanding is that if you try, say, to get a Russian acquaintance to buy  the locally priced ticket and use it yourself when you aren't a local (uh...not that anyone reading this post would do that) you will not be allowed in. Also, I think there are some new regulations in place, probably meant to cut down on a huge scalping problem: I am not sure what they are exactly--I sometimes put Russian articles through Google translate which is a pretty imperfect way of making sense of them--but rules along the lines of having with you the credit card you used to purchase the tickets or some such. I could be wrong, but you will want to read carefully what the website says about such things.

 

I think this is wonderful birthday idea and hope you can make it happen!

Edited by DrewCo
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... smaller new Bolshoi theater ...

 

The "New Stage" (rather than "new Bolshoi theatre") is located in the old historical building vis-a-vis.

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Might this be an occasion when using one of the small companies who will organise a bespoke tour for you, would be helpful? I get emails from a couple of such companies- I wouldn't want to advertise them here but could message you if you don't know who I mean, Happymum.

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Mary - I’m inclined to agree. Unless things have changed for the better recently, independent travel to Moscow is not straightforward: when my family came to visit leaned on some Russian-speaking colleagues for help; and I know that others concluded it was easier for their families to visit on organised tours. (The ballet tickets were the easy bit - but I knew the ropes and was on the spot, and prices were of a different order to today’s.)

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I've been to both cities for the ballet and I agree with others here who favour St Petersburg as a city.  It's partly that it is just smaller, so more relaxing and it is more beautiful. I also personally think the Mariinsky theatre has more of a sense of history than the restored Bolshoi (called the Historic Stage on the Bolshoi website). I find Moscow like London price wise but St Petersburg more reasonable. You don't need to book a hotel to get a letter of invitation for the visa, you can just get the letter from an agency online. As for the tickets, make sure you are booking direct on the official theatre website and not through an agency: top price tickets on the Historic Stage (for productions like Swan Lake) are 15,000 roubles which is about £190, for productions on the "New Stage" for example Onegin or La Sylphide top price is 5000 roubles. https://www.bolshoi.ru/en/ 

 

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Thank you all for the reply. I think he has his heart set on Bolshoi, Moscow. He used to restore historical buildings so I guess the building it self is almost as important as the ballet performance! 

It all sounds complicated, especially the visa so (as he tends to worry a lot!) I think using a travel company is the best idea. 

Can anyone recommend one? Not sure if it’s allowed... pm me please 

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I have used Travel for the Arts with success in other parts of the world, Happymum.

 

Good luck.

 

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If you can find a travel company that doesn't end up prohibitively expensive then that's a great idea but I just want to say that it isn't all that bad going independently. You can get a letter of invite dowloaded in 5 min from the internet (it costs 9 pounds but means you can do it without having to decide on accomodation) and if you fill in the visa form correctly you are in and out of the Visa office in less than  30 minutes usually. We have stayed in Airbnb's in moscow every time (around 4 times a year for the last 2 years and also in St P for a few years with similar frequency) and have found them all lovely, reliable and economic and also means you dont have to eat out all 3 meals a day which can end up being a bit wearing. There are lots of local grocery shops so not hard to buy food. It's also really worth having an uber app on your phone as you can then travel by uber cab which is super cheap (if you think metro will be a bit daunting). Otherwise buy a metro card and top it up like oyster is less stressful than buying single trips. I am a really nervous traveller but last time I travelled to Moscow alone and found it fine. But appreciate all of the above requires some travel savvy and may be too stressful for an elderly relative. Please do pm me if you want DSs contact details when you go- I am sure he would be happy to be an emergency point of contact. .. any questions do ask ...

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It's probably better than it used to be, especially in Moscow, but unless you can speak a little Russian and can read cyrillic, I think it would be slightly difficult to be on your own.  I can do both and some years ago stayed, via an organisation called Room With The Russians, with a Russian family in St Petersburg.  It was fine.  Negotiating the metro would also be easier if you can  read cyrillic.  My visits were long before the era of uber and airbnb!  If you are at all worried, I would definitely go with a tour from which you could break away if you wanted to.

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I myself plan to travel to Russia this autumn (late November) and will apply for the visa in a few days. The only thing I ordered  until now were tickets to Bolshoi ( just one day performance), still more than 2 months ahead and there are only quite expensive or restricted view tickets left. I also plan to go to StPete and luckily Mariinsky and Mikhailovsky look more promising! 

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Talking about weather. Russian- or pan-Siberia weather is quite interesting.

 

Spring is almost non-exist or just one week. One week ago you still have your fur coat and then suddenly lads walk outside topless... 

 

But in general, Moscow or St P are not really that bad and cold. 

 

The most annoying time is when the snow is melting. But in the city it is much better.

 

If age over 80, maybe some WWII sites also worthy a try. 

 

I have not personally been in Moscow, but talked with many Asia friends who had visited there. It is slightly more difficult than visiting UK or Germany where English scene is everywhere. But not "that" difficult as long as you do the homework ahead. The young generation speaks English a lot and hire a local guide maybe also useful.

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I travel independently to Moscow several times a year, and do not find it difficult.  My Russian speaking is quite limited, but I do read Cyrillic.

The Bolshoi Theatre puts tickets on sale roughly 3 months before the performance.  Under the system initiated last season to solve the scalping problem, buyers purchasing during the first two weeks the performance is on sale are required to submit passport details, and a certificate, rather than the ticket itself, is issued, which must then be exchanged by the purchaser, who is asked to present passport and credit card, at one of the theatre's box offices, for the ticket.  It's an extra step, but not very cumbersome.  

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