Hey, Google, did you get my text message? -- It's bound to happen: The day you leave your guidebook back at the hotel for an unencumbered stroll through Red Square, you'll forget the address of the lunch spot you had earmarked. If you're traveling with a mobile device, send a text message to tel. 46645 (GOOGL) for a lightning-fast response. For instance, type "carnegie deli new york" and within 10 seconds you'll receive a text message with the address and phone number. This nifty trick works in a range of search categories: Look up weather ("weather St. Petersburg"), language translations ("translate goodbye in russian"), currency conversions ("10 usd in rubles"), movie times ("harry potter 60605"), and more. If your search results are off, be more specific ("the abbey gay bar west hollywood"). For more tips and search options, see www.google.com/intl/en_us/mobile/sms/. Regular text message charges apply.
Surfing the "Ru-net" Before You Go
Soviet programmers created their own interactive "Web" back in the 1980s, and today's Runet (roo-net), as the Russian-language Internet world calls itself, is as vibrant as any online community. More and more Russian sites have English-language pages, and below are a few worth checking out before you go. The sometimes clumsy translations are compensated for by the information and guidance. And, of course, don't forget www.frommers.com, especially the advice from other travelers on the Russia destination forum.
- www.hermitagemuseum.org: Official site of Hermitage Museum, good for planning your visit to the museum ahead of time.
- www.rusmuseum.ru: Site of St. Petersburg's Russian Museum, a good introduction to Russian art.
- www.tretyakov.ru: Site of Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery, another good introduction to Russian art.
- www.kremlin.ru/eng: Official Kremlin website, with history of the Kremlin complex itself and excerpts from former President Vladimir Putin's daily schedule.
- www.themoscowtimes.com: Site of English-language daily newspaper The Moscow Times. News, weather, exchange rates, entertainment, and restaurant listings.
- www.sptimes.ru: Site of English-language semiweekly paper The St. Petersburg Times.
- www.cdi.org/russia/johnson/default.cfm: Johnson's Russia List is a compilation of articles and commentary about Russia from the English-language and Russian press, updated daily.
- www.exile.ru: Best known for its extensive, audacious listings on Moscow nightlife and for its caustic, often X-rated commentary on Russian society.
- www.ru: Calls itself the "original Russian Web directory." Information-packed and searchable in English, but rather unwieldy.
- www.infoservices.com: The Travelers' Yellow Pages for Moscow and St. Petersburg, with searchable telephone and address listings in English, including nearest metro station and opening hours. Not comprehensive but useful.
- www.waytorussia.net: Company offering advice and listings, aimed at expatriates in Russia but useful for tourists, too.
- www.expat.ru: Forum for English-speaking expats, mostly in Moscow.
- www.cheap-moscow.com: Irreverent site with tips on how to live in Moscow on little money.
- www.eng.menu.ru: Moscow restaurant reviews and listings, most but not all in English.
- www.moscow-life.com/map: Site of the City Guide, an English-Russian quarterly available at St. Petersburg hotels and restaurants.
- www.aeroflot.ru/eng: Site of Russian airline Aeroflot, with schedules and fares.
- www.transaero.ru/english: Site of airline Transaero.
- http://eng.pulkovo.ru: Site of St. Petersburg's Pulkovo International Airport, with updated flight information.
- www.sheremetevo-airport.ru: Site of Moscow's Sheremetevo International Airport.
- www.russianembassy.org: Site of Russian Embassy in the United States, with visa applications and information and links to embassies and consulates in other countries.
- www.myrussianvisa.com: U.S. company that arranges invitations for travelers not with a group.
- www.visatorussia.com: Can issue invitations for travelers from nearly any country in the world. (Note: Fees for visa invitations -- sometimes called "visa support" -- are in addition to the fees you must pay the embassy for the visa itself.)
- www.infoservices.com/moscow/map/index.html: Maps of Moscow neighborhoods and sights.
- www.infoservices.com/stpete/map/index.html: Maps of St. Petersburg neighborhoods and sights.
- www.petersburgcity.com/map: Interactive maps of Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.