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Author Topic: Advice for first-timers  (Read 7189 times)

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Offline groovlstk

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Advice for first-timers
« on: February 06, 2006, 11:44:55 AM »
I think that we can provide a very valuable service for men who are making their first or second trip to FSU countries by offering a basic checklist on logistics and trip preparation. 

For example, on my first trip I got lost on my first night in Dnepropetrovsk. I had the address of my apartment written on a piece of paper but it was in English. I approached a taxi driver but he couldn't read the address. Another board member (Stoichman, I think) recommended printing out your apartment/hotel address in Cyrillic and carrying it in your wallet, just for this sort of emergency.

Based on my experience, I can recommend the following to all men making their first trip:

--As noted above, print out your apartment/hotel address in Cyrillic and carry it in your wallet in case you get lost.

--Make sure you have a photocopy of your passport on your person at all times. If you're passport is stolen, having a copy will expedite replacement.

--Bring along a list of important phone #s (family, your credit card issuing banks, etc.)

--In general, an apartment is a better alternative than a hotel. You'll save some $, and if the apartment has a washer you can do your own laundry. Most importantly, many hotels in FSU countries won't allow you to take a girl to your room unless you're paying a rate for a double.

--Bring along one of the tiny keychain flashlights available in sporting goods stores or online. There's a good chance that if you're staying in an apartment the lighting outside the building and in the interior corridors will be inadequate (or nonexistent!)

--When at all possible, have a local person negotiate taxi fares for you.

--If you have trouble sleeping on planes, tug on your doc's sleeve and ask for some Ambien. You'll awake refreshed and without the hangoverish feeling you get from over-the-counter sleep aids.

--If you don't have an MP3 player, you can pick up a cheap model for less than $100. Add a pair of portable speakers and you'll always have your fave music available. I can't stand techno and most cafes in Russia and Ukraine play loud techno music.

--Invest in an unlocked mobile phone and bring it along.

I'm sure many others out there can add to this list!

 

 

Offline latstaley

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Advice for first-timers
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2006, 12:18:30 PM »
I'm with you on the techno music. I can't stand that crap. Question on the mobile phones, will our phones work over there or should we invest in a disposable one once we get over there?

Offline docetae

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« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2006, 02:47:46 PM »
You will need a GSM multi bands (quad I believe).
Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes Oscar Wilde

Offline al-c

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« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2006, 04:34:52 PM »
May I add something to the list, or should I say add a caveat to something already on the list?

The first time I went to Russia, I brought my MP3 player, and it showed up on their security X-ray as a small box with wires and a battery.  Needless to say, airport security officials became concerned over what this strange box might be.  It took me about ten minutes to explain to them that it was an MP3 player, but only after three security guys did a very thorough inspection.

The following year I took my laptop computer, which I used to play my music, so I left my MP3 player home.  The laptop was easily recognizable by airport security as such, so things went much smoother.

Don't have a laptop?  May I suggest a portable CD player?  It is not as compact as an MP3, but it gets through airport security a lot easier.

 

Offline RussianGal

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« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2006, 04:59:42 PM »
Here are my $0.02:

1) Bring power-converter adapter if you have some devices which need electricity. In FSU its 220V, 50Hz AC. Sockets require a continental or European plug with two round pins.

2) Try to get a map of the city you are going to and study it beforehand.

3) Find out if there are ATMs where you go to or if you need to bring cash instead.

4) Bring comfortable shoes because whether you want it or not you`ll be walking a lot!
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Offline wendaaaal

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« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2006, 05:42:16 PM »
Great tips groov! I especially agree about the flashlight. And, yes apartments are definately the way to go. A few apartment tips for first timers-

1. Locks, locks, and more locks. Every apartment has multiple layers of locks between the street and your flat. You'll be faced with combination locks, keys of all shapes and sizes, some locks turn clockwise to open, some just the opposite. No matter how tired you are on arrival, make absolutely sure you know how they all work before your landlord, interpreter, or girlfriend leave you alone. Locking yourself out when it's -20 in a land where you don't speak much of the language isn't a great way to start your adventure!

2. Make sure you know how all appliances work, especially the hot water heater. The gas ones can be a bit tricky, they call them "calunkas". That's the sound they make as you light them. With any luck, you didn't burn your eyebrows off the first time you light one.

3. Check for landmarks when you leave the flat for the first time. Many of the buildings will appear identical, right down to the entrances. Don't expect helpful markings on the outside with your flat number. If the markings were ever there, they faded around the time of Brezhnev's death. Count how many entrances you are from the end of the building, and take a walk around the entire building your first day. Soon you will recognize your neighborhood babushki and know you're home, but it's all very confusing at first.

4. If you're in a highrise (not my preference), view elevators with caution. They usually work, but sometimes you might come to prefer the stairs.

Just a few ideas from my travels, whatever you do, enjoy the trip!
Wendell in Austin



Offline Albert

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« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2006, 06:39:59 PM »
For a sleep aid, Lunesta is a newer drug that is superior to Ambien.

Offline TwoBitBandit

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« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2006, 09:16:09 PM »
Here's my advice, for what it's worth.

Learn Russian.

I speak Russian well enough to have a conversation with anyone on just about any topic if they are patient enough.

I've gone all over Ukraine and Russia alone.  I buy my own train and airplane tickets.  I negotiate my own cab fares.  I can read the menus in restaurants.  I've *never* used an interpreter, even once.  I've negotiated my way out of lots of strange situations.

95% of you will ignore me.

The other 5% and I know what the rest of you are missing out on.

Offline 525i

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« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2006, 10:25:39 AM »
If you have GPS, bring it with you and set waypoints at the hotel, at her place, etc. I did have it with me, but I did not need it. Well, if I ever go to the same places again, I will find the places on my own. I could check do I need a taxi or could I walk.

Offline al-c

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« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2006, 10:49:01 AM »
[user=266]525i[/user] wrote:
Quote
If you have GPS, bring it with you and set waypoints at the hotel, at her place, etc. I did have it with me, but I did not need it. Well, if I ever go to the same places again, I will find the places on my own. I could check do I need a taxi or could I walk.
Not a good idea.  There have been cases of Americans using GPS equpment in Russia arrested and charged with espionage.

 
Quote from: RussianGal
Here are my $0.02:

1) Bring power-converter adapter if you have some devices which need electricity. In FSU its 220V, 50Hz AC. Sockets require a continental or European plug with two round pins.

2) Try to get a map of the city you are going to and study it beforehand.

3) Find out if there are ATMs where you go to or if you need to bring cash instead.

4) Bring comfortable shoes because whether you want it or not you`ll be walking a lot!

Excellent advice, especially the power convertor.  Some hotels have 110 power but most do not.

Also if you have a laptop, get a 220 50 hz power pack for that and don't depend on the general use convertor.  The general use convertor cannot handle the load of the laptop and will burn out.  I know because I fried 2 of them last year in Novisibirsk trying to run my laptop.

As for the ATM, use the one in the hotel.  There have been cases of identity theft from ATM usage in town, run by unknown groups.

 
« Last Edit: February 07, 2006, 10:53:00 AM by al-c »

Offline ielocal

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« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2006, 11:11:45 AM »
Quote from: groovlstk
 1. Locks, locks, and more locks. Every apartment has multiple layers of locks between the street and your flat. You'll be faced with combination locks, keys of all shapes and sizes, some locks turn clockwise to open, some just the opposite. No matter how tired you are on arrival, make absolutely sure you know how they all work before your landlord, interpreter, or girlfriend leave you alone. Locking yourself out when it's -20 in a land where you don't speak much of the language isn't a great way to start your adventure!


 

Also make sure that you know how to work the combination lock at the entrance to the building. On my first day of my first visit I was locked out until someone came along that entered the building...not a great way to start a great first trip.

Also regarding the flashlight, be sure to carry it with you when you leave. The first building I stayed in one of the elevator cabs didn't work well (well I didn't know how to work it well) and after stopping at my floor the door didn't open, then after 10 seconds the light turned off. I needed the flashlight to see the buttons to figure out how to get out. :shock: Now, I put it on the keyring with the door keys as soon as I arrive.

-ielocal

Offline Oosik

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« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2006, 11:34:10 AM »
CALL YOUR BANK FIRST!
Make sure they know you will be overseas, so they don't block your atm card

Don't get into a shady elevator unless you use it with a local first. Getting trapped in a telephone booth sized elevator in a dark, dingy, gothic looking building is not cool.

Learn what the typical wage is in the local area. Spend like a local, not like a rich guy.

Find a grocery store, magazine (russian for convenience store) or supermarket and get your share of groceries first. Having food in the apartment saves time and money, and you can see how far local wages go. Salami, cheese and bread are good staples to keep in the house, and no insult to ask a lady if she would like some if you don't feel like going out just yet.

Get a cell-phone set up immediately.

Walk as much as possible, unless you are in a hurry. You can see a lot this way, and find oodles of shops and cafes. You can also get an idea of what "average" people look like in the town.

Offline latstaley

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« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2006, 12:43:36 PM »
Quote from: Oosik

Find a grocery store, magazine (russian for convenience store) or supermarket and get your share of groceries first. Having food in the apartment saves time and money, and you can see how far local wages go. Salami, cheese and bread are good staples to keep in the house, and no insult to ask a lady if she would like some if you don't feel like going out just yet.


 

I take it asking a woman to come up to your place to sample your Salami has a different meaning overseas than it does here. :D

Offline Leslie

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« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2006, 01:46:15 PM »
Hello TwoBit

How are things going?  Of course you are right -

"Learn Russian."

Also learn to act and date like a good Russian/Ukrainian guy.

All the beginners assume that "home rules" apply. 

When in fact they don't !
« Last Edit: February 07, 2006, 01:46:00 PM by Leslie »

Offline START2

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« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2006, 06:59:22 PM »
The power converter is great. I take mine everytime. It runs my electric shaver , video cam etc. Radio Shack has them for about $25. Get the kind that has 3 different plugs. The one with the 2 round prongs work in Ukr/Ru. It's about 2"X 4".  Yes, a small mag light is a must, and also a pocket dictionary.

Offline TwoBitBandit

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« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2006, 12:59:14 AM »
Make sure you take $100 bills that are in good condition.  They won't exchange bills that are missing corners, have writing on either side or that are too warn.

I usually ask my bank to pull out twice as many $100 bills as I need and give them the more-worn half of them.  So, if I want to take $3000, I ask for $6000 and then give them back $3000.
« Last Edit: February 08, 2006, 12:59:00 AM by TwoBitBandit »

Offline KyivTrip

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« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2006, 03:57:03 AM »
I took pictures of my passport, visa, and plane tickets with my digital camera and keep copies in my e-mail. Took me about 5 minutes.

David

Offline Turboguy

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« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2006, 11:03:46 AM »
Two bit bandit is right about the money but I think he understates it a little.  Even a very fine crease mark where a bill has been folded will cause it to be rejected.  It needs to be a fairly current series.  They won't take the old bills with the small faces.   I shuffle money around for a month before I go.   I cash my paycheck and ask for big bills and shove the old ones in my wallet and set the nice new ones aside for my trip.   Sometimes it takes me $ 3,000 to get $ 1,000 that I can take.  I usually go with about 3 grand so you can see that it takes some effort.

Offline catzenmouse

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« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2006, 11:06:15 AM »
I ask the bank ahead of time for new $100s in whatever amount I need. They usually have to order them but it worked out just fine.

Ken
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Offline Oosik

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« Reply #19 on: February 08, 2006, 11:22:54 AM »
Why that much cash? ATM's work fine for getting local money. Cash to pay agency costs, long taxi rides (like to/from airport or to her town) is good, but after that why not just use ATM's, assuming that you let your bank know where you are going first.

Offline catzenmouse

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« Reply #20 on: February 08, 2006, 11:30:03 AM »
I took $1000 cash and used credit/debit for anything else I needed. Yes, I informed my bank and CC companies that I would be in Russia.

Ken
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Offline Bruce

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« Reply #21 on: February 08, 2006, 12:39:38 PM »
Excellent advice above. 

One thing which should be obvious, but actually is too obvious is to look on the internet about the weather forecast for the city you are visiting.   Dress appropriately.  Think about dress for a worst case scenario.  Moscow region is always colder then I expect.   Last summer was particularly cold.  Its amazing how cold Moscow can be in the summer.    A few summers back I was in Kiev, end of July beginning of August - I was amazed how hot it was.   Take home message is to plan accordingly for the weather - dress conservatively but comfortably and PLAN YOUR PACKING carefully well in advance.   I usually end up taking too much clothes, which means I planned poorly.  Make sure you pack your walking shoes. 

If you have medication plan and pack your medication with extra in the event of lost luggage or mishap. 

Reading material to take with you is a given.  You may have more time than you expect on a poorly planned trip or a trip which becomes a disaster (has happened to the best of them, so do not fret if it does).  If things do become a disaster the walking shoes come in handy and also keep the reading material to a minimum. 

Think about taking a copy of your vaccination history and or medical records if appropriate. 

Make sure your fiances are in order, your house is well attended to, your loved ones have access in the event of an emergency etc.

Get a frequent flyer number if you do not have one already.  Chances are you will be flying back to that part of the world.  Most guys do not do a one shot deal.  If they "fail" they like it enough to go again and if they "get lucky" they end up going back anyway.  So many guys start frequent flyer miles after they already have enough trips to earn a free one.

Its been mentioned above but get your finances back home as well as with you over in the FSU in order.  If you carry the crisp $100 know how to keep them crisp and where to stash them so you will not end up a victim. 

Plan your ideal trip well in advance.  Plan your disaster contingencies well in advance as well. 

Language has been beat to death above, but if you have a hard time with the language, and just can not learn it properly, as most of us can not, then get the translation contingency working for you well before you get there - with backups. 

Know how you will be meeting women well in advance of your trip and have contingencies in the event that goes wrong - so often does...........................:)

 

 
"A word is dead when it is said, some say.  I say it just begins to live that day."  Emily Dickinson

Offline catzenmouse

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« Reply #22 on: February 08, 2006, 01:03:18 PM »
Quote from: Bruce
Excellent advice Bruce! 
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Offline Rvrwind

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« Reply #23 on: February 08, 2006, 01:06:14 PM »
Quote
One thing which should be obvious, but actually is too obvious is to look on the internet about the weather forecast for the city you are visiting.   Dress appropriately.  Think about dress for a worst case scenario.  Moscow region is always colder then I expect.

LMFAO, Bruce you still kill me buddy. If it drops below +20 & most Americans seem to think its cold. I'm sweatin' & runnin' around in a muscle shirt in September & you guys are wearing Parka's. TOOO Funny!!!:D:D

You think it was cold when I saw you this summer you should be here now, LMAO. It was -28C when Valya left for work this morning & -21C around 2pm, as I write this it is a balmy -22C. I ain't wearing no muscle shirt in this, but still sweat in that big assed parka that Valya bought me.

You are right in that guys should be wary of the weather conditions. My friend Howard who is from California freezes his butt off no matter what time of year he visits. Think CANADA & dress for the weather!!! LMAO:D:):D:noidea:

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Offline ConnerVT

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« Reply #24 on: February 08, 2006, 01:26:01 PM »
Quote from: Rvrwind
Think CANADA & dress for the weather!!! LMAO:D:):D:noidea:

You mean we need to dress like these guys?



 

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