I was in Vladivostok, April 1-3, ’06. I booked my trip with Lucky Tours Co., Ltd. (1, Moskovskaya St., Vladivostok 690106, Russia; phone/fax +7 [4232] 44-99-44 or visit www.luckytour.com). For visa permit documents, airport transfers, a single room at the Hyundai Hotel and an evening city tour, and excluding meals, I paid $556.

Lucky Tours performed excellently, and the hotel was very nice, with good food but expensive drinks. I won 500 rubles in the casino, but since they paid out in 5-ruble coins I put it all back in the machines. (One ruble is about 3½¢.)

Lucky Tours could have purchased my airline tickets, but it was cheaper for me to get them here in the States from Korean Air. A round trip from Inchon, Korea, to Vladivostok cost $1,068. If I had stayed longer, I could have gotten a reduced rate, but they did not tell me that until after I had all my other airline routings finished.
Vladivostok Air also flies from Japan, I believe, but their information was difficult to obtain and I could not purchase tickets either by telephone or Internet, so I went with Korean Air. Korean Air does not fly every day, so scheduling can be difficult in the off-season.

The website of the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok (http://vladivostok.usconsulate.gov/wwwhacsrusvisa.html) says, “There are only a few local travel agencies that are authorized to sponsor tourists. Most travel agencies cooperating with U.S. firms are registered and located only in Moscow. When an individual arrives in Vladivostok with a tourist visa sponsored by a Moscow travel agency, there is no local sponsor capable of taking responsibility for the traveler and meeting the requirements of Russian law. The bearer of such a visa may be subject to immediate deportation and/or a fine and expedited departure at the discretion of the Russian authorities.”

There were a lot of guards checking papers all over Vladivostok. We saw two roadblocks on the city tour. The only place on my trip that had tighter security was Saigon, where I was in transit for three hours. They not only wanted to verify my next flight, they wanted to see all the airline tickets for the rest of my trip, even though they were locked in my suitcase.

Sequim, WA