The situation with tourism is difficult now. But still, trips – and, accordingly, the need to stop somewhere – are not paused yet. In this article, we will tell you how to book a hotel in Russia without Booking, what you should pay attention to on analogue services, and how to find (and pay for) accommodation abroad.
What happens to the services?
< p>As you already know, the main online services for finding and booking accommodation Booking and Airbnb have stopped working in Russia. This means that Russian users do not see accommodation options in their own country. For the rest of the world, these systems are still valid for everyone, including Russians, and without a VPN.
But there is another problem: Russian Visa, Mastercard or Mir bank cards are not suitable for paying on foreign sites. We will tell you about how to book a hotel abroad after leaving Booking in the last sections.
What about current bookings?
If you had valid bookings at the time the sites were blocked, try to negotiate with the landlord or hotel administrator about paying on the spot. Another option is to ask friends or relatives with foreign cards for help. For them, payments in Booking and Airbnb go smoothly.
Where can I book hotels and apartments for trips around Russia now?
While Booking does not work in Russia, alternative services are entering the arena. Some of them are quite functional – with an extensive database of objects, real photos and fresh reviews. Others are not so modern, beautiful and developed, but “native”. They are not threatened by blocking, and all types of cards are available: Mir, Visa and Mastercard.
So, Russian tourism is not supported by Booking alone. 10 domestic sites rush to help him, including:
- and hotel search engines (for example, Bronevik),
- and search engine aggregators like Yandex.Travel.
The armored car is a service nostalgia for the Soviet past: the “News” tab is called “Izvestia”, informational articles begin with the appeal “Comrades!” and even the title sounds like something out of a black-and-white film about drummers. By the way, Izvestia is worth a look, there you will find fresh discounts, promotions and other goodies both from the site and from hotels. There is an interactive map of restrictions in the regions (hello covid!).
After clicking the “Find” button in the hotel search bar, we return to our days. The interface is familiar and most similar to Booking: there are filters by price, star rating, services, a map, current descriptions and photos of hotels. Bronevik is a direct supplier of hotels, so you can book a room right there. It is possible to choose payment upon check-in or on the site.
And most importantly: the prices for hotels in Russia on Bronevik are really lower than from competitors.
You can’t do without a couple of fly in the ointment:
- The site offers hotels only in Russia and the CIS countries, and mostly these are hotels – there are still few apartments and guest houses. But give the guys time, they're working on it!
- Although the service was launched already in 2008, there are catastrophically few reviews on hotels, so there is virtually no rating system. You will have to look for the impressions of real tourists about the rest in another place (as an option – on Yandex.Maps or Google.Maps).
- Bronevik does not connect to aggregators, so you won’t see his offers there. You need to open the site in the next tab and check the cost.
Ostrovok.ru is another old man among domestic booking services, which has its finest hour in 2022. It often loses to Bronevik in prices, but here's what it definitely wins:
- The functionality of parameters when choosing hotels is many times wider
- There is a larger base of hotels + there are apartments, guest houses, individual cottages , campsites and other options
- The site works not only in Russia and the CIS, but also looks for hotels and apartments abroad; according to their official information, 220 countries of the world are available
- Since the service is Russian, it accepts Russian cards for payment with any payment system – visa, mastercard, and the world! So far, this is the only way to book and immediately pay for a hotel abroad.
- Reviews are generated from TripAdvisor, you can read them directly on the hotel page without going to a third-party site, thanks to which an estimated rating is formed
< li>You can download a free app to your phone (Bronevik doesn't have one)
And now about the sad: reviews about the service are a pain. Hotels will have the lowest and most attractive price with a non-refundable rate: you pay for the room now, but in case of transfer or cancellation of the reservation, the money will not be returned to you. Or hefty fines. As tourists write, it is difficult to achieve loyalty from technical support, here they have a minus in karma.
Another common problem is that reservations through Ostrovok simply do not reach hotels, you need to call the hotel directly and clarify. And if they don’t see your order, then be patient and persevering and run to support the service again. We hope you will not have such difficulties, but just in case, be prepared.
The most simplified service: on the search page, only a map and a list of hotels are issued, nothing more. You can set the price range and ranking by popularity, rating, cost, the rest of the filters huddle in the drop-down tab under the “Find” button. Looking for accommodation in Russia and abroad and immediately offers to pick up tickets for a plane, train or bus.
Unlike Bronevik and Ostrovka, Yandex.Travel is not a hotel supplier, but an aggregator (like Aviasales), which collects information from partner services. This is convenient because you can immediately compare the prices of different sites.
It will be inconvenient if something goes wrong with the order, but judging by the reviews, it is quite possible to reach customer support (they promise to answer even on Sunday night ), refunds are no problem either.
- Like other Yandex services, travels participate in the Yandex.Plus program and return cashback from each order. These points can be used to pay for future bookings or spend them on subscriptions, delivery, taxis.
Finally, on the page of each hotel, a lot of reviews from Yandex.Maps are displayed, and this is really worth a lot. It is convenient to navigate through them what the guests liked and didn’t like, by tags to clarify individual points (the view from the window, the freshness of the repair, the queues for breakfast) and see real photos uploaded by the tourists themselves.
Hotellook is a sister hotel aggregator from Aviasales that generates and displays offers from different sites in the search. The interface is similar to Booking: standard checkboxes when choosing the necessary amenities, options and stars, a price per night slider, inside the hotel tabs – the usual description, map, photos, reviews, available options with cost and the “Book” button.
- After the departure of Booking and Agoda from Russia, Hotellook predictably lost its main hotel bases. Therefore, for travel within the countryit will be more convenient to immediately use other services, to which redirection is already worth it. They say that the site has no plans for further development, so the situation is unlikely to change.
But to search for housing around the worldthe resource is still great. Obvious advantages, as with all aggregators: due to the combined hodgepodge, more housing options are available, sometimes you can book a room that is no longer available in other systems or is not available at all. The system gives the maximum number of price offers, some options come out much cheaper than the more promoted Booking and Agoda. Sometimes Hotellook gives an additional discount from itself.
Onlinetours is an online search engine for tours in Russia and abroad. But there is an interesting point – namely, the “only hotel” filter:
- On the main page in the search form, you need to select Russia, enter the rest of the data (yes, including the theoretical “City departure”)
- Click Find Tour
- And in the issue, apply the “Hotel only” parameter – it works specifically for fans of domestic tourism. And here you have offers like from a hotel search engine, without a flight.
Buying only accommodation through a tour operator can be profitable. Compare: a night in the standard hotel Yalta-Intourist on Bronevik costs 5,000 rubles, and on Onlinetours – 4,600 rubles. Over a longer period of time, there will be significant savings. By the way, classic tours around Russia are also relevant – planes fly.
In terms of functionality, everything on the service is standard, but there are a couple of practical distinguishing features:
- a line with a low price chart, it’s convenient to choose if it’s not tied to dates
- comments from managers of the search engine itself under every hotel. They independently shoveled real reviews of tourists (this is also on the site) and highlighted the main pros and cons. The cost of additional services, which you usually find out only in a hotel, is also indicated here, for example, the price of a VIP cabin on the beach.
Russian Railways quickly figured out how to book a hotel in Russia other than Booking, and in March 2022 they launched a patriotic analogue on domestic software. The site turned out smart, simple and understandable. On the start page, you can choose what to look for: hotels and excursions, we will focus on each category.
When searching for hotels, the usual list of filters is displayed on the left of the page and the list of found hotels is on the right, there is no selection by map. In the tabs of places of residence, everything is standard and, surprisingly, there are even reviews from different years transferred from somewhere.
- Online hotel booking and payment on the site work, but there will be no refund in case of cancellation. There are already quite a few accommodations on the resource (at the time of launch – 60 thousand options), more will be added in the future.
Searching for excursions is a really cool idea, although it is borrowed from the leaders of the excursion market Tripster and Sputnik. You can choose the method of transportation (by snowmobile or hot air balloon – how do you like it?). Inside the desired excursion is a detailed program, meeting point and other details. You can order and pay right there, the prices are different: a walk in the evening Olympic Park in Sochi will cost 800 rubles, but an 8-hour trip on a snow-white yacht along the Black Sea coast will cost your budget 59,400 rubles. But still it is better to double-check the prices for excursions on the sites mentioned above.
Daily is a domestic analogue of Airbnb. In other words, a search engine for private housing: apartments, houses, individual rooms. It has existed for more than 10 years, so it has an extensive base in all major cities of Russia. It works in other countries too, but the offers are mostly single.
From typical filters, you can select the number of rooms and beds, amenities, floor, view from the window, distance to the sea/metro and much more.
Among the advantages worth noting in the first place is reliability.
- When booking through the Daily, an advance payment is withheld, which is frozen at the service (not at the owner of the accommodation) until you check into the selected accommodation. The rest is paid to the host upon arrival.
This ensures that you do not end up on the street in an unfamiliar city with suitcases, and minimizes the number of scammers disappearing from the horizon when receiving money. If the landlord still turned out to be a scoundrel, the service itself is engaged in its upbringing, and technical support works around the clock.
The second guarantee of a successful choice of an apartment is reviewsat the most popular accommodation options, sometimes come across with photos. While not everyone has it, you can filter out apartments without reviews with one tick in the filters.
It's no secret that on Avito you can not only sell your grandmother's sideboard, but also rent housing. True, the task is not an easy one. Most of the long-term rental ads are published by realtors or scammers, and you have to look for real owners among them during the day with fire. In daily options, the situation is better, but there will always be those who wait longer for a guest, refusing customers for a couple of days. Holidays at sea in Russia often sin with this.
We tell you how to look for an apartment on Avito so as not to waste a ton of time, nerves and money:
- Immediately click on the “Private” button
- Go to the seller's profile and see other ads, filter out those who rent 10 apartments at the same time
- Any hidden data in the account is also an alarm bell
- Some sellers have reviews, they are also useful
- Drive too perfect photos through a search engine and make sure that they are real, and not downloaded from a photo stock
- Do not transfer money in advance, although payment for apartments on Avito works, and do not pay for air without seeing the apartments themselves
- If a property is empty for a long time or costs less than the average price for the area, isn't it fake?
A find for those who cannot imagine a vacation without a Charcot shower, electrophoresis and an oxygen cocktail instead of a glass of white semi-dry. Sanatoriums is a detailed site and everything is as serious as it should be in medicine. A detailed description of the proposed wellness procedures with photos and indications can be found in the card of each boarding house.
The service offers a free online consultation with a doctor and regularly updates a useful blog for those whose paws aches or their tail falls off. In addition to booking sanatoriums, there is a package of extras: transfer, air tickets, visa assistance when choosing a foreign hotel. MIR cards will also come in handy: the site has published a convenient list of hotels in Russia participating in the Rostourism program with a 20% cashback when paying online.
Sanatory is a resource similar to the previous one, only with a simpler interface and a more modest choice. Similar search criteria, flexible rescheduling and cancellation options available. Special respect for any selections: hotels with discounts, resorts for a complete check-up of the body, top resorts in picturesque places in Russia, and more. There are a handful of options in Georgia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and a few other countries.
Where to book hotels and apartments abroad in 2022?
As discussed in the first sections, Booking and Airbnb still show foreign accommodation options and are still the most common and convenient search and booking engines in the world. True, paying for housing with a Russian card will not work, so there are four options:
- at Booking, use the option “Pay on the spot” and pay in cash. True, recently in Turkey in one of the hotels we had a reservation, as Booking (or the hotel) decided to withdraw money from a card that does not work, a few hours before our arrival. It’s good that the hotel manager kept the room for us and didn’t have to urgently look for a new place
- on Airbnb, write to the owner and try to arrange payment upon arrival
- try to pay with a card using the Union Pay payment system
- make a call to a friend holding a foreign card
An alternative way to book a hotel abroad is to use:
- Armored car in the CIS and An island around the world – you can even successfully pay with a Russian card!
- Hotellook and Yandex.Travel to other countries – but again they will transfer you to Booking or Trip.com and you will have to choose payment on the spot
Where to book tours?
Everything is stable in search and booking of tours abroad. Our favorite Travelata, Level.Travel and Onlinetours are still working and collecting the best deals from all tour operators. These aggregators are Russian, so there will be no problems with payment. It remains to wait until the borders are opened, and quickly run to pack your bags.
Bank cards for travel
With this question, everything is more than sad. In fact, Russian bank cards have turned into a pumpkin. Visa and Mastercard cards issued in Russia do not work abroad. No exceptions.
The most reliable way to be solvent in any country in the world is to have currency in cash, dollars and euros. Let me remind you that at the moment you can take out no more than $10,000 per person from Russia.
A method limited in applicability is to have a card with the Mir payment system. This allows you to pay in cafes and shops and withdraw money from ATMs in 10 countries. And guaranteed of the problems – only in the CIS countries. In Turkey and Vietnam – every other time and not in every bank/outlet. The link told about our experience with Mir Abroad (+ a list of countries where she works).
And a completely ephemeral way is the Chinese UnionPay payment system. Yes, accepted in 180 countries. BUT. So far, 7 banks are issuing such cards in Russia, some of which are under sanctions and Unionpay will not help them abroad, while others have raised the price for issuing and servicing by 2-3 times.