Friday, June 04, 2004

The 'Foreign Tourist' Surcharge

Thanks to the genorosity of Tom and Masha, Jeff and I managed to make it through most of this trip without spending much money. But that all changed today. Not only is Moscow about twice as expensive as Nizhny (for food and everything else), but we also have faced the "foreign tourist" surcharge.

I read about it briefly in the book Kimberly bought before we left. I don't think I really appreciated the impact it would have on our wallets, though. To tour the Moscow museum, we paid 60 rubles each for Tom and Masha (about $2) ... and 150 rubles ($5) each for Jeff and me. The difference in the surcharge was even greater to tour the Kremlin -- 70 rubles ($2) for Tom and Masha, 350 rubles ($12) for Jeff and me, including an extra fee to take photos. And because backpacks are not allowed inside the Kremlin, I had to pay 60 rubles ($2) to put my backpack in a bin. Masha's tab was half that.

The free market at its worst, Russian style.

Thankfully, there have been no surcharges for meals, public transportation or for the bus tour of Moscow (150 rubles each, or $5). But we ruled out taking a taxi straight from the hotel to the airport both because of the price and the surcharge. I personally hate the idea of lugging three bags each through the subway system tomorrow, but we will save quite a bit of money as a result.

For anyone who is curious, the tourist tab for our trip is coming from our personal funds, not from the money provided by the church for us to do the Lord's work here. And that is as it should be on such trips.


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