St. Petersburg hostel offers budget option to explorers of Russia

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ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- What do you tell young -- and financially challenged -- clients who have hopes of visiting the storied city of Peter the Great?

One option for the backpacking set is the city's only Western-style hostel.

The 65-bed St. Petersburg International Hostel was founded in 1992 by Steven Caron of Laguna Niguel, Calif., to fill the need for modern, budget-style accommodations in a city whose average room rate rivals London, New York and Paris.

Caron noted that there are a number of cheap lodgings in the city, but most date back to the Communist era in terms of decor and service.

After traveling in Russia in the early '90s, Caron found that "standard hotels for foreigners were very expensive."

"Most foreigners find [Russian-managed budget] hotels lacking in services, frustrating and not up to Western standards," he said.

Caron decided to offer an inexpensive and service-oriented alternative "to help foster the interaction of peoples from various cultures," he said.

He described the hostel as a "totally renovated facility that has kept its pre-revolutionary Russian charm with parquet floors, high ceilings and spacious rooms."

The hostel is a five-minute walk from a metro station, the Moscow Train Station and Nevsky Prospect, the city's most-famous boulevard.

Perks include daily breakfast, English-language movies in the lounge, walking tours and a public computer terminal with Internet access.

Most facilities are shared, with three or four beds per room. Net rates are $16 per person in a dormitory and $42 for a double room.

The hostel is the only Russian member of Hostelling International, a marketing and standards organization with members across western Europe.

It also hosts Russia's first full-service student and youth budget travel agency, Sinbad Travel.

The agency assists young people seeking to travel independently in Russia.

For more information, call (011) 7-812 329-0818; fax: (011) 7-812 329-8019; or e-mail [email protected].

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