All posts by Travel Writer

Best Ways to Explore Russia

Traveling in Russia offers a perfect opportunity to explore the beautiful nature, wonderful traditions, and marvelous cultural heritage of the world’s largest country.

There a lot of different ways to discover Russia. You can traverse the 9,288 kilometers from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Trans-Siberian Railway – riding by beautiful Taiga forests and seemingly boundless plains, meadows and fields.

Travel to Russia

From the window of your train, you will be able to survey the incredible abundance of Russian territory.  You could also move from one city to another by plane, just stopping at principal points of interest along your route.

This variant is less tiresome, but more expensive due to flight costs. Moreover, you would not be able to witness the magnificent landscape of this vast unique country.

Russian train trip

If you are looking for a shorter trip, you can visit the main cities of Central Russia like Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Kazan; or tour Russia’s Golden Ring of ancient cities, where you will be able to scrutinize some of the country’s most exciting attractions such as old churches and wooden homes of Russian nobility from the Tsarist era.

This tour is a favorite among Canadians as it offers excellent prospects to learn about Russian culture and traditions, to taste national dishes, and to meet locals who will describe the rich history of their cities – and tell amazing personal stories from their own families’ past.


For those travelers seeking an extreme vacation, we suggest trying a more “natural” rustic experience –    plunging into wildly interesting outdoor activities and undertakings. Bring your tents, backpacks, and kayaks; go fishing in streams and lakes, hiking in the hills, and whitewater rafting in mountain rivers.

Take excursions to historical villages and small towns. Explore the amazing Volga River, the alpine region of Altai, the Crimea, or Karelia – where you can try some surfing spots on Lake Ladoga or go out to the island of Gogland in the Gulf of Finland.

Motor ship at sunset sails on river Volga in Tver, Russia

Don’t forget other tourist areas that are also popular among Russians: faraway Sakhalin and Primorye – catch a couple of waves in the Pacific Ocean; eat giant Kamchatka crab, mounds of red caviar, luscious scallops, and other delicacies from the sea.

Whether you plan to travel throughout the Russian Federation or just visit some specific locations, don’t miss the chance to enjoy the stunning beauty and spiritual ambiance of Baikal in Eastern Siberia.

Whenever you go there – summer or winter – the experience will be remarkably bright, awesome and unforgettable. While there, you can hike the mountains of Olkhon Island, swim in the deepest freshwater lake in the world, and feast on omul  – a delicious whitefish found only in the waters of Lake Baikal.  



Even seasoned travelers are always looking for savvier ways to voyage around the world. Whether you’re newer to international travel or a longtime pro, the advice, tricks and hacks below will help you travel better. Discover these 20 expert travel tips for a different experience next time you venture away from home.

Expert Travel Tips: Before You Arrive

Read up on your destination

For some destinations, you may want to read the work of a beloved local giant of literature, past or present. For others, you may want to delve into the location’s rich history. Still other places serve as the setting for a book by a non-native author (think Eat, Pray, Love).

Either way, reading something about your destination will set the stage for your visit. You’ll learn about the place and get more from your visit as you flip through the pages (physically or digitally).

Apply for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry

You’ll whiz through shorter airport security lines without stopping to take off your shoes and remove liquids and laptops from their bags. You’ll also speed through (frequently long) customs lines, enabling you to make tight connections and get home sooner.

Buy travel insurance

An accident while traveling could result in tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. For a small cost, you can buy yourself peace of mind in case something goes awry. In addition to covering expenses, travel insurance can also speed up claims and cover baggage losses.

Seek online inspiration is an veritable encyclopedia of articles about global destinations as well as information on hotels, tours and cruises. From the Destinations tab, find the place you plan to visit on the map, by clicking on the continent name, or by entering it into the search bar.

expert travel tips: six travel images from instagram

Seek trip inspiration on social media, such as these Instagram photos from Virtuoso

Social media is also a fantastic source of inspiration, especially for visuals. Search by hashtags or names of places, hotels or attractions. You’ll get a wealth of ideas about what to see, do, eat and drink in your destination.

Save images of key documents

Before the trip, take photos of important documents with your phone’s camera. Snap your passport, credit cards (front and back), driver’s license, health insurance cards, and itineraries. As an extra precaution, email them to yourself and a trusted friend or family member back home. You can also print off copies and keep them in your suitcase. In case any key items are lost or stolen during the trip, you’ll have everything at your fingertips.

Also use your camera for practical on-the-spot images. One helpful hint: take a picture of where you parked at the airport.

Dress well

Dressing a cut above the average traveler can help you in several ways. When you’re flying, you’ll enhance your chances of being upgraded (or assigned a better seat) if you’re dressed in a business-casual style. A comfortable top and pants with nice shoes should do the trick. Look for wrinkle-free fabrics and ones with some stretch to them so you can move easily.

When you check into your hotel, the same is true: better dress may mean a nicer room or other perks.

Once you’ve arrived at your destination, dress to blend in. If you look like a tourist (no fanny packs, please), you may invite different treatment from locals. And dress conservatively on days you’re visiting houses of worship.

Lounge in comfort

Ever pass by those private airport lounges and look at the closed doors with envy? You, too, can become a (temporary) member of those oases of calm in the midst of airport hustle and bustle.

If you’re not already a member, don’t hold the right credit card to open doors and are flying economy, fear not. You can still buy a day pass at an airline or independent lounge for about $30 to $50. With the food and drink offerings, as well as the relaxing surroundings, it’s well worth it for a long layover.

expert travel tips: two women in historic hallway lined with red carpet and chandeliers

Working with a travel advisor will score you better value and VIP treatment – among other benefits

Work with a travel advisor

Partnering with a travel advisor to plan your trip is the way to go. You’ll enjoy a trip customized just for you, save time, receive better value, enjoy VIP treatment, and have a safety net if issues arise. If you don’t have one, find a Virtuoso travel advisor here.

Expert Travel Tips: During the Journey

Wake up early

Set your alarm for bright and early. Watch the sun rise. Find a local hangout for coffee and absorb the ambience. Enjoy attractions before they get crowded. Your photos will have that magical glow due to soft light early in the day. And you’ll have fewer people to dodge while snapping shots of popular sights.

Pay smart

The best way to purchase anything on your travels? Use a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees. You’ll have an extra degree of protection if something goes wrong with a purchase. And you’ll earn points that you can invest in more travel. Bonus idea: bring more than one credit card with you, in case one is lost, stolen or compromised and needs to be canceled.

It’s also good to keep some cash on hand in the local currency. Withdraw money at an ATM once you get to your destination. You’ll get the best exchange rate and likely a smaller fee than an airport currency conversion service or your hotel’s front desk. Once you get your larger bills from the ATM, get smaller denominations for tips or little purchases.

Expect issues to arise

You know what they say about the best-laid plans. Travel is joyful yet uncontrollable and unpredictable. What you can control is your mindset.

Adopt ‘expect the unexpected’ as your mantra. When minor hiccups arise, let them go quickly. Look at them as an unexpected adventure, or a funny story to tell after you’re home. If a major problem occurs, however, contact your travel advisor right away for help.

Eat where the locals do

Food is one of the best ways to get to know a destination. It’s also one of the most pleasurable. Avoid tourist traps by eating at the restaurants the locals do.

expert travel tips: young man in singaporean restaurant with chili crab, rice, other dishes
Another expert travel tip is to eat like the locals

How can you find these jewels? Visit a neighborhood where locals hang out. Observe which restaurants are doing a booming business. Or ask someone on the street for their favorite nearby spot.

Red flags: Don’t eat in well-touristed areas or close to major attractions. If you’re in a country where English isn’t a main language, pass by places that display English menus.

Another way to find good local food: get in line at a popular street vendor. Street food is one of the most authentic and delicious ways to eat when traveling. It may also be one of your most memorable culinary experiences.

Be curious

Travel is a learning experience, and the best people to learn from are locals. Ask questions with confidence and a welcoming smile. The answers you receive could help you find hidden gems, make it to the museum on time, gain an interesting perspective, or track down the best view for a photo. Most locals are proud of their hometown and are happy to help you enjoy it to its fullest.

Document your travels

One of travel’s greatest gifts is its ability to create lifelong memories. Photos are a wonderful way to enhance those memories. You may only be in these places with these people once in your life.

Create the definitive souvenir for yourself and your travel companions. Snap many, many shots. They’re free, they’re easy to share and they don’t weigh down your suitcase. Plus there’s plenty of time to edit when you get home.

Another method of recording your trip is to keep a journal. Jot down what you did during the day or your impressions of your surroundings. A small journal and pen can accompany you throughout the day for in-the-moment thoughts.

Be spontaneous

Don’t schedule every minute of every day on a trip. Reserve time for wandering. Take it slow and observe what’s happening around you as locals go about their daily lives. Put away your phone and other distractions, be present and enjoy the moment.

Another benefit to not overscheduling: You can’t know a month in advance that you’ll want an elegant multi-course Italian meal on a specific night. Or that you’ll want to spend even more time exploring that intriguing neighborhood or that art museum.


expert travel tips: woman traveler has drink with locals in Peru
Locals appreciate it when travelers learn a few words of their language

Learn phrases in the local language

A few words in the language of your destination will go a long way with locals. You’ll be rewarded with a smile at least, and possibly some invitations or even friendships.

A multitude of websites and apps will help you learn some basics. At a minimum: hello, please, how are you, thank you and goodbye.

Venture off the beaten path

People love to seek out new territory. Consider up-and-coming destinations that aren’t as well-established yet. Now’s the time to see these places in their less-visited state. Added benefit: fewer travelers to compete with for hotel bookings, restaurant reservations and prime museum slots.

Looking for ideas? The 2016 Virtuoso Luxe Report named Cuba, Iceland, Croatia, Myanmar and Antarctica as the top emerging destinations.

Get lost – on purpose

Part of the joy of the journey is experiencing the unplanned and going with the flow. In fact, you might even want to get lost on purpose to explore a different side to your destination. You’ll get to know the city better. And you’ll take pride in your unexpected new discoveries. Those adventures are sometimes the best memories of a trip.

Do as well as see

To truly experience your destination, plan activities that give you a sense of place. What can you uniquely experience there and only there?

In Italy, book a cooking class. Enjoy a private samba lesson in Brazil. Travel by dogsled in Switzerland. Attempt to speak the distinctive language of Botswana’s San people (clicks and all).

Venture out of your comfort zone

Being away from home is a great time to break out of your comfort zone. You’re already exploring the unfamiliar. One more new experience should be easy.


expert travel tips: scuba diver in water with shark
You don’t have to dive with sharks – there are easier ways to dip a toe outside your comfort zone

You might try sticking a baby toe out of your usual zone, like a half-hour hike for someone who never hits the trails at home. Or it can be more major. Shark diving, anyone?

The more you challenge yourself, the easier experimenting will become. And the more confidence you’ll gain.

Published: 10/08/17
Adapted from:

To Book Your Trip
Contact our Travel Advisors:1.877.999.4768

Ten Reasons to Visit the World’s Deepest Lake This Summer 

People who live near Lake Baikal call it the “Sea of Baikal.” Indeed, when you stand at the water’s edge and can’t see the opposite shore  – you really start to think that the locals are right.

Cape Burhan and Shaman Rock on Olkhon Island at Baikal Lake, Russia.

Except for the well-known fact that Baikal is the largest lake by volume in the world, there are at least ten other fantastic points of interest about this unique place:

  1. Besides holding more water than any other, Baikal is also the oldest lake on the planet – about 25 million years old! It is almost impossible for humans to imagine this age – even the Egyptian pyramids were built just 4.5 thousand years ago.
  2. The Lake is located on a tectonic fault – which is why it is so deep. The water of Baikal is in a chasm 1.5 km deep. For better visualization of this number just imagine a 650-story building placed under the water. Or you could put five Eiffel Towers on top of one another.
  3. No one has ever swum across Lake Baikal. There are probably very few people in the world who could swim for 12 hours in average water temperatures of 8 to 10 degrees Celsius. The waters of Baikal never really get warm, even in summertime. Surface layers reach only 14C degrees, and the sun’s rays cannot heat the Lake’s lower depths.
  4. A number of species of animals and plants are unique to Baikal; you cannot find them anywhere else on Earth. One is the Baikal seal or nerpa – a placid animal that looks like a cute, plump seal.
  5. The water in the Lake is so clear that you can see to a depth of 40 meters.
  6. The waters of Lake Baikal constitute about 19 percent of the world’s freshwater reserves. If we took all this water and divided it among the 144 million people in Russia, each person would get about 2,700 railway tank cars of water. Incidentally, this volume of  water is more than that of all five Great Lakes taken together.
  7. In winter, it takes one month for Baikal’s waters to freeze solid. Cooling of the water is very slow because of its depth.  
  8. In winter, the water of the Lake is covered with a thick layer of ice, which is constantly filled with huge cracks. The length of these cracks sometimes reaches 30 kilometers.
  9. Famous movie director James Cameron celebrated his 51st birthday at Baikal. He adores the place.
  10. There are 336 rivers and streams that flow into Lake Baikal, and only one – the Angara – flows out. If suddenly Baikal was no longer fed with water from all these streams, and the Angara River continued to flow, it would take 400 years for the Lake to completely empty.
Olkhon Island desert region in Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia.

This enormous, marvelous lake is surrounded by mountain ridges and hills;  the western shore is rockier and more precipitous than the eastern coastline. The fascinating nature and landscapes, as well as the variety of flora and fauna, attract tourists from all over the world. The region was awarded status as a preserve of global importance: by number of rare plants and animals, it surpasses Madagascar and the Galapagos Islands. The best time to vacation at Baikal is from May to October. But whenever you visit this unique place, you will never forget its magnificent wild nature!

Moscow or St Petersburg? What City to Choose for Your Summer Trip 2017?

Moscow and St. Petersburg are the two capital cities of Russia. Both are leading population centers where plenty of interesting and exciting events will be held during the summer of 2017!

Aerial Moscow city panorama

Let’s start with Moscow.

  • Marilyn Manson concert (July 31)

Manson is working on a new album, SAY10, which will be released in mid-February; maybe he will sing some of the songs this summer.

Nobody familiar with his work remains indifferent to this artist: his awesome image is either condemned or copied. By the way, in 2014 the musician’s concert was thwarted by Orthodox activists, but the singer did not despair and vowed to return to Russia. And now he’s keeping his promise! Besides the haters, Marilyn has millions of fans: his albums have sold like hot cakes; he is called the glam-rock patriarch of the century.

  • Moscow’s City Day (September 9)

In 2017, Moscow celebrates its 870th anniversary, and the program is full of interesting events. Spectacular military parades and musical marches, historical performances and reenactments, technology exhibitions, thematic film showings, and concerts of popular artists will be held on that day.

The central event is traditionally the solemn opening of City Day on Red Square. Other official events will take place on Pushkinskaya and Manezhnaya Streets and at Manege Square. Concerts and musical performances will be held on Lubyanka Square and the Patriarchs. And after the sun sets, the sky will of course be illuminated by a colorful salute in honor of Moscow’s birthday!

  • Max Airshow (August 15)

At the end of the summer, the main event in the world of aircraft – the International Aviation and Space Show – will begin. Here you will see a presentation of experimental flying installations, the newest models of flying machines and combat complexes!

You will also be entertained by aircraft demonstration flights. “Russian Knights” and “Swifts” will show you an extraordinary class of pilotage!

  • Imagine Dragons Concert (July 17)

These guys appeared on the world music stage quite recently, but they have already managed to win a prestigious Grammy and “Best Record of the Year” award, to get nominated for “Best Rock Video” by MTV Video Music Awards, and to travel all over America and Europe.

The musicians from Las Vegas decided to erase all boundaries between rock and pop music and nullify differences between genres. “Dragons” can ignite a hall like no one else, working it in many different ways – from a multi-voiced choir to a dubstep.

  • The Monster Cup (July 22)

For the first time in Russia, there will be extreme competitions in various disciplines: monster trail, moto-freestyle (FMX), buggies, BMX, MTB, extreme scooter – and the strongest athletes in the country will be participating in them! The Monster Cup is a new milestone for Russia in the world of extreme sports

During the day, the monster showroom will be open where you can view these humongous vehicles, touch them, get inside, and take pictures with all the athletes! And for the bravest guests there will be an opportunity to ride in the passenger seat of a drift-taxi, as well as in the body of the only 8-passenger monster truck in Europe!

Raised Palace bridge at night in Saint-Petersburg, Russia

Whew!  Take a breath now, and immerse yourself into the cultural life of St. Petersburg – calm and contemplative. And the first event is …

  • Exhibition about the communal apartment (July)

How would you react to the fact that a decision had been made to “compact” your personal apartment? That means, if you live in 2-room apartment, your second room will become home for people who have no place to live. Today this situation seems absurd, but only for those who are not acquainted with the Soviet phenomenon of communal apartments.  

Brig with scarlet sails goes on the Neva.
  • Petersburg Harley Days (August 3-6)

Harley-Davidson is not just a brand. It is a source of positive emotions and inspiration, personal doping, a lifestyle and a way of creative self-expression. The next International MotoFestival (already the sixth in a row!) will be held in St. Petersburg August 3-6.

Traditionally, the program is impressive: test rides of new-model motorcycles, a music show, a fair, stunt riding – doing tricks on a motorcycle. Every year the elements become more interesting and hard to do.

We are just wondering what you will choose – the Marilyn Manson concert or a cultural exhibition? 

Lake Baikal. Listvyanka.

Listvyanka – the Most Popular Baikal Village

Baikal is a wonderful lake, the largest freshwater lake in the world, located in Southern Siberia and 5000 km east of Moscow. Baikal holds around 20% of world’s freshwater.

Baikal attracts a lot of tourists all over the world. People like to come here year round, but the favorite seasons are winter and summer. Among numerous places, bays and resorts where you can go to explore wonderful nature of Baikal the most popular is definitely Listvyanka.

Lake Baikal. Listvyanka. Russia

A tiny village an hour drive from Irkutsk became extremely popular among different tourists due to its comfortable location on the lake: It is extremely popular for its diverse tourist activities: boat launching, fishing, cooking, trekking, various tours to remote parts of the lake, winter sports.

The Must-Do things in Listvyanka:

  • Take a stroll along the picturesque shore of the lake and enjoy a stunning beauty of the nature;
  • Take a Circum-Baikal railway to Slyudyanka and back – this experience is unbelievable; make you feel united with nature;
  • Try a local smoked Omul fish and enjoy its wonderful taste.;
  • Visit the tourist market;
  • Take a boat to Peschanaya bay;
  • Have a dinner at one of the cutest cafes or restaurants on the lake;
  • Visit Baikal Limnological Museum with aquarium complex o skiving inhabitants of the lake;
  • Take a tour to Peschanaya Bay – on a boat along a coast to see one of the least crowded areas on the lake coastline.

Great Baikal Trail between Listvyanka and Big Koty, Siberia

All in all, while visiting Listvyanka, you will also ask yourself a question where to try the most delicious food in the area. YYZ Travel can suggest you some of the best places to enjoy delicious food and exceptional menu.

Sval Restaurant (and Sauna)

 Located on the Gorkogo street, this restaurant is situated just next to Podlemorie Hotel and it is extremely famous for its fish menu. For those who love to have open-air dinners, there is a terrace which is extremely cozy in summer months.

 Mayak Restaurant

Probably, one of the most popular restaurants among locals. The reason is simple: it has a really wide selections of seafood dishes which locals consider to be one of the the village.

Listvyanka Club Grill and Restaurant

It is famous for its cozy home atmosphere, big windows, comfortable fireplace and spacious area. The kitchen has not only Russian but Serbian elements, as a chef has come from that country.


Budapest, Hungary

10 Budapest Pictures that will make you Want to Pack your Bags

  1. The Budapest Parliament
Budapest parliament at dramatic sunrise

The Budapest Parliament is located on the Pest side of the River Danube, but it seems even more beautiful when observed from one of the many hills of Buda. For example, you can take a wonderful photo from the amazing Castle Hill where the old Royal Palace is situated. From that vantage point you can enjoy a wonderful bird’s eye view of parliament, Margaret Island, and the entire river bank of Pest.

2. Buda Castle and Chain Bridge

Buda Castle and Szechenyi Chain Bridge. Budapest, Hungary

Buda Castle and Chain Bridge are symbols and landmarks of Budapest. Chain Bridge is one of the oldest bridges over the Danube River. The project to construct the stone bridge over the Danube originated with Count Szechenyi, who is known as the ‘Greatest Hungarian’. Buda Castle is a massive building surrounded by structures of the Neo-Baroque style of the 18th century. The Castle was built in the 13th century, and despite severe damage during WWII, today it looks gorgeous after being completely restored.

3. Hungarian National Gallery

The Hungarian National Museum in Budapest, Hungary

Hungarian National Gallery is located in the Buda Castle area facing the Danube riverfront. This beautiful building combines Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque construction styles. There you can enjoy a collection of 20th-century paintings including works by Béla Czóbel, József Egry, and József Rippl-Rónai.

4. Fisherman’s Bastion

BUDAPESHT, HUNGARY- JULY 07: Famous gothic Fisherman's Bastion in Budapest, a tourist attraction in the evening on july 07, 2015 in Hungary

Fisherman’s Bastion is the particular place where the local fishermen’s guild was responsible for defense installations in the Middle Ages There is also a bronze equestrian statue of St. Stephen (Szent István), the first King of Hungary, constructed between 1895 and 1902 (A. Stróbl, 1906). The base includes four lions, and the reliefs on the sides depict scenes from Stephen’s life.

5.  Matthias Church

Budapest, Hungary - February 14, 2015. Matthias Church on the square in the Fisherman's Bastion full of tourists

 Matthias Church – also known as “The Church of Our Lady” – is representative of a Catholic religious structure. The construction itself was finished in 1269 and reflects all the main canons of Baroque style. It was named under King Matthias, who also added side-chapels to the church.

6. Holy Trinity Square

Statue of Holy Trinity and grounds of Buda Castle in Budapest square, Hungary

Holy Trinity Square is in the center of Buda’s Castle District near the Matthias Church. The Baroque-style Holy Trinity Column, built in honor of those who died after the 1691 plague epidemic, is situated in the middle of the square. It is an iconic national structure and an important site of Budapest.

7. Heroes’ Square

Heroes Square with Millenium Memorial

Another very famous and significant square of the city is notable for its well-known statue complex called the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars. Hősök tere (the Hungarian name of Heroes’ Square) is located next to City Park. It has played an important part in Budapest history as many political gatherings have been held here. The sculptor of the project was Zala György.

8. Liberty Statue

Liberty Statue, Budapest

Gellért Hill, a 235-meter high panoramic overlook facing the Danube, is another beautiful site of the city. Here you can also enjoy Liberty Statue, one of the most famous landmarks in all of Budapest.

9. Danube Promenade

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - SEPTEMBER 17: Shoes on the Danube Promenade - a monument to victims of the Holocaust, on September 17, 2016 in Budapest, Hungary.

The Danube Promenade is one of the city’s most romantic sites and one of the most popular among tourists. Every year numerous tourists come to enjoy the history and eccentric atmosphere at the promenade.

10. Millennium Monument

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY - FEBRUARY 22, 2016: Millennium Monument on the Heroes' Square or Hosok Tere is one of the major squares in Budapest, Hungary.

The Millennium Monument, a 36-meter-high column crowned by a figure of the Archangel Gabriel, on Heroes’ Square is definitely one of the most impressive destinations for many of the city’s visitors and guests.