With the Games just a day away, planes to Sochi are packed, hotels sold out, excitiment pumped up into the air of Russia's southern resort. But what if your decision to come and join the crowd is so fresh you don't know where to run and what to do to be able to enjoy the historic event. Here is a short guide to help you have an enjoyable experience during the Games in Sochi in February 7-23.
To get there
The cheapest way to get to Sochi from Russia's capital is by Aeroflot special flights to Sochi. Aeroflot is the biggest and the best known Russian air carrier. They've set up a special schedule of Sochi flights that take off every couple of hours for a very special price of around 70 US dollars to fly one way. To make the experience more authentic, they will even treat you will small Sochi 2014 souvenirs to make sure you are all excited about your destination.
However, most of their tickets, especially for the first week of the Games, are probably already sold out. Your budget-conscious second option would be a train ride, 100 dollars to travel one way, but it will take at least a full day before it gets to where the plane flies in 2 hours.
Car rides are unfortunately not an option, since the authorities have enforced a special regime in the region for the period of time between January 7th and April 17 when you can only enter the resort area with a special permit. Private transportation inside of Sochi is also very limited and if you dare to break the rules, you’ll get an immediate 150 dollar fine. But the good news is – visitors as well as the local residents can fully rely on public transportation – it runs really well inside of Sochi.
To get around
Sochi is a very stretched out city sort of squeezed between the sea and the mountains. To ensure efficient communication, the authorities have settled a next-to-perfect public transportation system. You can take a bus ride for around 1,5 dollars to nearly everywhere in the city. The most important hubs like the sea port, the airport and the Olympic venues are linked with a railroad, where you can take a very enjoyable ride for around 3,5 dollars. Or you can get free rides all day long in case you own a ticket for the games on the date of your travel.
Something to keep in mind – plan your time carefully since the security checks are heavy around the city. You will most likely be requested to put your stuff through the scanner every time you enter a station and you can miss your train while waiting in the lines for a check. Don’t worry though, the next train will be coming no later than within half an hour.
To be able to move around the Sochi area, you will also need a so called ‘spectator pass’. It is processed after you purchase tickets for the games and it is your main document while visiting. You haven’t got one yet? Go to pass.sochi2014.com and order yourself a copy. Unfortunately, the failure to comply may end up destroying your fun time in the Olympic zone.
Where to stay
Sochi is offering a lot of hotel, hostel and private housing options just like everywhere else in the world. The hotel prices are state controlled to prevent for them to go through the roof. The maximum price cannot be higher than around 400 dollars per night, with some more luxurious exceptions. And average room will cost you a little less than $150. On the most budget-conscious end, you can rent a cabin on a ship for around 50 dollars a night. And you can always make use of services like airbnb.com.
While booking a place, make sure you understand how stretched the city is and don’t end up so far away from the Olympic venues it’s not fun any more.
When it comes to the tickets to go see the competitions, there is quite a variety of options for a whole range of prices. The opening and closing ceremonies will be costly – in the range of over 1,500 dollars, but probably very worth seeing. Whoever hopes to see hockey stars on ice, may also want to pay more since all the cheaper options are long gone. There is a rumored promise though that cheaper tickets will go on sale prior to each event, but that’s where you have to get smart and lucky. The same is about figure skating, so far the cheapest tickets bearing 300 dollar price tags.
However, there are still plenty of chances for a cheaper but no less fascinating show. Short track, skeleton, bobsleigh, curling – with tickets for 13-90 dollars a piece - will bring you a lot of Olympic joy without destroying your budget.
What to eat
The organizers promise nobody will remain hungry during the games. Over 200 mobile eateries are open right at the Olympic venues, the same number is permanently stationed there as well. Not to mention the considerable amount of dining places for all budgets, scattered around the city.