10 Pieces of Real Travel Advice for Visiting Crimea

Ok, I’ve spent months in Crimea since it became Russia again, in 2014, and filmed hundreds of videos of reportage. Based on the fact that it reflected the will of the vast majority of Crimeans, after the fall-out from Euromaidan in Ukraine, I recognised, and Graham Phillips Crimeasupport Crimea’s reunification with Russia.

However, this it not a political piece. There’s a mass of information online about Crimea, and much of it is clear false information, warnings about the ‘dangers’ of visiting Crimea ‘annexation’, ‘occupation’, and so on.

Crimea is one of the world’s most beautiful places to visit, and I know given the amount of people contacting me, more people are indeed looking to visit it. However, it’s in quite a unique position, and there are a few considerations, so, here we go, with 10 things you’ll need to know (written presuming you’re a western person.

1. There are no cash machines which take western cards. So you’ll need to take all the money for your trip with you. The last cash machine is at Krasnoarmeiski, before you get the ferry, but, you’d be best off stocking up on wedge before that.

2. Due to sanctions, some things don’t work in Crimea. If you have a UK, EU number you may well find it cannot connect to a roaming service, so you’ll need to purchase a number in Crimea. Crimea has its own phone network, separate from mainland Russia, Crimeastreet2so, you’ll need to purchase a local MTS card. There’s 3G, even some 4G. All internet sites work as normal, and you can even use main booking sites to book apartments, hotels in Crimea. All the apps you have should work, but there may be an issue downloading new ones, you can use your credit card to book things online there – all good.

3. Don’t even think of going to Crimea via Ukraine, as is the official advise. It’s a nonsense. Kiev have to ‘give you permission’, but you still need a Russian visa, and more, have to pass through the Ukrainian ‘blockpost border’, adding hassle, stress, and perhaps other. Get a single-entry Russian visa, and you can book a flight to Simferopol airport!

4. It’s better to put what you’ve read in the western press, by western governments out of your mind before you enter Crimea. You can find people there who will freely tell you that they are ‘pro-Ukrainian’, and want to be with Ukraine again. But, they’re a small minority. You can find a lot of people who generally would like Crimea to be as prosperous as it previously was, but speak to people there and you’ll see for yourself that the vast majority of Crimeans supported, and support reunification with Russia.

There’s no sign of tension, or repression of Crimean Tatars. You will come across many in your travels in Crimea. Crimean Tatars are, in my experience, a warm, friendly people. A lot of restaurants are Crimean Tatar, they run many businesses. Speak to them, ask them yourselves how life is for them. You will hear different opinions, some for Russia, some for Ukraine (though again, a minority), many non-political and simply for whatever will give them the best quality of life.

5. You will find people in Crimea who speak excellent English, and many have some level of English. However, it’s by no means universal, and at this moment in time you could even say that Crimea is not especially orientated towards English-speaking visitors. Not every restaurant will have an English-language menu, and while your waiter may well speak English, it’s not a guarantee. Speaking some Russian, or having a Russian-speaking friend with you, would definitely help.

6. Despite the political tensions between the west, and Crimea, I’ve never encountered, or heard of any problems encountered by western visitors because of where they come from. On the contrary, Crimeans are more than likely to roll out the red carpet for a western visitor. Most tourists there are from Russia, and actually many have come to Crimea for the first time. In my experience, you’ll also find them of a friendly disposure towards you!

7. Despite what governments etc try to insinuate, you are not breaking any laws by visiting Crimea, with the exception of Ukrainian law. So if you go to Crimea, and post selfies from there etc, then you may have some issues if you try to visit Ukraine, but, that’s all. You’ll have no stamp in your passport other than a Russian one. You’ve broken no laws, apart from ‘Ukrainian laws’, whatever they are these days.

Graham Crimea reportage8. Prices in Crimea are pretty much what they are on mainland Russia. For a UK visitor, you’ll get around 70-75 roubles to the pound now, down from a year ago, but it still makes Crimea a comparatively inexpensive tourist destination. A beer by the beach for £1.50, sit-down lunch in a seaview restaurant for less than £5 all do-able, even in Yalta at peak season. There are pricier ‘tourist traps’, and that goes back to the above, that it’s better to know some Russian!

9. If you’re driving, you’ll see a massive ‘road rehabilitation’ project going on (and there’s actually infrastructure being upgraded everywhere), but it’s not reached everywhere yet, so on some roads, get ready for a bumpy ride. If you drive there in summer, you could be in line for a few hours wait for the 25-minute ferry crossing. And in Crimea itself, particularly Yalta, traffic can be heavy at peak times.

Crimea in general, some of it is ‘Russian standard’ – ie what you’d find in Russia, infrastructure etc to a high level. Quite a lot is still ‘Ukrainian standard’, no offence, but you get the idea. This ferry video, btw, in Russian, but again, sure you’ll get the idea –

10. There really is an incredible amount of things to do in Crimea. You can have a beach holiday in Yalta, Koktobel or if you want a sandy beach, Evpatoria. There are vineyards, safari parks, palaces, mountains, festivals, epic open-air museums, bike shows, concerts, there’s the black sea fleet of Sevastopol, always something happening by the waterfront or in the square there, Yalta is absolutely buzzing, Balaklava is mind-blowingly beautiful, Taigan is the best safari park you could ever visit… where to base Graham Crimeayourself will be your decision. Simferopol itself is an appealing city, and although it’s not by the sea itself, or especially tourist-orientated, it’s a mid-point between a lot of places which are.

The most popular places to stay are Sevastopol, and Yalta, but if you want to stay in a number of places, you can find hotels, or apartments anywhere in Crimea – Alustha, Feodosiya, Kerch, Sudak, Koktobel, and more, and you’ll find something to do everywhere in Crimea. So, if you were thinking of going for a week, I’d recommend two, and even then you are just getting started. Not to sound like the Holiday show, but that’s exactly as it is.

And why should you believe me? Because I’ve got no angle here other than to tell you the truth of how things are. And I’ve spent a lot of time there. As for the rest, be sure that most all of what you read about Crimea in the west is by those who haven’t even been there – and certainly do have an angle –

But, if they want to visit, let them follow this advice, and I wish you all a great time! Graham

St Petersburg Metro Terror Attack: Who Were the Victims?


Tragic news today, as it was announced that one of the victims, wounded in the 3rd April Metro attack in St Petersburg had passed away in hospital, taking the death toll to 14 now, with it only yesterday having been announced that all 13 victims of the blast had been laid to rest. 

However, little attention in the western media has been given to any of the victims, those killed by the terror metro blast. So, here is who they were.

48-year-old Irina Medyantseva was on the Metro with her daughter, 28-year-old Elena. Irina was a master doll and puppet maker, making figures with fairy-tale faces from cloth and porcelain, teaching her daughter her profession, holding exhibitions together. She had lived in St Petersburg for 9 years.

St Petersburg Victim IrinaBelow is one of Irina’s final works, a doll called the ‘Giver of Joy’. She died in throwing herself to cover her daughter, who was wounded, but is maing a stable recovery. Irina died in the ambulance. Irina, described a ‘kind, gentle woman, and true artist‘ had a husband, and another daughter, Yulia. Here, her distraught husband, Alexander, speaks about his wife, and devastation on her loss.

Giver of JoyKsenia Malyukova, 18, was a student of St. Petersburg Obstetric College, in her third year, studying to be a doctor. Ksenia was returning from a practical in a children’s hospital, going to the centre to meet up with her boyfriend.

Ksenia St Petersburg

Kseniya was an only child, she lost her mother in 2008 to cancer. Her father is devastated, having for hours refused to believe it could be true. Friends remembered as as a ‘lovely girl, always ready to help, the soul of an angel’. Kseniya had danced all her life, and until injury stopped her in 2015, performed cheerleading, to a professional level.

St Petersburg victim Kseniya

Dilbar Aliyev, 20, born in Azerbaijan, but moved to St Petersburg as a child. She was a third year psychology student in St Petersburg. Described by friends as ‘like any girl of her age, she had big plans, she loved life. She was full of energy, blossoming, and looking to the future.’

Petersburg Dilbara

Here, Dilbar poses next to a sign which reads ‘You can take the girl of of St Petersburg, but not St Petersburg out of the girl.’ 

St Petersburg victim Dilbara

Denis Petrov, 25, a Master of Sports, champion in hand-to-hand fighting, trainer at the Warrior martial ars club. Colleagues, and students describe him as ‘in the prime of life, everything was ahead of him. An excellent person, and coach.’

Angelina Svistunova only turned 27 in February. She studied at the college of textile and light industry, in absentia, and was an animal lover.

She went online about fifteen minutes before the deadly blast, putting a status update on her Vkontakte wishing ‘all well!’.  In her final post, written around a week before the tragedy, she wrote thanking her parents for giving her life, giving her a beautiful name, a wonderful childhood, a wonderful youth, for always being there for her, always finding the right words, and being sincere. ‘Thank you for the love, care and attention – mum and dad, I love you very much, and pray to god for your health! I take a bow to you!’

Angelina’s parents are in deep shock at what happened to their daughter.

Mansour Sagadeev had turned 17 on March 27th. The young St Petersburg man had grown up in an active family, his father Tahir – a lover of ski walks, hiking, and rafting on the mountain rivers. In his spare time, Mansur himself liked to walk, play football, table tennis, and he even played the piano.

In 2015, Mansour began studying at the St. Petersburg College of Telecommunications at, University of Telecommunications. He studied in the second year, specializing in radio communications, broadcasting and television.

Mansour was remembered as a ‘dedicated student, a modest young man, always ready to help those around him.’

Larisa Shchekina, 67. Larisa, a grandmother, worked as an editor at the St. Petersburg Academy of Postgraduate Teacher Education, in the publishing of educational literature and manuals.

Larisa’s whole life was devoted to texts. In 1982, she graduated from the then Leningrad State University, Faculty of Journalism. Friends remember her as an ‘educated, kind, wonderful person’, while colleagues (Laris had worked as a journalist, and editor of many St Petersburg publications) tell of a professional, loyal, wise lady, a true St Peterburger. 

For her dedication to her profession, her home city and her work, Larisa Grigoryevna was awarded the medal “In memory of the 300th anniversary of St. Petersburg”.

Yuri Nalimov, 71. Yuri was born in 1945, 29 days after victory in World War Two. In his career, Yuri worked as an investigator, spending 24 years in the North-Western Affairs Office for Transport, also working as a senior officer at St Petersburg’s Pulkovo airport. On retirement, in 1996, Nalimov Yuri left with the rank of colonel of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

In his years of public service, Yuri was awarded many medals, including one for ‘Excellent Service in the Ministry of Internal Affair’. In his retirement, Yuri, who friends rememberd as a ‘loyal, kind, honourable man’ enjoyed carving wood, making benches, tables, chairs by hand, and enjoying spending time with nature. He had a wife, and daughter.

Oksana Danilenko, 26. Oksana was described by friends as a ‘dreamer, a wonderful artist who dreamt of writing a book about the Victorian era, and even going to live in Japan.’ Oksana was a fan of computer games, and animals, and described by friends as a ‘cheerful girl, like a teenager’.

Oksana, who was travelling from her studies to work at the petshop ‘Goldfish’, did not die instantly in the blast.

Maria Nevmerzhitskaya, 53. Maria had come to Petersburg from the village of Krasnoozernoe, near Priozersk, in the Leningrad region of Russia, to say with relatives. Family members were shocked at her loss, paying tribute on social networks to a ‘kind lady who loved her family, and was always there for them.’

Yulia Krasikova, 25. Yulia was a graduate of  St Petersburg Economic University, with a top grade, however she never wanted to be an economist. Yulia always dreamed of being an artist, spending much of her time drawing, covering her walls with her creations.

Yulia was on the verge of realising her dreams, due to receive her diploma in design from the Polytechnic University. To fund her studies, she worked in her speciality, as an economist, at the company “Marine Navigation Systems”.

Friends describe Yulia as a ‘very talented, a kind, very sweet girl, always read to help.‘ Yulia was looking forward to marrying her long-term boyfriend, Alexander.

Dmitry Mazanov, 27. Dmitry lived in Tosno, Leningrad area, and was in St Petersburg for work, on April 3rd.

Dima, who completed military service in his early 20s, was remembered by friends as a ‘good guy, kind, cheerful’. He had a two-year-old daughter, with whom he loved to play.

Maxim Vitalievich, 20. Maxim was from Kazakhstan, and on April 3rd was returning home after finishing studies for that day at the St Petersburg State Economic University. At 14:40, a blast tore through the carriage he was in (Maxim was himself near the suicide bomber) ending a young life friends described as ‘full of potential, everything was ahead for Maxim.’ 

Friends remember a ‘positive young man with a radiant smile. He loved to joke, had a great sense of humour. He was always there for you. He loved life.’


*Details of the 14th victim still to emerge.
** Over 50 were wounded

Garry Kasparov’s St Petersburg Block

I recently wrote an article criticising Garry Kasparov for using the recent St Petersburg Metro attack to promote his book. Before I tell you the reaction of Kasparov, let’s have a look at how he’s portrayed in western media:

Guardian: ‘pro-democracy activist’

 Washington Post: ‘pro-democracy activist’

Telegraph: ‘human rights campaigner’

CNBC ‘pro-democracy activist’ (again)…

So, what was the reaction of our ‘human rights’ campaigning, ‘pro-democracy’ activist’ to my article? He blocked me on Twitter.

So, just remember that, next time you see Garry Kasparov on western tv talking about the ‘totalitarian regime of Putin‘ etc etc…

Garry Kasparov and his St Petersburg Metro Attack Book Promotion

Like all of you, I grew up knowing Garry Kasparov as a chess grandmaster, perhaps the greatest chess player of all time. I generally followed his transition to outspoken, everywhere-on-western-media critic of Putin without any particular feeling, other than Garry Kasparovthat his main purpose seemed self promotion, and, having lived in New York, and Croatia, for years, he seemed out of touch with both the reality of Russia, and the lives / wishes of his fellow Russians.

There is also the fact that Kasparov very much has his own personal vendetta against president Putin, with his own political ambitions in Russia failing to get off the ground.  That 2007, and since then Kasparov has waged his own campaign against Putin, finding a friend in a western media more than sympathetic to having such a venerable figure to call on, whenever it suits their own agenda. And of course, anyone who remembers Kasparov and Deep Blue, knows he’s a man to harbour a grudge.

Indeed, the position of Kasparov, now a Croatian citizen even, can always be taken as a given – whatever Putin is for, he’s against, and vice versa. In 2013, he accused Russia’s FSB (by default, Putin) of covering up for the Boston bombers, he called the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics as ‘to Putin what the Berlin Olympics were to Hitler in 1936’.  He Garry Kasparov 1has been an active, constant opponent of Russian military action in Syria.  And Crimea for example, despite the people there emphatically voting to be a part of Russia in 2014, after a far-right, unelected government took power after the Euromaidan coup in UkraineKasparov supports Crimea being returned to Ukraine as soon as the ‘evil reign’ of Putin is over….

All of which you can agree or disagree with, and in any case, Kasparov, who champions himself as such, and is promoted by western media as a ‘pro-democarcy activist’, is entitled to his opinion.

But, whatever your politics, Kasparov’s reaction to Monday’s terror attack in St Petersburg, which killed 14, with over 50 wounded, was shocking.

Kasparov’s first tweet, shortly after his learning of the attack, on April 3rd, was bad enough, immediately blaming it on Putin before even the most preliminary of investigations had begun. But his second was truly shocking, even by his standards –

Using the attack to promote his book ‘Winter is Coming’. Really???? But, that’s exactly what it was, and no backing down from Kasparov either, as he continued tweeting in that vein –


A break came only when Kasparov announced that he was due to appear on CNN , to discuss the attack. However, he was back later, still on topic –


The St Petersburg metro attack –  for most, a horrific act of terror, a devastating tragedy. For Garry Kasparov, a handy excuse to continue his vendetta against Putin, and plug his book…

Explosion in Rostov…

This morning in Rostov, there was an explosion as a man up what looks to be a small flashlight, but is actually an explosive device –

The man (who was originally reported as being a school janitor, subsequently retracted), is reported as having his fingers blown off by the blast, which took place near a school, in the city in south of Russia.

The explosion took place at between 6.30-7am, Moscow time, with the man later identified as homeless, picking up a package to examine its contents, the flashlight detonating when he tried to switch it on.

Who planted it, or why, is currently unknown, and police are working on it.

I will be tweeting more about this, follow me here for updates. 

A Graham Newsletter (#27) St Petersburg, London, Terrorism

I am sure you join me today in sending your thoughts to St Petersburg after horrific events left at least10 killed, and over 40 injured. 

This isn’t something I’ve spoken about much before, as it’s personal, and there are many 2005bombings7in the same position, but the events of July 7th 2005, when terrorists struck London’s transport system, left a deep mark on me.

The attack happened on the tube I took to work, though that morning I’d cycled. I well remember going to Kings Cross to pay respects, the faces of victims, and one woman, who lost a leg in the tragedy, going past my office window each day. It was my first visceral understanding of terrorism, and until war in Donbass, the worst, most shocking day of my life.

Today, I send sincere and deep condolences to all my friends in the amazing city of St Saint PetersburgPetersburg, which I’ve visited many times. And not only, to everyone in that wonderful city, and their loved ones, to all affected by this atrocity. Looking at the photos, of people lying stricken by a metro, immediately took me back to the devastation, hurt, pain, anger of 2005, and even more recently.

And even, this morning, I’d finished work on, and uploaded part 1 of my most recent special reportage, on the recent terrorist attack in London. I am sure everyone from London, and indeed across the world, will show their empathy, and support for St Petersburg, for Russia.

Years move on, and destinations may be different, but the face of terrorism is always hideous, and the result, the death of innocent people, always tragic, devastating, unforgivable.

Thoughts with St Petersburg…

With blasts on the St Petersburg Metro now reported as having killed a number quoted by many sources as 10, with some 30-50 woundedincluding children.

Video here, from the city’s central Sennaya Square Metro station, where more than one blast is reported as having gone off inside Metro carriages –

Along with you, I’m sure, I send my deepest condolences to St Petersburg. Many in London remember as yesterday the 2005 bombings on the tube system of our own city.

I’m fortunate to have been many times, and have many friends in the beautiful city of St Petersburg. Thoughts with everyone there at this terrible time.

Graham