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About The Vertical Travel Group

Vertical Travel Group comprises a successful portfolio of travel businesses including award-winning Travel Technology, a Homeworking Division with four flagship brands, Tour Operation and Travel Retail all under one roof. Together with dedicated Sales, Marketing, Social Media, Customer Service and Administration Support, we provide the perfect recipe for success.

Whether you’re searching for the perfect holiday or have been thinking about setting up your business from home, the Vertical Travel Group delivers on both accounts.

We handpick our Hotel partners and commercial deals carefully and are privileged to work with more than 300 suppliers which include preferred partnerships with extraordinary Luxury Resorts across the Mediterranean such as SANI and IKOS to top rated properties in the Canary Islands, Crete and Cyprus.

Our passion for the Travel industry today is stronger than ever. Each and every business within the Vertical Travel Group remains an innovative competitive force. We are constantly enhancing our products, services and offerings to stay ahead with powerful online distribution and promotion ensuring Vertical’s evolution continues for years to come.

For more than three decades, CEO of the Vertical Travel Group Peter Healey has been a prominent figure in the world of travel as the founder of Future, Freedom Travel and the Homeworking concept but also as the brainchild behind Vertical Systems, one of the most established travel tech companies and creator of TARSC.

"Since its early inception in 1981 with Vertical Systems, the business has continued to grow both in product diversity and entering new sectors in our industry.

Today we have an extensive portfolio of businesses that are well-managed, profitable and all complimentary to each other. Our next phase of growth will come from the expansion of our homeworking network, where we know our strategic approach and agents support will attract new members the Vertical Travel Group.

We believe we offer one of the best homeworking solutions in the market and we even give you a choice of products to match your skills! It's important to know that whilst I am confident of our success, I can guarantee that we will never grow to the extent whereby our values and ethics are compromised.

As the originator of Viewdata and TARSC, the Founder of Freedom Travel Consortium, Director of Future Travel, and now my Vertical Travel Group portfolio, I hope you'll see we are here for the longer term and that you'll want to be in our winning team.

My businesses are my passion; we all work hard but you will reap real rewards and we will have fun along the way!"

Peter Healey Group CEO, Vertical Travel Group

Vertical Travel Group, CEO Peter Healey

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Healey and Elstob reunited to drive Holiday Experts growth

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Peter Healey and David Elstob, two leading pioneers of the homeworking sector in travel, have been reunited. Elstob, founding managing director of Future Travel Group, the Co-operative Travel Group homeworking division, has joined the board of Healey’s Your Holiday Booking.  Elstob remains a shareholder in Future, which is now part of the Thomas Cook/Co-operative Travel retail joint venture, but no longer plays an active part. He has been brought in by Healey to grow YHB, and specifically its Holiday Experts homeworking division. It is hoped this will expand from 50 agents today to a maximum of 100, an optimum level Healey believes will enables it to offer the right support to each individual agent. Healey, founding managing director of Vertical Travel Systems who sold his stake in Future three years ago, said: “David and I have been very successful in business since we started working together in the mid 90s. “It seemed sensible to bring him back on board. Together we probably know over 1,000 people who have worked for us in the past. “It’s quite an interesting time in the market. We’re finding with some larger high street businesses shutting stores there are some decent and competent people out there. “We are providing them with a safe place to be where we will give them the support and good technology and websites to develop their businesses with. “We are looking for serious and experienced agents with a connection with the market and with a client base of their own.” Elstob said: “At its peak in 2004 Future Travel had over 500 homeworkers and a turnover in excess of £200m. “There is still plenty of room to grow the existing homeworking market today and at Holiday Experts we can once again offer the kind of support package and benefits that we offered back in 2004, and more”. As part of the Vertical Group Holiday Experts homeworkers are given access to overseas trips to the private properties the group provides technology to. Healey said: “We very much have a traditional relationship with the supplier. That’s what we used to do when we started. “I am aware that it’s a competitive space out there, but our support package includes great central support marketing activity from the rest of the YHB businesses that enables our homeworkers to earn good, sustainable income.” Your Holiday Booking will be at World Travel Market on stand GV103 where it hoped to speak to interested agents.

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Vertical group chief to speak on bbc news about brexit.

Sophie Griffiths

Vertical Group founder Peter Healey is set to appear on BBC News tonight, to voice his thoughts on Brexit.


It comes after Healey joined the TTG panel debate in April to argue his case as to why he believes Britain should leave the EU. He is one of the few travel bosses to publicly back leaving the EU and insisted in the TTG debate that the horror stories about what would happen if the UK went its own way were misplaced. “Germany is still going to want to sell its cars to us, people are still going to want to sell their hotels to us; we’re still going to be in that market buying those things,” he said in April. He also emphasised the sovereignty point, insisting the UK had “no choice” when it comes to rules and regulation. Healey will be speaking on BBC News tonight between 6-6.30pm.

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Lucas: Migrant crisis testing Massachusetts…

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Lucas: migrant crisis testing massachusetts gov. maura healey.

Gov. Maura Healey speaks to the media at the State House last week. (Nancy Lane/Boston Herald)

The immigrant invasion of Massachusetts is to Gov. Maura Healey what the COVID-19 pandemic was to former Gov. Charlie Baker.

Both governors declared a state of emergency, Baker on March 10, Sept. 14, 2020, and Healey on August 8, 2023.

Both events consumed their time, political capital, budgets and energy, giving them little time to deal with a myriad of other issues demanding their attention.

The pandemic, which shut the state and the country down, arrived during Baker’s second and last term as governor, so he already had years of experience as chief executive.

In Healey’s case, the explosion of immigrants descending on an unprepared Massachusetts practically hit her in the face on the first day of the job over a year ago. She has been struggling with it ever since.

It was not even an issue in the 2022 campaign for governor in which she handily defeated Republican Geoff Diehl. Now it has exploded.

But the key difference is that President Joe Biden, promising to deal with the pandemic, signed his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Act that poured some $115 billion into Massachusetts under various federal programs for Baker.

So far, Healey, despite begging, has been unable to get even $115 dollars out of Biden.

Nor has the useless Massachusetts delegation to Washington, headed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Eddie Markey, done any better in wrangling money out of the Biden administration.

You would never know it, but U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Springfield was the chairman of the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, which doles out billions, when the Democrats controlled the House. Now he is the ranking member. But there is no money for illegals.

Unlike the immigration crisis, the pandemic subsided and generally went away.

Open borders and illegal immigration are here to stay—at least as long as Joe Biden is president.

Biden on both issues failed to place the blame where it belongs. In the case of COVID, Biden has refused to hold the Communist Chinese responsible for the virus that emanated from its lab in Wuhan that killed millions of people in the U.S. and around the world.

Biden has also refused to take responsibility for the illegal invasion of the country that began on day one of his administration when he reversed policies put in place by President Donald Trump that had secured the border.

Instead, Biden is attempting to blame Trump for his decision to open the border, halt construction of the wall, and wave into the country millions of immigrants from everywhere, including criminals and terrorists.

The result has been the destabilization of cities and states across the country, some cities of which, like New York, Chicago and Boston once preened about being sanctuary havens for illegal immigrants. Now they are moaning.

And Biden, who created the problem, has ignored pleas from political leaders, many of whom are fellow Democrats and supporters like Healey, for financial relief.

Joe Biden has handed out more money ($8 billion) to the Taliban in Afghanistan than he has to Maura Healey in Massachusetts.

Yet she still supports him. And the situation worsens.

She would be better off telling Biden to shut the border down before the ongoing onslaught of illegal immigrants shuts Massachusetts down.

Martha’s Vineyard was the canary in the coal mine.

It was almost treated as a crime against humanity when Florida Gov. Ron DiSantis flew in some 50 illegal immigrants, mostly Venezuelans, from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard in 2022.

While welcomed, the Islanders could not get them off the island fast enough. Instead of sending them back to Texas or Venezuela, then Gov. Baker had them shipped to Joint Base Cape Cod where they could sign up for generous welfare benefits.

Since then, that batch of fifty immigrants arriving in Massachusetts to partake of its generous social welfare programs has grown to fifty thousand, and still counting. And no one is sent back.

Maybe Healey should tell Biden to just shut the door.

Peter Lucas is a veteran Massachusetts political reporter and columnist.

Migrants spend the night on the floor at Logan Airport last month. (Matt Stone/Boston Herald)

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Southern New England braces for nor'easter


Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey spoke about the state's storm preparations at a briefing, Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. (WBTS){ }

Preparations were underway in Southern New England ahead of Tuesday's forecast storm .

Officials said they expect whiteout conditions and very strong winds.

"In terms of preparations, we're focused on keeping residents safe and being in a position to help communities in need," said Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey.

In Rhode Island, 450 plows and 60 tons of salt are ready to be deployed.

State police are working around the clock near the Washington Bridge where Rhode Island Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti predicted challenging travel.

"The timing of the storm, the intensity of the storm is going to create challenges. Not just in this construction zone. It's going to create challenges statewide," said Alviti.

Gov. Dan McKee addressed the state on Monday, urging residents to get ready.

"Prepare now. For the rest of the day. We know the routine. Making sure you got batteries, make sure you have radios," said McKee.

  • MORE NEWS: Rhode Island implements tractor-trailer travel ban during snowstorm

Residents in Providence were stocking up on necessities.

"We have food for four or five days, so it won't be a problem," said Gustavo Roshoes of Providence.

Roshoes said he is not taking any risks, opting to work from home on Tuesday.

"It's not wise to get out when the conditions are not safe and if you don't have anything important to go out, then why take the risk," said Roshoes.

However, it was not an option for others like Travis Barnes, who is hoping his flight to Texas won't be impacted.

"I'm a little concerned but I don't mind staying longer," said Barnes. "I was trained on how to drive on ice from a friend in Iowa so hopefully that'll help"

The city of Boston also declared a snow emergency and closed public schools .

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Difficult driving, closed schools, canceled flights: What to expect from Northeast snowstorm

Parts of the Northeast were preparing for a coastal storm that was expected to arrive on Tuesday and pack high winds and dump a foot or more of snow in some areas, leading to school closures, warnings against road travel and the possible disruption of flights. (Feb. 13)

FILE — Sanitation trucks mounted with snow plows are parked on the west side of Manhattan in New York, Jan. 2, 2014. Parts of the Northeast were preparing Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, for a coastal storm that was expected to pack high winds and dump a foot or more of snow in some areas, leading to school closures, warnings against traveling by road and the possible disruption of flights.(AP Photo/Peter Morgan, File)

FILE — Sanitation trucks mounted with snow plows are parked on the west side of Manhattan in New York, Jan. 2, 2014. Parts of the Northeast were preparing Monday, Feb. 12, 2024, for a coastal storm that was expected to pack high winds and dump a foot or more of snow in some areas, leading to school closures, warnings against traveling by road and the possible disruption of flights.(AP Photo/Peter Morgan, File)

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FILE — New York City Sanitation Department workers use a front-end loader to to fill a salt spreader at one of the Department’s salt sheds in lower Manhattan, Jan. 7, 2022, in New York. Parts of the Northeast were preparing Monday, Feb. 12, 2024 for a coastal storm that was expected to pack high winds and dump a foot or more of snow in some areas, leading to school closures, warnings against traveling by road and the possible disruption of flights. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File) )

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Parts of the Northeast were preparing Monday for a coastal storm that was expected to pack high winds and dump a foot or more of snow in some areas, leading to school closures, warnings against road travel and the possible disruption of flights.

The nation’s largest school system in New York City said it was switching to remote learning and closing its buildings Tuesday because of the impending storm.

“With several inches of snow, poor visibility on the roads, and possible coastal flooding heading our way, New Yorkers should prepare in advance of tomorrow’s storm and take the necessary precautions to remain safe,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. “If you do not have to be on the roads tomorrow, please stay home.”

Some of the highest snowfall totals were forecast for the northern suburbs of New York City and southwestern Connecticut, where 12 to 15 inches (30 to 38 centimeters) were possible, according to the National Weather Service. Wind gusts could hit 60 mph (100 kph) off the Massachusetts coast and 40 mph (65 kph) in interior parts of southern New England.

“It will make for a messy commute tomorrow morning,” Christina Speciale, a meteorologist for the weather service in Albany, New York, said Monday. “This is a fast-moving storm, so things should be cleared out by tomorrow afternoon.”

Houston Police officers watch over displaced churchgoers outside Lakewood Church, Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, in Houston, after a reported shooting during a Spanish church service. (Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey told all non-essential Executive Branch employees to not report to work Tuesday. Boston schools were closing and a parking ban was in effect. Similar closures and bans were put in place in other cities and towns. Emergency officials had equipment in place to help keep roads clear.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said the city’s homeless shelters would remain open.

“With the arrival of our first major snowstorm this winter, city teams are prepared to clear our roadways and respond to any emergencies during the storm,” Wu said.

Healey warned of downed power lines and coastal flooding, saying the heaviest snow would be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

FILE — New York City Sanitation Department workers use a front-end loader to to fill a salt spreader at one of the Department's salt sheds in lower Manhattan, Jan. 7, 2022, in New York. Parts of the Northeast were preparing Monday, Feb. 12, 2024 for a coastal storm that was expected to pack high winds and dump a foot or more of snow in some areas, leading to school closures, warnings against traveling by road and the possible disruption of flights. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File) )

“Let’s be smart and not too glib about things,” Healey told reporters. “We haven’t seen big storms in some time but the teams are predicting that this is going to be a real storm.”

Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee signed an executive order shuttering state government offices on Tuesday and banning tractor-trailer travel on all interstates and state roads beginning at midnight.

McKee said he issued the tractor-trailer ban in coordination with Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York.

Transportation officials in Pennsylvania warned against unnecessary travel and said vehicle restrictions would go into effect early Tuesday on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and other major roads.

The city of Scranton said City Hall would be closed Tuesday, a public meeting on stormwater projects was canceled, and parking downtown was banned to allow for rapid plowing of streets.

Airports in the region asked travelers to check with their airlines in case of cancellations and delays.

Power companies said they were preparing to respond to possible outages that could occur because of trees and branches falling onto electricity lines.

“The hazardous conditions can also make travel challenging for our crews, so we’re staging extra staff and equipment across the state to ensure we’re ready to respond as quickly as possible,” said Steve Sullivan, Eversource’s president of Connecticut electric operations.

The storm was expected to bring a mixed bag of weather to New Jersey. Most of the north and center of the state was expecting 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 centimeters) of snow, more in some spots.

Rain was expected elsewhere in the state, with around an inch of snow possible toward the end of the storm if temperatures turned cold enough. The rain was forecast to start late Monday then turn to snow in northern areas early Tuesday. Officials said travel would be treacherous in north Jersey.

On Monday afternoon, dozens of shoppers loaded snow shovels and bags of ice melt into their cars at a Lowe’s Home Improvement Store in Stony Brook, New York, where up to 10 inches of snow was forecast.

“I’m just trying to make sure I’m prepared early,” said Mark Richardson, 29, as he unloaded a yellow shovel into the back of his SUV. “This will be the first big snowfall this year. All I have to do is get to the highway and I’m fine.”

Richardson, an ironworker, said he plans to shovel his driveway early Tuesday morning and try to make it to his regular commuter train into New York City.

At a news conference, New York City officials said that despite the snow predictions, they had no plans to relocate people from several large, heated tent shelter complexes built for thousands of homeless migrants.

“Those structures are designed to handle inclement weather,” said the city’s emergency management commissioner, Zachary Iscol. He said the city wasn’t expecting the type of strong winds or coastal flooding that prompted the evacuation of one of the tent shelters last month.

In the South, flood watches covered much of Alabama and parts of central Georgia on Monday. Up to 5 inches (12.7 centimeters) of rain was expected in parts of Georgia and Alabama, the National Weather Service warned.

Thunderstorms were rolling through both states Monday, and the rough weather also extended into the Florida panhandle.

Associated Press writers Steve LeBlanc in Boston; Jeff Martin in Atlanta; Mike Balsamo in Stony Brook, New York; Bruce Shipkowski in Toms River, New Jersey; and Ron Todt in Philadelphia contributed to this report.

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Don’t give Peter Alviti the pass he wants for the Washington Bridge fiasco

Peter Alviti Jr., director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (center) is flanked by Jeffrey Klein, director of structural engineering for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin (left) and Joseph Almond, senior deputy chief of staff for Governor Daniel McKee, before a legislative hearing about the Washington Street Bridge.

When I was a senior in high school, I was brought home in a police cruiser one night because I got caught acting like a buffoon with a bunch of my buddies.

It was the school winter vacation in 2003, and we were driving around the mean streets of West Haven, Conn., likely listening to a big chunk of what would end up being Usher’s halftime show at the Super Bowl this year. Except we kept stopping in front of random houses, jumping out of the car, and tackling snowmen like they were blindsided quarterbacks.

This wasn’t exactly the crime of the century, but some father called the cops when he looked out the window and saw five boys taking baseball bats to an especially impressive snow creature which, in fairness to us, had frozen over to become a four-foot ice sculpture.


We didn’t get arrested, but the police insisted that we drive over to the man’s house to apologize, and then they accompanied each of us on a walk of shame to our own homes to tell our parents about our juvenile antics.

I still remember my father’s reaction – “No wonder none of you guys have girlfriends” – as I pleaded with him not to ground me or take away my Nokia. We had never done anything like this before, I insisted.

Look, I made the honor roll.

Give me a pass on this one.

I had a flashback to that night on Monday afternoon as I watched Peter Alviti Jr., director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, discuss the abrupt closure last December of the westbound side of the Washington Bridge, which may have to be completely rebuilt.

Alviti sat for a four-hour hearing held by the House and Senate Oversight Committees, repeatedly explaining that the failure of the bridge and the lack of communication about it was an “anomaly” at his highly functioning agency.

To his credit, Alviti apologized to the tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders whose lives have been disrupted – in some cases, pretty severely – by the bridge fiasco. He even choked up as he explained that he wakes up and goes to sleep thinking about the safety issues.

“I’m truly sorry,” Alviti told committee members, showing far more empathy than we’ve seen from Governor Dan McKee throughout this whole situation. “I accept responsibility for it. I’m at the top of DOT.”

The trouble is everything else he said.

He devoted large chunks of the hearing to patting himself on the back with both hands, defiantly declaring that “we’ve fixed more bridges in the last eight years than this state has fixed in decades before that.”

When he was asked about my colleague Brian Amaral’s reporting that some of his union members believe that “the environment is toxic” at the agency, he wrote them off as workers who have resisted change.

“The changes that we have made have created a very healthy, happy, and extremely productive workforce at DOT,” Alviti said.

Yet, as flawlessly as this hard-charging agent of change has been running the DOT, it took three days before anyone – his employees or contracted engineers – bothered to call him to let him know that a couple of rods on the bridge had failed and it might need to be shut down.

An engineer discovered the problem on Dec. 8 – a Friday afternoon – and according to the timeline Alviti laid out for committee members, a team of engineers worked over that weekend to inspect the bridge. By Monday morning, Dec. 11, even more analysts and experts were brought in to review the findings.

There were no emails, texts, or calls to Alviti about the bridge until Monday afternoon to let him know of the closure recommendation. Talk about a hands-off boss.

You know the rest of this story.

Alviti called McKee around 2:52 p.m. that Monday, and by 4:30 p.m. the bridge was closed. Alviti held a press conference that was carried live by every TV station in the market without telling McKee, who chose to attend a high school basketball practice while thousands of people were stuck in hours-long traffic on I-195 West. McKee also posed for pictures at a local pizza joint earlier in the day while being completely in the dark about the status of the bridge.

Don’t worry, Alviti told the committee. This is all how it’s supposed to work. The Federal Highway Administration has even endorsed the way DOT handles critical failures of bridges, he claimed.

Then he acknowledged, “It’s not perfect.”

If this all sounds rather unfathomable, you’re not alone. Gary Sasse, a former state Department of Administration director under former governor Don Carcieri, told me the bridge problems should have been flagged for superiors right away.

“I could not imagine any crisis of this magnitude where the DOT and DOA directors, as well as the governor, were not notified within minutes of the problem being identified,” Sasse said. “The success of leadership is determined by how strategies designed to deal with sudden and significant events are implemented.”

Committee members didn’t even get into the fact that Alviti initially predicted it would take three months to repair the bridge, and now we won’t even learn the extent of the problem until the end of this month. It could be years before we have a true solution to what state Representative Jon Brien has dubbed “Carmageddon.”

The good news is there is no shortage of people paying attention to the bridge now, and Alviti has promised to share the findings of multiple reviews currently being conducted, no matter how embarrassing they might be. The Federal Highway Administration and the Department of Justice are also poking around.

The more investigators the merrier, I say.

Because Alviti shouldn’t get a pass for this debacle.

Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected] . Follow him @danmcgowan .

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Independent Travel to Moscow and St. Petersburg

My wife and I have traveled independently to many European countries and, after reading many of the comments in this forum, feel like we may be able to do so in Moscow and St. Petersburg as well, although we feel somewhat less comfortable than the other countries where we have traveled in Europe.

My biggest question is how much we will miss by visiting the main sites without a tour guide. In the other European countries we have visited on our own we have been comfortable and satisfied with the level of knowledge we have gained by studying and visiting on our own, although we believe a tour guide or tour company in any country would normally be able to provide greater insight than visiting a site on our own, but about in Moscow and St. Petersburg?

Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Unless you speak at least some Russian and read the alphabet it would be difficult without a guide. Very few signs in English especially in Moscow. Also not too many people speak English there.

I visited St Petersburg last Autumn for a protracted period , and did not find it anymore daunting than any other European city . As Ilja says , learning the Cyrillic alphabet is a big plus . I also found that it was fairly easy to grasp . It will , among other things , enable you to read signs with relative ease . I would answer the main part or your question ( about tour guides ) thus - I am not enamored of tour guides or tours. While I only use a tour under duress ( A sites rules prohibiting an independent visit - ie Glasgow School of Art , Municipal House in Prague , etc ) . Doing your own preparation and homework is the best way , in my opinion . My wife and I ventured through St Petersburg with nary a concern ,and made two day trips outside of the central district ( one was twenty five miles away , and no English speakers in sight ) Figuring out the logistical details , did not present any difficulties . While I never use tours , I am an inveterate eavesdropper , have done so many times , and find , that on balance , the information that they impart is fairly elementary . If you want greater detail , they are unlikely to supply it . I also prefer to go at my own pace , not being rushed and being able to dwell on things that most other visitors barely give a passing glance . If you are interested , let me know . I would be happy to provide you with information that will enable you to travel independently

Thank you, Steven. I am encouraged by your comments and feel the same way you do about tour groups. We are very much willing to prepare in advance and learn the basics of the Cyrillic alphabet to help us have a better experience.

I would be very interested in learning more about your experience in Russia and receiving any additional information you can provide on independent travel there, starting perhaps with obtaining the visa.

I am not opposed to hiring a private or small group guide for a specific site or for a day trip outside St Petersburg and Moscow, but, like you said, I much prefer the freedom of staying at places as long or short as I want and seeing the sites that interest me most. For example, neither my wife nor I are big into shopping, yet most tour itineraries leave afternoon time for just that. Not interested!

Please provide whatever you may feel would be helpful for us.

Russ , I see you are quite near San Francisco - you can start by looking at the VISA procedure , it's fairly straightforward . Since there is a consulate in San Francisco - look here

And here -

Having always traveled independently, we thought we could do a better job than any tour. How misguided (pun intended) we were. Now that we have had the experience of having someone native to the area walk us around and explain things through a personal perspective we realize how much we missed. For St. Petersburg I highly recommend . This is not a traditional guided tour, but an opportunity to receive some orientation to the area as well as insight into the "Russian soul". I think if you did this upon arrival the rest of your time would be much more meaningful. We really liked the . The location is superb (just around the corner from the Hermitage square), the rooms lovely, the included breakfast at the restaurant next door ample and overall an excellent value. We used this company to get our visa: Note that it costs about the same for a 3-year visa as a one-year, and you never know if you might want to return within that more extended window of time. It is not cheap, so factor that into your planning.

If you like traveling without a guide in other countries and find this satisfying, the same will be true in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Of course it's not either/or - you can certainly take a guided walk or boat tour, for instance.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of learning Cyrillic if you're going on your own. The book I used was Teach Yourself Beginner's Russian Script, which was great. It breaks down the alphabet into letters that are the same as English, letters that look the same but are pronounced differently, etc. It's out of print, but you can get used copies on Amazon:

Russia is indeed a bit more "foreign" than say, Italy. However, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, I found enough English to be able to get by. Many restaurants had English menus and/or English speaking staff, for instance. This was most emphatically not true in Vladimir and Suzdal (two cities in the Golden Ring outside Moscow). I went with my sister, a Russian speaker, and if she hadn't been there, I would have been in big trouble. So, if you want to see places outside these two big cities, use a guided tour (even if just for that part). Also, Moscow and St. Petersburg are huge cities. Coming from New York, I wasn't intimidated, but those not used to a megacity may not be so cavalier (even I found them overwhelming at times, especially Moscow).

I found both Lonely Planet and Rough Guide to be helpful, and both to have various errors. Look at both, buy whichever one has a more recent edition, and then be prepared to have to discard some of the advice therein. Also, these places change more quickly than places in Western Europe. Be very careful of outdated advice. For instance, I was there in 2001 and 2010, so I won't give you any specifics on getting a visa - that changes constantly.

Just as a teaser, two things I saw and loved that I doubt would be included in any escorted tour are the Gorky House in Moscow (an Art Nouveau wonder) and the Sheremyetov Palace in St. Petersburg (it's now a museum of musical instruments, and the decor is amazing, particularly in the Etruscan Room).

Thanks for all the good advice. Any additional thoughts are welcomed.

One of history's seminal works pertaining to Russian history and culture and a MUST for anyone contemplating a visit or simply interested , is this fine work from 1980 -

This is about you and not about Petersburg. Do you like guided tours? We don't and didn't find that a guide added to our experience in China where we did hire private guides mostly for the logistics; it was easy to have someone drive us places. But once at a site, we didn't need the guide. I felt the same way about our 9 nights in Petersburg. We did hire a guide for the trip to the Catherine Palace again for the ease of logistics for us Olds. Here is our visit: There are also snapshots of the Church on Spilled Blood in this photo journal. Having someone pick us up at the apartment and get us in without line ups and shepherd us through the palace steering clear of the tour groups was lovely. But we didn't need commentary because we can read and prepare.

You certainly don't need a guide for the Hermitage (we spent 4 days there), the Russian Museum, the Kazan Cathedral or Church on Spilled Blood or the Faberge Museum. We enjoyed a number of self guided walking tours including a couple from Rick Steves guidebooks. We took the canal cruise suggested by RS that had an English commentator. I would not take one without that as you will be totally clueless. The commentator was not all that good but at least we had some idea what we were seeing. So for people like us who like to do our own thing and can read a guidebook and don't particularly like to be led about, a tour is not needed. If you enjoy tour groups, then go for it. Petersburg is easy to negotiate. It helps if you can read the cyrillic alphabet and it is also useful to have the google translate ap on your phone. We found ourselves translating packages in grocery stores with it and the occasional museum sign or menu. I have one food I need to avoid and so it was handy to have the translator to talk with waiters (I could either show them the sentence, or play it for them or play it to myself and then repeat it to the waiter -- that all worked well)

Dear Russ, I cannot help you with Moscow, but about four years ago, my husband and I went to St Petersburg on our own. But, we did use a private guide for 4 half days. We both feel that our guide absolutely made our trip (we stayed 6 or 7 nights). We used a company owned by Tatyana Chiurikova, I cannot say enough good things about her and our experience. I emailed her and we worked out a schedule/ sights that was tailored to our interests. She also offered some recommendations, which we took. The guide will meet you at your hotel. And frequently, at certain places, with the guide, we were able to skip the long entrance lines. We had an half day driving tour of the city (car, driver, & guide). You are taken to & go in places such as Peter & Paul Fortress, some of the cathedrals, etc. We had a half day with the guide at the Hermitage which ensured that we would see the major sights there. And, of course, you can stay after your guide leaves or return another day. Also, we had the guide for Peterhof (a must & go by boat) and Catherine's Palace. I hope that you will go to the website. As I said, our guide made our trip. I am positive that we would have missed quite a bit on our own everyday. And I'm sure we would have wasted a lot of time trying to get to various place.This was the best of both worlds, a guide where needed and plenty of time on our own. Whatever you do, I'm sure that you will love St Petersburg! Ashley

I am curious about the lines as we encountered no lines on our trip -- but it was in September. We got tickets for the Hermitage at machines and skipped those lines and our guide for the Catherine Palace which was our only guided experience (as noted before, chosen for the logistics of getting there) had arranged tickets and we didn't have a line, but then we also didn't see lines. We did not find lines at any other site.

Both Moscow and St Petersburg I've done on my own, that is together with the Dear Partner. I can't remember any problem getting where we wanted to go. The Metro systems are well signed, and with a little exercise and patience you can recognize the station names. With a good map and a good guide - we had the Rough Guides - that part of the logistics is solved. The language is a major problem, but the usual tricks of pointing, looking helpless, and making a joke of it all do wonders. I would hate to be led by a guide, but for others it is a comfortable thought.

We also did both cities on our own. I found the DK Eyewitness guide for Moscow has the best map. I used the one from our library (kept the book at home). Took the smaller RS book for St. Petersburg ( his book on northern cities). His map and restaurant ideas were all good. We also downloaded the Google maps in our Android Samsung tablets/phones for both cities and then could get directions to any place we typed in. The blue ball guided us everywhere. I'm sure we missed somethings by not having a guide, but we just enjoy walking around and getting a sense of a place. If you like art, The Hermitage is great. We went 3 times and still missed alot. In St. Peterburg we stayed at the 3 Mosta which we loved (quite and not far from the Church of Spilled Blood.) We also loved the Georgian food in both cities. There's a great Georgian restaurant near the 3 Mosta hotel. We're now in Belarus- very scenic. Enjoy your trip!!

This topic has been automatically closed due to a period of inactivity.

Fact Check Peter Dutton says Scott Morrison didn't travel when he was 'needed' over a period of COVID. Is that correct?

Peter Dutton wears black glasses and a blue suit and is talking. Verdict: SPIN with an orange asterisk

It didn't take long after Anthony Albanese won office in 2022 for the Coalition to  begin attacking  the prime minister over his international travel. It's a line of attack that has only continued.

In an  interview  with the Seven Network's Sunrise program, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton accused Mr Albanese of being "on a mission to circumnavigate the globe as many times as he can while you're paying for it".

Host Natalie Barr pushed back, arguing Mr Albanese had travelled "about the same amount of miles" and taken "the same number of flights" as his Coalition predecessor.

"Well, Scott Morrison didn't go away during the time when he was needed — that was over a period of COVID," Mr Dutton responded.

Is that correct? RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates.

The verdict

Mr Dutton's claim is spin.

Mr Morrison did not leave the country for hundreds of days during the first two years of the pandemic.

However, he did make several trips overseas when various parts of the country were experiencing outbreaks of COVID-19, including one trip in September 2021 when NSW and Victoria were enduring prolonged lockdowns.

Some experts contacted by Fact Check expressed a view that these were times Mr Morrison "was needed" in Australia.

For his part, Mr Dutton has argued that events such as the cost-of-living crisis and a recent High Court ruling on immigration detention constitute sufficient grounds for a prime minister to avoid international travel.

Two men smile while bumping elbows in greeting in front of an Australian and Japanese flag

Importantly, the long stretches during which Mr Morrison remained in Australia coincided with periods when international travel was extremely curtailed.

Restrictions in other countries made crossing borders more difficult, and the international summits Mr Morrison had attended the year before were being conducted virtually.

Indeed, compared to Mr Morrison, other world leaders such as the USA's Donald Trump, the UK's Boris Johnson and New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern spent similar or longer periods within their own borders during the pandemic.

The COVID period

Experts told Fact Check there was no standard definition of when the COVID-19 period began.

The World Health Organisation first labelled the COVID-19 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on January 30, 2020, and declared a pandemic on March 11.

World Health Organisation member sitting on a panel with microphones in front of them.

Epidemiologist Michael Toole, an associate principal research fellow at the Burnet Institute, said the "acute" phase of the pandemic began in Australia when the country recorded its first case, and ended in "March 2022 when the huge summer wave subsided".

Australia  documented its first cases  of COVID-19 on January 25, 2020.

Cases  reached their peak  on January 14, 2022, when the country recorded a 7-day moving average of around 109,000 new cases during the first wave of the Omicron variant, which bottomed out at the end of February.

Catherine Bennett, the chair in epidemiology at Deakin University, suggested focusing on the period between when Australia closed its international borders and the month after it reopened them, to account for the impact of the reopening on community transmission.

Australia's  borders were closed  to non-citizens and non-residents for  roughly two years , from March 20, 2020, until February 21, 2022.

For the purposes of this analysis, Fact Check considers the critical phase of the pandemic in Australia to run from January 25, 2020, when cases were first detected, to the end of March 2022, shortly after borders reopened.

Scott Morrison's travel

Scott and Jenny Morrison board a jet.

The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet's  annual reports  contain information on the international travel of prime ministers.

Using these documents alongside media reports and official transcripts, Fact Check has  previously collated  the details of international trips taken by various prime ministers, including Mr Morrison.

The data shows that Mr Morrison took 22 trips in total from when he became prime minister in August 2018.

Notably, five of these trips fell within the period between January 2020 and March 2022.

During that time, Mr Morrison did not travel for 296 days after the first cases of COVID-19 were recorded in Australia, until he departed for a two-day trip to Japan on November 16, 2020.

After his return, Mr Morrison spent another 193 days in Australia before leaving for his second trip, to New Zealand, on May 30, 2021.

These were the then-prime minister's longest periods without travelling outside Australia during the critical COVID-19 period.

Problems to stay home for?

Anthony Albanese gives a thumbs up in front of an Air Force jet.

On several occasions, Mr Dutton has invoked the need to deal with domestic issues as a reason Mr Albanese should stay in the country.

On November 16, while Mr Albanese was  in the US  to attend the 2023 APEC summit, Mr Dutton  told  2GB's Ray Hadley in a discussion about a  recent High Court decision  that led to the release of immigration detainees from indefinite detention: "I just can't believe that the prime minister's jumped on a plane and gone overseas again, when I think he should have stayed here to sort this mess out."

The fact is I just don't think the prime minister's got a more important job than keeping Australians safe and he's nowhere to be seen."

He added: "I just think it sends exactly the wrong message when he should be here dealing with these problems and giving people assurance and the leadership that they require."

The next day, Mr Dutton  said  that "the prime minister should deal with these domestic priorities before he goes overseas on yet another trip".

And in his November 21 Sunrise interview, Mr Dutton said the prime minister "needs to be at home … to deal with these significant issues: the High Court issue, cost of living, families are under all sorts of pressures."

Given Mr Dutton's emphasis on these domestic issues, Fact Check will consider some of the events that were occurring at the time of Mr Morrison's overseas trips.

So, when was the PM 'needed'?

To give a sense of what was happening in Australia at the time of Mr Morrison's five trips, Fact Check has graphed them against data compiled by Oxford University's Blavatnik School of Government for its  Coronavirus Government Policy Response Tracker .

As  explained  in a previous fact check, the tracker's "stringency index" awards each country an overall score from 0-100 to indicate the increasing severity of pandemic restrictions based on indicators for nine policy areas; for example, school closures, travel restrictions or stay-at-home requirements.

The index does not necessarily reflect nationwide restrictions; rather, it shows the most severe level of restrictions in place anywhere in the country.

Between Australia closing its borders on March 19, 2020, and the end of March 2022, the highest the index ever reached was 78.24. Its lowest point was 30.09 (for vaccinated individuals only).

During Mr Morrison's visit to Japan in November 2020, the index was at 64.35.

On the day the prime minister left for Japan, South Australia announced  restrictions  on gatherings, and as he returned two days later, the state announced it was re-introducing tighter restrictions largely  barring people from leaving home .

Mr Morrison set off on his next trip, to New Zealand, on May 30, 2021, two days after stay-at-home restrictions  were re-imposed in Victoria .

Around 270 exposure sites  were recorded  across the state on the day of his departure, while the stringency index stood at 75.46.

Mr Morrison subsequently travelled to Singapore, the UK and France, beginning his trip on June 10, the day Victoria's stay-at-home restrictions were  lifted .

Various other  restrictions  on travel, gatherings and face coverings still applied, however, with the stringency index falling from 71.76 to 53.24 the following day.

Several months later, when Mr Morrison embarked on a trip to the United States on September 20, Australia's two most populous states, NSW and Victoria, were subject to stay-at-home orders due to a major outbreak of the Delta variant.

This was before those states had  reached  the 70 per cent  double-dose   vaccination target  required for the easing of restrictions on movement, hospitality and gatherings.

four men walking down a hallway

At the beginning of that trip, the moving average of new cases across the country stood at 1,719 and the stringency index at 71.76.

Mr Morrison's final jaunt, to Italy and the UK, occurred in late October 2021, after the 80 per cent double-dose target for easing restrictions had been reached in  NSW .  Victoria  reached the target on October 31.

During that trip, the stringency index fell to 57.87 for those who had been double vaccinated.

Was there anywhere to travel?

A screen shows some participants of the virtual G20 meeting, hosted by Saudi Arabia.

While Mr Dutton criticised Mr Albanese's supposed penchant for international travel by highlighting times when Mr Morrison had remained in Australia, experts said the effect of the pandemic meant the two leaders' records could not be readily compared.

Stephen Mills, an honorary senior lecturer at the University of Sydney's School of Social and Political Sciences and a former speechwriter for former Labor prime minister Bob Hawke, told Fact Check in an email that international travel during the pandemic was not only "impossible due to border closures" but also "less necessary given the cancellation of summits and probably … unwelcome at the receiving end due to pandemic fears".

Michael de Percy, a senior lecturer at the University of Canberra's School of Politics, Economics and Society, told Fact Check that the pandemic should be taken into account when comparing quantitative measures of prime ministerial travel.

"If you were going to compare time overseas, then you would have to adjust for the pandemic," he said.

Flavia Bellieni Zimmerman, a lecturer in international relations in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Western Australia, concurred:

"There was less need and ability for travel during that period, with many countries globally under lockdown and with travel bans in place. Most world leaders reverted meetings to teleconferencing, and travel was highly restricted."

Indeed, the  G20 ,  G7 , United Nations General Assembly ( UNGA ), Pacific Islands Forum ( PIF ), East Asia Summit ( EAS ) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation ( APEC ) summit were all held virtually in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.

The previous year Mr Morrison had attended each of these meetings in person, with the exception of APEC,  which was cancelled  by host nation Chile. (He did, however,  attend the 2018 summit .)

The EAS and  PIF  both remained virtual in 2021, while the G7 and G20 were held in person and attended by Mr Morrison.

(That year's UNGA was also in person; although Mr Morrison did not  personally attend , at the time he was in New York, where the summit was held.)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, Mr Morrison was not the only world leader whose international travel was curtailed during the pandemic.

An analysis conducted by Fact Check of other international leaders' travel histories taken from official government accounts shows similar travel patterns over the same roughly two-year pandemic period, with former New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, former UK prime minister Boris Johnson and former US president Donald Trump all barely venturing beyond their own borders.

What the experts say

Nancy Baxter, the head of the Melbourne School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne, told Fact Check in an email that September 2021, when Mr Morrison took his trip to the US, was "clearly [a time] of crisis in Australia related to the pandemic — given the lockdowns affecting a large proportion of the population".

"It is unclear that Scott Morrison's trips were germane to the management of the pandemic at this time — were there any National Cabinet meetings missed or delayed because of his absence? I would say that his travelling when so many were unable to [was] not great leadership."

Dr Bellieni Zimmerman agreed with Professor Baxter: "International travel in the peak of the COVID-19 crisis, in my view, should have been avoided, and [was] a sign of poor leadership by the Morrison administration."

"As the prime minister during the time of the worst health crisis in our country it is a sign of leadership to set the standards needed to control the pandemic and be an inspiration to the Australian people," she said.

Dr Mills said Mr Dutton's comments were "accurate only if we accept his definition of "the time when he was needed".

Referring to Mr Morrison's  well-publicised personal holiday  to Hawaii during the 2019-20 Black Summer bushfires, Dr Mills said Mr Dutton was seeking to "erase the bushfire travel by referring to COVID non-travel".

But Dr de Percy noted that Mr Morrison's travel to the US in September 2021, for example, coincided with the announcement of the AUKUS agreement.

Australia, the US and the UK signed the defence pact on  September 16 , four days before Mr Morrison's trip.

"[It's] arguably Australia's most important defence arrangement and in my view our only tangible defence deterrent," Dr de Percy told Fact Check in an email.

He added that the qualitative issues surrounding prime ministerial travel were, in his view, more important than simply comparing the numbers of trips.

"A better comparison [between Mr Albanese and Mr Morrison's international travel] is the bushfire-Hawaii debacle — although constitutionally not Morrison's responsibility, the 'optics' were key to the political fallout," he said.

"If you are going to compare the quantity of travel … it doesn't refute the optics issue," he said, citing Mr Albanese's  reluctance to discuss domestic issues while overseas  as a contributing factor in the public's perception of his travel.

Principal researcher: Matt Martino , RMIT ABC Fact Check Managing Editor

[email protected]

  • Paul Fletcher, Interview with Sky News, June 22, 2022
  • Peter Dutton, Interview with Sunrise, Network Seven, November 21, 2023
  • World Health Organisation, Listings of WHO's response to COVID-19, January 29, 2021
  • Parliamentary Library, COVID-19: a chronology of state and territory government announcements (up until 30 June 2020), October 22, 2020
  • Scott Morrison, Border restrictions, Joint leaders statement on AUKUS, March 19, 2020
  • RMIT ABC Fact Check, How do claims about 'Airbus Albo' and the prime minister's international travel stack up against other prime ministers?, November 17, 2023
  • Anthony Albanese, Doorstop interview, November 15, 2023
  • Peter Dutton, Interview with Ray Hadley, 2GB, November 16, 2023
  • Peter Dutton, Interview with Matthew Pantelis, FIVEaa, November 17, 2023
  • Anthony Albanese, Press conference, November 18, 2023
  • Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Annual reports
  • Stephen Marshall, Twitter post, November 16, 2020
  • SA Health, Twitter post, November 15, 2020
  • Stephen Marshall, Twitter post, November 18, 2020
  • ABC News, Why Melbourne yet again? The factors that fed into the latest coronavirus lockdown, May 29, 2021
  • ABC News, Tracking Australia's COVID vaccine rollout numbers, March 21, 2022
  • Victorian government, Case alerts — public exposure sites, May 30, 2021
  • Victorian government, Restrictions from 11:59pm, Thursday 10 June
  • James Merlino, Statement from the acting premier, June 9, 2021
  • Daniel Andrews, Victorians' hard work means hitting target ahead of time, October 17, 2021
  • NSW Health, New public health advice for NSW reopening, October 3, 2021
  • Daniel Andrews, New Freedoms When 70 Per Cent First Dose Target Reached, Press release, September 16, 2021
  • Sky News Australia, Perrottet announces 80 per cent freedoms for fully vaccinated, Facebook, October 18, 2021
  • Daniel Andrews, Twitter post, October 31, 2021
  • G20 Summit Riyadh, Press Room, Wayback Machine Archive, November 22, 2020
  • Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, 2020 Forum Foreign Ministers Meeting Outcomes, October 14, 2020
  • Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, 51st Pacific Islands Forum — virtual, August 6, 2021
  • Judd Deere, Twitter post, March 20, 2020
  • UN News, COVID-19: World leaders to stay at home, in first ‘virtual' UN General Assembly, July 23, 2020
  • East Asia Summit, About the East Asia Summit
  • Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin Called for Unity in Combatting Pandemic, November 20, 2020
  • APEC, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to Chair the 2021 APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, November 8, 2021
  • APEC, 2020 Leaders' Declaration, November 20, 2020
  • APEC, 2021 Leaders' Declaration, November 12, 2021
  • ABC News, Chile walks away from hosting the 2019 APEC and UN climate summits amid widespread protests, October 31, 2019
  • Encyclopedia Britannica, US presidential election 2020, December 14, 2023
  • Scott Morrison, Boris Johnson and Joe Biden, Media statement, September 16, 2023
  • Anthony Albanese, Press conference, June 7, 2022

US Office of the Historian, Presidential and secretaries travel abroad, Donald J. Trump

UK Cabinet Office, Ministers' transparency publications, Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson MP overseas travel, January 2020 to March 2022

New Zealand government, Rt. Hon. Jacinda Ardern ministerial diaries, January 2020 to March 2022

  • X (formerly Twitter)

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