Russia - Do You Charge by the Hour?


Before heading to Russia for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, we booked hotel rooms for all of our stays.  Every hotel had high prices and even stays in private homes were astronomically expensive.  Three million soccer fans and journalists descended on Russia for the World Cup so not only were things expensive, but they were hard to find.   

I was there with my friend Roberto Pazos to cover the Peruvian team, who had qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 26 years.  We were doing reports for TV Peru in Lima, for the TV show Peruanos en el Mundo in the USA and for a Mexican sports channel.  

We booked only hotels that allowed us to cancel at the last minute in case our plans changed or we found a better place.   That's what happened.  Roberto heard from some other journalists about a hotel that had rooms available at a reasonable price.  We confirmed that the front desk would hold a room for us at that hotel and we cancelled our other reservation.  

We arrived at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport at night.  After clearing customs, getting cash and buying a SIM card, we called an Uber and headed to the Mirazh Hotel.    Roberto called his friends and told them we were on the way.  They said they had already checked into a room on the second floor.

It took 30 minutes to get to the hotel.   It was located on a side street and the first thing we noticed is that it was only one floor and it didn't look that nice.  Perhaps we just couldn't see the second floor where our friends were staying?   It was 10pm and we had no other options so we went inside.   If you can imagine what the inside of an "hourly hotel" might look like, that will give you an idea of what we saw.  It was empty and quiet.  

The clerk didn't speak English and clearly had no reservation for us.  We gave the names of the other journalists, but she didn't know who they were.   We double checked the name of the hotel and it was the right name.    We asked the price and it was very cheap.   I wanted to ask if that was the price for the hour or the night, but I didn't.  We asked to see the room.  It was "okay."   We decided to stay for one night.  

There was no Wi-Fi and we were hungry so we decided to walk back to the main highway and look for a place that was still serving dinner.   The first place we found, Ресторан Арго, looked really nice.  We confirmed they had Wi-Fi and took a seat.  

The owner greeted us in English and told us he was from Georgia. (The country not the state.)   We told him we had just arrived in Russia and were here for the World Cup.  He was thrilled and said he was going to bring us each a free glass of Georgian wine to welcome us. 
Steve Hunsicker at the Restaurant Ресторан Арго in Moscow

The wine was great and we enjoyed the food.   And now that we had Wi-Fi we were able to confirm that we were definitely at the wrong hotel.  There are two hotels in Moscow named Mirazh.  One near the airport and the one where we were staying.   We called the one by the airport, told them we would be arriving tomorrow and then returned to spend as few hours as possible at the one that looked like it should be charging by the hour.

The next morning, we made it to the correct Mirazh Hotel.  We checked in and then headed out to find the Peruvian team.  It turns out their practice stadium was only a few blocks from our original hotel.  


This was my second trip to Russia.  I first went in 1988 when it was still the Soviet Union.   A lot has changed and I before leaving I did a Facebook Live from Red Square talking about the differences.  I've linked it below.  The differences were significant.   

The trip to Russia for the World Cup was exhausting.  Both Roberto and I got sick during the trip.   In Sochi, he had scheduled to shoot a segment with a Peruvian musician, but he didn't feel well enough to go.   So I went by myself.   That might not seem like a big deal, but the musician, Wagner Robles Huata didn't speak English and I don't speak very good Spanish.   He was very accommodating and we did the entire segment with me asking questions using my bad Spanish and Google Translate.   (I'm better at understanding Spanish than speaking it.)    You can see the final edited segment below.   

I've also linked another show we shot while we were in Russia.  

Dates of Travel

  • September, 1988
  • June-July, 2018

Places Visited

  • Moscow
  • Leningrad (Now St. Petersburg)
  • Saransk
  • Yekaterinburg
  • Sochi


This post is part of my series "One Photo - One Country."  I'm am selecting one photo and writing one story from every country I have visited.   Your comments and questions are welcome.  

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