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Vladivostok is most easily accessible by plane from Niigata, which is served two or three times weekly by Air Vladivostok. Flights also depart twice a week from Toyama and Kansai International.

Tickets prices vary depending on the season, but as a rule are fairly expensive. As the major Japanese travel agents rarely deal with this route, travelers may obtain a better fare through a specialist in Russian travel such as Euras Tours — tel: (03) 5562 3382; fax: (03) 5562 3380. Alternatively, occasional ferries connect Vladivostok with the port of Fushiki near Toyama, though this method takes much longer than the plane and is not much cheaper.

Travelers wishing to combine a trip to Vladivostok with a visit to other places of interest in northeast Asia might consider Air Vladivostok’s scheduled flights to various destinations in Korea and Northern China; Korean Air also connects the city three times weekly to Seoul. Various domestic airlines link Vladivostok to most other major Russian cities. Trains for Moscow via Khabarovsk, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Omsk and Ekaterinburg depart every other day on the Trans-Siberian railway. Tickets can be booked in advance through Euras Tours and other agencies, or by Internet through a Russia-based agency.

Whichever schedule you choose, advance planning is advisable to deal with Russia’s bureaucratic visa requirements.

All foreign nationals require a visa to visit the country; this can cost as much as 30,000 yen if required the same day, but as little as 1,000 yen if applied for three weeks in advance. Applications require visa support from a certified travel agent within Russia. Usually your hotel will arrange this for you, though there is sometimes a charge for doing so. Documents will be sent by post or fax and should then be submitted with a valid passport and passport-size photograph to the Russian embassy in Tokyo or the consulate in Osaka.

The best time to visit is summer or early autumn, though flights are also more expensive then. August is the hottest month, but typhoons sometimes reach Vladivostok at this time. In September the weather is drier and still warm. By the end of the month, and into October, the autumn leaves can be seen. Winter is very cold, and the temperature remains low until late spring. As Vladivostok is not really on the tourist map, there is no high season to be avoided.

The city itself can easily be explored without a guide, and during the day is not dangerous provided normal safety precautions are taken. Care should, however, be taken at night, when visitors may wish to travel to and from restaurants or bars by taxi. The countryside is difficult to explore unless some Russian is spoken, and a guided tour is the easiest and safest option. Travel companies which offer English-speaking tours and Internet booking include Lucky Tours ( www.luckytour.com ) and Voyage Torg Service ( www.voyage-service.com ). Otherwise, your hotel may be able to arrange a guide locally on your arrival.