The Hotel Accomodations I’m Missing Out On In Sochi

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It was a pretty weird feeling last night as I was playing My Little Ponies on the floor of our toy room with my four year old while “my” Turkish Airlines flight took off from Houston bound for Istanbul.  I had excitedly booked that flight the day the schedule opened using United miles 11 months ago.  I was supposed to be on that plane starting my trek toward Russia and the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, only I wasn’t.  I was at home having a very normal and routine evening with my family.  My only connection with Russia at this point was that the Olympic tickets I had sold (for a big loss) or given away were all hopefully on their way there via numerous different attendees.

I cancelled for a long list of reasons, and am very happy with that decision.  I am even happier with my reservations over the hotel situation as reports from different journalists who have arrived in Sochi have hit social media, and now mainstream media including articles like this and this.  It was pretty evident via my communications with a few hotels there in advance of the games that things were not on track, but it was very very hard to get a clear picture of exactly what that meant.  Heck, it was even pretty hard to get a clear listing of what hotels were open for guests.  Turns out lots of hotels aren’t yet open, and some won’t be open before the games are over.  The Hyatt Regency Sochi I was in frequent contact with isn’t open, so I’m pretty sure being on that waitlist never would have panned out.

Shared by @harrycnn

Shared by @harrycnn


If you were “lucky” enough to get a hotel, and double lucky enough to actually have it open, you may be in for treats such as:

  • Dangerous water
  • Doors that don’t work, or stay locked, or don’t shut
  • No lightbulbs
  • No hot water
  • Toilets that don’t accept toilet paper
  • No pillows
  • No water
  • No room
  • Stray dogs
Sochi water shared by @stacystclair

Sochi water shared by @stacystclair

The reports I have read from journalists there are all a little bit funny, and certainly (most) of those issues aren’t going to kill you, but this is supposed to be the Olympics in the resort community on the sea, not a mission to a third world country.  Well, I guess the truth is that it falls somewhere between those two.  That said, if I am going to be basically be camping out, I better not be shelling out thousands of dollars on my “vacation” to do so.

sochi toilet

Shared by @wyshynski

I feel bad for the people living and working in Sochi, I really do.  I feel bad for the stray dogs that are being “disposed of”.  Yeah, sure they are being relocated or sent to a shelter where vet checks are given.  However, I don’t feel one tiny bit bad for everyone involved in deciding the Olympics should be held in this location.  I was ready to spend decent money (and points) to attend this event, but they weren’t ready, and I eventually wasn’t willing to play along any longer.  It got to a point where I couldn’t even give tickets away some of my tickets to this “world class event”.

I hope the biggest problems to come out of these Olympics are related to somewhat comical inconveniences.  I hope the events are spectacular and enjoyable to watch.  I hope Team USA wins a heap of medals.  I hope the cruise ships that many spectators are housed on are in much better condition than the actual hotels on the ground.

I look forward to watching some of the events….on TV.

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  1. The AIPS (Association Internationale De La Presse Sportive) Of which I am a member (lukily not having to go myself to the Games) send the following email out today:

    Dear Colleagues,

    The rush to finish the media hotels in Sochi continues, three days before the games opening.

    Some of the journalists already in Sochi had to spend the nights in freezing rooms as electricity and heating systems failed while in other hotels the promised wi-fi internet connection didn’t work.

    In some of the rooms nails and screws were still scattered on the floor evident of the rush to get them ready.

    Click here to read more from Maria Pia Beltran who will be covering the games in Sochi.

    Best Wishes,

    AIPS Media

  2. Michael, very common in some areas, but combined with everything else adds to the comical situation for many from this part of the world.
    Thomas, sounds like a joyful trip. 😉

  3. The selection processes for the Olympics and the World Cup are a sham. In the best case they cost the host millions of dollars with no real return on the investment. In the typical case, they result in significant financial and economic harm to the host countries. In the worst case, like Sochi and possibly Brazil this summer, they result in highly corrupt nations spending millions (or billions) scrambling to put together even the barest of minimum in safety for the event at the last possible second. It will be a miracle if there is not a major attack, stadium collapse or similar at one of the big events this year. I hope and pray that it doesn’t happen, but I think it is a very real possibility.
    US Soccer has stated openly that it will not bid to host any World Cups until the selection criteria are defined and are set against at least some objective standards. It costs hundreds of thousands or more just to bid for an event like the WC or Olympics, and without transparency and pragmatism in the process (i.e. don’t give the events to countries with no economic foundation for the financial commitments, don’t give the events to countries that make up fictions about their ability to air condition a stadium sufficiently when it’s 120 degrees outside), the trend will continue.
    I’m glad for your sake that you decided that your excitement over going to the games wasn’t worth the risk. It looks like you made the right decision!

  4. So, why does the water in the toilet look clear and the drinking water look dirty. (and what traveler drinks out of the tap anyways)
    I just watched a canadian reporter saying things are not that bad. and as for the American reporter “pulling down the curtain” he should be kicked out of Russia!
    Talk about Propaganda .

  5. Autolycus, I agree. I won’t be attending (or even trying to attend) any future Olympics that aren’t in cities that can handle the event.
    TJ, I think the story with that water was about it being dangerous to even clean your face with, not just drink. I’m sure how bad it is depends on if you have a room, where it is, and what your travel expectations are. Some of this stuff is normal for some parts of the world, but it is still inexcusable (in my view) for new construction in a city that is hosting the Olympics. I think the curtain is getting pulled back a lot this week. 😉

  6. I think that spending 50,000,000,000 in a few years is hard for anyone. I tried it once and found that a few things didn’t work out.

  7. While I don’t think Sochi was a good choice for the Olympics, and I don’t think attending these games was a good idea, I wouldn’t put a lot of stock in the melodramatic reports coming out of the media. Like I’ve encountered the toilet paper thing many, many times. I’ve also encountered less than ideal lodging conditions in many less developed countries. Given that they’ve tried to put this all together rather quickly in a country that isn’t terribly efficient, I would expect many little glitches to play out. Heck, the mass transit folks in NJ couldn’t reasonably get the fans home from the Super Bowl last Sunday, and that was one freakin’ event. Stuff happens.

    I do think anyone brave/stupid enough to attend the Sochi Olympics will find conditions way better than what’s currently feared, largely because so many people will cancel and stay home. As I’ve said before, I would expect lodging to be readily available.

  8. TJ, feel free to hollar next time you have that issue. I’ll help you out with at least one of the zeros.
    Jeanne, indeed, though I don’t think that applies to all hotels in Russia…however I haven’t been, and who knows if/when I will.

  9. Front desk: Welcome to Sochi, are you checking in?

    Guest: Yes.

    Front desk: Unfortunately, we’re a little short staffed at the moment, so you’re going to have to make your own bed.

    Guest: No problem. With all the horror stories i’ve heard about hotels not being ready for the games, that doesn’t sound like too big a deal.

    Front desk: Great, here’s your hammer. The wood and nails are already up in your room.

  10. @TJ Vancouver spent 8 billion dollars and put on a great Olympics. If Russian had said this is not going to be a first world Olympics that would be fine. I’m sure in Mexico City in 68 you couldn’t drink the water either. However, Putin put his reputation on the line about this being a great first world Olympics. Russia can’t now say two days before the Olympics just kidding, we should be measured against places like Mexico and Brazil not Vancouver or Nagano.

  11. Hotel quality is just one of the issues. If anyone is going – beware the pickpockets. There will be many of them out there. And beware the taxi drivers. Try to get a price up front before you get in the cab. Make him repeat it several times, not just once.

  12. If its any consolation, half of Russia seems to have beaten it to Pattaya instead of Sochi.

    We have working toilets in the hotels, but all the Russians I’m seeing here on The Walking Street ain’t drinking water.

  13. I think it becomes a little bit difficult to judge one situation based on another’s standards. Some of the world’s most remote locations, including islands in the South Pacific, have spartan accommodations. During my parents’ youth and before we moved to the states, Sochi was “the” place to visit for a relaxing getaway and, certainly, the hotel infrastructure was below where it is today. Everyone would come back happy without the focus on which light bulb was working 🙂 Hotel projects get delayed frequently – the Andaz Maui opened a month late with them allowing room bookings and displacing guests – and even the top Park Hyatt constructions can be up to a year behind schedule. As I read all the negative publicity the media puts a premium on reporting, I will stay positive, keep in mind that relatively remote Sochi is not St. Petersburg and enjoy the events 🙂

  14. NICK, Your SO right about the pickpockets, someone tried to pick mine twice on the same boat, once going down the stairs and then going back up. as a tourist you do have to be carefull, Also had the same experiance in Rome. Then again my Mom had a wallet stolen out of her purse here in Canada.

  15. I am so glad you cancelled. I don’t care what anybody says, it just doesn’t look like a good place to be. Last night on the news there was a report that says if you bring your computer or smart phones, they WILL be hacked within 5 minutes of turning them on in a wi-fi area. Computers experts say that hackers are waiting for ya. The reports of bad water, terrorist threats, hackers, etc is enough for me to stay w away. Anyway, glad you are staying away. 🙂

  16. It’s just as I expected. Substandard accommodations leading to overblown anti-Russia stories. And as long as the IOC executives rooms are pristine, they won’t care. At least the next ones are in South Korea. We can write off the next summer Olympics and two World Cups though.

  17. We’re all still going! After a bout of real nervousness and anxiety a few weeks ago, I am now set and SO excited! These types of things get me all giddy, they are the things that fun travel stories are made of! I rarely tell people the story of seeing all sorts of amazing sites when I lived in Cairo, but I do tell the story of getting kicked out of my apartment despite having a year-long contract. I don’t tell too many stories about the Taj Mahal in India, but I do tell my story about nearly getting hit by two different trains within 20 minutes. And Jordanian customs officials throwing my passport in a trash can. And thinking I was being kidnapped on the Mekong River after my boat driver was going so far away from civilization. These things happening in Sochi are what amazing travel stories are made of. I, for one, am looking forward to it so much now!

    • Melissa, awesome! That is the right attitude to have going into it. I hope you have an amazing experience and feel free to come back here and share all your stories!

  18. Don’t misunderstand me. I wasn’t knocking Russia. In fact, I went there and it was one of the best trips of my life. I’m just saying be careful, that’s all.
    Like I said, there are tons of pickpockets and “opportunists.” If you plan on driving a car, plan on paying THE COP if you get pulled over. Don’t resist, there is no clerk of court or “your day in court.”
    Most people don’t rent cars in Russia. So when you go out and walk around, try to stay in a group. You will most likely have NO problems if you stay in a group.
    Do NOT take pictures if you are at an airport or any train station. You may be stopped and questioned, or worse, and I don’t think Russian law permits it (or at least “local” Russian law). Remember, they are on “high alert” with this event and they are not afraid to use their power and authority.
    DO NOT attempt to take Russian Robles back with you. It is against the law and you may be arrested. When I left Russia at the airport, before I was cleared to enter a big, burly comrade in a uniform came up to me and said, “SHOW ME ALL CASH MONEY!!” So I had to open my wallet for him. I thought he wanted my money but he was checking to see if I was trying to leave with any Russian money.
    DO try the caviar. DO try the heavenly vodka. DO try the champagne (even a cheaper, local brand is fine). DO try Russian beer
    (click DA [YES] to enter site, don’t click HET [NO – “nyet”]. Now I’m getting jealous and want to go back.
    DO try the fresh fish if they have available.
    Russia also has what they call “Pivnoy Bars.” This is usually a small, local place that serves drinks and has all sorts of small plates of really great Russian food. Maybe – like a ‘tapas’ bar but I would have to say it is not “trendy” like a tapas bar. Try to find one. You will know because all the locals will be there. It may be hard to get a small table.
    До свидания!!! Good luck!

  19. @Nick, regarding the Russian Rubles, that seems like something pretty important, but it isn’t listed on the State Department’s travel information page for Russia. Do you have a source for that?

  20. @Melissa & Nick – that one experience that Nick had with rubles at the airport does not a pattern make. I go back and forth from Russia having a few notes all the time. Never was stuck or questioned upon departure whatsoever. How would Russians going on a holiday abroad would expect to have money upon their return? In fact, I have a few “emergency” Russian rubles in my purse for when I land in Sochi next week. 🙂

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