Do I need insurance? Do I need vaccinations?
We do require you to have Travel Insurance to take any of our trips. For rates please contact our reservations department. Which policy you purchase is your own choice. The Russian Consulate also requires you to have Travel Insurance to obtain a visa. No vaccinations are mandatory but you would be well advised to informed advice on this (not every GP may be as well informed on the latest developments in these locations. Particular concerns are Cholera,Typhoid, Hepatitis B, Tetanus and Diptheria. Tickborne encephalitis is a small risk on some Siberian trekking routes and there is a vaccine available. We also suggest you take a first aid kit, to include a sterile surgical kit.
Why does it seem expensive to make En-route stops?
A Trans-sib secret that no guidebooks seemed to have grasped goes like this ..non-stop international tickets are still priced accordingly to old bilateral agreements dating back to the Soviet era which cannot be broken , even now! But if you introduce stops into your trip these sectors are priced commercially by Russian Railways …so you only get the benefit of state subsidised journeys for part of your journey.
Can I stay extra nights?
In Moscow and St Petersburg, yes! But the train schedules on some of the less than frequent routes make altering the stays almost impossible – unless you stay for a considerable additional amount of time. Adding or removing a few days almost never works. We always include two nights in Moscow prior to your Trans-Siberian journey and two in St. Petersburg is the standard if you buy the St.Petersburg add-on but"there is stacks to see and I wish I had stayed longer!" is always the feedback we get.
How much spending money will I need?
This depends on what lifestyle you plan to pursue on your trip ! The Information Pack we provide will give you an idea of current costs . Eating and drinking are similar to most European cities, although Ulaanbaatar and Beijing have upscale versions if you have the cash to flash! When itineraries take you far from the shops or cafes we often include meals. Russian souvenirs tend to be fun and low priced so you will be able to stash your pack full of Russian goodies!
What should I expect? Some of our trips feature options staying with local families. Although sometimes this is for practical reasons (e.g no other kind of accommodation is available – Nomad stays in the Gobi for example) it also broadens the trip experience, two way interaction with the people and the places they live. We`re not promising luxury we`re promising a slice of real life! People who live in harsh climates and terrains are naturally gregarious, and you will learn and experience more with them than you could ever absorb in a month staying in a sterile Western style Hotel.
Meat features strongly in the national cuisine of most of our destinations. As a team the Russia Experience employs several vegetarians and we have never starved! But for when you are off the train you must advise us prior to departure if you have anything more complicated than a lacto-vegetarian diet consider that in some remote places this could be an issue and stock up accordingly.
Trains: Life on the Train
The Trans-Siberian is not a journey specially arranged for tourists; it's just a means of public transportation. You will spend your days in the train meeting new people, chatting, eating, playing games, reading and enjoying the changing landscape outside your window. You will be able to get off and stretch your legs at the train stations, where the train stops for 5-20 minutes. Getting to know the locals is guaranteed. You might find yourself drinking vodka with a Russian soldier, discussing politics with a Chinese academic or sharing a bottle of Russian champagne with a Mongolian businessman.
Trains: Types of trains and classes
You can choose between first (soft) class and second (hard) class. A first-class compartment is shared by two passengers – there are two soft beds one above the other. A second- class compartment is shared by four (there's quite plenty of space, comparing to European trains). There is a small table next to the window and enough space for luggage. There are bedcovers and pillows, and at the beginning of the journey, you get bedclothes. Each wagon is being kept in order by two conductors. They will make sure your journey passes smoothly, exit at every station and remind you to get on the train before it has left, and offer you hot water for coffee or tea.
There is a restaurant on most trains, where both the staff and the menu change depending on the country the train is crossing, so the quality is difficult to predict. It is a good idea to bring along some supplies, but you will be able to buy very cheap, fresh and tasty food at the stops. You can buy everything: from a bottle of beer or water to home made boiled potatoes, eggs, cakes, chicken breast, vodka, smoked fish and fresh vegetables. The conductor also sells some not expensive snacks and drinks, so you won't get hungry.
Trains: Hygiene, toilets and showers
Each carriage has its own stewardess who does the daily cleaning. At each end of the carriage there is a toilet with a WC and a small sink. Most of the times the toilets are quite dirty, so you'd better have liquid soap and soft wet pads with you. There are no showers in 2nd class carriages, showers are provided in every compartment only in the 1st class, train #3 and #4, and in a separate carriage in some trains for extra payment - about 150 rubli (about 5 EUR).
The best time for the journey is from April to October. The winter is bitterly cold but, if you are not afraid of the frost, you'll experience Siberia covered with snow. Only the locals travel in winter – there are virtually no tourists. And it is quite warm on the train.
For all visitors traveling to Russia you will need an invitation to travel to Russia, we obtain this for you and send it to you directly so you can process the visa yourself. Please, check here whether there is a Russian Embassy or Consular Office in your country of residence here: http://www.mid.ru/zu_r.nsf/strawebeng
You will also need to register when you arrive, which usually is done by the hotels, where you are staying at.
The following documents are usually required to obtain Russian visa:
1. Visa invitation issued by a licensed Russian Tour Operator
2. Travel Insurance valid throughout your journey
3. Completed visa application Form with one passport size photo.
4. Visa fee paid in your local currency
5. Passport, which must be valid for 6 months after end date of travel.
Citizens of most countries need a visa, obtained in advance, in order to enter Mongolia. Exceptions are citizens of the following states: Cuba, Hong Kong, Israel, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and USA. Please, check here whether there is a Mongolian Embassy or Consular Office in your country of residence here: http://www.embassyindex.com/.
The following documents are usually required to obtain the Mongolian visa: For Tourist visa for 30 day or less it is required to submit in person following documentation:
1. Passport with a validity date at least six months beyond the end of the applications intended period of stay in Mongolia
2. Completed visa Application Form for Tourists with one passport size photo.
3. Visa fees must be paid in your local currency by money order or cashiers check made payable to "The Embassy of Mongolia". Cash is acceptable.
4. Transit visa processing requires visa for next destination, copy of onward ticket
No visa is required for ordinary passport holders from Singapore, Brunei and Japan to visit China for up to 15 days for business, sightseeing, visiting relatives and friends or transit. The residence of all other countries need to obtain Chinese visa in advance.
Visas are not required of Citizens of the following countries, who transit through Pudong Airport or Hongqiao Airport of Shanghai, provided they hold valid passports, visas for the onward countries, final destination tickets and have booked seats, and stay in Shanghai for less than 48 hours: Republic of Korea, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxemburg, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland.
The type of visas issued varies from place to place. Please, check here whether there is a Chinese Embassy or Consular Country in your country of residence and what their requirements are: http://www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng/wjb/zwjg/2490/The following documents are usually required to obtain Chinese visa: 1. Original passport remaining to be valid for at least 6 months from the date of application and with sufficient blank visa pages.
2. One completed Visa Application Form (Download) with a recently-taken passport photo; all the items on the application form should be completed neatly with genuine information; if the applicant has a Chinese name, the Chinese name should be filled in. False or incomplete information and illegible characters may lead to refusal of a visa.
3. Permission to visit Tibet can be obtained from a local Chinese Tourist Agency after you have obtained Chinese visa. The permission itself is received upon arrival to China.