Last Modified: 12 Dec 2012
Trip code: CBRJ
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2012
Travel from China to Russia through vast isolated landscapes as you travel the famous Trans-Siberian route across continents. Globe-trot from bustling Beijing and arrive in cathedral-studded European Russia. From the heart of oriental China to the tip of classical Europe, this adventure will open your eyes to the history, scenery and people that make up this fascinating region.
Warning - this is a new trip for us!
While we have thoroughly researched this area to put together this trip, it still must be remembered that this is a relatively new trip for us. To be frank, we expect some things to go wrong. When we head to new destinations, we usually find there are more pleasant surprises in store than unpleasant ones, but the warning is sincere. If it concerns you then we recommend that you wait for a year until we get any bugs ironed out.
Table of Contents
- The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Day 1 Beijing
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Please have two copies of your passport and visas ready. One will be collected by your leader, the other is for you to keep on you at all times whilst on this trip.
The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture.
If you arrive early, a great way to get started is a metro ride out to the Summer Palace, once an imperial residence, or visit the Silk, Pearl or Panjiayuan markets for some bargain hunting. Beijing's food is a highlight too, from the famous Beijing Roast Duck to dumplings or noodles in a tiny backstreet eatery to some of the best international dining in China there is no chance you will go hungry while here! We definitely recommend arriving a few days early to make the most of Beijing's sights and experiences.
Explore Tiananmen Square - the largest downtown square in the world. It covers an area of 44 hectares, big enough to hold one million people. From the Gate of Heavenly Peace in the north to the southern Front Gate, it measures 880 metres, and from the Museum of Chinese History in the east to the Great Hall of the People in the west, it's about 500 metres.
The Forbidden City is the former home to China's imperial rulers. Take a guided tour of the palaces, buildings and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards.
- Tiananmen Square, Beijing - Free
- Forbidden City, Beijing - CNY60.00
- Great Wall - Jinshanling section, Beijing - CNY50.00
- Great Wall - Mutianyu section, Beijing - CNY45.00
- Great Wall cable car, Beijing - CNY80.00
- Bike hire, Beijing - CNY50.00
- Acrobat show, Beijing - CNY250.00
- Kung fu show, Beijing - CNY180.00
- Beijing Opera, Beijing - CNY200.00
- Beijing Art and Architecture full day tour, Beijing - CNY590.00
- Beijing by Bike full day tour, Beijing - CNY480.00
- Lama Temple, Beijing - CNY30.00
- Summer Palace, Beijing - CNY40.00
- Temple of Heaven, Beijing - CNY40.00
Hostel (1 nt)
Days 2-3 Harbin
The first leg in this epic journey begins today with a day train to Harbin, 1388 km from Beijing and the capital of the north-eastern province of Heilongjiang (approx 8 hrs). Watch out for the Great Wall as the train passes through it just north of Shanhaiguan (415 km) - it is here that the wall meets the sea. Skirt the coastline of Heibei province before entering the southernmost reaches of old Manchuria. The train keeps tracking northward through Shenyang (841 km), an 11th-century Mongol trading centre, the 17th-century Manchu capital and the final resting place of Huang Taiji, the founder of the Qing dynasty. Passing through Changchun (1146 km) and out of Jilin province, the train arrives at Harbin.
Trains on this journey are simple but comfortable. There's a toilet/bathroom at the end of each carriage with a small sink and cold water. An attendant is assigned to every carriage to look after our comfort and safety although service standards can vary greatly. Each compartment has four bunks with luggage storage space inside. Bedding is provided, although some travellers still prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. There's hot water available for making drinks or instant meals, tea and coffee. We recommend bringing a mug, spoon, knife and fork if you will be preparing your own hot drinks or food on the train (as these are not provided in cabins) Sometimes snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and most trains also have a dining car, although with a limited menu. All our journeys are in 2nd class (four berths per compartment) on this trip.
Please note that in many cases, particularly in peak travel season, due to high demand for tickets we are not always able to get all of our berths together. It is likely that at least some members of the group will be sharing compartments with other travelers, either foreign or local, particularly if your group does not divide evenly into 4.
Harbin's modern industrial sprawl hides a small pocket of old-world Russia, evoking its passage from a small fishing village, to a bustling trade city, to place of refuge for Russians fleeing the Bolsheviks.
One of the few Russian Orthodox churches in China that were restored after the Cultural Revolution, the Church of St Sophia sits on a large, open square in grand Neo-Byzantine glory. Inside is the small Harbin Construction Arts Museum, exhibiting the architectural history of the city.
Wander the old market area of Daoliqu with Russian spires, turrets and cobblestone streets. There are a number of preserved historical buildings in the area each with their own plaque detailing the history of the structure.
Depart Harbin on the night train to Vladivostok.
- Informal Russian language lesson
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 4-5 Vladivostok
Late on Day 3 or early on Day 4 the train crosses the Chinese-Russian border, where customs and border formalities can take several hours. Chinese border guards check passports and customs in Suifenhe around 9am, before the train passes through the forested hills of the border and enters Russia at Grodekovo. Here the Russian guards repeat the process (albeit less efficiently), and the bogies on the train are changed.
The Russian railway system operates on a slightly wider gauge than the standard gauge used elsewhere in the world. This means the carriages must be lifted and fitted with replacement wheels (bogies) before the train can travel on.
Once formalities and practicalities are completed, re-board the train for Vladivostok. We arrive around 1am on Day 5 and will transfer to our accommodation.
Not nearly the barren wasteland of popular legend, Vladivostok is a bustling port city set across an attractive series of peaks, peninsulas and islands in the Sea of Japan. Roughly translated as Lord of the East, Vladivostok began life as naval base, and as the home to the Russian Pacific fleet was off limits to foreigners between 1958 and 1992. Today the eastern terminus of the Trans-Siberian railway has returned to its early 20th-century heyday as a commercial city teeming with merchants and traders - as well as Chinese, Japanese and Korean tourists. Movie buffs will appreciate the city as the birthplace of Yul Brynner.
Mural-lovers should take a turn around Vladivostok Station, where the main hall ceiling is painted in a riot of colour. The Post Office is home to some wonderful Soviet-era mosiacs.
Take the funicular railway to the top of ulitsa Sukhanova for a fantastic view out over Golden Horn Bay, named for its similarity to the Istanbul's harbour.
Visit the market in Ploshchad Bortsov Revolutsy, the square where Alexander Solzhenitsyn first stopped on his return to Russia in 1994, and the focal point for protestors and performers. Don't miss the Monument to the Fighters for Soviet Power in the Far East.
For an eclectic tour through a natural and human history of the area, visit the Arsenev Regional Museum. It houses stuffed Siberian tigers, an ethnographic display and temporary art exhibitions.
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 6-8 Trans-Siberian Railway (Vladivostok to Irkutsk)
Today marks the start of the classic Trans-Siberian Railway route. Travelling from the Russian Far East through the forested wilderness, the number 1 Rossiya train winds its way into the vast plains of Siberia, on the way to Irkutsk and, ultimately, Moscow. The first part of this grand adventure will take 3 nights.
This section of the journey hugs the Chinese border as it travels north, with the Sikhote-Alin Mountains and the world's most northerly monsoon forests of Primorsky Kray to the east. The wilderness is home to black and brown bears, the Siberian tiger and the almost-extinct Amur leopard. At Khabarovsk, the train dog-legs westwards, crosses the 2.6km bridge across the Amur River (the longest on the railway line) and skirts the northern edge of the Jewish Autonomous Region, of which Birobidzhan is the capital. 70 km before Amazar, the train crosses from the Russian Far East into Siberia proper. There may be a glimpse of a picturesque church every now and then, but look out for the gingerbread villages between Chita and Ulan Ude - log-cabin settlements with fanciful and heavily ornamented woodwork. About 60 km out of Selenga, don't miss the first glimpse of Lake Baikal as the train shoots out from between forested hills. The line runs along the shore of the lake and through a series of tunnels, and passes a waving statue of Lenin before pulling in to Irkutsk.
The train stops roughly every 4-5 hours at major cities in Siberia, and some smaller ones as well. A list of stations where we'll stop is available, along with the time spent at each one. Major stops (15-25 mins) are usually at Khabarovsk, Magdagachi, Mogocha, Chernyshevsk-Zabaikalsky, Karymskaya, Chita, Mogzon, Ulan Ude and finally Irkutsk, where we arrive on Day 9.
The duration of each stop ranges from 2-40 minutes but ALWAYS double check with the carriage attendant and your leader and do not stray too far from the train if you get off for a walk on the platform. Trains in Russia run on Moscow time even as we pass through different time zones so make sure you and the train are on the same schedule. It may be a very long wait for the next train to come through and it's unlikely that many people at the station will speak English if you get left behind (it has happened!). Even if you get off the train for a short stop make sure you have your passport and valuables with you, as well as the itinerary with contact details of your leader and your train ticket. Additional safety issues will be discussed by your leader at the group meeting.
It might seem like a long journey but the majority of our travellers are actually surprised how quickly it goes! Spend the days learning some Russian, chatting with your fellow travellers, having some meals in the dining car or taking a chance on finding some babushkas hawking local produce or baked goods on the platforms. Watch the landscape roll by, read up on the upcoming destinations or play cards. There's actually plenty to keep us busy and enjoying this relaxing part of our journey and you may even be reluctant to get off when we reach our next destination.
A brief word about drinking on the train: Social drinking is common on trains in Russia and Mongolia and can be an enjoyable way to meet local people as well as interact with your fellow Intrepid travellers. In order to make sure that your experience of train travel with us is a positive and safe one there are a few things we'd like you to keep in mind before setting out on your train journey.
While alcohol is often available for purchase on the train, spirits (including vodka) should only be consumed in the dining car. Train security guards keep a very close eye on drunken behaviour and have the legal right to fine or have any passengers who are intoxicated removed from the train without warning. Should this happen there's very little we can do to assist you in continuing your journey with the rest of the group.
Alcoholism is also a serious social problem in Russia and Mongolia so travellers should take care not to encourage or take part in drinking to excess. Fake alcohol is common and the motives for being invited to drink with locals may not always be honest. The locals' tolerance for alcohol is likely to be much higher than your own. You may be putting yourself and other members of your group at risk by getting involved in heavy drinking while on the train.
While we certainly want all our Intrepid travellers to have a great holiday it's important that you show due respect for your fellow group members and keep in mind that many of your local companions use the train as a means of transport to get home or to work. It's most appreciated if foreign travellers are respectful of this, particularly in the mornings and evenings or when other passengers are sleeping.
Overnight sleeper train (3 nts)
Days 9-10 Lake Baikal
The train pulls into Irkutsk about 6pm (local time). From here, transfer to the small, colourful village of Bolshoye Goloustnoye on the shores of Lake Baikal.
Bolshoye Goloustnoye, sits in the delta of the Goloustnoye River, on the western edge of Lake Baikal. Here, cows roam freely, contained only by the fences keeping them out of the village's produce gardens. The houses themselves are bright examples of 'Siberian Lace', decorative carved wooden window fixtures that keep evil spirits from entering homes.
Here the group will be divided into different home stays in the village within easy walking distance of each other, hosted by local Buryat (the ethnic group of the Lake Baikal area) and Russian families. Accommodation is basic, with no running water and outside toilets, but cosy and comfortable.
Please note there are no shower facilities, but there is a Banya - a Russian sauna that locals swear will get you cleaner than any other form of bathing.
The Banya is a wooden building located in the inner yard of the house, it consists of two sections: one where you change and leave your clothes and the next where you steam, get 'massaged' with birch tree leaves and wash. The Banya itself, as well as the water and stones, are heated by wood. Hot and cold water are available for washing. For comfortable bathing a maximum of 3-4 people can visit the banya at once. The group will be divided into single sex groups who visit in turns. The locals consider the banya very important and believe that it helps them to keep good health. You will need to take a towel, sandals or flip flops, a bathing suit (if you feel uncomfortable being naked), soap and shampoo. After a banya you will feel refreshed, alive and very clean!
Be treated to delicious, hearty Siberian home cooking made from fresh local produce. Traditional cuisine is built on fish species endemic to Lake Baikal, such as omul, whitefish, grayling and sturgeon. These are eaten salted, grilled, dried or in delicious fish soups.
Lake Baikal is the world's deepest, amazingly holding over 20% of the world's fresh water. There are plenty of optional activities to choose from: hiking, swimming and boat trips. You can visit the markets or the Baikal Museum, or stretch your legs along the Cirum-Baikal railway tracks at Port Baikal.
Swim if you dare - the water is very cold even in the height of summer, the warmest water in August being 16 degrees celsius. With the visibility depth of 40 metres, vertigo is also a possibility!
Rent a bicycle and spot wildlife in the delta around the village. Here waterfowl make their nests, including mallards, Baikal teals, goosanders and tufted ducks.
Take a boat tour around Lake Baikal, skirting rocky coves in the shoreline and marvelling at the epic vastness of the water.
While in Bolshoye Goloustnoye our groups may have the opportunity to particpate in a local project 'Traveller's Club'. The idea is to meet local children and adults from the village and to share travel experience, life stories, to learn more about Buryat & Russians and each other. For the local children it's an interesting way to learn about different countries and cultures. If you have some ideas and would like to participate please let your leader know at the start of the tour and definitely bring something from home to share! In the past some of the activities our travellers have organized include watching travel videos, sharing photos, playing games and quizzes, teaching some simple songs or dances, having a question time, sharing foreign food brought from home or cooking. Your leader will be on hand to interpret and it's a perfect opportunity for us all to interact and get to know each other, travellers and locals alike!
- Bike hire per hour, Bolshoye Goloustnoye - RUB150.00
- Boat trip Lake Baikal, Bolshoye Goloustnoye - RUB500.00
Homestay (2 nts)
Days 11-13 Trans-Siberian Railway (Irkutsk to Moscow)
Transfer to Irkutsk and prepare for 3 days of train life. Depending on what time we arrive, there could be some time to explore Irkutsk.
Once a boom town of exiles and gold merchants, Irkutsk suffered under the new regime that brought Russian architecture and communist propaganda to its streets. Fortunately, the sophisticated atmosphere it once offered is not totally lost and Irkutsk remains one of the most charming of Siberia's cities. Some parts of town are still lined with traditional houses and the old homes of liberal aristocrats exiled from Moscow early in the 19th century.
The train stops roughly every 4-5 hours of travelling both at major cities in Siberia, and some smaller ones as well. Lists of stations where we will stop are available, along with time spent at each one. Major stops (15-40 min) are usually at Tayshet, Krasnoyarsk, Tyumen, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Perm, Kirov, Nizhniy Novgorod, Vladimir and finally Moscow, where we disembark on Day 14.
This final leg of the Trans-Siberian odyssey traverses Siberian oblasts and crosses the mighty borders of the Volga River, the Ural Mountains and the border between Asia and Europe. Sight cinematic forests and picturesque villages and a wealth of bird life.
Overnight sleeper train (3 nts)
Days 14-15 Moscow
The great city of Moscow has survived centuries of revolution and seen Russia through some of its most turbulent years, from the days of the tsars through the communist era to the growing pains of democracy. Beneath its modern veneer - a sign of Russia's recent embrace of capitalism - Moscow is a fascinating, historic city with a wealth of sights to see.
To really experience Moscow life, you need to ride the metro, admire the marble and mosaics that decorate the stations and get up close and personal with the city's citizens as they do their daily commuting.
Explore the grounds of the Kremlin, which house the oldest and most important churches in the country and where many Tsars and Tsarinas were laid to rest.
Take a tour through the Armoury Museum (also located inside the Kremlin), which houses a glittering imperial collection of regalia and items once belonging to the world's richest monarchy, including Faberge eggs and ambassadorial gifts. Your leader is not able to accompany you on these activities as guides must be licensed to enter with foreign tourists, however they can help you to arrange tickets and a guide if you wish.
Visit Lenin inside his mausoleum.
Step inside the colourful St Basil's Cathedral on Red Square. Legend has it that tsar, Ivan the Terrible, had the two architects blinded so that they couldn't build anything as beautiful.
Please note that on occasion Lenin's Mausoleum and Red Square may be closed to the public during regular opening hours without prior warning.
Our accommodation in Moscow is in centrally located apartments. Larger groups will be accommodated in 2 different apartments located within 5-10 minutes walk from each other. Each apartment sleeps up to 10 people in twin and triple rooms with a shared kitchen and bathroom (with separate toilet). Please note that as this is private home style accommodation, some beds may be sofabeds or fold out beds
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
- Red Square, Moscow - Free
- Kremlin Grounds, Moscow - RUB350.00
- Armoury Museum, Moscow - RUB700.00
- St Basils Cathedral, Moscow - RUB150.00
- River cruise from, Moscow - RUB800.00
- Russian State Historical Museum, Moscow - RUB250.00
- Museum of the Great Patriotic War, Moscow - RUB200.00
- Pushkin Fine Arts Museum, Moscow - RUB400.00
- Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow - RUB360.00
- Victory Park Museum Entrance, Moscow - RUB200.00
- Bolshoi Theatre from, Moscow - RUB600.00
- Izmailovo Vernisazh Markets, Moscow - RUB10.00
Private apartment (1 nt)
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
- China Highlights (CBSD)
- Russia Highlights (WBSR)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
- Russia & Beyond (WBRL)
- Trans-Siberian and Mongolia (CBSU)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
This is an epic train journey that covers almost half of the world. You will be travelling through countries that speak little or no English, where transport often runs only when it is full (and often overflowing), where hotels and restaurants have very different ideas of service and amenities, where the plumbing can sometimes be temperamental and the power will often just vanish. Many of the places we visit are not used to people travelling outside of large coach tours so they will be uncertain of how to deal with us. Bureaucracy is rife and border crossings sometimes seem never-ending. This is a very challenging trip covering a wide range of peoples, cultures, religious and political beliefs and is a trip that involves a lot of long travel days and nights. Some passengers will experience increased fatigue due to these challenges. If you are able to bring with you a lot of patience and a huge sense of humour, then your experience will be greatly enhanced.
This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
You will be expected to carry your own luggage including stairs, move about busy public transport hubs, and on and off buses and trains. Although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage, you are expected to be able to walk and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes. Good general fitness and mobility plays a big part in making your trip more enjoyable.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
BOOKING THEATRE TICKETS IN ADVANCE:
To avoid disappointment we recommend that you book any theatre performances that you wish to attend in Moscow or St Petersburg in advance. Please consider carefully which performances you are going to want attend and make sure that the dates correspond to your trip. Here are some useful internet sites to check for what will be on (ballet, opera, exhibitions, etc) in Moscow and St Petersburg when you are there: www.mariinsky.ru, www.bolshoi.ru and www.ticketsofrussia.ru. In particular we recommend you see what's playing at the Bolshoi and Mariinsky, as it may be difficult to get tickets when you are there especially during White Nights in St Petersburg.
The official currency in China is the yuan or renminbi (CNY). 1 renminbi (yuan) = 10 jiao (mao).
We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in China they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.
ATMs are widespread, so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart. Some banks will allow a cash advance against a major credit card which will incur a service charge of 5% or more.
Currency exchange is available at major banks and some hotels. The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. In any case, some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies - we recommend around US$400 per person. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange and carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.
Please note that due to restrictions on currency conversion for foreigners in China it may not be possible to change left over CNY back into foreign currency, so please plan your budget and spending money well by withdrawing/exchanging what you need as you go.
The official currency of Russia is the Rouble (RUB).
We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in Russia they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.
ATMs are widespread in Russia so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart. Some banks will allow a cash advance against a major credit card which will incur a service charge of 5% or more.
The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. In any case, some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies - we recommend around US$400 per person. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange as what is advertised is sometimes only for transactions above US$500, carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.
Due to restrictions on changing money in Russia, only US$50 and US$100 notes/bills printed after 1996 and in good condition (no creases, marks, stamps or tears) will be accepted. Avoid bringing US$ notes in smaller denominations. By law, all purchases in Russia must be made in local currency.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you are happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants/cafes with table service: In Russia- we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill, however check if a service charge has already been added. Tipping is not common practice in China.
Local guides: Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest 50-100 RUB/10-15 CNY per person per activity day for local guides with the amount adjusted accordingly for guides who are with you for a for a full day.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey, while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however a base of 50-100 RUB/10-15 CNY per person, per day is generally appropriate, with the amount adjusted accordingly for drivers who are with you for less than a full day.
Please do not tip with coins, notes of and less that 10 RUB/CNY1or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline $US3-5, or the equivalent in any currency used on the trip, per person, per day can be used.
Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip isn't compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
CHINESE NATIONAL HOLIDAYS:
Please note that China's national holidays are the peak travel season for Chinese nationals. During this time, literally the whole country is on the move - that's over a billion people. Although these are fascinating and exciting times to travel in China, please be aware your group will almost definitely experience transport delays and massive crowds at tourist attractions and train stations. It's common for there to be difficulties in securing train or flight tickets at our preferred times, hotels become overbooked, traffic chaotic and changes to the itinerary are often necessary as a result. If clockwork organisation is important to you we advise you book outside of the weeks of the extended Chinese New Year in January/February, in the first week of May and the first week of October. If you decide to travel during this period please come with an open mind and be prepared for changes on the ground.
Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Overnight sleeper train (7 nts), Hotel (3 nts), Homestay (2 nts), Hostel (1 nt), Private apartment (1 nt)
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
As this is a Basix Adventure, most accommodation along the way is very basic with limited facilities. Most rooms are on a multishare basis with shared bathrooms, which includes triple and quad rooms or even dorm rooms. Couples may be required to share with other couples and you may be sharing with group members of the opposite sex. Couples or people travelling together may be separated because of rooming configurations. On occasions additional beds may be fold-away beds or portable beds.
Please note that in many cities in Russia, including Moscow, hot water is turned off for up to one month during summer for routine maintenance. During this time only cold water may be available.
Please be aware that Russia requires all foreign nationals to register their passports upon arrival in each city. Since March 25th, 2011 the registration rules for foreigners have been relaxed in Russia. According to these rules, foreign citizens must register themselves within 7 business days of their arrival into Russia (instead of the 3 days required before). This means that if you are arriving in Russia before the trip start date or staying extra days after the trip has finished (less than 7 days), whether at our Intrepid hotels or at accommodation of your choice, you don’t have to be registered and pay any registration fees. Intrepid will take responsibility for registration of passports at our first place of stay in Russia including any associated costs. If you are arriving more than 7 days prior to the start of the trip, or staying more than 7 days post-trip, you will need to be responsible for your own passport registration and any extra charges for this service. Failure to register could lead to problems at immigration when departing the country.
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
3 Breakfasts, 2 Lunches, 2 Dinners
Overnight sleeper train, Metro, Private minibus
There are some long travel days and some rough travelling in areas away from main tourist routes. Windy roads, rough surfaces and cramped conditions make for some challenging travel experiences. On some long travel days we depart early in the morning to ensure we optimise our time at our next destination. If you experience travel sickness we recommend you consider medication to help ease the discomfort.
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
City Central Youth Hostel
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Sultan Hotel and Accommodation
1-ya Tverskaya Yamskay 36, Podyezd 4 Apartment 61
Phone: 495 9729499
Fax: 495 7236043
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
When filling out the visa application form you will be asked to complete a section "company or person to visit in China" or "Residence(s) and phone number(s) during your stay in China" (in a time sequence). It's only necessary to enter one hotel in China, and use the hotel details specified in the start, continuing or finishing point hotel information listed in the Trip Notes. You require a single entry visa to complete this trip.
You will be required provide a copy of the trip notes and flight itinerary. Some consulates may ask for a hotel booking confirmations, please contact us if this is required. Should you be asked to provide a personal statement of your daily itinerary you will need to use the hotel booking confirmation document that we can provide for you.
If submitting your visa form in person with your local consulate, please check beforehand whether you need to make an appointment.
Intrepid also requires you to provide a clear scanned copy of the front page of your passport (photo page) at the time of booking for relevant train journey bookings. Intrepid must receive the passport copy at least 30 days prior to travel. Please make sure that this copy is for the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport please bring your old passport with you as well.
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
You will need a visa support letter (sometimes known as an 'invitation' or 'voucher') in order to apply for your Russian visa. You can obtain this letter through our visa support agent in Russia by completing our online visa application form. The visa support link and instructions will be sent to you or your travel agent at the time of booking. You must read the instructions carefully and fill out all the details required online. You will then be able to download the visa invitation letter instantly. We will add 3 days to the visa duration before your trip entry and exit date to Russia for your convenience. If you are planning on arriving or leaving Russia outside of these dates please contact your travel agent as we will need to manually request a visa letter from our Russian partners to fit your dates.
A single entry visa invitation is included in the cost of your tour. The maximum length of stay in Russia on a single entry tourist visa is 30 days. Visa extensions do NOT exist in Russia! We may be able to help to organise a longer or multiple entry visa invitation on your behalf but this will be at your own expense and paid directly to our local partners.
Once you have downloaded the invitation letter you can then apply for your Russian visa by going to your closest Russian consulate or by using a visa service recommended by your travel agent. Please note that we do not recommend trying to obtain your Russian visa outside of your home country or place of official residence as your application may be refused. For other application requirements, including processing time and cost please check with the consulate.
All foreign citizens entering Russia are required to fill in a migration card. The entry portion of the card will be retained by Immigration upon arrival. The stamped exit portion of the card must be kept with your passport during your stay in Russia and submitted to Immigration upon departure. If you are not given a migration card at Immigration on arrival you must request one, even if the immigration official says that you do not need one. Loss or failure to receive the exit portion of the card will result in you not being able to travel on our trip as all hotels require this card for registration and may result in significant delays or fines upon departure.
IMPORTANT - TRAIN TICKETS:
All train tickets will be booked according to the passport number that you submitted at time of booking. If you plan to travel using a different passport for entry to one of the countries visited on our trips you MUST inform us of this when you book your trip. If you obtain a new passport after booking you must also inform us of this as soon as possible.
If your passport number does not match the passport number on the train ticket you will not be able to board the train.
Changes of train ticket due to incorrect or changed passport information will mean traveller must pay additional expenses to rebook tickets and in peak season new tickets may not be possible at all.
Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. Please note we suggest you list your date of entry a few days before, and date of exit a few days after, your intended dates in case you encounter any delays or problems en route. The following are the international/administrative border crossings for this trip:
Exit China/enter Russia: Day 3
To help calculate the exact dates of these crossings we have found the following website to be very useful - http://www.timeanddate.com
For your Russian visa application please follow the instructions sent to you for how to fill out this information.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT:
It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary to store your luggage separately (and unattended) from the group. The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers, for when it comes to travelling on local buses and trains it's often only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas. If your bag does not fit in these areas then often the only place to put it is on your bed or seat. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
Where Intrepid covers the cost of luggage storage for included day trips, we allow for one bag/backpack only, so it's advisable that you travel lightly and keep luggage to a limit of one item (plus your day pack). Extra luggage storage will be at your own expense.
CLOTHING & CLIMATE:
The climate in this region is extremely varied. From October until May you can expect temperatures close to and below zero, while from June until September temperatures can reach well above 30 C. For departures October to May you'll need to bring a warm windproof jacket, scarf, gloves, warm hat and waterproof footwear. On all other departures it can still get quite cool at night especially when in the countryside, so we recommend that you bring a warm jacket or fleece.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
In China, clean and safe drinking water is widely available for free in hotels, restaurants and bus and train stations.
In some parts of Russia and Central Asia it is important to boil drinking water before use.
IMAGES FROM HOME:
During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
POTENTIAL HEALTH ISSUES:
Giardia intestinalis, a parasite that causes severe diarrhoea has been reported from time to time in the water supply in Russia. For this reason Intrepid recommends against drinking unboiled tap water in all Russian cites.
In spring and early summer in rural areas of Russia and Mongolia ticks are prevalent. Please take precautions when walking in these areas by wearing long trousers and boots and check your clothes and body thoroughly.
The diet and hygiene standards of Russia, Mongolia and Central Asia may be very different from what you are used to so please take care with washing hands before meals etc. and bring some medication/rehydration salts etc. should you experience stomach problems.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Pay attention on all roads, even small streets and alleyways. Vehicles find their ways into impossibly small passages leaving no room for both you and the traffic. Traffic can be very noisy and horns are used to signal turning, overtaking and to announce going through intersections.
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in the western world or from your home country and not all the transport which we use provides seat belts.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
Local interaction is certainly big part of travelling experience in Intrepid trip just be careful when it comes to drinking with the locals and playing cards with strangers on the Trans Siberian and Trans Mongolian train journeys. Remember that often vodka sold on platform and by attendants is very low quality and can be dangerous for your health. "Card sharpers" (card sharks) will offer to play cards masked as a local travellers, the ultimate intent is to play for money.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees for men and women.
Women are advised to cover their heads when entering functioning churches in Russia, while men should remove their hats.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Responsible Travel projects
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in China include:
* Beijing Huiling offers innovative services to youths and adults with learning disabilities and teaches people to respect what those with disabilities can do, rather than what they can't. Their activities and training facilitate independence and improve daily living and employability skills in a family-like group home environment.
* Xi'an Huiling provides adults with learning disabilities opportunities to develop their personal abilities and life skills, enabling them to achieve independence as a fully integrated member of the community.
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Russia include:
* Nochlezhka focuses on providing for St Petersburg's homeless community. Its Night Bus project provides a mobile social support point: two specially equipped minivans that are visited by up to 150 disadvantaged people each night. Every visitor receives a hot meal and tea, a nurse is able to provide first aid, specialised social workers can assist street children, and clean, warm clothes are also available.
Please advise your leader if you have any unneeded clothing or toiletries you would like to donate, so that they can arrange for them to be passed on to Nochlezhka.
Intrepid Travel also supports the following non-profit organisation:
*Upsala Circus shows children and teenagers from social risk groups with the method of circus pedagogy an alternative from the street and to integrate them into the society.
As the only organization of its kind in Russia, Upsala Circus directly connects the professional circus and theatre art, with social work. By the everyday training in the circus and attendance at circus festivals, the children and teenagers from social risk groups experience exciting and difficult challenges. The circus is referring to "high risk" nearly like the life on the street. It appeals to them with magic, lets them explore their individual skills, makes them stronger and motivates them to create their lives in society in an active way.
More information about Upsala Circus can be found at their web-site www.upsala-zirk.org.
Carbon Offset C02-e 453.00 kgs per pax.
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