Russia & Beyond Trip Notes

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Last Modified: 28 Dec 2012
Russia & Beyond
Trip code: WBRL
Validity: 01 Jan 2011 to 31 Dec 2012
Discover colourful cultures and vibrant landscapes as you travel by train from St Petersburg to Beijing. From the spectacular cathedrals of European Russia and quaint Siberian villages, to the sparsely populated steppe of Mongolia and the heaving streets of China's capital - this is a journey of epic proportions. Some of the accommodation is basic, but you will be touched by the warm hospitality of the locals you meet along the way and will finish the adventure with a unique insight into the cultures spanning this vast and fascinating region.
Table of Contents
StyleImportant notesFinish point instructions
ThemesGroup sizeEmergency contact
MapYour fellow travellersEmergency funds
ItinerarySingle travellersVisas
We also recommendAccommodationIssues on your trip
Itinerary disclaimerMeals introductionWhat to take
Culture shock rating MealsHealth
Physical ratingTransportSafety
Physical preparationGroup leaderTravel insurance
Included activitiesJoining point Responsible Travel
Optional activitiesJoining point descriptionA couple of rules
Money ExchangeJoining point instructionsThe Intrepid Foundation
Spending moneyArrival complicationsResponsible Travel projects
TippingFinish point Carbon offset
Departure taxFinish point descriptionFeedback
Style
Basix
  • 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.
Themes
Explorer
Map
Russia & Beyond
Itinerary
Days 1-2 St Petersburg
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia.
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, visa and migration cards ready. One will be collected by your leader, the other is for you to keep on you at all times whilst on this trip.
Truly one of Europe's finest cities, built of baroque European architecture combined with the opulent palaces of Russian royalty, St Petersburg was built by the Russian tsar Peter the Great and his legacy will clearly be felt as you explore its enigmatic streets and visit its showcase cathedrals and museums.
If you arrive early, we recommend you visit St Isaac's Cathedral and climb to the colonnade from where you will have magnificent views over the city. Why not walk along Nevsky Prospekt - St Petersburg's main thoroughfare - maybe popping into one of the many bakeries or pancake shops along the way, or head down to Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra where Russia's great musicians and writers like Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky are laid to rest in the cemetery.
Some great ways to spend your time here include:
Visit the Kunstkamera where Peter the Great's ghoulish collection of oddities is on show.
In the summer months, it is possible to take an optional night-time boat tour of the canals and waterways with a local guide to see the illuminated architecture from a unique perspective and to witness the spectacular opening of the bridges over the Neva River.
Explore the opulent grounds of Peterhof with a local guide and marvel at the magnificent landscaped gardens and spectacular fountains. These were the pleasure grounds of Peter the Great where he entertained his guests from around the Russian Empire and abroad. Don't fall for the same fountain "tricks" as Peter used to play on his vistors!
We meet to catch our first overnight train to Moscow (approx. 8 hrs)
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. Trains are generally heated but most do not offer air conditioning. The train can become very hot even in winter and the train attendants will not allow the windows to be opened, please pack clothing appropriate for the warmer conditions on these train journeys.
Please note that in many cases, particularly in peak travel season, due to high demand for tickets on the Trans Mongolian route we are not always able to get all of our tickets 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.
Optional Activities
  • Boat tour - RUB600
  • St Petersburg - Hermitage Museum - RUB500
  • Petrodvorets - Peterhof Park & Fountains - RUB500
Accommodation
Hostel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 3-4 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.
Some must do's whilst here in Moscow include:
Head to iconic Red Square with a local guide. This beautiful cobbled city square is framed by St Basils Cathedral, the opulent GUM Department store, the imposing walls of the Kremlin and the fairy-tale building of the State Historical Museum.
Visit Lenin, the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution which ushered in the era of communism, at his austere mausoleum on Red Square.
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.
Relive the nation's turbulent past at Victory Park.
The Izmailovo Markets are considered the best place for souvenir shopping.
Yaroslavsky Station is the starting point of the Trans-Siberian Railway for the 3 day/4 night trip to Irkutsk (approx. 90 hours).
Please note that there is only one daily train between Moscow and Irkutsk that has a total travel time of less than 100 hours and departs at a convenient time from Moscow. Some foreign travel companies that have less regular departures than Intrepid may take the train that departs late evening, however this train only departs every second day. In order to ensure that all our Trans-Mongolian Express trips are able to run on the same itinerary we take the daily train that leaves during the day. The downside of this is that we only have a limited time in Moscow so need to plan carefully to fit as much in as possible. The upside is that the train we take has less foreign tourists on board and gives us much more chance for interaction with regular Russian travellers. This can mean arriving in the morning of Day 3 and leaving again in the morning of Day 4
Optional Activities
  • Armoury Museum - RUB700
  • Moscow - Red Square - RUB3200
  • Izmailovo Vernisazh Markets - RUB10
  • Victory Park Museum - RUB200
Accommodation
Hostel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 5-7 Trans-Siberian Railway
The Trans-Siberian Railway is the world's most famous train line. It is also the longest, extending from Moscow across Siberia to the far-flung town of Vladivostok. We experience part of this celebrated train odyssey from Moscow to the Siberian city of Irkutsk (4 nights total). Travelling through 5 time zones, we wind our way through taiga, small Siberian villages and big industrial Russian cities, to reach the bustling European part of this vast and varied nation.
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 Vladimir - Nizhniy Novgorod - Kirov - Perm - Yekaterinburg - Novosibirsk - Omsk - Tyumen - Krasnoyarsk - Tayshet and finally Irkutsk where we disembark on day 8.
A brief word about drinking on the train
Social drinking is common on trains in Russia 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 removed from the train without warning any passengers who are intoxicated. Should this happen there is very little we can do to assist you in continuing your journey with the rest of the group.
While we certainly want all our Intrepid travellers to have a great holiday it is 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 is most appreciated if foreign travellers are respectful this, particularly in the mornings and evenings or when other passengers are sleeping.
Accommodation
Overnight sleeper train (3 nts)
Days 8-10 Lake Baikal/Irkutsk
The long journey brings us to the charming Siberian city of Irkutsk - gateway to Lake Baikal.
After disembarking the train, we take a private mini can (approx 2 hours) straight to the lakeshore village of Bolshoye Goloustnoye.
At Bolshoye Goloustnoye, there are options for swimming in the lake or river, taking a boat trip along the shore, renting a bike or hiking to look out points in the surrounding hills. Each day we'll be treated to delicious, hearty Siberian home cooking made from fresh local produce.
Here the group will be hosted by our lovely local Buryat (the ethnic group of the Lake Baikal area) friends in their guest house and home. Accommodation is basic, with no running water and outside toilets but cosy and comfortable. Situated right in the centre of the village, you'll certainly get to experience typical Russian rural life here.
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!
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!
We head back to Irkutsk for a chance to explore this charismatic city.
Once a boom town of exiles and gold merchants, Irkutsk suffered under the regime that brought Soviet 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.
We board our overnight train to Ulan Ude, the capital of the Republic of Buryatia (approx. 8 hours).
Optional Activities
  • Bolshoye Goloustnoye - Banya (Russian sauna) - RUB180
  • Boat trip Lake Baikal - RUB500
Accommodation
Homestay (2 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 11-12 Ulan Ude/Ulaanbaatar
Ulan-Ude is the capital of the Republic of Buryatia and homeland of the Buryat people who are related closely to Mongolians. After years of repression during the Soviet era, Buryat traditions and religions (shamanism, Tibetan Buddhism) are now seeing something of a revival. The future of Buryatia is directly connected with development of the Lake Baikal area as a tourism zone. By coming here with our groups, respecting environmental issues and rational use of the area's rich cultural and historic legacy, Intrepid aims to contribute to the development of sustainable tourism in Eastern Siberia.
The city has a unique cultural mix of local and Russian traditions - it's the site of numerous flourishing Buddhist Datsans and its main square is home to a large and highly unusual head of Lenin - the world's biggest!
See the main temple of Russia's Buddhist community.
The Old Believers are Orthodox Christians who were exiled or fled from European Russia during the church reforms that took place in the XVII century. This last activity is very popular with our travelers. A visit to one of their villages will show you homes that haven't changed since the 18th century, a chance to take part in a folk performance to highlight some of their cultural traditions and maybe a meal of timelessly tasty home cooked dishes.
We catch the public bus that will take us into Mongolia (approx. 10 hours). It's a long drive, but a great introduction to the landscapes we will get to explore once there. In particular, the views of lakes and open steppe as we get closer to Mongolia are a real treat.
There can be a long wait at the border depending on the traffic. We'll take some food with us for our journey and should arrive in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar by 8pm after which we'll transfer to our hostel for the night and get a good rest ready to see the sights of Ulaanbaatar tomorrow.
Optional Activities
  • Beryozovka Ethnographical Museum - RUB525
  • Guided Walk - RUB350
  • Ivolginsk Monastery - RUB700
Accommodation
Hostel (2 nts)
Days 13-15 Ulaanbaatar/Nomad Camp
Crammed between superpowers Russia and China, the independent nation of Mongolia is a true Intrepid destination. The capital, Ulaanbaatar (affectionately known as UB), is a city where new meets old as elderly Mongolians in traditional dress mingle with the nation's young business elite. Mongolia's past close relationship with the USSR is evident in the Soviet-style architecture and city layout. Explore the city's many museums to learn about the country's turbulent history, including the reign of history's most famous Mongolian - the feared and respected Genghis Khan.
Our accommodation in Ulaanbaatar is a hostel in a quiet residential area of the city within walking distance of central Sukhbaatar Square. We stay in dormitory rooms with up to 8 people per room, although rooms vary in size and composition. There are shared bathrooms and toilets as well as a kitchen with tea and coffee and a simple breakfast available.
The hostel is run by our friends at Lotus Children's Centre, staffed by graduates of their programs and all proceeds from our stay there go to benefit the great work that they do providing shelter and education for Mongolia's homeless children. More information about Lotus can be found on their website here: www.lotuschild.org
Travel by private van into one of Mongolia's best national parks, Khustai, which is also home to a population of wild Mongolian horses (approx 3 hrs). Leave your big bags in storage and just pack an overnight bag to take with us.
We are joined by a local Mongolian guide for our time here so we can learn more about the landscape, traditions and culture. First we have a traditional-style lunch at the national park headquarters. After lunch there's a chance for hiking or perhaps learning how to make dried curds (a local speciality). There may be an opportunity for horse riding either here at the national park centre or closer to our nomad stay. Please note however, that this is a highly risky optional activity, the horses are not fully domesticated, are unused to tourists and bridles and saddles differ greatly from what you may be used to at home. Even if you are an experienced rider you must sign an optional activity form before undertaking this activity and seriously consider the risks involved and the fact that should an accident occur we are several hours away from the nearest medical assistance.
Continue on to a nomad family camp where we stay for the night. This is a rare opportunity to see how modern Mongolian nomads are preserving an ancient way of life while still making some concessions to modernity. The conditions are very basic and as our dinner and breakfast are taken together with the family they are unlikely to be what you are used to at home! Nomads traditionally have a diet based heavily on meat (mutton) and dairy (cheese, yoghurt, milk and other dairy products) so vegetarians or those with special dietary needs may wish to bring their own food supplies with them from Ulaanbaatar.
Although the conditions may be eye opening and a cultural shock for some, the landscape is incredible, our hosts welcoming and the experience is without a doubt one of the highlights for our travellers on this trip. If we are lucky our host might teach us some Mongolian games, maybe even how to shoot arrows from a local-style bow, and we have a chance to take part in typical family life.
Included Activities
  • Khustai National Park
Optional Activities
  • Winter Palace Museum - MNT3000
Accommodation
Hostel (2 nts), Nomad stay (1 nt)
Day 16 Ulaanbaatar/Overnight train
Returning to Ulaanbaatar there is free time for more sightseeing for the remainder of the day.
Travel from Mongolia to Beijing, the next part of our epic train ride. The overnight journey (approx 30 hrs) leaves early in the morning and includes a long stop at the Mongolia-China border where the train changes bogies (wheels) due to the different rail gauges. The train may have a basic restaurant car but it's advisable to stock up at the supermarket before leaving Ulaanbaatar.
Please note that due to the high demand for train tickets from June-October and the fact that the train only runs once a week, some groups may need to depart Ulaanbaatar a day later and stay the extra night in Mongolia at the ger camp. The itinerary will be amended to fit in all our included activities.
For this reason we recommend either booking a late night flight on departure day or plan to stay a few extra days in Beijing.
Optional Activities
  • Ulaanbaatar - Intellectual Museum - MNT3500
  • Fine Arts Museum - MNT3000
  • Museum of National History - MNT3000
Accommodation
Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 17-18 Beijing
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.
There are so many great things to see and do in the Capital including:
Explore Tiananmen Square - apparently the largest down town square in the world. Framed by the Gate of Heavenly Peace with its Mao portrait, Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People and the National Museum it's a place of pilgrimage for Chinese tourists who consider it the heart of their nation.
Enter the imposing Forbidden City, former home to China's imperial rulers and filled with palaces, gardens and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards.
Take an early morning trip to the Mutianyu Great Wall (approx.2 hrs drive from Beijing). An incredible piece of engineering, it stretches 6,000 km westwards from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect Chinese empires from the 'barbarians' of the north and even though it failed in this purpose, it is still without a doubt one of the country's most remarkable achievements, and an iconic destination. It's a 30 minute climb up some steep steps to the wall itself but well worth the effort! There is also the option of taking a chair lift or cable car to the top and back if you are after a more leisurely experience and great views. We'll have a few hours to explore the winding wall before heading back to the city for the afternoon. Please note that the wall is quite steep in places so make sure you have some appropriate footwear for this activity.
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.
Optional Activities
  • Beijing - Forbidden City - CNY60
  • Great Wall - Mutianyu section - CNY45
  • Beijing - Tiananmen Square - Free
Accommodation
Hostel (1 nt)
    We also recommend
    If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
    • Beijing to Hanoi (CBRLC)
    • Classic Trans-Siberian (CBRJ)
    • Classic Trans-Siberian (CBSJ)
    • Trans-Siberian and Mongolia (CBSU)
    Itinerary disclaimer
    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.
    Culture shock rating

    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.
    Physical rating

    This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
    Physical preparation
    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
    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.
    Optional activities
    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.
    Money Exchange
    The official currency of Russia is the Ruble (RUB). 1 ruble = 100 kopeks.
    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 and note that recent travellers have experienced difficulties in using credit cards without a debit function from US banks for purchases or withdrawals. 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.
    The official currency of Mongolia is the Tugrik (MNT).
    Tugrik may only be obtained within Mongolia. The safest way to carry your money is as traveller's cheques which can be exchanged at most banks and currency exchange points in Ulaanbaatar. The easiest currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, although it is possible to exchange RUB, CNY and other currencies at some exchange points. Larger denomination notes often attract a better exchange rate.
    Please be aware that there are no reliable banking or exchange facilities outside of Ulaanbaatar. Major credit cards may be accepted in some shops and restaurants in the capital. Some banks will allow cash advances against a credit card but cash withdrawals are subject to a 5% or more service charge.
    In Ulaanbaatar you may be able to find ATMs that accept international cards and use them to withdraw local currency; however these should not be relied on as your sole financial source. Some souvenir sellers and tourist restaurants may accept USD or EUR as payment but all other purchases in Mongolia must be made in local currency.
    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.
    Spending money
    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.
    Tipping
    TRANS MONGOLIAN
    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 and Mongolia- 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/2000-3000MNG/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/2000-3000MNG/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 1000 MNG/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.
    Departure tax
    All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
    Important notes
    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.
    NAADAM FESTIVAL:
    In 2014 the trip departing on 8th July will be in Mongolia for the Naadam Festival. This is the biggest festival of the year in Mongolia and involves elaborate parades and concerts, wresting and archery competitions and spectacular horseback events and races. Your leader will inform you at the group meeting about the possibility and prices of attending events as optional activities so that we can book with our local Mongolian partners.
    Group size
    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:
    www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
    Single travellers
    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.
    Accommodation
    Hostel (7 nts), Overnight sleeper train (7 nts), Homestay (2 nts), Nomad stay (1 nt)
    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.
    TRAINS:
    Overnight trains are simple but comfortable. There is a toilet/bathroom and compartments with bunks/berths. Please note that we travel 2nd class on all overnight trains (4 people per compartment). While we always try to have our groups staying together there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. If the group number does not divide into 4 then you can also expect that some group members will be sharing a compartment with other travellers including local people. Please note that It is NOT possible to upgrade to a higher class train compartment on any section of this trip. There are generally no power points available in the compartments of the trains. The only power outlet occasionally available is one in the corridor for the whole carriage, and this is not guaranteed to have a steady flow of electricity or to be accessible from the compartment.
    Trains are generally heated but most do not offer air conditioning. The train can become very hot even in winter and the train attendants will not allow the windows to be opened, please pack clothing appropriate for the warmer conditions on these train journeys.
    Some of the accommodation along the way is very basic, staying in local guesthouses and homestays with limited facilities. Some facilities are shared and some accommodation has cold water only.
    HOT WATER:
    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. In Ulaanbaatar due to the fact that much of the city's infrastructure lacks regular maintenance, we may only have access to cold water at our hotel year round.
    HOMESTAYS and GUESTHOUSES:
    Please note that at our homestays and guesthouses you might be required to share a room with people of the opposite sex or with your leader. When we stay at people's homes, beds might be pull-out couches or mattresses on the floor.
    BEDS AND ROOMS:
    Some travellers have reported that hotels/accommodation in this region tend to have harder bed mattresses than those they are used to at home. Passengers that require a soft bed should consider bringing an inflatable camping mattress or sleeping mat.
    Smoking is prevalent in China and hotels generally do not offer specific non smoking rooms. Larger hotels with central air conditioning will sometimes transport the smell of smoke between rooms. While we ask our hotels to ensure our rooms are ventilated well before occupation in some cases this is not possible.
    WIFI, in room, or in public areas of accommodation is not as common as travellers may be used to in other regions.
    REGISTRATION:
    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.
    Meals introduction
    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.
    Meals
    4 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 3 Dinners
    Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
    USD 500.00
    Transport
    Overnight sleeper train, Metro, Minibus, Bus
    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.
    Group leader
    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.
    Joining point
    Hostel Life
    47, Nevsky prospect
    St Petersburg
    RUSSIAN FEDERATION
    Phone: 812 318 18 08
    Joining point description
    Located in the centre of the city, just 3 minutes from Mayakovskaya/Ploschad Vosstaniya subway station, Hostel Life is close to bars, shops, cinemas and museums.
    The hostel has comfortable rooms, a big living room with soft furniture, kitchen (free breakfasts with tea & artesian drinking water), internet zone with 4 computers, 24-hour reception service, bathrooms with necessary equipment, washing machine, dishwasher and personal lockers.
    http://hostel-life.ru/en/
    Joining point instructions
    St Petersburg's international airports are Pulkovo 1 & 2, 17km to the south of the city. Pulkovo 1 serves mainly domestic and CIS flights with some international. Pulkovo 2 has the majority of the international flights. There are shuttle buses between the two terminals.
    BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT:
    The journey to the airport from our finishing point hotel can be done cheaply by public transport. Our nearest metro station is Vladimirskaya (Владимирская) on the red line, a 5 minute walk from the hostel. From there, take the metro (RUB22) two stops to Tekhnologochesky Institute (Технологический институт) and change to the blue line for Moskovskaya (Московская) station. There is no extra charge for changing lines once you are inside the metro.
    Metro map of Saint-Petersburg: http://www.orangesmile.com/destinations/img/saint-petersburg-map-metro-big.gif
    Take the escalator to the right and follow the underground tunnels to the right to the end. Above ground near McDonalds there is a bus stop with many buses and mini buses (RUB19-30) which depart regularly to Pulkovo 1&2.
    BY TAXI:
    A taxi to the airport will cost approximately RUB1000 depending on the time of day. Agree on a price before you set off. Travel time is about 40 mins depending on traffic.
    Please note map including Russian (Cyrillic) wording for Hostel Life and address below which is useful to show to a taxi driver or to ask for directions.

    Arrival complications
    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.
    Finish point
    City Central Youth Hostel
    No.1-5 BeijingZhanXiJie
    Dong Cheng
    Beijing
    CHINA
    Finish point description
    Beijing City Central Youth Hotel is located across the road from Beijing Railway Station in down town Beijing. 1 minute walk away is a subway station and there are many shops and eateries nearby. Rooms are twin share with shared bathrooms.
    www.centralhostel.com
    Finish point instructions
    If you have pre booked a departure transfer, please inform your leader and they will notify you of your departure transfer time.
    If you are making your own way to the airport the hotel will be able to help book you an airport shuttle or taxi. Please ask at reception.
    Emergency contact
    In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, Intrepid's St Petersburg Office can be reached on Tel: +7 911 7033155. For further contact details please use the following page:
    Emergency funds
    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
    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.
    RUSSIA:
    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
    LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI)
    Most nationalities require a visa for Russia. You will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI), sometimes called a Voucher or Visa Support Letter in order to apply for your visa.
    You can obtain your LOI online through our local partners in Russia. Instructions and a link to the website will be sent to you at the time of booking. Read the instructions carefully and fill in the online application form. You will then be able to download your LOI instantly. Please note that we will add 3 days to the LOI duration before and after your trip dates for your convenience. If you are planning to stay longer than these dates please let us know as we will need to manually request a LOI to fit your specific travel plans.
    The LOI included in the cost of your tour is for a Single Entry Tourist Visa. LOIs for other types of visas may be organised at your own expense and paid directly to our local partners, Parallel 60 (www.parallelsixty.com)
    INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    You must apply for your Russian visa in advance. Visas are not available on arrival or en-route. Once you have received your LOI it is your responsibility to apply for your own visa either directly at an embassy or by using a visa agent. We do not recommend trying to obtain your Russian visa outside of your home country or place of residence as your application may be refused.
    Use ONLY the information and dates on your LOI when filling in your visa application. There is no need to reference Intrepid Travel or include a copy of your itinerary as Parallel 60 is the official inviting organisation, not Intrepid. Do not be concerned if the destinations and accommodation listed do not match your Intrepid trip exactly. This information is for the purposes of obtaining the visa only, not an indication of where you must travel and stay in Russia.
    DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    * Letter of Invitation (LOI)
    * Photocopy of your passport
    * Passport size photo (up to 4)
    * Flight or other transport details - if required
    * Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
    VISA EXTENSIONS
    Please be aware that visa extensions are NOT possible in Russia.
    INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR TRAIN TICKET BOOKINGS:
    Train tickets in Russia are booked with passport numbers. Please make sure you provide us with your correct passport number. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip. If we receive changes to passport numbers less than 30 days prior to departure we cannot guarantee purchase of train tickets.
    We do NOT recommend travelling on multiple passports for trips that involve border crossings by train. This can cause difficulties with train ticket bookings and cause significant issues delays at Immigration.
    WARNING – MIGRATION CARDS
    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.
    MONGOLIA - TRANS-MONGOLIAN:
    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: Not required
    US nationals can travel in Mongolia for up to 90 days visa free. Most other nationalities require a visa.
    LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI):
    Most embassies do not require a LOI. However, should you be required to present one with your visa application please contact us. There may be a fee for this service. In order for us to provide a LOI through our local partners we will require a clear, colour scan of your passport along with indicating at which embassy you will be applying for your visa. Please allow up to 2 weeks for your LOI to be processed.
    VISA ON ARRIVAL:
    Visas are not available on arrival at any land borders into Mongolia. You must have a Mongolian visa before beginning your trip.
    VISAS EN-ROUTE:
    You may be able to apply for your Mongolian visa in Beijing en-route if you have time here before your trip. Please plan carefully and check the current embassy requirements.
    INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    You will need to apply for a Single Entry Tourist Visa (J) that covers the duration of your stay in Mongolia. Visas are usually valid for 3 months from the date of issue and enable to you to stay for up to 30 days.
    Name and address of host person or organization in Mongolia:
    Monkhutuch Travel Co. Ltd
    Bayangol district, Building 19-3
    Ulaanbaatar
    +976 11 364 708
    DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    You may be required to provide a copy of your Intrepid itinerary, indicating the dates of your tour, along with your application.
    CHINA:
    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
    MAINLAND CHINA & HONG KONG:
    Most nationalities require a visa for mainland China. You must obtain your Chinese visa in advance. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival and Chinese visas can be difficult to obtain outside your country of residence. You may be able to apply for your visa in Hong Kong If you have time here before your trip departs. You will need a Single Entry Tourist for your trip valid for 30 days. Hong Kong is not considered part of mainland China for immigration purposes and most nationalities do not require a visa. Please check with an embassy for specific requirements.
    INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    Itinerary:
    Please list the destinations you will visit in China in chronological order on your application form. Do not mention Kashgar, Turpan or Tibet anywhere on your application form. While these areas are not off limits to travellers, they are considered politically sensitive, so including these on your visa application could lead to significant delays or your visa being denied.
    Name of Host/Inviting Organisation:
    Intrepid Travel Beijing Co. Ltd.
    606 InterChina Commercial Building
    33 Dengshikou Street
    Dongcheng District
    Beijing 100006
    +86 10 6406 8022
    DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
    * Hotel List - this will be sent to you by Intrepid or your travel agent at time of booking. If you do not receive this please email us with your booking number and trip details. Please tick the hotels in all destinations that your trip visits
    * Official invitation from licensed Chinese tourism company - this will be provided together with the Hotel List to all travellers regardless of whether it is required by the embassy or not
    * Itinerary – please print off a copy of your specific trip itinerary from our website www.intrepidtravel.com and include it with your application, marking the dates you will visit each destination if required
    * Photocopy of your passport
    * Passport size photo (up to 4 may be required)
    * Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
    DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR TRAIN TICKET BOOKINGS
    Intrepid requires you send the following at the time of booking, at least 30 days prior to travel:
    *Clear, colour copy of the personal details page of your passport
    Please make sure that this copy is for the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip as well.
    BORDER CROSSINGS:
    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.
    For your Russian visa application, please follow the specific instructions that will be sent to you regarding entry and exit dates.
    For this trip the scheduled border crossing days are as follows:
    Exit Russia - Day 12
    Enter Mongolia - Day 12
    Exit Mongolia - Day 16
    Enter China - Day 16
    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.
    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.
    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.
    WATER BOTTLE:
    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.
    Health
    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.
    Safety
    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:
    FIRE PRECAUTIONS:
    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.
    BALCONIES:
    Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
    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!
    SEAT BELTS:
    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.
    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.
    HORSE RIDING:
    Horse riding is an option available to groups on this trip. Please note however that horse riding is usually not covered by your travel insurance and helmets are not always available. If riding without a helmet is a concern then you should bring our own.
    TRAIN TRAVEL
    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
    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:
    Responsible Travel
    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:
    LOCAL DRESS:
    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.
    We recommend that you dress respectfully at all stages of the trip especially when in and around religious sites such as Buddhist temples. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees for both 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 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.
    Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Mongolia include:
    * The Lotus Children's Centre cares for children who are the victims of abandonment, neglect or abuse. Currently housing some 150 children, the centre provides for basic health, shelter and educational needs. Employment and effective life skills are also imparted as the children grow, in an attempt to break the cycle of poverty.
    Lotus is always happy to receive donations of a wide range of items: clothing of all sizes, shoes, underwear, socks, coats and scarves; arts and craft supplies for school activities; child-care goods and toiletries such as nappies/diapers, nappy rash, anti-fungal and scabies creams, soap, shampoo, sunblock, insect repellent etc. Please advise your leader if you have brought something to donate, so that they can arrange for it to be passed on to Lotus.
    Financial donations will be doubled by Intrepid Travel. Donations can also be made via your leader or via The Intrepid Foundation donation box at the Lotus Hostel. More information about Lotus can be found on their website here: www.lotuschild.org
    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.
    Carbon offset
    Carbon Offset C02-e 738.00 kgs per pax.
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