Last Modified: 17 May 2013
Trip code: WBSF
Validity: 01 Jan 2013 to 31 Dec 2013
Travel to Russia and experience a country where extreme landscapes, diverse cultures and turbulent histories coexist. From the forests of Siberia to the beautiful canals and Baroque architecture of St Petersburg, and the church domes of medieval Suzdal to the sombre, bloody history of Yekaterinburg, Russia fascinates and captivates all those who travel within its vast lands. Visit crumbling cathedrals, over-the-top palaces, colourful wooden cottages, stark Soviet monuments and world-renowned museums on this incredible Russia Experience tour.
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
- Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Day 1 St Petersburg
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting in the evening of Day 1.
You can arrive at any time during the day as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please check with the hotel reception where and when it will take place, or check the reception notice boards. If you can't arrange a flight that will have you arrive at the hotel by early evening, 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.
As we will depart the city on Day 2 we highly recommend arriving a few days before your trip to enjoy what St Petersburg has to offer such as:
For many the highlight of St Petersburg is the Hermitage Museum, one of the world's premier art collections housed in the former imperial Winter Palace.
Please note that the Hermitage is closed on Mondays, and in the high season (May-Sep) there can be very long queues. In order to avoid waiting and to make the most of your free day it's possible to book tickets online in advance:
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.
Visit the Kunstkamera where Peter the Great's ghoulish collection of oddities is on show.
Go to St Isaac's Cathedral and climb to the colonnade from where you'll have magnificent views over the city.
- St Petersburg - Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg - RUB400.00
- St Isaacs Cathedral & Colonnade, St Petersburg - RUB400.00
- Kunstkamera Museum, St Petersburg - RUB200.00
- Saviour on the Spilt Blood Church, St Petersburg - RUB250.00
- Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra & Cemeteries, St Petersburg - RUB150.00
- Mariinsky Theatre, St Petersburg - RUB2000.00
- Boat tour, St Petersburg - RUB600.00
- St Petersburg Discovery Urban Adventure, St Petersburg - RUB950.00
- St Petersburg Unveiled Urban Adventure, St Petersburg - RUB1420.00
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Pushkin
Escape the city and enjoy the peace and quiet of Tsarskoe Selo (25km from St Petersburg by metro and bus).
Now known as Pushkin, after Russia's most celebrated poet, this 'Tsar's Village' is home to one of the most opulent imperial residences in the country, the magnificent Catherine Palace.
Enjoy a tour of the magnificent palace and park, a royal summer residence famous for landscaped grounds, amazing interiors and rich history. Built during the reign of Catherine the Great in the 18th century, destroyed by German bombing during the Siege of Leningrad and since painstakingly rebuilt, the highlight is a reconstruction of the legendary Amber Room.
After exploring Pushkin, head to the railway station by public transport to board our first overnight train to Vladimir (approx 11 hrs). Bring some food with you for dinner in your compartment before getting an early night. This is the only daily direct train to Vladimir and we'll arrive at the crack of dawn.
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. Sometimes snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and most trains also have a dining car although with a limited menu. We travel 2nd class (four berths per compartment) on this trip.
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 this route we aren't always able to get all of our tickets together. It's likely that at least some members of the group will be sharing compartments with other travellers, either foreign or local, particularly if your group does not divide evenly into four.
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 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.
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.
- Pushkin - Catherine Palace & Park (including Amber Room)
Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 3 Suzdal
Arrive in Vladimir and transfer by private minivan to Suzdal (approx 30 min).
Suzdal is one of the fascinating towns on the so-called 'Golden Ring' - a group of ancient and former capitals of Russia. It's a beautiful place that feels like a fairytale, with many glittering onion domes dotting the skyline, opportunities to drink mead by the riverside, and a symphony of cathedral bells to be heard. Crumbling churches and lovingly decorated wooden cottages line the narrow streets and alleys of this magical spot.
Join our local guide for a walking tour of some of the sights such as the local Kremlin, trading square, market and monasteries (approx 3 hrs).
Visit the home of one of our local friends to take part in a short cooking class before a indulging in a dinner of hearty regional flavours.
Try your hand at one of Russia's most recognisable crafts - painting wooden matryoshka dolls.
While in Suzdal we stay in traditional wooden guesthouses in Suzdal's quiet back streets. Some rooms are twin share, while others are triple or quad share or interconnecting rooms. We share the toilet and bathroom on each floor and have access to a spacious kitchen and group dining area. Depending on the season and size of the group, we may sometimes stay in different neighbouring guesthouses on the same street.
- Suzdal - Guided walking tour
- Suzdal - Cooking class
- Suzdal - Matryoshka doll painting
Homestay (1 nt)
Days 4-5 Nizhny Novgorod
Transfer by private bus (approx. 5 hrs) to Russia's third largest city of Nizhniy Novgorod, named Gorky during Soviet times after the famous local writer.
The location of Nizhniy Novgorod's ancient kremlin, on the bank of the river Volga, is simply stunning. Take a boat trip on the river to the painter's colony of Gorodets, head to the open air wooden architecture museum on the outskirts of town or see a concert at the Glinka Conservatory in your free time here.
Visit the Sakharov Museum which serves as a reminder of more repressive times. Andrey Sakharov was a nuclear physicist who opposed the Soviet regime. The museum offers a fascinating look into his life and work.
After some free hours to further explore the town, we board our overnight train to Kazan (approx. 8 hrs).
- Nizhniy Novgorod - Sakharov Museum
- Kremlin, Nizhniy Novgorod - Free
- Glinka Conservatory Concert Hall, Nizhniy Novgorod - RUB300.00
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 6-7 Kazan
Located on the Volga River and capital of the Tatarstan Republic, you'll hear Tatar being spoken on the streets as well as see the Tatarstan flag flying proudly alongside the flag of Russia. The Tatars are descendants of nomadic Turkic tribes who have lived in the region for centuries. In 2005 Kazan celebrated its 1,000th anniversary and is preparing to host the 2014 World University Games.
The city has an atmosphere reminiscent of Central Asia and is definitely a unique treat on our journey. Admire highlights such as the striking Kul Sharif Mosque within the Kremlin walls on a walking tour with a local guide.
Head out of the city to a nearby Tatar village, spend time with a local family and join them for a traditional Tatar meal.
Spend a free day exploring more of this fascinating city. Check out the Syuyumbike Tower with its tragic history or the beautifully decorated library at the Lenin State University, where the man himself was a student.
Board our next sleeper train (approx. 17 hrs) bound for the Urals city of Yekaterinburg.
- Kazan - Guided walking tour
- Kazan - Kremlin
- Kazan - Village visit & traditional Tatar dinner
Hotel (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 8-10 Yekaterinburg
We disembark in Yekaterinburg, capital of the Urals region and gateway between European and Siberian Russia.
Best known as the place of exile and execution of the last Russian royal family, visit the sites associated with their macabre story, including the Romanov execution site and the Church of the Blood on a guided city tour.
There's free time here to wander along the Vainera pedestrian street, take a look at the old water tower or explore one of the town's many museums, which are dedicated to a wide variety of topics including architecture, fine arts, regional studies, mineralogy and natural history.
The next overnight train (approx. 10 hrs) will take us deeper into the heart of Russia to the Siberian city of Tobolsk.
- Yekaterinburg - Guided city tour
Hotel (2 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 11 Tobolsk/Pokrovskoye
The charming town of Tobolsk was one of the first settlements in Siberia but having been bypassed by the main Trans-Siberian Railway, it long resisted modernisation and still has an entrancing Old Town full of winding lanes and weather-worn wooden houses that contrast starkly with the skyscraper suburbs. It was also the place of exile for many who fell foul of the Tsar including the Decembrist revolutionaries. We take a tour of the stunning Kremlin and the Office of Nicholas II with a local guide to hear some of Tobolsk's intriguing history.
Board a public bus to the village of Pokrovskoye, birthplace of the notorious Rasputin and seldom visited by travellers.
This is a simple and typical Siberian village with limited infrastructure. We stay with local families in their homes, giving us an insight into how local people live here as well as a chance to enjoy home-cooked traditional meals. Not all homes have running or hot water, so in the evening we enjoy one of the must-do Russian experiences - a steam and wash in the banya (sauna). Russian banyas are wood fire or coal heated steam rooms and locals swear by the cleansing, healing and meditative properties of a regular banya. Go truly Siberian and grab a bunch of bitch twigs to slap your skin, stimulate circulation and enjoy the "massage".
- Tobolsk - Guided city tour
Homestay (1 nt)
Days 12-13 Tyumen/Trans Siberian Railway
Travel by minibus (1 hour) to the booming Siberian town of Tyumen.
Time permitting, we may have time to view the riverside Trinity Monastery, see the fountains in City Park or simply soak up the atmosphere in the main city square.
Board our final train, this time travelling a section of the classic Trans-Siberian Railway for 2 nights all the way west to Moscow (approx 40 hours).
Overnight sleeper train (2 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.
We use the metro for our city transfers in Moscow to avoid its notorious traffic jams. The metro is a fantastic introduction to this bustling city although it can be very busy and there are a lot of steps and escalators.
Enter the Kremlin grounds which house the oldest and most important churches in the country, where many Tsars and Tsarinas are laid to rest. Also head inside the Armoury Museum which houses a glittering imperial collection of regalia and items once belonging to the world's richest monarchy, including Faberge eggs and ambassadorial gifts.
As Moscow's premier tourist attractions, tickets for the Kremlin and Armoury are in high demand. In order to control the number of tour groups entering these sights at one time the Moscow Tourism Administration has set strict quotas. The amount of time guides can spend with their groups is also restricted to 90 minutes in each area, with any exceptions possibly resulting in the guide losing their license, so while we appreciate that some travellers would like to spend longer in the Armoury Museum we ask for your understanding that the guide is under pressure to keep to the schedule.
The Diamond Fund isn't included in our tour, but after the Kremlin and Armoury there may be time to visit. Entrance tickets can be purchased in the ticket office at the Armoury. The Diamond Fund is open for visitors from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 4pm. Thursday it is closed.
Intrepid's aims when researching and contracting accommodation is to find properties that are well maintained, clean and as centrally located as possible. In an expensive destination such as Moscow there is a balance to be reached in choosing a centrally located, clean property and still maintaining a value priced trip.
The hotel we stay in is simple and is located centrally in the embassy sector of Moscow approx. 20 minutes walk to Red Square.
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.
Given that we only have limited time in Moscow we advise that you extend your stay to fully enjoy all that the city has to offer.
- Moscow - Kremlin & Armoury guided tour
- Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow - RUB2500.00
- Izmailovo Vernisazh Markets, Moscow - RUB10.00
- St Basils Cathedral, Moscow - RUB150.00
- Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow - RUB360.00
- Moscow Bunker & Underground Urban Adventure, Moscow - RUB4090.00
- Moscow Up Close & Personal Urban Adventure, Moscow - RUB2770.00
Hotel (1 nt)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
- Russia Highlights (WBSR)
- St Petersburg to Budapest (WBSH)
- Ukraine Highlights (WBSU)
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.
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. This can be a challenging trip covering a wide range of peoples, cultures, religious and political beliefs and is a trip that involves some long travel days and nights. Some passengers will experience fatigue more than normal 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.
Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
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.
A good level of fitness will be expected and will certainly help increase the enjoyment of the trip.
There are some long travel days and some rough travelling in areas away from main tourist routes. Rough surfaces and cramped conditions make for some challenging travel experiences. If you experience travel sickness we recommend you consider medication to help ease the discomfort.
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.
Currency exchange rates often fluctuate. For the most up to date rates please refer to the following website: www.oanda.com.
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.
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: We suggest 5% to 10% of your bill, however check if a service charge has already been added.
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 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 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 than 10 RUB or 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.
Maximum of 12 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.
Hotel (6 nts), Overnight sleeper train (6 nts), Homestay (2 nts)
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 your selected accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for your arrival, especially if you're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible, which means you won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, you can store your luggage and explore the new destination.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Vegetarians might find the menu selection less varied than they would see at home. Vegetarianism is not as common in this region and generally the choices are basic, involving vegetables and fried cheese. Vegans will find it even more challenging. Vegetarians might choose to supplement meals with supplies bought from home, e.g. protein bars, dried fruits and so on.
10 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 2 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.
Budget for meals not included:
Train, Bus, Minibus, Taxi, Metro, Private minibus
LONG TRAVEL DAYS
There are some long travel days and some of the transport can be quite cramped and without air-conditioning.
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.
Sadovaya street #22/2
Phone: +7 (812) 4488383
Joining point description
M-Hotel is situated in the 'Golden Triangle' of St Petersburg in close vicinity to world-famous museums such as the Hermitage, Kazan Cathedral, Church of the Savior on Blood, Russian museum and Alexandrinsky theatre where ballet performances staged by famous choreographer Boris Eyfman take place during the summer. Next to the hotel, guests will find a great variety of cafes and restaurants catering to different tastes, as well as plenty of boutiques, art galleries and antique shops.
The hotel provides a full range of services including laundry and dry cleaning as well as tour and airline bookings. There is a cafe (breakfast is included), room service, bar and conference hall, 24-hour security and elevator. There is also free Wi-Fi in the rooms and lobby bar.
Joining point instructions
Please be aware that Russia requires all foreign nationals to register their passports upon arrival in each city. Please see ACCOMMODATION for the most recent information about registration.
Arrival transfers are available - if you have pre-booked a transfer with us your driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals section near where you clear customs. The driver will arrive according to arrival time indicated at time of booking and wait for an hour after your scheduled arrival time. If your flight arrives before the scheduled arrival time please wait in the arrivals hall. If you are delayed beyond one hour after your scheduled arrival time, please make your own way to the hotel.
If you have pre-purchased an arrival transfer our local operator will await you holding a sign with your name when you exit the baggage claim area of the arrivals hall.
In the unlikely event that your transfer is not waiting for you - please call Slava on +7 812 9280739 (for calls) or +7 911 9280739 (for calls and sms).
St Petersburg has an International airport (Pulkovo-2) and a Domestic one (Pulkovo-1). You will need to get a taxi or use public transport from the airport to the joining point hotel.
BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT:
Airports have public transport links that allow you to get to our starting point hotel cheaply.
From Pulkovo-1 / Pulkovo-2 airport go by public bus or private mini-bus to 'Moskovskaya' (МОСКОВСКАЯ) metro station stop.
Go inside the subway station - entrance to the Metro is marked by an 'M'. Tickets cost 20 RUB and there is no extra charge for changing lines once you are inside the Metro. There is direct blue line from 'Moskovskaya' metro station to 'Nevsky prospect'. Travel on the blue line to Nevsky Prospect station, get off on 7th stop. From there change to the green line to 'Gostiny dvor'. This is where you leave the Metro and head outside.
Please be aware that there is very little English signage within the St Petersburg Metro and at peak times can be very crowded. If you choose to travel by public transport allow plenty of time and make sure you have a bilingual map with you to plan your route.
If you arrive to Moskovsky railway station by train take subway from the nearest 'Ploshad' Vosstaniya' (ПЛОЩАДЬ ВОССТАНИЯ) metro station, change to green line 'Mayakovskaya' (МАЯКОВСКАЯ) metro station, travel one station and get off on 'Gostiny Dvor'.
Outside of Metro station cross the road (Sadovaya street) through the underpass. There is Krylova lane between Sadovaya street and Plosha'd Ostrovskovo (Ostrovskovo square). M-Hotel located on Krylova lane, it's marked with the letter 'M' and is situated inside of the yard.
For more information, GPS coordinates and a detailed map go to: www.mhotelspb.ru.
The taxi ride from the airport to our starting point hotel takes around 1 hour and costs around US$30-35. Avoid taxi touts. From all airports we recommend you use the services of one of the official taxi desks located on the ground floor inside the arrival terminal.
Check-in time is 2 pm.
Please note Russian (Cyrillic) wording for M Hotel below which is useful to show to a taxi driver or to ask for directionsL
ул. Садовая, 22/2
Станция метро — «Гостиный двор»
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.
Arbat-House Hotel Отель Арбат Хаус
13, Skatetrny Pereulok
Metro station: Arbatskaya
Phone: +7 (495) 6431910
Finish point description
Arbat House Hotel is located in Moscow’s centre, 3 minutes walk from New Arbat avenue and only a short distance to Arbatskaya metro station. From here you can easily walk to Red Square and the Kremlin through Moscow's historical and cultural centre. The nearest airport is 30km away. Rooms are equipped with TV, telephone, air-conditioning, hairdryer, Wi-Fi, and minibar. Reception staff speak English.
Visit the hotel's website here: www.arbat-house.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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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 will 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.
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. Another good tip is to bring badges/pins from your country as many people that you meet will appreciate a small memento of your home.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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:
We recommend that you dress respectfully at all stages of the trip especially when in and around religious sites. 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.
Carbon Offset C02-e 1190.00 kgs per pax.
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