Russia Highlights - New Year Trip Notes

Russia Highlights - New Year

Last Modified: 17 Dec 2015
Russia Highlights - New Year
Trip code: WBSW
Validity: 01 Jan 2016 to 10 Jan 2017
Experience the festive spirit – and spirited festivities – of the Russian New Year on this special Russian Highlights adventure. See Moscow’s famous Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral under a layer of snow and vodka-toast the old year out with a Russian family, then toast the New Year in with champagne. See the glittering treasures of the Armoury Museum, visit the Russian Santa’s residence in Veliky Ustyug and be shown the sights of grand St Petersburg. This small group trip offers an unparalleled opportunity to witness Russia during this special time of the year.
Table of Contents
StyleTippingFinish point description
ThemesDeparture taxFinish point instructions
Is this trip right for you?Important notesEmergency contact
Why we love itGroup sizeEmergency funds
MapYour fellow travellersVisas
ItinerarySingle travellersIssues on your trip
Also available to purchaseAccommodationWhat to take
We also recommendMeals introductionHealth
Itinerary disclaimerMealsSafety
Culture shock rating TransportTravel insurance
Physical ratingGroup leaderResponsible Travel
Physical preparationJoining point A couple of rules
Included activitiesJoining point descriptionThe Intrepid Foundation
Optional activitiesJoining point instructionsResponsible Travel projects
Money ExchangeArrival complicationsCarbon offset
Spending moneyFinish point Feedback
Style
Original
  • Our Original style trips have a great balance of included activities with your group and free time to explore independently. Where we stay ensures we keep our travellers firmly entrenched in a region’s people and culture, and provides them with unique local experiences that benefits the community too. In most locations we stay in simple tourist-class hotels (i.e. 2-3 stars), plus on many trips you'll also get to experience a night with a local family on a homestay or something a little different like a Bedouin camp in the Sahara. Original style trips come with all manner of transport modes and use a mixture of local and private transport. You might find yourself sailing in a dhow in Zanzibar, jumping on a rickshaw in Sri Lanka or sailing on a yacht through the Galapagos. No matter the mode, it's all about minimising our environmental impact and making getting around part of the adventure.
Themes
Explorer
Is this trip right for you?
- This trip involves two very long (24 hour) overnight train journeys. Conditions are simple but comfortable – a truly Intrepid experience and a great way to meet, and travel like, the locals.
- You will get to experience a variety of accommodation – guesthouses, hotels, and overnight trains - allowing you to see different sides of Russian life.
- You will be travelling during the Russian winter when it gets very cold, with temperatures dropping well below zero. Please make sure that you have adequate clothing for these conditions (coat, hat, scarf, gloves, base layer) and sturdy shoes suitable for ice and snow.
Why we love it
- Spend the festive season surrounded by the delights of a Russian winter wonderland
- Uncover winter legends in the picturesque town of Velikiy Ustyug, home to the Russian Santa Claus Ded Moroz (Father Frost)
- Experience the history and traditions of the Russian orthodox faith at this important celebratory time of year
- Share in unique customs with locals on an overnight homestay in Suzdal. Lend a hand with a traditional feast and ring in the New Year with your hosts
Map

Itinerary
Day 1 Moscow
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia. Your festive adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6 pm today, where your insurance and next of kin details will be collected. Please also have two copies of your passport, visa and migration cards ready. Your leader will collect one; the other is for you to keep on you at all times whilst on the trip. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where the meeting will take place – if you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. After the meeting, take to the snow-covered streets for an orientation walk and maybe share you first Russian meal with new friends. Perhaps experience the wintery charm of Red Square, dripping with light, as skaters glide across an ice rink. There’s so much to see and do in Moscow, and with limited time here on the tour, perhaps arrive a few days early to fully uncover the secrets of a city where the sights of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union brush up against the modern world. During free time in Moscow you might relive the nation's turbulent past at Victory Park, travel back to the beginnings of Russian art at the Tretyakov Gallery, or pick up some souvenirs at the Izmailovo Markets. Otherwise, perhaps step inside the colourful St Basil's Cathedral on Red Square. Legend has it that tsar, Ivan the Terrible, had the two architects blinded so that they couldn't build anything as beautiful again.
Optional Activities
  • Moscow - Tretyakov Gallery - RUB400
  • Moscow - Victory Park Museum - RUB200
  • Moscow - St Basils Cathedral - RUB250
  • Moscow - Izmailovo Vernisazh Markets - RUB10
  • Mosow - Bunker & Underground Urban Adventure - RUB4000
  • Moscow - Moscow Up Close & Personal Urban Adventure - RUB2340
Accommodation
Arbat-House Hotel or similar (1 nt)
Day 2 Moscow
Today, with a local guide by your side, enter cobbled Red Square, where beautifully decorated Christmas trees stand tall next to the brightly coloured domes of St Basil’s Cathedral, the opulent GUM Department store, the fairy-tale building of the State Historical Museum, and the imposing walls of the Kremlin. From the days of Ivan the Terrible to the military parades of the Cold War, the square has long been at the heart of Russian history. Catch a glimpse of revolutionary leader Lenin at his austere eternal resting place before entering the Kremlin grounds, home to the oldest and most important churches in the country, and where many Tsars and Tsarinas are laid to rest. Walk through the soaring towers and cathedrals of the political and spiritual heart of Russia before entering the Armoury Museum, home to an eye-bulging former royal collection of ambassadorial gifts, Faberge eggs, coronation robes and glittering jewels. Afterwards perhaps take the metro to see elaborately decorated stations unlike any other. From sculptures depicting the glory of the soviet days to ornate chandeliers and stained glass windows, these are the 'Palaces of the People'.
Notes: On occasion Lenin's Mausoleum and Red Square may be closed to the public during regular opening hours without prior warning. As Moscow's premier tourist attractions, tickets for the Kremlin and Armoury are in high demand, and the Moscow Tourism Administration sets strict quotas to control visitor numbers. Time in each area is also limited to 90 minutes, with any exceptions possibly resulting in the guide losing their license. 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 your 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-1pm and from 2pm-4pm. Thursday it is closed.
Included Activities
  • Moscow - Lenin's Mausoleum
  • Moscow - Kremlin & Armoury Guided Tour
Meals Included
1 Breakfast
Accommodation
Arbat-House Hotel or similar (1 nt)
Day 3 Suzdal
This morning, leave the big city behind and head east by private transfer to the countryside and Suzdal (approximately 4 hours). The town is a main stop on Russia’s legendary Golden Ring, the circle of towns that played an important part in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church and hold the memories of significant events in Russian history. The fairytale-feel historic small town of Suzdal is filled with contrasting examples of early Russian architecture, where onion-domed monasteries stand next to decorative little wooden cottages. Here there are opportunities to drink mead by the riverside with a symphony of cathedral bells in the air, and peek inside the crumbling churches that line the narrow streets and alleys, made even more magical beneath the snow. Tonight you’ll make new friends for the year ahead with a homestay in the city’s quiet streets. Lend a hand with the preparation of a traditional Russian feast and ring in the New Year with your hosts. Wave goodbye to the old year with a shot of vodka and toast to the new one with champagne. After the bells chime midnight, wrap up warm and head outside. Stroll the streets to greet neighbours and offer them best wishes for the coming year.
Optional Activities
  • Suzdal - Banya - RUB2800
  • Suzdal - Guided Walking Tour - RUB3970
Accommodation
Suzdal Homestay or similar (1 nt)
Day 4 Suzdal
Get to know the town a little better today with a walking tour of this ‘open-air museum’, where old buildings and churches sprout like mushrooms. Take in the sights – the grandeur of the Kremlin, the carved stonework of the Cathedral of the Nativity, the trading square, market and monasteries. Afterwards perhaps explore the museums housed in the Spaso-Evfimiev Monastery, where hours can be spent and that is just as impressive as Moscow’s Kremlin. Otherwise, maybe walk the length of the frozen river, spanned by snow covered wooden footbridges, where men fish in the ice and children slide along on sleighs. Warm up in a local cafe with some hot tea, pancakes or the Suzdal specialty of medovukha, a honey-based spiced mead.
Accommodation
Suzdal Homestay or similar (1 nt)
Day 5 Kostroma
Continue north on the Golden Ring of ancient towns to Kostroma (approximately 3 hours private transfer). The town on the Volga river was a retreat for the powerful of the surrounding region and its wealth of art and architecture is a testament to that – religious buildings, folk wooden architecture, and baroque and classical touches. In Russian legend the town is the birthplace of Snegurochka, or The Snow Maiden, who has become an essential part of New Year celebrations as a helper to the Russian Santa Claus. Today it is a calming retreat on the banks of the river Volga. Take some time to walk along the quiet central streets, relax, and maybe sample the local cuisine. Today you could explore some of the local museums – there’s the Traditional Crafts Museum, the Literary Museum, the United Arts Museum and a unique museum dedicated to the Russian 17th century folk hero and martyr Ivan Susanian, who came from the town. For something different, why not visit the log house of Snegurochka, the granddaughter of the Russian Santa Claus, which has an ice room where the temperature is always below freezing. While The Snow Maiden is away, the cabin is looked after by house elves, who explain the folk traditions to visitors.
Optional Activities
  • Kostroma - Traditional Crafts Museum - RUB70
  • Ice-room at Snegurochka Terem - RUB330
  • Kostroma - Traditional Crafts Museum - RUB150
Accommodation
Golden Ring Hotel or similar (1 nt)
Day 6 Kostroma to Velikiy Ustyug
In the morning explore the city’s wealth of architecture with a local guided walking tour. Wander through 18th century trading arcades, now home to shops and a market selling the local specialties of linen, woodworking and jewellery, and pass buildings like the Fire Tower (the symbol of the city) and the Guardhouse. Walk through the structures of the stunning riverside St Ipaty Monastery, which includes the Spaso-Preobrazhenskaya church, reportedly made without a single nail. Continue on to the outdoor Wooden Architecture Museum to learn about traditional handicrafts and building techniques. This afternoon you will transfer to the city of Yaroslavl (approximately 1.5 hours) and climb aboard to ride the rails deep into the heart of the country. You’ll experience the unique adventure of Russian train travel overnight to Yadrikha, the closest station to Veliky Ustyug (approximately 15 hours).
Notes: Trains on this journey are simple but comfortable. You’ll travel 2nd class on this trip. 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 your 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. Please note that in many cases, due to high demand for tickets on this route, the group is not always 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 moderation). While alcohol is often available for purchase on the train, spirits (including vodka) should only be consumed in the dining car. 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.
Included Activities
  • Kostroma - Wooden Architecture Museum
  • Kostroma - Guided Walking Tour
Accommodation
Overnight Sleeper Train (1 nt)
Day 7 Veliky Ustyug
Depending on the seasonal train schedule, you will either arrive in Yadrikha early morning or mid afternoon. From there it's around a 50km transfer to Veliky Ustyug. This small provincial but picturesque town was well off the map until the powers that be declared it to be the official home of Ded Moroz, the Russian Santa Claus. Ded Moroz, or Father Frost, waits in his log cabin in the dense tiaga forest through the summer, reading the letters from all Russia’s children. He then delivers them their gifts at New Year instead of Christmas, and in person rather than leaving them under a tree. He often wears blue rather than red and can be seen with his granddaughter, Snegurochka. Be on your best behaviour for a tour of the Ded Moroz residence, and perhaps do some gift buying yourself from the local handicrafts workshop, full of Russian-style Christmas kitsch. In the afternoon, drive 30km hours to the village of Kuznetsovo where there are traditional Russian homes. Here you’ll join in some very traditional Russian village folk games. Later, return to your hotel in Veliky Usyug.
Included Activities
  • Velikiy Ustyug - Ded Moroz's House, Village Visit & Walking Tour
Optional Activities
  • Snowmobile safari - Free
  • Visiting Ice-cave of Father Frost - RUB100
Day 8 Veliky Ustyug to St Petersburg
Today you’ll enjoy a walking tour of Velikiy Ustyug, visiting the local church and learning more about the Russian culture, and its orthodox history, dating back to the introduction of Christianity in the area 1,000 years ago. Use some free time to explore the town – wander along the left bank of the river Sukhona and look at the Museum of History, Art, and Architecture. Then return to Yagrikha to load up on supplies for the long but exciting train journey to the imperial capital of St Petersburg (approximately 24 hours).
Accommodation
Overnight Sleeper Train (1 nt)
Day 9 St Petersburg
Sit back and relax in your warm compartment as the train travels through the winter landscape on the way to St Petersburg. Get out the cards, read a book and share a chat, or a drink, with the locals and learn more about their culture. The train schedule can vary greatly for the trip from Yadrikha to St Petersburg, but currently you will arrive in late evening on Day 9. A living museum, St Petersburg is a blend of baroque European architecture and Russian royal history, built by the Russian tsar Peter the Great whose legacy can be felt in its enigmatic streets and showcase cathedrals and museums. After arriving and decamping to your central hotel, maybe head out for a walk along Nevsky Prospect to stretch out your train legs. Perhaps attend a local Russian Orthodox Church service – it is Christmas Eve after all.
Optional Activities
  • St Petersburg - Christmas Eve Service - RUB900
Accommodation
M-Hotel or similar (1 nt)
Day 10 St Petersburg
Take the day to explore this beautiful city brimming with historic centres, including one of the world's premier art collections at the Hermitage museum, and stroll through the perfectly preserved Winter Palace ballroom and throne room. Perhaps climb aboard a boat to see landmarks from a Neva river cruise, browse the Udelnaya flea market or climb the belfry of Smolny Cathedral for a rare high view of the city. Maybe gorge yourself on culture with a world-class performance at the Mariinsky Theatre. In the evening make new friends with a visit to a local family’s home to see how the average Russian lives and finish your New Year adventure with a traditional tea party. Not all family members speak English but your leader will be on hand to interpret and with their warm hospitality you'll be feeling like one of the family in no time.
Notes: 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: www.hermitagemuseum.org. Remember to book a show in advance by booking the tickets online. Some useful Internet sites for ballet, opera, exhibitions etc. in Moscow and St Petersburg are 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.
Included Activities
  • St Petersburg - Tea party with local family
Optional Activities
  • Matryoshka Doll painting workshop - EUR30
  • St Petersburg - Hermitage Museum - RUB500
  • St Petersburg - Hermitage Museum - RUB110
  • St Petersburg - Russian Museum - RUB350
  • St Petersburg - Mariinsky Theatre - RUB3000
  • St Petersburg - Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra & Cemeteries - RUB150
  • St Petersburg - Saviour on Spilled Blood Church - RUB250
  • St Petersburg - St Isaacs Cathedral & Colonnade - RUB400
  • St Petersburg - Peter's Walking Tour (4-5 hours) - RUB1400
Meals Included
1 Breakfast
Accommodation
M-Hotel or similar (1 nt)
Day 11 St Petersburg
This Russian winter journey comes to an end today. There are no activities planned and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Optional Activities
  • St Petersburg - St Petersburg Unveiled Urban Adventure - RUB2000
  • St Petersburg - St Petersburg Discovery Urban Adventure - RUB1500
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
  • WBSW Russia Highlights New Year - Single Supplement (WBSW)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
  • Russia Highlights (WBSR)
  • Beijing to St Petersburg (CBSQC)
  • Beijing to Moscow (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. If you have any queries, please contact your travel agent or our staff in Australia. We are here to help you!
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. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary from time to time.
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.
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.
Physical rating

Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
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.
A good level of fitness will be expected and will certainly help increase the enjoyment of the trip. You will be required to carry your own bags through busy train and metro stations and some accommodation may not have lifts.
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 approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
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. If you are unsure about when to book your tickets please get in touch with your booking agent and find out what times and dates are free for you to see a show. As we don't want you to double book yourself!
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
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.
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
RUSSIA:
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.
Departure tax
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Important notes
Please note in order for our local operator to book train tickets in Russia, we require the following information at time of booking or no later than 60 days prior to departure.
• Passengers full names
• Full Passport Details
• DOB
• City of Birth
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.
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 accommodation (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
M-Hotel or similar (2 nts), Arbat-House Hotel or similar (2 nts), Suzdal Homestay or similar (2 nts), Overnight Sleeper Train (2 nts), Golden Ring Hotel or similar (1 nt)
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.
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.
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.
HOMESTAYS:
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.
DOUBLE BEDS:
Please note that rooms with double beds are not always available. Wherever possible we will put couples in rooms with double beds but there may be times when only twin share rooms are available.
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.
Vegetarians might find the menu selection less varied than they would see at home. Vegetarianism is not as common in this region and choices may be limited to soups, salads, bread, cheese, fruit, yoghurt, eggs etc. Vegans will find this region very challenging and may need to supplement meals with their own supplies from supermarkets and markets. Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may need to provide their own.
Meals
8 Breakfasts, 1 Dinner
Budget for meals not included:
USD 440.00
Transport
Boat, Metro
LONG TRAVEL DAYS
There are some long travel days and some of the transport can be quite cramped and without air-conditioning.
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
Arbat-House Hotel Отель Арбат Хаус
13 Skatetrniy Pereulok Скатертный переулок, дом 13
Metro station Arbatskaya м. Арбатская
Moscow
RUSSIAN FEDERATION
Phone: +7 (495) 6431910
Joining 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 some rooms will have a small fridge. Reception staff speak English.
Visit the hotel's website here: www.arbat-house.com
Joining point instructions
Moscow has 3 international airports (Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo). Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo are the most commonly used by foreign travellers.
BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT:
All airports have public transport links that allow you to get to our starting point hotel cheaply and quickly. From Sheremetyevo you can take the airport express train (RUB470, 30-40 minutes) to metro station Belorusskaya (Белорусская) on the dark green & brown (circle) lines. The train runs every hour from 6am to midnight. You can find timetables and buy aeroexpress ticketы on-line at www.aeroexpress.ru.
From Domodedovo, the airport express train runs every hour to metro station Paveletskaya (Павелецкая, RUB 470, 40 to 50 minutes) on the brown (circle) & dark green lines. From Vnukovo airport, the airport express train goes to Kievskaya (Киевская) metro station on the dark blue & brown (circle) line and takes approx. 35 minutes (RUB 470).
From these stations, take the metro (RUB50) to the blue or dark blue line. Our starting point hotel is located 7 minutes walk from metro station Arbatskaya (Арбатская). There are two 'Arbatskaya' metro stations - one is located on the blue line, the other on dark blue. Both are linked.
Exit the metro, cross by the underground walkway to the north side of Novy Arbat Avenue. Head west along Novy Arbat (Новый Арбат), pass the MTS Bank and turn right into Merzlyakovskiy pereulok (Мерзляковский переулок). Go straight. The second street on your left is Skatertny pereulok (Скатертный переулок). A bit further up this street on the left side you'll find the Arbat House Hotel.
BY TAXI:
The taxi ride from the airport to our starting point hotel takes at least one hour depending on traffic and should cost around 3000RUB (approx. US$65, to be paid in local currency). Avoid taxi touts. From all airports we recommend you use the services of one of the official taxi desks (such as MosCab) located on the ground floor inside the arrival terminal.
ARRIVAL TRANSFERS:
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 wait for an hour after your scheduled arrival time. If you are delayed beyond one hour after your scheduled arrival time, please make your own way to the hotel. In the unlikely event that your transfer is not waiting for you, please call Sveta on +7 916 542 18 58.
Your leader will put a welcome note on the reception. Please look for it as it contains important information.
Luggage storage is available free of charge.
Please note the address for Arbat House Hotel below in Russian which may be useful to show to a taxi driver or to ask for directions:
Отель Арбат Хаус
Скатертный переулок, дом 13
121069, Москва
м. Арбатская
Arrival complications
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Finish point
M-Hotel М-Отель
Sadovaya street #22/2 Садовая улица, 22/2
Metro Gostinniy Dvor M. Гостиный двор
St Petersburg
RUSSIAN FEDERATION
Phone: +7 (812)4488383
Finish 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.
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$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action 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.visain.ru)
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.
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, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).
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.
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.
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). The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers, for when it comes to travelling on local buses and trains it's often only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas. If your bag does not fit in these areas then often the only place to put it is on your bed or seat. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
Where Intrepid covers the cost of luggage storage for included day trips, we allow for one bag/backpack only, so it's advisable that you travel lightly and keep luggage to a limit of one item (plus your day pack). Extra luggage storage will be at your own expense.
CLOTHING:
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.
OTHER:
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.
Health
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 and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. 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 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 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.
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 or on the floor and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
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 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:
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.
Everyone has the right to feel safe and secure on their trip. We don’t tolerate any form of sexual harassment at Intrepid, either between passengers or involving our leaders or local operators. Sexual relationships (consensual or otherwise) between a leader and a passenger are unacceptable. If you ever feel another person is behaving inappropriately please inform us immediately by contacting the emergency contact number detailed in these trip notes.
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$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your 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.
Carbon offset
Carbon Offset C02-e 357.00 kgs per pax.
Feedback
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.