Last Modified: 01 Oct 2014
Trip code: WBSB
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Come along on an awe-inspiring journey traversing three great nations. From the opulence of Moscow and St Petersburg, to the grace of imperial Beijing - travel along the most famous railway in the world through the heartland of Siberia and the vast grassy steppe of Mongolia. This is rail adventure at its finest.
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.
Days 1-2 St Petersburg
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia.
Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm on Day 1.
Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Please have two copies of your passport, visa and migration cards ready. One will be collected by your leader, the other is for you to keep on you at all times whilst on this trip.
Truly one of Europe's finest cities, built of baroque European architecture combined with the opulent palaces of Russian royalty, St Petersburg was built by the Russian tsar Peter the Great and his legacy will clearly be felt as you explore its enigmatic streets and visit its showcase cathedrals and museums.
If you arrive early, we recommend you visit St Isaac's Cathedral and climb to the colonnade from where you will have magnificent views over the city. Why not walk along Nevsky Prospekt - St Petersburg's main thoroughfare - maybe popping into one of the many bakeries or pancake shops along the way, or head down to Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra where Russia's great musicians and writers like Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky are laid to rest in the cemetery.
In the summer months, we take a night-time boat tour of the canals and waterways with a local guide to see the architecture from a unique perspective. In midsummer it will still be light as the sun barely sets during White Nights.Outside of these months we'll have a walking tour of the city.
Other things to check out in St Petersburg include:
Visit the Kunstkamera where Peter the Great's ghoulish collection of oddities is on show.
Explore the opulent grounds of Peterhof with a local guide and marvel at the magnificent landscaped gardens and spectacular fountains. These were the pleasure grounds of Peter the Great where he entertained his guests from around the Russian Empire and abroad. Don't fall for the same fountain "tricks" as Peter used to play on his vistors!
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:
Head to the railway station by public bus to take our first overnight train to Vladimir (approx 11 hrs).
We recommend bringing some food with you to eat dinner in your compartments before getting an early night as this is the only daily direct train to Vladimir and we'll arrive at the crack of dawn.
- St Petersburg - Boat tour
- Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra & Cemeteries - RUB150
- Kunstkamera Museum - RUB250
- St Isaacs Cathedral & Colonnade - RUB400
- Petrodvorets - Peterhof Park & Fountains - RUB500
- St Petersburg Discovery Urban Adventure - RUB1500
- St Petersburg Unveiled Urban Adventure - RUB2000
- Mariinsky Theatre, Performance, St Petersburg - RUB3000
- Matryoshka Doll painting workshop - EUR30
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 3 Itinerary
- St Petersburg - Hermitage Museum - RUB450
Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Day 4 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, Wooden Architecture Museum, trading square, market and monasteries (approx 3 hrs).
Tonight we may have the option to:
Visit the home of one of our local friends to indulge in a dinner of hearty regional flavours.
- Suzdal - Guided walking tour
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 5-6 Moscow
We transfer to Moscow by private van (approx 4 hrs).
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.
Head to iconic Red Square with a local guide. This beautiful cobbled city square is framed by St Basils Cathedral, the opulent GUM Department store, the imposing walls of the Kremlin and the fairy-tale building of the State Historical Museum.
Visit Lenin, the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution which ushered in the era of communism, at his austere mausoleum on Red Square.
Please note that on occasion Lenin's Mausoleum and Red Square may be closed to the public during regular opening hours without prior warning.
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.
In your free time in Moscow some suggestions are:
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.
Relive the nation's turbulent past at Victory Park.
The Izmailovo Markets are considered the best place for souvenir shopping.
Travel back to the beginnings of Russian art at the Tretyakov Gallery.
- Moscow - Kremlin & Armoury guided tour
- Moscow - Lenin's Mausoleum
- Izmailovo Vernisazh Markets - RUB10
- St Basils Cathedral - RUB250
- Tretyakov Gallery - RUB400
- Victory Park Museum - RUB200
- Diamond Fund - RUB500
- Moscow Bunker & Underground Urban Adventure - RUB4000
- Moscow Up Close & Personal Urban Adventure - RUB2340
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 7-10 Moscow/Trans-Siberian Railway
Take the metro to Yaroslavsky Station - the starting point of the Trans-Siberian Railway for our 3-day/4-night trip to Irkutsk (approx 90 hrs).
Please note that there's only one daily train between Moscow and Irkutsk that has a total travel time of less than 100 hours and departs at a convenient time from Moscow. Some foreign travel companies that have less regular departures than Intrepid may take the train that departs late evening, however this train only departs every second day. In order to ensure that all this trip can always run on the same itinerary we take the daily train that leaves during the day. The downside of this is that we only have a limited time in Moscow so need to plan carefully to fit as much in as possible. The upside is that the train we take has less foreign tourists on board and gives us much more chance for interaction with regular Russian travellers.
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.
A brief word about drinking on the train
Social drinking is common on trains in Russia and can be an enjoyable way to meet local people as well as interact with your fellow Intrepid travellers. In order to make sure that your experience of train travel with us is a positive and safe one there are a few things we'd like you to keep in mind before setting out on your train journey.
While alcohol is often available for purchase on the train, spirits (including vodka) should only be consumed in the dining car. Train security guards keep a very close eye on drunken behaviour and have the legal right to fine or have removed from the train without warning any passengers who are intoxicated. Should this happen there is very little we can do to assist you in continuing your journey with the rest of the group.
While we certainly want all our Intrepid travellers to have a great holiday it is important that you show due respect for your fellow group members and keep in mind that many of your local companions use the train as a means of transport to get home or to work. It is most appreciated if foreign travellers are respectful this, particularly in the mornings and evenings or when other passengers are sleeping.
Overnight sleeper train (4 nts)
Day 11 Lake Baikal
Our long rail journey finally brings us to the charming Siberian city of Irkutsk - gateway to Lake Baikal. Drive direct from the train station to a lakeside village by private minivan (approx 2 hours).
Bolshoye Goloustnoye, sits in the delta of the Goloustnoye River, on the western edge of Lake Baikal. Here, cows roam freely, contained only by the fences keeping them out of the village's produce gardens. The houses themselves are bright examples of 'Siberian Lace', decorative carved wooden window fixtures that keep evil spirits from entering homes.
Here the group will be hosted by our lovely local Buryat (the ethnic group of the Lake Baikal area) friends in their guest house and home. Accommodation is basic, with no running water and outside toilets but cosy and comfortable. Situated right in the centre of the village, you'll certainly get to experience typical Russian rural life here.
Slough away the grit of your long train journey in the family's traditional backyard banya, the Russian version of a sauna. Locals swear by the cleansing, healing and meditative properties of having a steam and a wash in the banya, and it can also be quite a social occasion! Make sure to avail yourself of some birch twigs and slap yourself (and others!) over the shoulders for a traditional Siberian 'massage' to get the true banya experience.
At Bolshoye Goloustnoye, there are options for swimming in the lake or river, taking a boat trip along the shore, renting a bike or hiking to look out points in the surrounding hills. Each day we'll be treated to delicious, hearty Siberian home cooking made from fresh local produce.
- Bolshoye Goloustnoye - Banya (Russian sauna)
Homestay (1 nt)
Day 12 Itinerary
- Bolshoye Goloustnoye - Banya (Russian sauna)
1 Breakfast, 2 Lunches, 3 Dinners
Homestay (1 nt)
Days 13-14 Irkutsk/Trans-Mongolian Railway
Once a boom town of exiles and gold merchants, Irkutsk suffered under the regime that brought Soviet architecture and communist propaganda to its streets. Fortunately, the sophisticated atmosphere it once offered is not totally lost and Irkutsk remains one of the most charming of Siberia's cities. Some parts of town are still lined with traditional houses and the old homes of liberal aristocrats exiled from Moscow early in the 19th century.
Visit the House Museum of Maria Volkonskaya. Sometimes called the Princess of Siberia, Maria was one of the many Decembrist revolutionaries' wives who voluntarily accompanied their husbands into exile. Her house is still filled with many of her personal items and visitors can get a sense of how she must have felt, a young aristocratic woman banished to depths of Siberia.
Walking through the city we see some of the original wooden residences and stop off at the Central Market to taste some of the amazing range of local produce for sale and to stock up on supplies for our next journey.
Board the Trans-Mongolian Railway for a two-night train trip (approx 40 hrs) that takes us into Mongolia.
This train is the most basic on our journey and a restaurant car is not always provided so we recommend bringing some supplies with you for your meals. There's only one train from Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar that departs daily - other, faster trains only depart once a week. We take the daily train to ensure we're able to offer this trip at regular, set departures without the need to change the itinerary each time.
During the journey we cross the border from Russia (Naushki) into Mongolia (Sukhbaatar). There's a long wait at the border towns while passports are processed, customs does their checks and we wait for the engine to rejoin the train to take us on our way. It can sometimes be a long, hot and frustrating day, so a healthy dose of patience and understanding is recommended. After everything is finally completed we are rewarded with the magical landscapes of Mongolia.
- Irkutsk - Decembrists Museum
- Irkutsk - Central Market
Overnight sleeper train (2 nts)
Days 15-18 Ulaanbaatar/Ger Camp
Crammed between superpowers Russia and China, the independent nation of Mongolia is a true Intrepid destination. The capital, Ulaanbaatar (affectionately known as UB), is a city where new meets old as elderly Mongolians in traditional dress mingle with the nation's young business elite. Mongolia's past close relationship with the USSR is evident in the Soviet-style architecture and city layout. Explore the city's many museums to learn about the country's turbulent history, including the reign of history's most famous Mongolian - the feared and respected Genghis Khan.
Travel to Terelj National Park by private van (approx 90 mins). With rolling meadows, forested hills and imposing rock formations this is the perfect place to take in Mongolia's natural beauty. We have a local guide with us to share some insight into Mongolian customs and culture, as well as lead us on a hike to a local Buddhist retreat.
In Terelj, we stay in a holiday ger camp with full board. Vegetarians can be catered for although choices may be limited - please let us know if you have any specific dietary requirements at time of booking. The gers at our holiday camp sleep up to four people with comfy beds and plenty of blankets. In the colder months you might want to stoke up the stove in the centre of the ger and you'll be toasty warm in no time! We share our meals together in the dining quarters. Bathroom facilities here are basic with no showers but do have toilets and basins with cold water in a support building outside. Please note in the colder months when plumbing is no longer functional there will be no running water and we'll use the outdoor pit toilet.
Get involved in making your own dinner by learning to cook buuz - traditional Mongolian dumplings.
Return to our hotel in Ulaanbaatar.
As more and more traditionally nomadic Mongolians are moving to the city in hope of a better life they bring with them their traditional lifestyle of living in gers and UB is surrounded by a growing number of such "ger districts". Life here is hard with unemployment high and little access to facilities such as electricity and running water.
Together with local guide we visit one such district located in Northern outskirts of the city to meet some of the residents, have a cup of traditional Mongolian tea and a chat about life in an urban ger community.
Other unique experiences included in UB are:
Visit Mongolia's largest and most important active monastery, the lively Gandan Khiid, to learn about the main religion of Mongolia which is now experiencing a great revival - Tibetan Buddhism.
Look out over Ulaanbaatar from the top of Zaisan Hill with its communist era murals best views of the surrounding hills.
Experience Mongolia's rich artistic culture at a performance of traditional throat and "long song" singers, musicians, dancers and contortionists.
One of the city's most fascinating museums is the Intellectual Museum where you can learn about the history and culture of this intriguing country through puzzles, toys and magic tricks.
Travel from Mongolia to Beijing, the next part of our epic train ride. The overnight journey (approx 30 hrs) leaves early in the morning and includes a long stop at the Mongolia-China border where the train changes bogies (wheels) due to the different rail gauges. The train may have a basic restaurant car but it's advisable to stock up at the supermarket before leaving Ulaanbaatar.
Please note that due to the high demand for train tickets from June-October and the fact that the train only runs once a week, some groups may need to depart Ulaanbaatar a day later and stay the extra night in Mongolia at the ger camp. The itinerary will be amended to fit in all our included activities.
For this reason we recommend either booking a late night flight on departure day or plan to stay a few extra days in Beijing.
- Ulaanbaatar - Family visit
- Ulaanbaatar - Zaisan Hill
- Ger Camp - Terelj National Park
- Ger Camp - Cooking class
- Ulaanbaatar - Gandan Monastery
- Traditional Cultural Show - MNT12000
- Natural History Museum - MNT5000
- Ulaanbaatar - National History Museum - MNT5000
- Winter Palace Museum of Bogd Khan - MNT3000
Hotel (2 nts), Ger (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Days 19-21 Beijing
Arrive in Beijing and take the subway from the central train station to our hotel (3 stops and a line change) Although we will be travelling outside of peak hour, be prepared to carry your own bags in a crowded environment.
The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture.
Walk the Mutianyu Great Wall (approx 2 hrs drive from Beijing). An incredible piece of engineering, it stretches 6,000 km westwards from the mountain ridges north of Beijing. It was originally constructed to protect Chinese empires from the 'barbarians' of the north and even though it failed in this purpose, it's still without a doubt one of the country's most remarkable achievements and an iconic destination. Please note that the wall is quite steep in places so make sure you have some appropriate footwear for this activity but it's up to you how far you walk once up on the wall.
There are so many great experiences to have in Beijing. Some our suggestions include:
Enter the imposing Forbidden City, former home to China's imperial rulers and filled with palaces, gardens and seemingly never-ending grand courtyards.
Explore the vast Tiananmen Square, the very heart of the nation for local Chinese and a truly grand sight.
A trip to the 798 Art District on a Beijing Art and Architecture tour will give you a taste of where art is heading in today's China as you wander the multitude of galleries housed in this old factory complex.
A metro ride can take you to the Summer Palace, once an imperial residence and the largest and best-preserved imperial garden in China.
The Temple of Heaven Park is one of the most popular in Beijing and at any time of the day is full of people of all ages taking part in traditional pastimes such as tai chi, fan dancing, diablo, kite flying, water calligraphy and more.
Take the subway to the vast Tiananmen Square, the very heart of the nation for local Chinese and truly a grand sight.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
- Great Wall - Mutianyu section
- Beijing - Acrobat show - CNY250
- Beijing Opera - CNY200
- Beijing Art & Architecture Urban Adventure - CNY590
- Beijing - Forbidden City - CNY60
- Beijing by Bike Urban Adventure - CNY510
- Summer Palace - CNY40
- Temple of Heaven - CNY40
- Tiananmen Square - Free
Hotel (2 nts)
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.
- WBSB Trans Mongolian - Single Supplement (WBSB)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
- Trans-Siberian & Mongolia (CBSU)
- Beijing to St Petersburg (CBSQC)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
Expect some culture shock. You'll be exposed to signs of poverty and access to services may be sporadic. The food will be quite different to home and English speakers harder to find. Respecting the local culture will make it easier to fit in and really experience the location.
This is an epic train journey that covers almost half of the world. You will be travelling through countries that speak little or no English, where transport often runs only when it is full (and often overflowing), where hotels and restaurants have very different ideas of service and amenities, where the plumbing can sometimes be temperamental and the power will often just vanish. Many of the places we visit are not used to people travelling outside of large coach tours so they will be uncertain of how to deal with us. Bureaucracy is rife and border crossings sometimes seem never-ending. This is a very challenging trip covering a wide range of peoples, cultures, religious and political beliefs and is a trip that involves a lot of long travel days and nights. Some passengers will experience increased fatigue due to these challenges. If you are able to bring with you a lot of patience and a huge sense of humour, then your experience will be greatly enhanced.
This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
You will be expected to carry your own luggage including stairs, move about busy public transport hubs, and on and off buses and trains. Although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage, you are expected to be able to walk and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes. Good general fitness and mobility plays a big part in making your trip more enjoyable.
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 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. Here are some useful internet sites to check for what will be on (ballet, opera, exhibitions, etc) in Moscow and St Petersburg when you are there: www.mariinsky.ru, www.bolshoi.ru and www.ticketsofrussia.ru. In particular we recommend you see what's playing at the Bolshoi and Mariinsky, as it may be difficult to get tickets when you are there especially during White Nights in St Petersburg.
The official currency of Russia is the Ruble (RUB). 1 ruble = 100 kopeks.
We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in Russia they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.
ATMs are widespread in Russia so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart and note that recent travellers have experienced difficulties in using credit cards without a debit function from US banks for purchases or withdrawals. Some banks will allow a cash advance against a major credit card which will incur a service charge of 5% or more.
The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. In any case, some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies - we recommend around US$400 per person. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange as what is advertised is sometimes only for transactions above US$500, carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.
Due to restrictions on changing money in Russia, only US$50 and US$100 notes/bills printed after 1996 and in good condition (no creases, marks, stamps or tears) will be accepted. Avoid bringing US$ notes in smaller denominations. By law, all purchases in Russia must be made in local currency.
The official currency of Mongolia is the Tugrik (MNT).
Tugrik may only be obtained within Mongolia. The easiest currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, although it is possible to exchange RUB, CNY and other currencies at some exchange points. Larger denomination notes often attract a better exchange rate.
Please be aware that there are no reliable banking or exchange facilities outside of Ulaanbaatar. Major credit cards may be accepted in some shops and restaurants in the capital. Some banks will allow cash advances against a credit card but cash withdrawals are subject to a 5% or more service charge.
In Ulaanbaatar you will be able to find ATMs that accept international cards and use them to withdraw local currency; however these should not be relied on as your sole financial source. Some souvenir sellers and tourist restaurants may accept USD or EUR as payment but all other purchases in Mongolia must be made in local currency.
The official currency in China is the Yuan or Renminbi (CNY). 1 renminbi (yuan) = 100 jiao (mao).
We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in China they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you are happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants/cafes with table service: In Russia and Mongolia- we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill, however check if a service charge has already been added. Tipping is not common practice in China.
Local guides: Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest 50-100 RUB/2000-3000MNG/10-15 CNY per person per activity day for local guides with the amount adjusted accordingly for guides who are with you for a for a full day.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey, while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however a base of 50-100 RUB/2000-3000MNG/10-15 CNY per person, per day is generally appropriate, with the amount adjusted accordingly for drivers who are with you for less than a full day.
Please do not tip with coins, notes of and less that 1000 MNG/10 RUB/CNY1or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline $US3-5, or the equivalent in any currency used on the trip, per person, per day can be used.
Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip isn't compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's 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. Although can be difficult to source we advise you to carry small notes of local currency each day to make tipping easier. Please note we recommend that any tips are given directly to the intended recipient by a member of your group as our group leaders are prohibited from collecting cash for tips.
In China specifically, tipping is not compulsory, but is expected in the travel industry and is considered a way of showing appreciation for great service.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants, markets, and taxi drivers - tipping is not customary and is not expected by the locals.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest US$2-US$5 per day for local guides depending on their service and their involvement with the group.
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 we suggest US$2-US$4 per day for drivers.
Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline US$4-US$6 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 is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
At your group meeting on Day 1, your tour leader will discuss with you the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your group leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members. This is often the easiest way to avoid the hassles of needing small change and knowing when and what is an appropriate amount to tip. Please don't tip with coins, very small denomination notes, or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.
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
• City of Birth
CHINESE NATIONAL HOLIDAYS:
Please note that China's national holidays are the peak travel season for Chinese nationals. During this time, literally the whole country is on the move - that's over a billion people. Although these are fascinating and exciting times to travel in China, please be aware your group will almost definitely experience transport delays and massive crowds at tourist attractions and train stations. It's common for there to be difficulties in securing train or flight tickets at our preferred times, hotels become overbooked, traffic chaotic and changes to the itinerary are often necessary as a result. If clockwork organisation is important to you we advise you book outside of the weeks of the extended Chinese New Year in January/February, in the first week of May and the first week of October. If you decide to travel during this period please come with an open mind and be prepared for changes on the ground.
Maximum of 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: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
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.
Please note, if you have purchased a single supplement, it will not be applicable on overnight train sectors or at home stays.
Hotel (9 nts), Overnight sleeper train (8 nts), Homestay (2 nts), Ger (1 nt)
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.
HOMESTAYS and GUESTHOUSES:
Please note that at our homestays and guesthouses you might be required to share a room with people of the opposite sex or with your leader. When we stay at people's homes, beds might be pull-out couches or mattresses on the floor.
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.
Please note that in many cities in Russia, including Moscow, hot water is turned off for up to one month during summer for routine maintenance. During this time only cold water may be available. In Ulaanbaatar due to the fact that much of the city's infrastructure lacks regular maintenance, we may only have access to cold water at our hotel year round.
BEDS AND ROOMS:
Some travellers have reported that hotels/accommodation in this region tend to have harder bed mattresses than those they are used to at home. Passengers that require a soft bed should consider bringing an inflatable camping mattress or sleeping mat.
Smoking is prevalent in China and hotels generally do not offer specific non smoking rooms. Larger hotels with central air conditioning will sometimes transport the smell of smoke between rooms. While we ask our hotels to ensure our rooms are ventilated well before occupation in some cases this is not possible.
WIFI, in room, or in public areas of accommodation is not as common as travellers may be used to in other regions.
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.
11 Breakfasts, 3 Lunches, 4 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:
Boat, Overnight sleeper train, Bus, Train, Metro
LONG TRAVEL DAYS
There are some long travel days and some of the transport can be quite cramped and without air-conditioning.
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.
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 description
King Parkview Hotel is centrally located in Beijing, close to many historical and cultural landmarks, including Jinshan Park, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square and the National Art Museum, and the hutong areaThe hotel offers comfortable rooms including en-suite bathroom, TV & AC. Hotel rooms may include a vanity pack which are not complimentary. You will be charged at checkout if you open or use the vanity pack.
For more information, please go to http://pephotel.com/en
Finish point instructions
Beijing Capital International airport is located north-east of Beijing, 25 km from the city centre. One of the biggest airports in the world, it is relatively easy to navigate and many signs are written in English. Most international flights take off from Terminal 3.
For more information about Beijing Capital Airport, please go to http://en.bcia.com.cn/
A departure transfer from the airport is available if arranged at the time of booking. Please advise your departure flight details at least 14 days prior to your departure. If you plan to stay longer, this departure transfer can only be offered in conjunction with post-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid/Peregrine/Geckos.
If you plan to make your own way to the airport:
Your tour leader can advise you when is the best time to leave for your flight depending on local traffic condition. It is suggested to leave from your hotel at least 3 hours before your flight time. Taxi is the easiest way to go to the airport. It should take around 45 minutes to 1 hour to Beijing Capital Airport at about CNY120 under normal condition.
Alternatively, you can take metro or taxi to Dongzhimen airport express station, which should cost around CNY30 (taxi). Then take the airport express from Dongzhimen (CNY25, service time: 06:00 – 22:30) to Beijing Capital Airport.
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
LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI)
Most nationalities require a visa for Russia. You will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI), sometimes called a Voucher or Visa Support Letter in order to apply for your visa.
You can obtain your LOI online through our local partners in Russia. Instructions and a link to the website will be sent to you at the time of booking. Read the instructions carefully and fill in the online application form. You will then be able to download your LOI instantly. Please note that we will add 3 days to the LOI duration before and after your trip dates for your convenience. If you are planning to stay longer than these dates please let us know as we will need to manually request a LOI to fit your specific travel plans.
The LOI included in the cost of your tour is for a Single Entry Tourist Visa. LOIs for other types of visas may be organised at your own expense and paid directly to our local partners, Parallel 60 (www.parallelsixty.com)
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You must apply for your Russian visa in advance. Visas are not available on arrival or en-route. Once you have received your LOI it is your responsibility to apply for your own visa either directly at an embassy or by using a visa agent. We do not recommend trying to obtain your Russian visa outside of your home country or place of residence as your application may be refused.
Use ONLY the information and dates on your LOI when filling in your visa application. There is no need to reference Intrepid Travel or include a copy of your itinerary as Parallel 60 is the official inviting organisation, not Intrepid. Do not be concerned if the destinations and accommodation listed do not match your Intrepid trip exactly. This information is for the purposes of obtaining the visa only, not an indication of where you must travel and stay in Russia.
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
* Letter of Invitation (LOI)
* Photocopy of your passport
* Passport size photo (up to 4)
* Flight or other transport details - if required
* Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
Please be aware that visa extensions are NOT possible in Russia.
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR TRAIN TICKET BOOKINGS:
Train tickets in Russia are booked with passport numbers. Please make sure you provide us with your correct passport number. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip. If we receive changes to passport numbers less than 30 days prior to departure we cannot guarantee purchase of train tickets.
We do NOT recommend travelling on multiple passports for trips that involve border crossings by train. This can cause difficulties with train ticket bookings and cause significant issues delays at Immigration.
WARNING – MIGRATION CARDS
All foreign citizens entering Russia are required to fill in a migration card. The entry portion of the card will be retained by Immigration upon arrival. The stamped exit portion of the card must be kept with your passport during your stay in Russia and submitted to Immigration upon departure. If you are not given a migration card at Immigration on arrival you must request one, even if the immigration official says that you do not need one. Loss or failure to receive the exit portion of the card will result in you not being able to travel on our trip as all hotels require this card for registration and may result in significant delays or fines upon departure.
MONGOLIA - TRANS-MONGOLIAN:
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
United Kingdom: Not required
USA: Not required
Nationals most countries can now travel for tourist purposes visa free for 30 days. US passport holders can travel in Mongolia for up to 90 days visa free.
LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI):
Most embassies do not require a LOI. However, should you be required to present one with your visa application please contact us. There may be a fee for this service. In order for us to provide a LOI through our local partners we will require a clear, colour scan of your passport along with indicating at which embassy you will be applying for your visa. Please allow up to 2 weeks for your LOI to be processed.
VISA ON ARRIVAL:
Visas are not available on arrival at any land borders into Mongolia. You must have a Mongolian visa before beginning your trip.
You may be able to apply for your Mongolian visa in Beijing en-route if you have time here before your trip. Please plan carefully and check the current embassy requirements.
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You will need to apply for a Single Entry Tourist Visa (J) that covers the duration of your stay in Mongolia. Visas are usually valid for 3 months from the date of issue and enable to you to stay for up to 30 days.
Name and address of host person or organization in Mongolia:
Monkhutuch Travel Co. Ltd
Bayangol district, Building 19-3
+976 11 364 708
Name and address of Hotel in Mongolia:
Chingeltei duureg, 6-r khoroo
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You may be required to provide a copy of your Intrepid itinerary, indicating the dates of your tour, along with your application.
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
MAINLAND CHINA & HONG KONG:
Most nationalities require a visa for mainland China. You must obtain your Chinese visa in advance. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival and Chinese visas can be difficult to obtain outside your country of residence. You may be able to apply for your visa in Hong Kong If you have time here before your trip departs. You will need a Single Entry Tourist for your trip valid for 30 days. Hong Kong is not considered part of mainland China for immigration purposes and most nationalities do not require a visa. Please check with an embassy for specific requirements.
Please make sure if you have a transit anywhere in China before arriving at your destination that you check with your Airline to see if the transit will use your Chinese Visa. You need to make sure your China visa will cover you for any transits made.
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
Please list the destinations you will visit in China in chronological order on your application form. Do not mention Kashgar, Turpan or Tibet anywhere on your application form. While these areas are not off limits to travellers, they are considered politically sensitive, so including these on your visa application could lead to significant delays or your visa being denied.
Name of Host/Inviting Organisation:
Intrepid Travel Beijing Co. Ltd.
606 InterChina Commercial Building
33 Dengshikou Street
+86 10 6406 8022
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
* Hotel List - this will be sent to you by Intrepid or your travel agent at time of booking. If you do not receive this please email us with your booking number and trip details. Please tick the hotels in all destinations that your trip visits
* Official invitation from licensed Chinese tourism company - this will be provided together with the Hotel List to all travellers regardless of whether it is required by the embassy or not
* Itinerary – please print off a copy of your specific trip itinerary from our website www.intrepidtravel.com and include it with your application, marking the dates you will visit each destination if required
* Photocopy of your passport
* Passport size photo (up to 4 may be required)
* Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR TRAIN TICKET BOOKINGS
Intrepid requires you send the following at the time of booking, at least 30 days prior to travel:
*Clear, colour copy of the personal details page of your passport
Please make sure that this copy is for the passport that you will be travelling on. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip as well.
Your visa application form may require you to state the dates on which you enter and exit that country. For China & Russia applications please follow the provided visa instructions carefully and once your visa support documents are issued please ensure that they have the correct dates for entry and exit. The border crossings on this trip are as follows:
Exit Russia - Day 14 at Naushki
Enter Mongolia - Day 14 at Sukhbaatar
Exit Mongolia - Day 18 at Erenhot
Enter China - Day 19 at Erlian
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).
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT:
It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary to store your luggage separately (and unattended) from the group. The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers, for when it comes to travelling on local buses and trains it's often only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas. If your bag does not fit in these areas then often the only place to put it is on your bed or seat. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
Where Intrepid covers the cost of luggage storage for included day trips, we allow for one bag/backpack only, so it's advisable that you travel lightly and keep luggage to a limit of one item (plus your day pack). Extra luggage storage will be at your own expense.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.
In some parts of Russia and Central Asia it is important to boil drinking water before use.
The climate in Russia and surrounding 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.
During winter Ulaanbaatar can be very smoggy due to wood/coal burning in every ger. Moving between minus 20 degrees celsius outside and 25 degrees celsius inside combined with the smog can make it difficult for travellers with respiratory difficulties such as asthma.
There have recently been a number of isolated cases of Bird Flu in Asia. While the risk to travellers is very low, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of local authorities and the World Health Organisation. WHO recommends basic hygiene practices to limit the risk of infection:
• Avoid visiting live animal markets and poultry farms
• Avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with animal faeces
• Do not eat or handle undercooked or raw poultry, egg or duck dishes
• Do not attempt to bring any poultry products back
• Do not pick up or touch dead or dying birds
• Exercise good personal hygiene with frequent hand washing
For further information please visit: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/avian_influenza/en/index.html
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!
Pay attention on all roads, even small streets and alleyways. Vehicles find their ways into impossibly small passages leaving no room for both you and the traffic. Traffic can be very noisy and horns are used to signal turning, overtaking and to announce going through intersections.
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.
You may stay at hotels with unfenced pools and no life guard on duty.
Please note that helmets are not always provided for sightseeing on bicycles.
Local interaction is certainly big part of travelling experience in Intrepid trip just be careful when it comes to drinking with the locals and playing cards with strangers on the Trans Siberian and Trans Mongolian train journeys. Remember that often vodka sold on platform and by attendants is very low quality and can be dangerous for your health. "Card sharpers" (card sharks) will offer to play cards masked as a local travellers, the ultimate intent is to play for money.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees for men and women.
Women are advised to cover their heads when entering functioning churches in Russia, while men should remove their hats.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Responsible Travel projects
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Russia include:
* Nochlezhka focuses on providing for St Petersburg's homeless community. Its Night Bus project provides a mobile social support point: two specially equipped minivans that are visited by up to 150 disadvantaged people each night. Every visitor receives a hot meal and tea, a nurse is able to provide first aid, specialised social workers can assist street children, and clean, warm clothes are also available.
Please advise your leader if you have any unneeded clothing or toiletries you would like to donate, so that they can arrange for them to be passed on to Nochlezhka.
Intrepid Travel also supports the following non-profit organisation:
*Upsala Circus shows children and teenagers from social risk groups with the method of circus pedagogy an alternative from the street and to integrate them into the society.
As the only organization of its kind in Russia, Upsala Circus directly connects the professional circus and theatre art, with social work. By the everyday training in the circus and attendance at circus festivals, the children and teenagers from social risk groups experience exciting and difficult challenges. The circus is referring to "high risk" nearly like the life on the street. It appeals to them with magic, lets them explore their individual skills, makes them stronger and motivates them to create their lives in society in an active way.
More information about Upsala Circus can be found at their web-site www.upsala-zirk.org.
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Mongolia include:
* The Lotus Children's Centre cares for children who are the victims of abandonment, neglect or abuse. Currently housing some 150 children, the centre provides for basic health, shelter and educational needs. Employment and effective life skills are also imparted as the children grow, in an attempt to break the cycle of poverty.
Lotus is always happy to receive donations of a wide range of items: clothing of all sizes, shoes, underwear, socks, coats and scarves; arts and craft supplies for school activities; child-care goods and toiletries such as nappies/diapers, nappy rash, anti-fungal and scabies creams, soap, shampoo, sunblock, insect repellent etc. Please advise your leader if you have brought something to donate, so that they can arrange for it to be passed on to Lotus.
Financial donations will be doubled by Intrepid Travel. Donations can also be made via your leader or via The Intrepid Foundation donation box at the Lotus Hostel. More information about Lotus can be found on their website here: www.lotuschild.org
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in China include:
* Beijing Huiling offers innovative services to youths and adults with learning disabilities and teaches people to respect what those with disabilities can do, rather than what they can't. Their activities and training facilitate independence and improve daily living and employability skills in a family-like group home environment.
* Xi'an Huiling provides adults with learning disabilities opportunities to develop their personal abilities and life skills, enabling them to achieve independence as a fully integrated member of the community.
Carbon Offset C02-e 861.00 kgs per pax.
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