Frequently Asked Questions
How safe is it to book with us?
We are a fully bonded tour operator, registered in the UK, where EU law requires us to protect your travel funds. We are full members of the Travel Trust association (TTA) www.traveltrust.co.uk – your travel funds are frozen in a Trust Account until your trip is complete, and only released to us by the TTA`S approval Trustee. The Russia Experience Ltd is a member of AITO www.aito.co.uk – the Association of Independent Tour operators, a government – regulated professional body of more than 150 tour operators. Between them AITO members take over 1,400,000 satisfied people on holidays throughout world every year. We are mandated to uphold the high professional standards and stringent safeguards which is implicit in membership of the TTA and AITO.
Aren’t visas a nightmare that takes weeks?
Needn’t be! Get your booking form into us as soon as possible and you’ll avoid express costs. Most passengers who travel with us will need a visa for Russia. Depending on the route you take and your nationality you may also require entry visas for Mongolia and China. Please refer to our >visa section for the latest information
Do I need insurance? Do I need vaccinations?
We do require you to have Travel Insurance to take any of our trips.Which policy you purchase is your own choice. The Russian Consulate also requires you to have Travel Insurance to obtain a visa. No vaccinations are mandatory but you would be well advised to take informed advice on this (not every GP may be as well informed on the latest developments in these locations. Particular concerns are Cholera, Typhoid, Hepatitis B, Tetanus and Diphtheria. Tickborne encephalitis is a small risk on some Siberian trekking routes and there is a vaccine available. We also suggest you take a first aid kit, to include a sterile surgical kit.
Why does it seem expensive to make En-route stops?
A Trans-sib secret that no guidebooks seemed to have grasped goes like this ..non-stop international tickets are still priced accordingly to old bilateral agreements dating back to the Soviet era which cannot be broken , even now! But if you introduce stops into your trip these sectors are priced commercially by Russian Railways …so you only get the benefit of state subsidised journeys for part of your journey.
Can I stay extra nights?
In Moscow and St Petersburg, yes! But the train schedules on some of the less than frequent routes make altering the stays almost impossible – unless you stay for a considerable additional amount of time. Adding or removing a few days almost never works. We always include two nights in Moscow prior to your Trans-Siberian journey and two in St. Petersburg is the standard if you buy the St.Petersburg add-on but”there is stacks to see and I wish I had stayed longer!” is always the feedback we get. You cannot alter the ticket dates or stops once you are travelling.
How much spending money will I need?
This depends on what lifestyle you plan to pursue on your trip ! The Information Pack we provide will give you an idea of current costs . Eating and drinking are similar to most European cities, although Ulaanbaatar and Beijing have upscale versions if you have the cash to flash! When itineraries take you far from the shops or cafes we often include meals. Russian souvenirs tend to be fun and low priced so you will be able to stash your pack full of Russian goodies!
What should I expect? Some of our trips feature options staying with local families. Although sometimes this is for practical reasons (e.g no other kind of accommodation is available – Nomad stays in the Gobi for example) it also broadens the trip experience, two way interaction with the people and the places they live. We`re not promising luxury we`re promising a slice of real life! People who live in harsh climates and terrains are naturally gregarious, and you will learn and experience more with them than you could ever absorb in a month staying in a sterile Western style Hotel.
Meat features strongly in the national cuisine of most of our destinations. As a team the Russia Experience employs several vegetarians and we have never starved! But for when you are off the train you must advise us prior to departure if you have anything more complicated than a lacto-vegetarian diet consider that in some remote places this could be an issue and stock up accordingly.
Travelling with children
There are no serious downsides, and the infrastructure of travel and accommodation works well if you are taking children along. However, Communist –era thinking very much treated children as small adults, with little or no provisions or amenities. So priming your children is essential if they are not going to get bored. Take supplies of books and comics and English reading material is unavailable for both children and adults alike. The journey is however the most fantastic introduction to a world they will have never known and they will meet many local children along the way, who will be curious about your lives so take photos of home! Child prices on application.
How much privacy do you get on board the train?
All our standards trips are based on 2nd Class rail in Russia which is 4-berth compartments. You`ll be sharing with any travelling companions who book on the same journey as you, and of course the other train passengers. It`s possible to buy yourself more privacy than that with an upgrade to a 2-berth compartment BUT these are in very short supply and some trains don`t have them at all. As and alternative we offer a “buyout” of a 4-berth if the 2-berth is full, prices on request.
Are there showers on board?
Most of the main long distance (24 hrs+) on Russian Railways ( Not Mongolian or Chinese) now have a pay-to-use shower. You have to go to the special services wagon. The cost is around R150. No towel or soap is provided and flip flops would be very wise!
Will I met other travellers?
Very likely especially in the Summer months. There are only one or two trains a week between Mongolia and Beijing for instance depending on the season so bunching is inevitable for the last section.
There are no serious downsides or dangers visiting our destinations, and there is no need for woman travellers to worry. Maybe the old take on a new problem is that the men might find the ladies of the night a little tenacious – a firm nyet should do the trick! Dressing down is to be recommended also as the lure of conspicuous wealth is the biggest draw for both sexes. Also remember its law to have your documents on you at all times in Russia as spot checks are common place.
Want to customise your trips?
All the trips on the web site and in our brochure have a pre-arranged schedule however if you would like to customise your Classic Trans-Siberian journey with, different durations , or special requests, please check with our reservations team firstname.lastname@example.org and we will see what`s possible. NOTE no alterations are possible once your trip has commenced.
Are there luxury trains ?
We sell three styles of travel on this journey. The Classic style which uses local trains and which most of these FAQ’s relate to and is not group travel. Rail Cruises which use a private locomotive and are group style and fixed dated with all meals and excursions included, with a wide range of cabin choices on board to chose from depending on your criteria for comfort and facilities. Lastly the Luxury Rail Cruise which is the same as the Rail Cruise but using a superior locomotive with gourmet food and exemplary service.