Russia Expedition: Baikal-Amur Railway
from $4665
Duration: 15 Days
Every bit as rewarding as its famous Trans-Siberian counterpart, this lesser-known Russian rail route follows the Baikal-Amur Mainline and ventures from Russia's Far East, across Eastern Siberia and north of Lake Baikal, where it’s even more stunning than in the south. Learn the traditions of the indigenous Nanai and Evenki people, visit the astounding rock formations of Stolby National Park, soak up the rich history of Vladivostok and Moscow, and learn the hard facts of Russia’s Soviet past in places that saw unspeakable drama and revolution. With the Trans-Siberian Railway so well known, the Baikal-Amur Railway is your ticket off the beaten track and into next-level expedition travel in Russia.
  • Get off the beaten track and onto the Baikal-Amur Mainline, where Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East unravel in a mind-boggling combination of history and landscape
  • Experience not only the spectacular scenery found north of Lake Baikal but the strange and wonderful rock formations of Stolby National Park
  • Step back into the Soviet era with a visit to fascinating Komsomolsk, where the hard times of life under Stalin time seem all too real
  • Visit indigenous Nanai and Evenki peoples and get a taste of their respective ways of life by way of musical performances and handicrafts
  • Starting in Vladivostok and finishing Moscow, see modern-day urban Russia taking shape beyond its Soviet past
  • Vladivostok - City tour
  • Vladivostok - S-56 Submarine
  • Komsomolsk-na-Amure - City tour
  • Komsomolsk-na-Amure - Nanai community visit
  • Severobaikalsk - Day trip to Nizhneangarsk
  • Severobaikalsk - Evenki Cultural Centre
  • Severobaikalsk - Baikalskoye village & local lunch
  • Severobaikalsk - Great Baikal Trail hike
  • Krasnoyarsk - Krasnoyarsk Dam
  • Krasnoyarsk - Stolby Nature Reserve
  • Day 1 Location: Vladivostok
    Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia. Arrive in Vladivostok in time for a 6 pm welcome meeting. This city is a major eastern gateway of Russia, the home port of the Russian Pacific Fleet, and the largest Russian port on the Pacific Ocean. Other than your welcome meeting and an optional group dinner, the evening is yours.
    Day 2 Location: Vladivostok
    Check out the city on a bus tour today (approximately 3 hours). You'll be joined by a local guide who'll give you background information on the main sights around town. Take a walk on the main streets, admire Vladivostok from the old artillery battery, and visit the famous S-56 submarine museum. When the tour's over, the rest of the day is at your leisure. Tonight maybe seek out some of the quintessential food of Russia's Far East; there's some fantastic seafood and Korean-influenced fare to be found around town.
    Day 3 Location: Vladivostok/Far-Eastern Railway
    Today is a day of optional activities before you board the overnight train in the late afternoon. Maybe ride the funicular – it's a short but beautiful ride, with scenic views over Zolotoy Rog Bay (Golden Horn Bay). Perhaps visit the Arsenev Regional Museum, take a trip over to Russky Island for a stroll along the beach, or see what's on at the fantastic Zarya Centre of Contemporary Art (entry is free). As for the train, settle in and get comfortable for the first leg of your unforgettable Russian rail trip. Travelling via Ussuriysk (where there's be a 20 min stop) we'll arrive in Komsomolsk-na-Amure at around 6 pm the following day.
    Day 4 Location: Far-Eastern Railway/Komsomolsk-na-Amure
    The train will trace the border of China today, travelling through Khabarovsk where we cross the Amur River. A stop of around 1 hour will be made in Khabarovsk, a delightful riverside city with leafy parklands and a pleasant atmosphere. Take the chance to stretch your legs with a wander around the station during the stop, and stock up on snacks supplies. This outpost of the Far East has a fascinating history, one of both Chinese and Soviet heritage. Continue the journey and arrive at around 6 pm in Komsomolsk-na-Amure, another town set on the Amur River. Head out for a walk after checking in to your hotel and seek out some dinner - your leader will have some recommendations for a great local meal.
    Day 5 Location: Komsomolsk-na-Amure
    Read up on Komsomolsk and you'll find out that it was called 'the first socialist city of the country', and was the centre of Stalin's notorious GULAG camps of the region. The history, though fascinating, is far from a fairytale. On our tour today, you'll see the building where prisoners worked, the Administrative Office of the camps and a Memorial Stone to victims of political repression. After a look around the city centre we venture further afield, to one of the places where prisoners lived while building the railway. Along the railway there were camp hospitals and camp cemeteries and you'll see a quarry developed by the prisoners as part of their hard labour. This history is sobering, but important to witness. Spend tonight again in our centrally located hotel.
    Day 6 Location: Komsomolsk-na-Amure/Baikal-Amur Railway
    Today we pay a visit to a local community to meet members of the Nanai minority. This memorable excursion will last for around four hours. To get there we head 40 minutes out of town, where an ethnographical museum and Nanai house offers insight into a indigenous culture of the Far East. The Nanai will give a small performance, and we'll see how their traditional coats are made from fish skin. There will also be the chance to sample some Nanai food. After the excursion we board our next train bound for Tynda, departing in the early evening. This time we will be on a train for 3 consecutive nights.
    Day 7 Location: Baikal-Amur Railway
    Sit back and enjoy the scenery of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM) as the train rolls on, travelling west. The train will stop at Postyshevo (36 min), Noviy Urgal (35 min) and Verkhnezeysk (30 min). The BAM was built as an alternative to the Trans-Siberian railway and considered the "construction project of the century" by then Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev. Special, durable tracks had to be used as some of the route traverses permafrost and the cost was astronomical. These days it's debatable whether the huge expense was worth it, with the line being under-utilised for commercial transport and serviced by few passenger trains. It certainly makes for an adventurous journey that few travellers take.
    Day 8 Location: Tynda/Baikal-Amur Railway
    Arrive early morning for a five-hour stopover in Tynda. Take the chance to have breakfast, have a shower at the station, and stretch your legs with a walk in to the town centre across the river. We will store our luggage at the station while we explore. We'll then take a look at the BAM builder monument - definitely a crucial photo stop! Your next train is to Severobaikalsk to the north of the mighty Lake Baikal, departing at 11:55 am.
    Day 9 Location: Baikal-Amur Railway/Severobaikalsk
    Two of the highlights of the BAM railway on our rail journey today - the Severomuyskiy Tunnel (the longest in Russia at 15,343m long) and the Golden Rails at Kuanda, which mark the official "completion" of the BAM. After stops in Yuktali (44 min) and Taksimo (45 min), arrive in Severobaikalsk at around 2:30 pm. We've reached the northern end of beautiful Lake Baikal. Severobaikalsk is a key stop on the Baikal-Amur Mainline; it's a gateway to the pristine natural beauty found in the northern areas around Siberia's Lake Baikal. The afternoon is yours to spend as you please once we arrive. Settle into your guesthouse and perhaps go for a stroll around the village ahead of tomorrow's activities.
    Day 10 Location: Severobaikalsk
    Tuck into a hearty local-style breakfast, then take a bus to Nizhneangarsk, departing at around 9 am. We're off to visit the northernmost point of Lake Baikal. We will have a few hours to spend at the center of Evenki culture, learning all about the traditions and customs of the indigenous Evenki people who call this region home. There will be an instrumental musical performance, souvenir making and a tea party. Afterwards we transfer to Baikalskoye village (around 60 km) with stops at some local Buddhist sites. Along the way we'll sit down to lunch with a local family and sample some local fish together. Then we take a 3-kilometre walk on the Great Baikal Trail, checking out archeological and landscape features as we go. Transferring back to the Severobaikalsk guesthouse we'll arrive at around 7 pm for our second night.
    Day 11 Location: Baikal-Amur Railway - Trans-Siberian Railway
    Back on the train for another long stretch, we stop in Lena (30 min), Vikhorevka (24 min) and Tayshet (30 mins). At Tayshet the route connects with the mighty Trans-Siberian railway for the onward journey to Krasnoyarsk.
    Day 12 Location: Krasnoyarsk
    Arriving in Krasnoyarsk at approximately 3:50 pm, we have a free afternoon. This large city is a great stop for another taste of Siberia, and has the rare distinction of having a national park contained within it. We'll be exploring the renown Stolby National Park tomorrow afternoon, so for the rest of today feel free to relax and unwind with a walk around the city and a meal in a local restaurant. We stay in a centrally located hotel tonight.
    Day 13 Location: Krasnoyarsk
    Enjoy a half day trip to Stolby National Park, where beautiful and bizarre rock formations are the stars of the show. Stolby takes its name from the rocks themselves, which jut vertically out of the hills and seem to inhabit personalities of their own. For lunch we'll have some Siberian cuisine in a local restaurant before heading out to the spectacular Krasnoyarsk dam in the afternoon. Spend our final night in Siberia tonight in our hotel.
    Day 14 Location: Krasnoyarsk - Moscow
    As the trip draws to a close we fly from Krasnoyarsk to Moscow (approximately 5 hrs). The fact that the flight takes this long gives a great sense of just how vast this country truly is! While on board, plan your explorations for when you touch down in the Russian capital as there is so much to see and do. There are a number of daily flights to Moscow, so our arrival time may vary. Transfer from the airport to our central hotel and head out with your group to celebrate your amazing journey across the world's biggest country, to places most rarely see.
    Day 15 Location: Depart
    Farewell your fellow travellers as the trip comes to an end this morning.
    Dates
    Prices
    Availability
    Departure Date:
    05JUN2020
    Return Date:
    19JUN2020
    4665NZD
    available
    Departure Date:
    04JUN2021
    Return Date:
    18JUN2021
    4890NZD
    available
    Last modified (date)

    01 Apr 2020

    Trip title

    Russia Expedition: Baikal-Amur Railway

    Trip code

    WBSX

    Validity

    Validity: 01 Jan 2020 to 31 Dec 2020

    Introduction

    Every bit as rewarding as its famous Trans-Siberian counterpart, this lesser-known Russian rail route follows the Baikal-Amur Mainline and ventures from Russia's Far East, across Eastern Siberia and north of Lake Baikal, where it’s even more stunning than in the south. Learn the traditions of the indigenous Nanai and Evenki people, visit the astounding rock formations of Stolby National Park, soak up the rich history of Vladivostok and Moscow, and learn the hard facts of Russia’s Soviet past in places that saw unspeakable drama and revolution. With the Trans-Siberian Railway so well known, the Baikal-Amur Railway is your ticket off the beaten track and into next-level expedition travel in Russia.

    Style

    Original

    Themes

    Expedition

    Transport

    Overnight sleeper train,Private vehicle,Metro,Plane

    Physical Rating

    3

    Physical preparation

    You will be expected to carry your own luggage including up and down stairs, in 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 with and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes. And some accommodation may not have lifts. Good general fitness and mobility will play a big part in making your trip more enjoyable.

    Joining point

    Zhemchuzhina Hotel Гостиница «Жемчужина».

    Bestuzheva 29 г. Владивосток, ул. Бестужева, 29

    Vladivostok

    RUSSIAN FEDERATION

    Alternate Joining point

    For trips departing on the following dates, use this joining point.

    05 Jun 2020 (WBSX200605)

    Primorye Hotel

    Pos'yetskaya Ulitsa, 20

    Vladivostok

    690003

    RUSSIAN FEDERATION

    Phone: +7 (423)2411422

    Finish point

    Moscow 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

    Finish point description

    Arbat House Hotel is located in Moscow’s centre, 3 minutes walk from New Arbat avenue and only a short distance to Arbatskaya metro station. From here you can easily walk to Red Square and the Kremlin through Moscow's historical and cultural centre. The nearest airport is 30km away. Rooms are equipped with TV, telephone, air-conditioning, hairdryer, Wi-Fi, and some rooms will have a small fridge. Reception staff speak English. Visit the hotel's website here: www.arbat-house.com

    Finish point instructions

    Moscow has 4 international airports (Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, Vnukovo and Zhukovsky). Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo are the most commonly used by our travellers. We are happy to arrange a departure transfer for you at an additional charge. Please ask your booking agent if you would like to add this service and provide your flight details at least 7 days prior to the start of your tour. Once on tour, please confirm the exact pick up time with your tour leader. Alternatively, a taxi service can be arranged locally. Please ask your leader or the hotel reception to assist you with arranging a taxi to ensure you avoid taxi touts. Otherwise, it is cheap and quick to use public transport between your hotel and any of the airports. Please ask your tour leader for directions as you may need to take a bus to the train station. To Sheremetyevo you can take the airport express train (RUB500, 30-40 minutes) from 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 ticket on-line at www.aeroexpress.ru. To Domodedovo, the airport express train runs every hour from metro station Paveletskaya (Павелецкая, RUB500, 40 to 50 minutes) on the brown (circle) & dark green lines. To Vnukovo airport, the airport express train goes from Kievskaya (Киевская) metro station on the dark blue & brown (circle) line and takes approx. 35 minutes (RUB500).

    Important information

    1. 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 31 days prior to departure. • Passengers full name (First, Middle and Last) • Full Passport Details (number, expiry, issued) • DOB • City of Birth Please note that the above information needs to be the same as your travelling passport, any wrong information provided may result in extra personal expense to reissue train tickets, or missing out altogether. 2. A minimum of 3 travellers is required for departures of this trip to run.

    Group leader

    All 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. We endeavour 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. 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.

    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 trips. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, flight 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 or relax and take it easy. 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:

    RUSSIA Most visits to Russia are trouble-free, but petty crime does happen in cities. In St Petersburg there have been reports of street crime where tourists have been specifically targeted. These crimes are carried out by well-organised gangs. Be aware of pickpockets in the main tourist areas and around the main railway concourses. Bogus police officers have harassed and robbed tourists. If you are stopped always insist on seeing identification.Avoid openly carrying expensive items. Avoid walking about late at night alone. Incidents of violence in major cities are usually linked to criminal/business activities and are not usually directed against foreign visitors. If you are travelling by overnight train in a sleeping compartment, store valuables in the container under the bed or seat. Don’t leave your sleeping compartment unoccupied as some compartments only have a simple lock on the sliding door. On some trains there may be an additional security device, which can be attached to the fitted handle/lock unit. There may also be a steel switch at head-height on the door panel which, when pulled down, prevents the closed door from being slid open. Don’t agree to look after the luggage of a fellow traveller or allow it to be stored in your compartment. When on international trains crossing borders, you should be extra vigilant and pay special attention to your luggage to be sure that no one else has put anything in your luggage.

    Visas

    Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time. Your passport details are required to complete your booking. Please ensure the name on your passport matches the name on your booking RUSSIAN VISAS Most nationalities require a visa for Russia.  RUSSIA - LETTER OF INVITATION (LOI) You will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI), sometimes called a Voucher or Visa Support Letter in order to apply for your visa. Logins and your trip code will be sent to you at the time of booking so that you can obtain your LOI online through our local partners in Russia, Parallel 60, via this link:  https://www.intrepidtravel.com/au/russian-letter-invitation-loi-and-visa You will then be able to download your LOI instantly. Please note that the LOI included in the cost of your tour is for a Single Entry Tourist Visa. We will also add 3 days to the LOI duration before and after your trip dates for your convenience in case you have booked pre or post accommodation. If you require a different visa type or are planning to stay longer than these dates please contact Parallel 60 (www.visain.ru) directly to request a LOI to fit your specific travel plans. INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR RUSSIAN VISA APPLICATION: Once you have obtained your LOI you can apply for your visa. You must apply for your Russian visa in advance. Visas are not available on arrival or en-route. It is your responsibility to apply for your own visa either directly through a consulate 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 us or include a copy of your itinerary as Parallel 60, our Russian partners, are the official inviting organisation. Do not be concerned if the destinations and accommodation listed do not match your trip exactly. This information is for the purposes of obtaining the visa only, not an indication of where you must travel and stay once in Russia. DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR RUSSIAN VISA APPLICATION: * Letter of Invitation (LOI) * Photocopy of your passport * Passport size photos  * Flight or other transport details (if requested) * Please check with the consulate for any other specific requirements VISA EXTENSIONS IN RUSSIA Please be aware that visa extensions are NOT possible in Russia. INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR RUSSIAN 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. RUSSIAN MIGRATION CARDS All foreign citizens entering Russia are required to fill in a migration card on arrival. 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. If you travel to Russia from one of the Custom Union countries – Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, please ask for one when going through immigrations into one of these countries or make sure to get one when entering into Russia.

    Why we love it

    Get off the beaten track and onto the Baikal-Amur Mainline, where Eastern Siberia and the Russian Far East unravel in a mind-boggling combination of history and landscape

    Experience not only the spectacular scenery found north of Lake Baikal but the strange and wonderful rock formations of Stolby National Park

    Step back into the Soviet era with a visit to fascinating Komsomolsk, where the hard times of life under Stalin time seem all too real

    Visit indigenous Nanai and Evenki peoples and get a taste of their respective ways of life by way of musical performances and handicrafts

    Starting in Vladivostok and finishing Moscow, see modern-day urban Russia taking shape beyond its Soviet past

    Is this trip right for you

    This is a train trip of epic proportions! That means adventure and excitement, but it also means you’ll be on the train for long stretches (five nights and many full days). There will be plenty of downtime. So be sure to come prepared with books, a music source, cards, that kind of thing. Since you’ll be spending so much time on the train, you’ll need to self-cater by buying supplies at shops and markets along the way, or order from the (limited) dining car on board, for much of the trip. You’ll be travelling in a region that sees few outsiders, so be prepared to forgo some of the comforts of home (such as daily showers, barista-made coffee, Wi-Fi, and general use of English). They don’t call it expedition travel for nothing!

    Health

    RUSSIA GIARDIA Giardia intestinalis, a parasite that causes severe diarrhoea has been reported from time to time in the water supply in Russia. For this reason, we recommend against drinking unboiled tap water in all Russian cites. IMPORTANT - BANNED MEDICATIONS By law, travellers bringing prescribed medicines into Russia must carry a prescription in the patient's name, that includes the name of the drug and prescribed quantity. According to official channels, if your medication contains "narcotic or psychoactive substances", a notarised translation into Russian is also required. This may include medications containing codeine or opiates, sleeping pills, medication for ADHD, antidepressants and strong painkillers. Some medicines that you can buy over the counter in your home country may require a prescription in Russia. There have been cases of travellers being detained at border crossings when undeclared or banned medications have been discovered by customs sniffer dogs. If you’re unsure whether you need to provide a prescription and notarised translation to bring your medicines into Russia, check with the Russian Embassy before you travel. TICKS In spring and early summer in rural areas of Russia ticks are prevalent. Please take precautions when walking in these areas by wearing long trousers and covered shoes, and check your clothes and body thoroughly. HYGIENE The diet and hygiene standards on this trip may be very different from what you are used to so please take care with washing hands before meals etc. and bring some medication/re-hydration salts etc if you commonly experience stomach problems with a change in diet.

    Food and dietary requirements

    RUSSIA What is food in Russia really like? See our blog here for some must try foods: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/5-foods-really-need-try-russia/ Vegetarians in Russia certainly won't go hungry as there are usually plenty of meat-free options on menus including salads, certain soups, and cooked dishes such as mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, buckwheat, dumplings with vegetable fillings, savoury pancakes etc. Vegans will need to look for options without mayonnaise, sour cream and cheese which are common in Russian dishes. Moscow, St Petersburg and increasingly other towns have an ever growing number of excellent vegetarian and vegan eateries. Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may wish to supplement inclusions with their own supplies from markets or supermarkets.

    Money matters

    RUSSIA The official currency of Russia is the Ruble (RUB). 1 ruble = 100 kopeks. ATMs are widespread in Russia so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit or debit 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. If you are travelling to remote parts of the country you will need to prepare cash exchanged into local currency. The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. 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 When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document). TIPPING IN 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 100- 200 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 100- 200 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. - 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. 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. Budget for meals not included: 180.00 CONTINGENCY FUNDS We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved. The recommended amount is listed in USD for the relatability of universal travellers, however the local currency is needed in the countries you are visiting.

    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, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible and make sure that you are able to carry and lift your own luggage, and walk with it for short distances or up or down a flight of stairs. Our travellers usually find the smaller their luggage is, the more they enjoy the trip not having to worry about carrying heavy bags! Aim to keep your main luggage under 15kg. Many travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller suitcases or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps or handles. If you are taking overnight trains, or primarily using public transport then the smaller your luggage the easier it will be to store under or above bunks. A lockable bag or small padlock will be useful especially when travelling on public transportation as well. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water, camera, and jacket etc. when you’re exploring during the day. Below are some ideas and helpful tips on what you specifically need for this trip. Essential: - Clothing: a mixture of lightweight and dry fast clothing and warm layers are recommended essential for travelling in this region. Long shirts, pants, scarves are useful for covering shoulders & knees when visiting religious sites. - Shoes: sturdy and comfortable shoes for walking long distances are essential. - Personal travel documents inc. your passport (visa), travel insurance, fight tickets and trip notes. Photo copies of your passport and visa, passport size photos and travel insurance will be handy. While not valid, a photocopy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary. - small first aid kit including items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes, Band-Aids and insect repellent, and essential medicine depending on your doctors advice. - Money: cash/credit card/EFTPOS card and money belt - Sun protection like hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses. Recommended: - Refillable water bottle (1.5 litre capacity suggested): 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 end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. - Cell phone, camera with spare batteries, charger, and adapter plug - Hand wash, travel wipes, toiletries and small towel - Watch/alarm clock and torch/flashlight (and spare batteries) - Torch or flash light esp. for stay at local guesthouses or home stays Optional: - Sleeping bag. Useful for camping, overnight trains and poorly heated hotels, particularly during the winter months of Dec - Feb when temperatures are low. - Sleep sheet. If you are travelling during the hot season you may wish to pack a sleep sheet so you will be comfortable no matter what the weather. - Ear plugs to guard against street noise and snorers. - A good book, a journal and music player for overnight train rides and longer drives. Other things to consider: - Check weather in destinations you are travelling to online a few days before you go to make sure you pack appropriate clothing - Laundry facilities may not be available in all destinations, so make sure you have a few cycles of clothes to tide you over until your next chance to wash

    Climate and seasonal

    RUSSIAN PUBLIC HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day: 1 Jan New Year Holiday Week: 2-8 Jan Orthodox Christmas Day: 7 Jan Defenders of the Fatherland Day: 23 Feb (25 Feb 2019, 24 Feb 2020) International Womens Day: 8 Mar (9 Mar 2020) Spring & Labour Day: 1 May Spring & Labour Day Holiday: 2-3 May 2019 Victory Day: 9 May (11 May 2020) Russia Day: 12 Jun Unity Day: 4 Nov OTHER OBSERVED HOLIDAYS: Old New Year: 14 Jan Special Operations Forces Day: 27 Feb Orthodox Easter Sunday: 28 Apr 2019, 19 Apr 2020 Day of Knowledge (First Day of School): 1 Sep

    A couple of rules

    Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden. Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking, and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption. The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips. By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. Your group leader has the right to remove any member of the group for breaking any of these rules, with no right of refund. If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.

    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. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/

    Emergency contact

    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. In case of a genuine crisis or emergency, you can reach our local operator on the number below: Intrepid’s Local Operator: +7 918 6151572

    Responsible travel

    Our Responsible Travel Policy outlines our commitment to preserving the environment, supporting local communities, protecting the vulnerable and giving back to the places we travel. All our trip leaders, suppliers and staff are trained on these principles, and are core to us delivering sustainable, experience-rich travel. Explore the different parts of our Responsible Travel Policy by visiting: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/responsible-travel http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller

    The Intrepid Foundation

    Help us change thousands of lives by creating meaningful work and supporting skills training in communities around the world. The Intrepid Foundation is the not-for-profit for Intrepid Group. We work with local organisations around the world to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and communities through sustainable travel experiences. With our travellers’ help, we’ve contributed more than AU $6 million to over 100 community organisations since 2002. Did you know that tourism is one of the biggest contributors to the global economy, making up 1 out of every 10 jobs? That’s why we support local projects that create meaningful jobs and give people the skills they need to work in the destinations we take you to. And it’s why we exist – to make it easy for travellers to give back to the communities and places they’ve been in an effective and meaningful way. Intrepid Group covers all administration costs, every cent goes directly to the projects. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information about the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or visit our website:

    Accommodation notes

    RUSSIA REGISTRATION: According to Russian law, all foreign citizens must be registered with the immigration authorities within 7 business days of arrival into Russia. If you have made your own independent travel plans in Russia for more than 7 days outside of your trip dates with us, please ensure you are registered through your accommodation in order to avoid any issues at passport control when leaving the country. HOT WATER: Please note that in many cities in Russia, including Moscow, hot water is turned off for up to one month during summer for routine maintenance. During this time only cold water may be available at some accommodation. HOMESTAYS & GUESTHOUSES: Please note that at our homestays and guesthouses rooms may be multishare and open gender. When we stay at people's homes, beds may be sofa beds or mattresses on the floor. DOUBLE BEDS: Please note that rooms with double beds are not always available at our accommodation in Russia and two single beds in a twin share room is the default. Wherever possible we will put couples in rooms with double beds if available. RUSSIA TRAINS: Trains on this journey are simple but comfortable, with standards and age of the carriages varying from route to route. You’ll travel in 2nd class ("kupe") on this trip. There's a toilet/bathroom at the end of each carriage with a small sink and cold water, but no showers. 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. Clean bedding is provided, although some travellers still prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. There's hot water available for making instant meals, tea and coffee. Sometimes snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and most trains also have a dining car, although often with a limited menu. Trains are generally heated but do not always offer air conditioning. The train can become very hot even in winter and the train attendants will often not allow the windows to be opened, so please pack clothing appropriate for the warmer conditions on these train journeys.

    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.

    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 Essential Trip Information. 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.

    Itinerary disclaimer

    ITINERARY CHANGES: Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, 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 may be on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that 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! 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. Here are some useful internet sites to check for what will be on (ballet, opera, exhibitions, etc) in Moscow and St Petersburg: www.mariinsky.ru, www.bolshoi.ru and www.mikhailovsky.ru

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