Gathering Facts About The Trans Siberian Railway

Previous page - The start of our journey

 

We are now gathering facts from all over. Things we have learned so far:


From Qantas

We can use our frequent flyer points on partner airlines. This is excellent because we knew Qantas didn't fly to Vladivostok. If we can use an alternate airline we might be able to get to Beijing and then get a flight on to Vladivostok, all using our points.

 

From travel agents/tour companies

Russian brochures Selection of Russian brochures

There is a 29 day Trans Siberian tour that is run by Sundowners Overland. It starts in Japan but we can join it from Vladivostok to cut back about $2500 in costs. However, in our opinion it is still very costly.

We have found another travel agent (Ellen from Harvey World Travel) who has actually lead a tour through Siberia. We've explained how we need to keep our travel costs to a minimum so we will meet up with her again next week. She gives us brochures to read through.

Ellen assured us we will have great difficulties trying to do this trip by ourselves. She said we won't be able to manage things such as timetables, directions and customs officials etc. because of the language barrier.


The Travel Directors

The following week: It's the 4th March and we have again met Ellen who organizes a lot of tours for The Travel Directors. She is going to do two quotes - one for the 28 day escorted tour and one in which we will travel by ourselves but with a guide to help us with directions at railway stations etc. This will be lots cheaper, we hope. However, we are still very concerned that without a tour leader we might be totally out of our depth.

 
Fact added later on :

Well, Ellen had our email address but didn't bother to contact us at all. We waited for three weeks and then rang her office. We left a message on her answering service requesting someone get back to us but GUESS WHAT? - still no response. Very disappointing indeed.

Keeping our options open we have asked Nikki from Jetset (the agent who organized our Ghan trip) to come up with an itinerary for us too. It will be interesting to compare quotes and itineraries.


Facts about the Trans Siberian train

The Trans Siberian train has a toilet room at each end of the carriage. It does not have showers - just a toilet plus a basin to wash in. Hot water is not available in this washroom. Apparently the room is quite large and it has a corrugated drainage floor. It was suggested we fill our drink bottles with warm water and douse ourselves, soap up and then douse ourselves again with another drink bottle to rinse off after. The water will drain away through the floor. One only hopes the toilet wash room is warm. I'll bet it isn't! I'm glad neither of us has long hair to keep clean.

We've now been told we have to forget any notion of "bottle-showers" or even "licks and flicks with a flannel". Apparently Wet Ones are the way to go. It seems we will soon get used to it and everybody else is in the same boat too.

Ian has read that we need to have a variety of food goodies on board with us to share. It is a Russian custom that you share whatever food you have with fellow passengers - even if you don't know them. My sister was quite horrified when we told her about the sharing of food. She wasn't perturbed about us sharing ours with other passengers but what if we were offered something we didn't like the look of! Refusal would no doubt cause offence. The sharing of food must have played on my mind because that night I dreamt we were at the airport ready to fly off to Russia when I realized we didn't have our Toblerones to share. In my dream Ian was supposed to scuttle off and buy some but he wouldn't hurry up and I was afraid we'd miss the flight. Anyway, back to reality.............


Facts from Tourist Offices

I emailed a Russian tourism company in Lake Baikal for temperature information and a kind person there not only gave me the temperature information but he/she is also going to post me brochures about Lake Baikal. Lake Baikal is the largest, oldest and deepest fresh water lake in the world. We are very much looking forward to seeing parts of it when we stop there.

Fact added later on: A few weeks have gone by but nothing has turned up in the mail.

We must be very patient as it seems mail from Russia can take a very long time to get here.

Fact added on 14th July: Brochures arrived at last.

They took 3 months to get here from Russia.


Next page: Early planning for our Russian adventure

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Our trip in the order it happened:


Travel Planning Necessities
World time zones, world weather, currency converter, language translator services.

HostelWorld.Com
Search over 25,000 hostels.

Trip Advisor Forum - Russia
The place to find information about Russia when you can't find it elsewhere.

Way To Russia
Another very good forum

Getting A Russian Visa
The process is explained

Trains between Moscow & Saint Petersburg
Explanation of the types of trains on that route.

Firmenny Trains
An explanation of what they are.

Moscow's Railway Stations
A map of their locations and proximities.

Learn How To Speak Russian
Free lessons.

Map of St. Petersburg
Lonely Planet's map of the city.

Map of Moscow
Lonely Planet's map of the city.

Moscow Times Newspaper
English version.

The Russia Club
A forum for all those interested in anything "Russian".

Russian Rail Timetable
It takes a bit of mastering but Ian managed it (eventually).

The Art Of Travel
Very interesting travel information for all locations.

Smart Traveller
Australian Government's site dealing with current travel advice.

Travel Independent
A site written by travellers for travellers. Lots of information.

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