Trailblazer guidebooks provide practical information on specific routes in less accessible parts of the world.
 — Wanderlust

Trans-Siberian Handbook

Trans-Siberian Handbook

Excerpt:
Individual itineraries or organised tours?


Contents | Introduction | Individual itineraries or organised tours? | Route planning | What to take | Sample Route Guide: Trans-Siberian Route and map 1 | Other railway lines linked to the Trans-Siberian | Best of Trans-Siberian


 
INDIVIDUAL ITINERARIES OR ORGANISED TOURS?

Note that regulations governing the issuing of Russian visas are particularly susceptible to change. Check the latest situation with your embassy or through the organisations listed on pp28-37.

Fully independent travel
Travelling independently is not difficult and is the best way to gain an insight into the ‘real’ Russia. Getting a tourist or business visa allows you to wander around freely and as of 2013 it has become even easier to purchase Russian intercity and even international rail tickets yourself, online.
    For a tourist visa, together with your visa application you must present confirmation of (mostly fictitious) hotel bookings, furnished by a registered Russian tourist organisation. Various agencies and hotels can do this for you (see pp23-4). Some will furnish documentation of accommodation for the duration of your visa, in exchange for your booking only your first night’s stay with them. Once you have your visa and are registered with the organisation that’s sponsoring you, or one of their affiliates, you are free to travel wherever you want, irrespective of what the documentation says.
    Although few Russians outside the large cities speak English, this shouldn’t put you off. Many Russians are friendly and generous, and learning a bit of basic Russian before you go will help communication.

 


Semi-independent travel
This is a popular way for foreigners to travel on the Trans-Siberian. A specialist agency makes all accommodation and train bookings (with or without stops along the way), providing you in the process with the documentation needed for obtaining a Russian tourist visa. You choose departure dates and the number and length of stops, in effect designing your own trip. Once in Russia you’re usually on your own, although some agencies offer guides to meet you at the station and help you organise your time in stopover cities. You’ll often get good-quality accommodation in Moscow as part of the deal. Numerous travel agents can make these arrangements (see pp28-37), or you can deal directly with locally based Trans-Siberian specialists such as Monkey Business in Beijing (see p36) and Hong Kong (see p37).

Group tours
Some visitors (predominantly retirees) come to Russia in organised groups. Going with a tour group certainly takes much of the hassle out of the experience, but it also means there isn’t much room for doing your own thing and, unless you go on an expensive tailor-made tour, you can be stuck with travellers you may not get on with. Most tours are accompanied by an English-speaking guide from the moment you set foot in the country until the moment you leave. See pp28-37 for information on tour companies.

Trans-Siberian Handbook

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