Is the Trans-Sib a Tourist Train?
No, it’s a year-round regular working service on Russian or Chinese Railways, and makes no concessions to tourists at all.
Can you hop on and off?
Sorry - (i) the visas are city/date specific (ii) the train is usually full. You MUST set up your stops in advance - we can help you.
Is the Trans-Sib like the Orient Express?
No, that’s a deluxe train for tourists - the Trans-Sib isn’t. Agatha Christie did not write about the Trans-Sib and it’s Murder on the Orient Express, so they say !
No caviar and champagne, then?
Actually there is, and very cheap too. Dinner on board is about £5, although caviar is more!
But Visas are a nightmare, aren’t they?
Needn’t be! We do the whole thing, but you can only get a Russian Visa against pre-booked accommodation documents - which we provide. We get the Chinese and Mongolian Visas too, if you are booking those services with us.
Do I need to book months in advance?
No, 4-6 weeks is the most we’d need to get the visas together. Some trips can be prepared quicker than that, although there might be express fees from the Consulates concerned. If you want to travel over the peak months (June-Sept) we would recommend booking longer in advance to be sure of getting your first choice of dates.
Is it dangerous in Russia?
Not really - the Mafia are not interested in leisure travellers.
Do women get hassled in Russia?
Levels of sexual aggression towards women are remarkably low in Russia. For a change, it’s the men who are the targets - of the highly aggressive Russian hookers. If the idea sounds amusing, the reality is not. A firm "nyet!" is needed to persuade them to leave you alone. Sleeper trains are unisex, the tradition is that the men "go for a walk" whilst the ladies prepare for bed, then the ladies look the other way whilst the chaps bed-down.
Will there be other foreigners on board?
We don’t book our passengers together in groups - our whole ethos is about travelling individually within Russia. However, you will often find other Russia Experience passengers on your train, or in your hotel.
Siberia - must be cold, then?
In winter, yes (-40C) but the trains are toasty and warm. In summer, Siberia enjoys sunny +30C temperatures (don’t forget, Lake Baikal is only a day’s ride north from the Mongolian Gobi Desert).
Are there showers on board?
The only showers are in the 1st-Class Compartments of Train #4 the non-stop Trans-Mongolian train from Moscow-Beijing, which we don’t use. Itineraries with stops utilise different trains. However, the bathrooms (one at either end of each wagon) have a WC and washbasin, and you can get inventive with a face-cloth or a sponge to keep you smelling sweet!
What are 1st and 2nd class?
The classes on-board are 1-Cl (2-berth) and 2-Cl (4-berth). All our trips are based on 2-Cl, but we can upgrade you to 1-Cl. Prices vary according to the itinerary, the upgrade prices are not necessarily logical! There is limited availability in 1-Cl and during the peak summer months it is difficult to obtain. We cannot always guarantee a place - but we’ll try our best. If we cannot get 1-Cl we can usually offer 2x2-Cl (at a slightly higher price than 1-Cl) to guarantee you privacy.
Why are the stops so expensive?
They only seem that way. The non-stop fare (only) is regulated by an international agreement which the Chinese stick to and the Russians cannot break (although they want to). Trips with stops are more expensive not because of the huge cost of the accommodation at the stops - but because the ticket-set for the journey costs more.
Why is it more expensive if I travel on my own?
We try not to hit solo travellers for supplements, but there are some extra costs we have to pass-on. Primarily, not being able to split the cost of a car, a local staffer or a hotel room between two people. However, if two people book together but then want to arrive separately, we will have to pass-on the extra cost of, say, one being met from a flight, but their friend being met at the station by another car; or having to do the visas separately which involves additional courier fees and separate visits to the embassies.
How much money will I need?
Well, the upper ceiling is up to you! Moscow and St Petersburg are London prices - but there is little to buy on the train except meals. Our Siberian stops include all meals, and our Mongolian stops include 2 meals - so it can be cheap if you want it to be. Don’t cheat yourself on visiting the Kremlin (£7) or the Hermitage (£6) - do you really need that pizza more than all that culture? Mongolia and China are relatively low-cost destinations, although both take the opportunity to try to charge a "western-level" price for attractions of specific interest to foreign visitors. You’ll need funds for food aboard the train and for purchases on platforms. That’s about it. Budget around £30 a day before you get on the train and £10-15 a day aboard the train. US Dollar cash in clean, (nothing larger than a 20) unmarked bills is the best currency for exchange during your journey.