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The Vodkatrain - Eastbound

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The Vodkatrain - Eastbound

Begint in:

St. Petersburg

Eindigt in:

Beijing

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Wat is inbegrepen?

Go beyond babushkas and vodka on the ultimate Trans Mongolian journey.

With three weeks you can encounter more people, places and tasty flavours as you delve deeper into Russia, Mongolia and China. Get a taste for modern culture in St. Petes, marvel at the opulence of Moscow, and experience the shaman culture of the Buryats before plunging into the sapphire depths of dazzling Lake Baikal. Enter the wilderness and sleep under a blazing blanket of stars in a Mongolian ger camp before gliding into China to eat oodles of noodles and gawk at ancient sights like the Great Wall.

Prijs per persoon 2.765 EUR
Dit is zonder vliegtickets. Wij helpen je graag om de goedkoopste tickets te vinden. De prijs hierboven is per persoon, maar gebaseerd op 2 volwassenen die samen reizen.
Wat is inbegrepen?
Reisroute

The Vodkatrain - Eastbound

Days 1-2: St. Petersburg

Kick things off in St Petersburg. Originally constructed as Russia’s ‘eyes into Europe’, the city has been the backdrop to countless catastrophes, but Russian’s are nothing if not resilient. Today, the 21st-century city is a thriving cultural capital; discover clubs and live music, an experimental art scene, cosy wine bars, great tea houses, and a multicultural food offering. A local punk musician recently summed it up by saying “in a city of three revolutions, you’re bound to get a fourth”.

Descend into underground palaces on the metro and find yourself surrounded by marble pillars, ornate chandeliers and classical frescos on the way to the city’s extraordinary sights. Take in the magnificence of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood; perched canal-side, it stands a vision of immense beauty. Visit the opulent Hermitage Museum housed in the Winter Palace for a taste of Tsar life, and see if you can spot one of the 70 feline guards that protect the art collection from hungry mice.

It’s worth noting, there’s no avoiding vodka, so embrace it. It accompanies meals to ‘help digestion’ and seems to replace water as the giver of life. Sometimes it’s infused with mystery flavours like a bag of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans - horseradish vodka, anyone?

Day 3: To Moscow

As you take your first overnight train to Moscow, get to know your fellow adventurers and plan a list of sights you want to hit once you arrive in Russia’s capital. Study the Cyrillic alphabet and master a few words of Russian, don’t be afraid to try them out on local travellers.

Days 4-5: Moscow

Head to Red Square for an immediate WOW factor. You’ll find yourself slack-jawed on the cobbled square (surprisingly not red) staring in awe at the gingerbread masterpiece of St. Basils. As you start to explore Moscow, you’ll soon discover that this revivalist piece is just one of the architectural wonders scattered across the city. Around the square alone, you’ll find the Kremlin - with its gothic towers watching over the treasures within, Lenin’s Mausoleum displaying the embalmed revolutionary, and the State Museum - well worth a visit if you fancy a history lesson.

Wander to Zaryadye Park for a great vantage over the striking skyline or chill in Gorky Park, a favourite among locals soaking up their long-lost friend, Vitamin D. Try the local fare, some of the best has Georgian and Asian influence. With a full belly, it’s time to check out the nightlife. Live jazz, underground dance and ping-pong bars to name a few.

Days 6-9: Trans Siberian Railway

All aboard the renowned Trans Siberian Railway! Settle into life on board as you watch the stunning scenery transform outside your window. Hang with your group in the dining car and try out your language skills on unsuspecting locals; with a little inventive sign language, you’ll all be sharing laughs and snacks in no time. The train will make minor stops along the way, ask how long it's staying before you hop off and devour homecooked delights from babushkas along the platform - a welcome break from your 2-min noodles.

Days 10-11: Irkutsk and Lake Baikal

Welcome to the heartland of Siberia. Settle into your shore-side home at Lake Baikal, and soak up the scenery as you take a stroll around the water’s edge. As the largest freshwater lake in the world, it holds 20% of the planet’s freshwater and seems to stretch on to an infinite horizon. Take a ‘refreshing’ dip if you’re feeling brave, and taste the local cuisine. Omul is a fish endemic to the lake and served up in many ways; smoked, raw and barbequed. Ask your honcho about lake activities; they vary throughout the year from ice driving to kayaking or something more relaxing.

Days 12-13: Olkhon Island

Travelling via Irkutsk, we make our way around to the western shores of the lake to the serene settlement of Olkhon Island. Visit the sacred Shamanka Rock at sunset for some amazing photo opportunities. The golden sandy beaches on the island’s northern shore are a great spot to take a dip, the waters at Maloye Morye (the strait between Irkutsk Oblast and the island) are shallow and warmer. Ask your honcho about hiring a horse or a bike to explore more of the island.

Day 14: Return to Irkutsk

Leaving the pristine shores of Lake Baikal, we return to Irkutsk for your final night in Siberia. A town of two tales, Irkutsk began life as a trading outpost, initially for gold and collecting fur taxes from the indigenous Buryats. With the laying of the Siberian Road, merchants could travel from China to Moscow and diamonds, wood, silk and tea passed through the city’s streets.

Irkutsk underwent its own revolution during the 19th century when artists, officers, academics and nobles were exiled here for their part in the Decembrist Revolt against Tsar Nicolas I. The city became a thriving centre for intellectuals and elites; creating a rich cultural heritage, including the signature wooden architecture and ornate latticework. About 50% of the population were exiled, creating a prosperous cultural and educational centre.

Day 15: Trans Mongolian Railway

Back on board to journey onwards to Mongolia; a great chance to contemplate what you’ve learnt about Russia ahead of the culture switch. Brush up on some Mongolian words and plan your Terelj activities over a hearty meal from the dining car. Watch out the window as the silvery Siberian light gives way to the verdant steppe, look out for hairy yaks, Bactrian camels and nomadic herders whose settlements dot the landscape.

Day 16: Terelj National Park

Head out to a traditional ger camp in a protected nature reserve. See how the nomads live and see that their roving traditions haven’t changed much for hundreds of years. Enjoy a hike in the wilderness and soak up the serenity of your surroundings. Your Honcho can organise horse riding or archery to help you feel like a real Khan. Enjoy a peaceful sunset before getting cosy around the campfire. After a few airags (fermented mare’s milk), head outside to witness the Milky Way blaze across the night sky.

Day 17: Return to Ulaanbaatar

Visit the Zaisan Memorial to get a great view over the sprawling capital; a skyline of Soviet blocks, Buddhist temples and ger suburbs ringed by empty grasslands for hundreds of miles in every direction. See the ruby-robed monks at Gandantegchinlen Monastery - a name which translates to ‘the great place of complete joy’. And get a taste for the life of a Khan with a visit to the Winter Palace of Bogd Khan - one of the only historical attractions in Mongolia that the Soviets or Mongol communists didn’t destroy.

Enjoy your final night in Mongolia with a feast of local cuisine and a tasty brew, like Crazy Shaman IPA at Hop & Rocks Brewery - Mongolia’s first ever producer of craft beer. Night owls will find plenty to keep them up; from live music venues, beer gardens and chill bars, to pulsing clubs and luxury lounges.

Day 18: Trans Mongolian Railway

Back on board, this time on the Trans Mongolian line. Glide across the green grasslands and pass the golden Gobi before launching into China. Use your time to learn a few words of Chinese and plan what you’d like to see and eat in Beijing. There are eight national cuisines to try, so that should keep you busy when you’re not exploring Imperial Palaces or strolling along the great wall.

Days 19-21: Beijing

Welcome to China and congratulations, you’ve just completed an 8,515 km journey across the largest country in the world and beyond. Let’s celebrate with a visit to one of the many snack markets. Fried scorpion on a stick anyone? Well, maybe some Peking Duck in its hometown then. Explore by bicycle or rickshaw and get acquainted with the patchwork of ancient, imperial and modern life. Visit the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square and the hutong district before heading to the hills for a stroll along the most peaceful part of the Great Wall, Huanghaucheng.

Extend your experience: Travel on to Chengdu for Panda magic and Hong Kong for the atmospheric Man Mo Temple and views from Victoria Peak.

Inclusions

- Visa support for pre-booked services

- Accommodation nights
8 hostel (shared), 4 Siberian guesthouse (shared),1 ger camp, 7 train (4-berth)

- Tickets and transfers
All train tickets and included. Once you have joined the group, all arrival transfers are included.

- Honchos
Local legends that help you hit the highlights and the hidden gems. They are included at every stop on your journey.

- Sightseeing
With no pre-arranged sightseeing, you have complete freedom to roam. Stay with your group or explore on your own.

- Expertise
Our friendly bunch of specialist Travel Advisors are hand to support you with all the essentials, such as travel insurance, flights, Visa applications and destination information.

Please note: Arrival transfer on Day 1 and departure transfer at the end of your itinerary are not included.
Overzicht

Wat is inbegrepen?

Extra kosten tijdens tour
None

Accommodatie

Carriages (Wagons):
Each 4-berth carriage has about 9 compartments and sleeping arrangements for 2 attendants. Your carriage attendants (conductors) are there to provide information, make sure the hot water is available, keep communal areas clean and tidy and shepherd passengers back on the train when it’s ready to leave. Although they rarely speak English, they are adept at sign language and great fun! Without doubt, they are one of the most important elements of your rail adventure. The bathrooms are small but adequate, containing a sink with running water and a toilet (western-style mostly or squat-style on some Chinese trains). In our experience, the bathrooms are spacious enough to have a strip-wash and also to wash your hair if you wish. Most trains do not have shower facilities and you should expect to go without showers on all train sectors.

Compartments:
Compartments contain 4 comfortable berths, with ample room to stretch out or sit up. There is a small table in the middle under the window, individual reading lights for each berth and on Chinese trains there are often thermos flasks of hot water also. In each compartment there can be a mix of group members and local travellers (mixed sex), the perfect opportunity to experience daily life aboard a transcontinental train.

Off the train:
A mixture of hotels, hostels, local guesthouses and traditional gers (Trans Mongolian) or Yurts (Silk Road) are used. The emphasis is on good value, cleanliness and friendly hosts. Your accommodation for every night of the itinerary is included in the price. We've chosen them for their character and with your costs in mind. Sometimes you will be in multi share but mostly twin share, with a mixture of private and shared bathroom facilities. We cannot guarantee that you will have private facilities.

Lokaal vervoer

Trains along the Trans Siberian, Trans Mongolian, Silk Road and within India are a destination in themselves. Along with ideas, religions and an enormous variety of goods, these trains ferry families, traders, students, soldiers, business people, travellers, monks & acrobats... You name it, they're on it and there is a good chance you'll be sharing with them at some stage of the journey.

Let's get something straight from the start: These are not chartered trains but scheduled services. Overnight accommodation is in four-share sleeping compartments - two upper and two lower bunks. Depending on group size, you may be sharing with other group members, or with local travellers. Don't be afraid to say hello!

Compartments have bedding, reading lights, a big window, a small table, room for a rucksack or two and if you're REALLY lucky - a vase with a plastic flower. Carriages have two washrooms (no showers), boiling water and a couple of friendly attendants... Each train has its own personality and regulars, so check out the dossier for specifics.

Maaltijden

In keeping with the "no-inclusions-keeping-the-cost-down" policy and keeping your journey flexible - there are no meals included in your Vodkatrain journey (you might get lucky with a hotel breakfast - but once you've tried one, you'll see why we don't include them). Here you will find usefull advice how not to go hungry!

Eating on the train:
Most trains have a restaurant car located in the middle of the train. These cars are open from breakfast till dinner most days and operate on local time. Chinese and Mongolian trains serve standard local fare, including rice, vegetables, chicken and mutton (Mongolian specialty). Russian and Uzbek trains serve soup, salad and meat mains. The restaurant is waited and restaurant staff will point out which menu items are available. Prices in China and Uzbekistan are reasonable, but can reach US$10 for a meal in Russia. There is usually a vegetarian option.

Platform food:
A great way to feed yourself (and anyone sharing your compartment) is to buy home cooked food from the "Babushkas" (grandmothers) selling home grown and cooked food, out of date processed food and everything from stuffed toys to chandeliers on train platforms across Russia. Seasonal fruit and berries are also a big hit with commuters. Chinese platforms have food carts offering everything from pickled pig snout and chicken feet to noodles and more recognisable dishes. Just make sure you check the hygiene situation before handing over the cash. Follow the simple travellers food rule - peel it, cook it or wash it and avoid nasty tummy bugs. Watch out for delicious fish that may have been re-smoked, products that are way out of date and Babushka hygiene when buying platform food… is that FRESH horse milk?

The train from Ulaanbaatar to Irkutsk (and vice versa) and many of the trains in Central Asia do not have restaurant cars. There are also few opportunities to buy food on the platforms and you will need to buy enough food for the journey before you board.

Self-catering:
A constant supply of hot water means noodles, instant mash, tea and coffee are all great options for those playing it safe. There is a good selection of fruit, vegetables, bread, noodles and deli food in all cities so self catering on the trains is no problem. Most locals self-cater and will often insist you eat with them!

Houd er rekening mee

Trains are generally not designed for travellers taking photos! While the compartment windows are great to watch the Gobi desert, the Tien Shan mountain range of Kazakstan or Siberia pass by - if you are really keen on photos from the train, take a squeegee and window cleaner to avoid disappointment. Attendants are more concerned with cleaning the hand rails and signs at stations, but you could try slipping them a couple of bucks to clean the windows as well - it has worked in the past.

What are "Honchos"?
Young, fun and energetic - your local Honcho is a friend in a distant city ready to share their life with you for a couple of days. A regular tour operator might call them tour guides or city guides, but they’re not, they’re Honchos. Honchos have grown up in their city and love showing you around, not just the tourist sites (they are important too!) but the real heartbeat of the city, its people and those underground places you normally need weeks to find. They're not libraries of local history, but can definitely show you where to find one. They can show you how to use local transportation, where to change money, their favourite cafes, bars and restaurants, can translate all the latest gossip and if there is something they don't know they have the language skills to find out. Your Honcho probably has some ideas about what you should see in their city - but there is no pressure to do any suggested activities. If you want to do your own thing they will help you with directions, a few local sayings or maybe scrawl a basic map on a napkin, and then leave you to it!