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The Vodkatrain - Westbound

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Beijing
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The Vodkatrain - Westbound

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The Vodkatrain - Westbound

Begint in:

Beijing

Eindigt in:

St. Petersburg

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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. Kick things off in Beijing, gorge on Peking duck in its original hometown and take a stroll along a rather famous wall. Glide over the Gobi into Mongolia and enjoy a night in the wilderness under a blazing blanket of stars. On to Russia, it’s time to get acquainted with the beauty of Lake Baikal, the Tatars of Kazan, the opulence of Moscow and the youth culture in St Petes.
Prijs per persoon 2.885 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 - Westbound

Days 1-3: Beijing

Arrive in Beijing and meet your fellow adventurers. Step back into Imperial times with a visit to the Forbidden City, then soak up modern life in Tiananmen Square and explore the many colourful markets - especially those steaming and sizzling with edible delights. Jump on a rickshaw to the Hutong district; these ancient alleyways have been here since Kublai Khan established his capital here. And of course, no trip to China would be complete without a stroll along the great wall. Head out to the Huanghaucheng section; a lesser visited part that’s rich in vegetation with lush mountains sinking into the emerald waters of Haoming Lake.

Day 4: Trans Mongolian Railway

Climb aboard the Trans Mongolian Railway line and get ready for a cultural switcheroo. Settle into the rhythm of life aboard the train, and people watch as you decipher your Mongolian phrasebook. Mingle in the dining car and try a few words on unsuspecting locals. Plan what activities you want to do once you reach the wide-open steppe. Peek out the window as the Gobi Desert becomes the grasslands of the nomads, look out for wildlife and the gers of roving herders.

Days 5-6: Terelj National Park

We arrive in Mongolia and transfer out to the land of the nomads. Experience life in a traditional ger camp cradled in a protected nature reserve. Learn about the nomad’s roving traditions, a culture that hasn’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 7: Return to Ulaanbaatar and on to Irkutsk

You have the day to explore the capital before reboarding the train. There are lots of great options so choose wisely. 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’. Wander around town and encounter plenty of places to feast on local cuisine and enjoy a tasty brew, like Crazy Shaman IPA at Hop & Rocks Brewery - Mongolia’s first ever producer of craft beer.

Days 8-10: Irkutsk and Lake Baikal

Welcome to Russia and onto Siberia’s natural wonder. 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 11-13: Irkutsk and aboard the Trans Siberian Railway

You’ll feel relaxed and revitalised after three days at the lake, and ready for some city exploring. A town of two tales, Irkutsk began life as a trading outpost and underwent its own revolution when nobility from St. Petersburg were exiled here for their part in the Decembrist Revolt of 1825. The influx of artists, academics and elites created a thriving cultural and educational hub. Today, it’s a bustling uni town with a unique style of wooden architecture, well worth a look before you climb aboard the Trans Siberian Railway.

Settle into life on board the renowned iron way and watch the world transform outside your window - while onboard you’ll pass over the Urals that mark the end of Asia and the beginning of Europe. Hang with your group in the dining car and plan what you want to do in Kazan. Say hello to locals, with a little inventive sign language; you’ll 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 14-15: Kazan

Step into a different side of Russia. Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan, home of the Tatars - a Turkic people native to the region and Russia’s second largest ethnicity. Experience the cultural differences through the architecture, food and faces in this vibrant city. Take a stroll down bustling Bauman Street to sample Tatar cuisine or chill in one of the many cafes and bars. There are coffee houses, live music venues, electro clubs and wild party bars to keep you busy all night.

Day 16: To Moscow

Enjoy a final day in Kazan before reboarding the train to Russia’s capital. Plan the hit list of sights you wish to explore once you arrive in Moscow. Enjoy a relaxing time on board before you thrust into city life.

Days 17-18: 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.

Day 19: Moscow to St. Petersburg

Welcome aboard your final train journey as we travel on to St. Petersburg. It’s worth reading up on what makes this city so unique. 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.

Days 20-21: St. Petersburg

This city is alive with creativity. As you walk down the opulent streets lined with impressive imperial architecture, you’ll discover an experimental art scene, cosy wine bars, great tea houses, a multicultural food offering, and when night time comes around, live music and pulsating clubs. A local punk musician recently summed it up by saying “in a city of three revolutions, you’re bound to get a fourth”.

When you’re not busy immersing yourself in the city’s modern culture, descend into underground palaces on the metro and find yourself surrounded by marble pillars, ornate chandeliers and classical frescos. Stroll down Nevsky Prospect, beside the canals or by the river. Take in the magnificence of the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood, an immense work of art. Visit the 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.

Extend your experience: Enjoy a final fling in Finland with a train to Helsinki.

Inclusions

- Visa support for pre-booked services

- Accommodation nights
8 hostel (shared), 3 Siberian guesthouse (shared), 2 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!