Trans-Mongolian Experience

Trip Code: WBSB

Why we love it

Discover Russia, Mongolia and China on sample two of the world’s greatest overland journeys – the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian railroads., Visit some of Intrepid’s local friends in St Petersburg and share some afternoon tea in a unique setting – a Soviet-era communal apartment., Combine train travel with time to explore cities and villages along the way, including two nights in a homestay with a Russian family near Lake Baikal., Immerse yourself in Mongolian wilderness during a night in a ger camp in Terelj National Park, including a locally-guided hike to a Buddhist retreat and a hand-on dumpling dinner., Explore Ulaanbaatar on a tour of the Mongolian capital, a city where the outer suburbs are still made up of tented ger camps but the centre is home to modern skyscrapers.

Is this trip right for me?

This trip is based around long train journeys, including a four-night trip from Yaroslavl to Irkutsk, an overnight from Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar and another overnight from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing. This is an authentic experience and a great way to meet, and travel like, the locals. Conditions on the trains are simple but comfortable. There is a toilet/bathroom and compartments with bunks/berths. Please note that we travel 2nd class on all overnight trains (four people per compartment). While we always try to have our groups staying together, there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. For some more on what train travel in Russia (and around the world) is like, see our blog article here: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/overnight-train-travel-around-the-world/

As well as train travel, you’ll experience a variety of different transport types on this journey including public and private buses, metro and, of course, plenty of exploring on foot.

We like to do things the local way wherever possible. But sometimes you’ve got to rough it to get amongst it. Some of the accommodation used during this trip is basic, including the nights in tourist ger camps, local guesthouses and homestays. Sometimes facilities are shared and properties may not have hot water. But hey, we think that’s all part of the adventure.

Important information

1. Please ensure you check the visa requirements for your nationality for Russia, Mongolia and China at time of booking and allow enough time to obtain all necessary visas in advance.
2. Please provide your passport details and full name exactly as per passport at the time of booking (including any middle names listed on your passport) for train tickets. Fees may apply for amendments to details within 45 days of departure, and in some cases you will be required to cover the cost of issuing new tickets.
3. We advise against travelling with multiple passports with visas in different passports. Customs officers may not allow you entry even if the visas are valid. Please provide the exact details of the passport you will be using for travel.
4. A single supplement is available if you’d prefer not to share a room on this trip. The single supplement excludes Days 7,8,9,10,14,18 (Sleeper Train), Days 11,12 (Homestay) and Day 16 (Ger Camp) where you will be in shared accommodation and is subject to availability. Please speak to your booking agent for further information.
5. To avoid disappointment we recommend that you book any theatre performances that you wish to attend in Moscow or St Petersburg in advance.

What to bring/pack

What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible and make sure that you are able to carry and lift your own luggage, and walk with it for short distances or up or down a flight of stairs. Our travellers usually find the smaller their luggage is, the more they enjoy the trip not having to worry about carrying heavy bags! Aim to keep your main luggage under 15kg.

Many travellers carry their luggage in a compact smaller suitcase or backpack with wheels. We recommend your bag has carry straps or handles so it is easy to lift and carry for the times you are unable to wheel it (ie. on rough surfaces or up steps).

If you are taking overnight trains, or primarily using public transport then the smaller your luggage the easier it will be to store under or above bunks. Large suitcases may not be able to be taken on board. A lockable bag or small padlock for your bag will be useful especially when travelling on public transportation as well.

You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water, camera, and jacket etc. when you’re exploring during the day.

Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:, https://www.intrepidtravel.com/packing-list, WATER BOTTLE
Please bring your own water bottle to refill along the way. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please use the water dispensers which are provided on some of our vehicles and at some of our accommodation. Your leader will advise whether tap water is safe to drink in your destination, if it is you can simply refill with tap water. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day., What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking, we recommend you pack as lightly as possible and make sure that you are able to carry and lift your own luggage, and walk with it for short distances or up or down a flight of stairs. Our travellers usually find the smaller their luggage is, the more they enjoy the trip not having to worry about carrying heavy bags! Aim to keep your main luggage under 15kg.
Many travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller suitcases or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps or handles.
If you are taking overnight trains, or primarily using public transport then the smaller your luggage the easier it will be to store under or above bunks.
A lockable bag or small padlock will be useful especially when travelling on public transportation as well.
You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water, camera, and jacket etc. when you’re exploring during the day.

Below are some ideas and helpful tips on what you specifically need for this trip.

Essential:
- Clothing: a mixture of lightweight and dry fast clothing and warm layers are recommended essential for travelling in this region. Long shirts, pants, scarves are useful for covering shoulders & knees when visiting religious sites.
- Shoes: sturdy and comfortable shoes for walking long distances are essential.
- Personal travel documents inc. your passport (visa), travel insurance, flight tickets and trip notes. Photocopies of your passport and visa, passport size photos and travel insurance will be handy. While not valid, a photocopy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary.
- small first aid kit including items such as mild pain killers, electrolytes, Band-Aids and insect repellent, and essential medicine depending on your doctors advice.
- Money: cash/credit card/EFTPOS card and money belt
- Sun protection like a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.

Recommended:
- Refillable water bottle (1.5-litre capacity suggested): The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1-litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments.
- Cell phone, camera with spare batteries, charger, and adapter plug
- Hand wash, travel wipes, toiletries and a small towel
- Watch/alarm clock and torch/flashlight (and spare batteries)
- Torch or flashlight esp. for stay at local guesthouses or homestays

Optional:
- Sleeping bag. Useful for camping, overnight trains and poorly heated hotels, particularly during the winter months of Dec - Feb when temperatures are low.
- Sleep sheet. If you are travelling during the hot season you may wish to pack a sleep sheet so you will be comfortable no matter what the weather.
- Earplugs to guard against street noise and snorers.
- A good book, a journal and music player for overnight train rides and longer drives.

Other things to consider:

- Check weather in destinations you are travelling to online a few days before you go to make sure you pack appropriate clothing
- Laundry facilities may not be available in all destinations, so make sure you have a few cycles of clothes to tide you over until your next chance to wash

Physical rating

3

You will be expected to carry your own luggage including up and down stairs, in busy public transport hubs, and on and off buses and trains. Although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage, you are expected to be able to walk with and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes. And some accommodation may not have lifts. Good general fitness and mobility will play a big part in making your trip more enjoyable.

Joining your group

M-Hotel М-Отель, Sadovaya street #22/2 Садовая улица, 22/2, Metro Gostinniy Dvor M. Гостиный двор, St Petersburg, RUSSIAN FEDERATION, Phone: +7 (812)4488383

M-Hotel is situated in the 'Golden Triangle' of St Petersburg in close vicinity to world-famous museums such as the Hermitage, Kazan Cathedral, Church of the Savior on Blood, Russian museum and Alexandrinsky theatre where ballet performances staged by famous choreographer Boris Eyfman take place during the summer. Next to the hotel, guests will find a great variety of cafes and restaurants catering to different tastes, as well as plenty of boutiques, art galleries and antique shops.

The hotel provides a full range of services including laundry and dry cleaning as well as tour and airline bookings. There is a cafe (breakfast is included), room service, bar and conference hall, 24-hour security and elevator. There is also free Wi-Fi in the rooms and lobby bar.

Joining instructions

ARRIVAL TRANSFERS

Arrival transfers are available - if you have pre-booked a transfer with us the driver will be waiting for you at the arrival hall (inside), beyond the passport control, after getting luggage and clearing customs. As you exit to the arrivals – you’ll see plenty of drivers holding signs, just look for a sign Intrepid + Your Last Name
If you can't allocate the driver - call the following number of the local supplier: Dima +7 921 391 12 45
In rare case if local supplier not answering – call Russia Emergency Number listed below
Please note that driver will be waiting for you for 1 hour after your arrival time
If you experience flight delay or luggage loss, please don’t hesitate to call above numbers so we can coordinate your transfer more efficiently

BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT:
Saint Petersburg has 1 international airport - Pulkovo
Airports have public transport links that allow you to get to our starting point hotel cheaply.
From Pulkovo airport take a public bus or mini-bus to 'Moskovskaya' (МОСКОВСКАЯ) metro station stop.

Go inside the subway station - entrance to the Metro is marked by an 'M'. Tickets cost 31 RUB and there is no extra charge for changing lines once you are inside the Metro. There is direct blue line from 'Moskovskaya' metro station to 'Nevsky prospect'. Travel on the blue line to Nevsky Prospect station, get off on 7th stop. From there change to the green line to 'Gostiny dvor'. This is where you leave the Metro and head outside.

Please be aware that there is not a lot of English signage within the St Petersburg Metro and at peak times can be very crowded. If you choose to travel by public transport allow plenty of time and make sure you have a bilingual map with you to plan your route.

If you arrive to Moskovsky railway station by train take subway from the nearest 'Ploshad' Vosstaniya' (ПЛОЩАДЬ ВОССТАНИЯ) metro station, change to green line 'Mayakovskaya' (МАЯКОВСКАЯ) metro station, travel one station and get off on 'Gostiny Dvor'.

Outside of Metro station cross the road (Sadovaya street) through the underpass. There is Krylova lane between Sadovaya street and Plosha'd Ostrovskovo (Ostrovskovo square). M-Hotel located on Krylova lane, it's marked with the letter 'M' and is situated inside of the yard.

For more information, GPS coordinates and a detailed map go to: www.mhotelspb.ru.

BY TAXI:

The taxi ride from the airport to our starting point hotel takes at least one hour depending on traffic and should cost around 2000 RUB (approx. US$35, to be paid in local currency). Avoid taxi touts. From all airports we recommend you use the services of one of the official taxi desks (such as Yandex Taxi, Gett) located on the ground floor inside the arrival terminal.

Check-in time is 2 pm.

Please note Russian (Cyrillic) wording for M Hotel below which is useful to show to a taxi driver or to ask for directions

Гостиница «М-отель»
ул. Садовая, 22/2
191023, Санкт-Петербург
Станция метро — «Гостиный двор»

Finishing your trip

Beijing King's Joy Hotel 北京西华京兆酒店, 81, Meishi Street 地址:北京市西城区煤市街81号, Xicheng district, Beijing, CHINA, Phone: +86 1052171900

Located almost right in the heart of Beijing, King’s joy hotel offers great convenience for your stay in Beijing. Hotel is closed to Qianmen Hutong Area with 2 min walk, only 1km away from Tian’anmen Square & Forbidden City, 2km to Temple of Heaven.
Metro is also nearby, Qianmen Station (前门站) for Line 2 is only 5 minute walk which gives you easy access to all the major sites in Beijing.

Free WIFI and no-smoking room are available. 24 hours front desk service is provided. Rooms are equipped with en-suite bathroom, A/C, and other basic facilities. In the private bathroom basic show facilities are available. Other services like internet and laundry are also available. A fine selection of Chinese food and local Beijing cuisine can be enjoyed at the restaurant on site.

Beijing Capital International airport is located north-east of Beijing, 25 km from the city centre. One of the biggest airports in the world, it is relatively easy to navigate and many signs are written in English. Most international flights take off from Terminal 3.

For more information about Beijing Capital Airport, please go to http://en.bcia.com.cn/

A departure transfer from the airport is available if arranged at the time of booking. Please advise your departure flight details at least 14 days prior to your departure. If you plan to stay longer, this departure transfer can only be offered in conjunction with post-tour accommodation booked through Intrepid/Peregrine/Geckos.

If you plan to make your own way to the airport:
Your tour leader can advise you when is the best time to leave for your flight depending on local traffic condition. It is suggested to leave from your hotel at least 3 hours before your flight time. Taxi is the easiest way to go to the airport. It should take around 45 minutes to 1 hour to Beijing Capital Airport at about CNY120 under normal condition.
Alternatively, you can take metro or taxi to Dongzhimen airport express station, which should cost around CNY30 (taxi). Then take the airport express from Dongzhimen (CNY25, service time: 06:00 – 22:30) to Beijing Capital Airport.

Meals & dietary information

Breakfasts included: 13

Lunches included: 3

Dinners included: 3

While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. If you have dietary requirements and/or food allergies, please let your booking agent know prior to departure.

RUSSIA
What is food in Russia really like? See our blog here for some must try foods:
https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/5-foods-really-need-try-russia/

Vegetarians in Russia certainly won't go hungry as there are usually plenty of meat-free options on menus including salads, certain soups, and cooked dishes such as mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, buckwheat, dumplings with vegetable fillings, savoury pancakes etc. Vegans will need to look for options without mayonnaise, sour cream and cheese which are common in Russian dishes. Moscow, St Petersburg and increasingly other towns have an ever growing number of excellent vegetarian and vegan eateries.

Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may wish to supplement inclusions with their own supplies from markets or supermarkets.

MONGOLIA
Those with special dietary requirements may choose to supplement included meals with supplies brought from home. Vegetarian lacto-ovo options (while limited) can be offered for all included meals, provided we are notified at time of booking.

FOOD IN CHINA:
What IS authentic Chinese food like? Check out these articles to get a taste:
https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/china-food-trip-blog/
https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/china-food-stereotypes/
https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/a-guide-to-traditional-chinese-street-food/

VEGETARIANS & VEGANS:
Vegetarians in China certainly won't go hungry as there are always plenty of meat-free options on menus including vegetable, tofu, and egg dishes. Your leader can advise on some local favourites. Dairy is uncommon in Chinese cooking, although in some regions like Tibet, Xinjiang, and Yunnan you will find milk products as part of the local cuisine. Vegans should also have few problems finding tasty meals in most locations. Nearly all cities will have vegetarian restaurants, often near to temples or monasteries that specialise in Buddhist cuisine. Check out this blog for a guide to eating vegetarian in Beijing: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/a-vegetarians-guide-to-beijing/

DIETARY NEEDS:
Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may wish to supplement inclusions with their own supplies from markets or supermarkets. Please note that some dietary requirements, such as Gluten-Free, will be uncommon in China and you may need to explain to your leader what you can and can't eat as well as research common dishes before you travel.

ALLERGIES:
For those suffering from particular food allergies, your group leader will endeavor to disclose to their fullest knowledge the main ingredients in dishes being consumed. It is, however, your personal responsibility to ensure that you do not ingest any foods to which you are allergic and research suitable local foods before travelling.

Climate & seasonal information

CHINESE NATIONAL HOLIDAYS:
Please note that China's national holidays are the peak travel season for Chinese nationals. During this time, literally the whole country is on the move - that's over a billion people. Although these are fascinating and exciting times to travel in China, please be aware your group will almost definitely experience transport delays and massive crowds at tourist attractions and train stations. It's common for there to be difficulties in securing train or flight tickets at our preferred times, hotels become overbooked, traffic chaotic and changes to the itinerary are often necessary as a result. If clockwork organisation is important to you we advise you book outside of the weeks of the extended Chinese New Year in January/February, in the first week of May and the first week of October. If you decide to travel during this period please come with an open mind and be prepared for changes on the ground.

Here are the major holiday periods in China:
Chinese New Year: Feb 11-17 2021, Jan 31- Feb 6 2022
Qingming Festival: Apr 3-5 2021, Apr 3-5 2022
Labour Day Holiday: Apr 30- May 2 2021/2022
Dragon Boat Festival: Jun 12-14 2021, Jun 3-5 2022
Mid-Autumn Day: Sep 19-21 2021, Sep 9-11 2022
National Day: Oct 1-7 2021, Oct 1-8 2022

RUSSIAN PUBLIC HOLIDAYS:
New Year's Day: 1 Jan
New Year Holiday Week: 2-8 Jan
Orthodox Christmas Day: 7 Jan
Defenders of the Fatherland Day: 23 Feb
International Womens Day: 8 Mar
Spring & Labour Day: 1 May
Spring & Labour Day Holiday: 2 May
Victory Day: 9 May
Russia Day: 12 Jun
Russia Day holiday: 13 Jun
Unity Day: 4 Nov

In case of emergency

While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.

We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.

You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. Please do be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is completed, so informing us while still travelling will give us the opportunity to resolve the issue in real-time.

For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/

In case of a genuine crisis or emergency, you can reach our local office on the number below:

Intrepid’s Local Operator: +7 918 6151572

Accommodations

The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline only and may change. On some occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our preferred accommodation. In these cases, we will use a similar standard of accommodation.

Throughout the trip, we request that our properties prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However, this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination or on some trips, have use of shared day rooms until all rooms are available.

RUSSIA
REGISTRATION:
According to Russian law, all foreign citizens must be registered with the immigration authorities within 7 business days of arrival into Russia. If you have made your own independent travel plans in Russia for more than 7 days outside of your trip dates with us, please ensure you are registered through your accommodation in order to avoid any issues at passport control when leaving the country.

HOT WATER:
Please note that in many cities in Russia, including Moscow, hot water is turned off for up to one month during summer for routine maintenance. During this time only cold water may be available at some accommodation.

HOMESTAYS & GUESTHOUSES:
Please note that at our homestays and guesthouses rooms may be multishare and open gender. When we stay at people's homes, beds may be sofa beds or mattresses on the floor.

DOUBLE BEDS:
Please note that rooms with double beds are not always available at our accommodation in Russia and two single beds in a twin share room is the default. Wherever possible we will put couples in rooms with double beds if available.

RUSSIA TRAINS:
Trains on this journey are simple but comfortable, with standards and age of the carriages varying from route to route. You’ll travel in 2nd class ("kupe") on this trip. There's a toilet/bathroom at the end of each carriage with a small sink and cold water, but no showers. An attendant is assigned to every carriage to look after your comfort and safety (although service standards can vary greatly!). Each compartment has four bunks with luggage storage space inside. Clean bedding is provided, although some travellers still prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. There's hot water available for making instant meals, tea and coffee. Sometimes snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and most trains also have a dining car, although often with a limited menu. Trains are generally heated but do not always offer air conditioning. The train can become very hot even in winter and the train attendants will often not allow the windows to be opened, so please pack clothing appropriate for the warmer conditions on these train journeys.

MONGOLIA
HOT WATER:
In Ulaanbaatar due to the fact that much of the city's infrastructure lacks regular maintenance, we may only have access to cold water at our hotel year round.

GER STAY:
Our stay in Terelj National Park is in a tourist ger camp rather than with a nomadic family in their home. Most travellers find this a very comfortable and enjoyable experience and the setting in the park is beautiful. Gers usually have 4 beds with a stove at the centre, and all linen and bedding is provided. Toilet and bathroom facilities are in a separate block and there is also a building where we have our meals.

HOTEL ROOMS:
Some travellers have reported that hotels/accommodation in this region tend to have harder bed mattresses than those they are used to at home. You may like to request an extra quilt or bedding from the hotels if you find this an issue.

SMOKING ROOMS:
Smoking is prevalent in China and hotels generally do not offer specific non-smoking rooms. Larger hotels with central air conditioning will sometimes transport the smell of smoke between rooms. While we ask our hotels to ensure our rooms are well cleaned and ventilated well before occupation in some cases this is not possible, and the smell of smoke may linger. Please speak to your leader about the possibility of changing rooms if you encounter this.

WIFI:
WiFi is often available in hotel reception areas and sometimes in rooms. Your leader will be able to advise on the best places to get connected.

Transportation


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