Taste mystery and intrigue on an exploration of the land that lay hidden behind the Iron Curtain for decades. Experience the grandeur of Moscow, the beauty of Russia's ancient capitals and the grace of St Petersburg. Discover the cathedrals, monuments, age-old treasures and romantic landscapes of this great nation - find the heart of enigmatic Russia.
For those of you who dream of experiencing a location in depth and comfort but are mindful of budget. Ideal for those that enjoy the quirkier side of a destination without roughing it. Join inquisitive travellers of all ages for an fun, informative experience.
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia.
Your adventure begins with a welcome meeting at 6:00pm on Day 1.
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting. Please look for a note in the hotel lobby or ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If you can't arrange a flight that will arrive in time, you may wish to arrive a day early so you're able to attend. We'll be happy to book additional accommodation for you (subject to availability). If you're going to be late, please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting, so please ensure you have all these details to provide to your leader.
Please have two copies of your passport, visa and migration cards ready. One will be collected by your leader, the other is for you to keep on you at all times whilst on this trip.
The great city of Moscow has survived centuries of revolution and seen Russia through some of its most turbulent years, from the days of the tsars through the communist era to the growing pains of democracy. Beneath its modern veneer - a sign of Russia's recent embrace of capitalism - Moscow is a fascinating, historic city with a wealth of sights to see.
Head to iconic Red Square with a local guide. This beautiful cobbled city square is framed by St Basils Cathedral, the opulent GUM Department store, the imposing walls of the Kremlin and the fairy-tale building of the State Historical Museum.
Visit Lenin, the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution which ushered in the era of communism, at his austere mausoleum on Red Square.
Please note that on occasion Lenin's Mausoleum and Red Square may be closed to the public during regular opening hours without prior warning.
Enter the Kremlin grounds which house the oldest and most important churches in the country, where many Tsars and Tsarinas are laid to rest. Also head inside the Armoury Museum which houses a glittering imperial collection of regalia and items once belonging to the world's richest monarchy, including Faberge eggs and ambassadorial gifts.
As Moscow's premier tourist attractions, tickets for the Kremlin and Armoury are in high demand. In order to control the number of tour groups entering these sights at one time the Moscow Tourism Administration has set strict quotas. The amount of time guides can spend with their groups is also restricted to 90 minutes in each area, with any exceptions possibly resulting in the guide losing their license, so while we appreciate that some travellers would like to spend longer in the Armoury Museum we ask for your understanding that the guide is under pressure to keep to the schedule.
The Diamond Fund isn't included in our tour, but after the Kremlin and Armoury there may be time to visit. Entrance tickets can be purchased in the ticket office at the Armoury. The Diamond Fund is open for visitors from 10am to 1pm and from 2pm to 4pm. Thursday it is closed.
Step inside the colourful St Basil's Cathedral on Red Square. Legend has it that tsar, Ivan the Terrible, had the two architects blinded so that they couldn't build anything as beautiful.
Relive the nation's turbulent past at Victory Park.
The Izmailovo Markets are considered the best place for souvenir shopping.
Hotel (2 nts)
Travel by private bus to Suzdal (approx 5 hours)
Suzdal is one of the fascinating towns on the so-called 'Golden Ring' - a group of ancient and former capitals of Russia. It's a beautiful place that feels like a fairytale, with many glittering onion domes dotting the skyline, opportunities to drink mead by the riverside, and a symphony of cathedral bells to be heard. Crumbling churches and lovingly decorated wooden cottages line the narrow streets and alleys of this magical spot.
We stay in traditional wooden guesthouses in Suzdal's quiet streets. Some rooms are twin share, while others are triple or quad share or interconnecting rooms. We share the toilet and bathroom on each floor and have access to a spacious kitchen and group dining area. The group may sometimes stay in different guesthouses which will be in the same street.
Visit the home of one of our local friends to take part in a short cooking class before a indulging in a dinner of hearty regional flavours.
Join our local guide for a walking tour of some of the sights such as the local Kremlin, trading square, market and monasteries (approx 3 hrs).
We transfer back to Vladimir by private van (approx 30 min) and then to the modernity of Moscow by public bus or local train (approx. 4 hours, although can be longer depending on traffic.)
From Moscow's Leningradskiy railway station, board our overnight train to Novgorod (approx 8 hrs).
Trains on this journey are simple but comfortable. There's a toilet/bathroom at the end of each carriage with a small sink and cold water. An attendant is assigned to every carriage to look after our comfort and safety although service standards can vary greatly. Each compartment has four bunks with luggage storage space inside. Bedding is provided, although some travellers still prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. There's hot water available for making drinks or instant meals, tea and coffee. Sometimes snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and most trains also have a dining car although with a limited menu. We travel 2nd class (four berths per compartment) on this trip.
Please note that in many cases, particularly in peak travel season, due to high demand for tickets on this route we aren't always able to get all of our tickets together. It's likely that at least some members of the group will be sharing compartments with other travellers, either foreign or local, particularly if your group does not divide evenly into four.
A brief word about drinking on the train: Social drinking is common on trains in Russia and Mongolia and can be an enjoyable way to meet local people as well as interact with your fellow Imaginative Traveller travellers. In order to make sure that your experience of train travel with us is a positive and safe one there are a few things we'd like you to keep in mind before setting out on your train journey.
While alcohol is often available for purchase on the train, spirits (including vodka) should only be consumed in the dining car. Train security guards keep a very close eye on drunken behaviour and have the legal right to fine or have any passengers who are intoxicated removed from the train without warning. Should this happen there's very little we can do to assist you in continuing your journey with the rest of the group.
Alcoholism is also a serious social problem in Russia and Mongolia so travellers should take care not to encourage or take part in drinking to excess. Fake alcohol is common and the motives for being invited to drink with locals may not always be honest. The locals' tolerance for alcohol is likely to be much higher than your own. You may be putting yourself and other members of your group at risk by getting involved in heavy drinking while on the train.
While we certainly want all our Imaginative Traveller travellers to have a great holiday it's important that you show due respect for your fellow group members and keep in mind that many of your local companions use the train as a means of transport to get home or to work. It's most appreciated if foreign travellers are respectful of this, particularly in the mornings and evenings or when other passengers are sleeping.
Guesthouse (1 nt), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt)
Novgorod is Russia's oldest city and is still home to numerous well-preserved architectural monuments hinting at the glories of the past. As the former capital of ancient Russia, it's often seen as the cradle of modern Russian civilisation.
Explore the city's sights on foot with our local guide. The city's foremost sight is the graceful Kremlin on the banks of the Volkhov River. Inside there are parks, museums and cathedrals as well as the amazing Millennium Monument, which tells the story of 1,000 years of Russian history. On the opposite bank of the river are quiet shady streets, the graceful ruins of Yaroslav's Court and other echoes of medieval times.
In your free time here you might like to check out the Yurev Monastery on the shores of Lake Ilmen, visit the Wooden Architecture Museum just outside of town or catch a music performance at the Philharmonic Hall. In the summer you can also relax on the little riverside beach or take a boat trip on the Volkhov River for glimpses of the quiet countryside surrounding Novgorod.
Tonight, join your leader and plenty of friendly locals for a refreshing steam and wash at the public banya (bath house).
Hotel (1 nt)
Travel from Novgorod to St Petersburg by public bus (approx 4 hours).
Truly one of Europe's finest cities, built of baroque European architecture combined with the opulent palaces of Russian royalty, St Petersburg was built by the Russian tsar Peter the Great and his legacy will clearly be felt as you explore its enigmatic streets and visit its showcase cathedrals and museums.
Visit the home of our local friends to see how the average Russian lives, and have a tea party Russian-style. Not all family members speak English but your leader will be on hand to interpret and with their warm hospitality you'll be feeling like one of the family in no time.
In the summer months, we take a night-time boat tour of the canals and waterways with a local guide to see the illuminated architecture from a unique perspective and to witness the spectacular opening of the bridges over the Neva River. In midsummer it will still be light as the sun barely sets during White Nights. Outside of these months we'll have a boat tour of the city's canals and waterways during the day (weather permitting).
For many the highlight of St Petersburg is the Hermitage Museum, one of the world's premier art collections housed in the former imperial Winter Palace.
Please note that the Hermitage is closed on Mondays, and in the high season (May-Sep) there can be very long queues. In order to avoid waiting and to make the most of your free day it's possible to book tickets online in advance:
Go to St Isaac's Cathedral and climb to the colonnade from where you'll have magnificent views over the city.
Visit the Kunstkamera where Peter the Great's ghoulish collection of oddities is on show.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
Hotel (2 nts)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans.
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
At times local life here will be familiar to that of back home, and at times very different. Services are available most of the time, English may not be the native language, and there may be some cultural differences.
You will be travelling through countries that speak little or no English, where transport often runs only when it is full (and often overflowing), where hotels and restaurants have very different ideas of service and amenities, where the plumbing can sometimes be temperamental and the power will often just vanish. Many of the places we visit are not used to people travelling outside of large coach tours so they will be uncertain of how to deal with us. This can be a challenging trip covering a wide range of peoples, cultures, religious and political beliefs and is a trip that involves some long travel days and nights. Some passengers will experience fatigue more than normal due to these challenges. If you are able to bring with you a lot of patience and a huge sense of humour, then your experience will be greatly enhanced.
Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
You will be expected to carry your own luggage including stairs, move about 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 and handle your own luggage for up to 30 minutes. Good general fitness and mobility plays a big part in making your trip more enjoyable.
A good level of fitness will be expected and will certainly help increase the enjoyment of the trip.
There are some long travel days and some rough travelling in areas away from main tourist routes. Rough surfaces and cramped conditions make for some challenging travel experiences. If you experience travel sickness we recommend you consider medication to help ease the discomfort.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Imaginative Traveller nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Imaginative Traveller. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
To avoid disappointment we recommend that you book any theatre performances that you wish to attend in Moscow or St Petersburg in advance. Please consider carefully which performances you are going to want attend and make sure that the dates correspond to your trip. Here are some useful internet sites to check for what will be on (ballet, opera, exhibitions, etc) in Moscow and St Petersburg when you are there: www.mariinsky.ru, www.bolshoi.ru and www.ticketsofrussia.ru. In particular we recommend you see what's playing at the Bolshoi and Mariinsky, as it may be difficult to get tickets when you are there especially during White Nights in St Petersburg.
Currency exchange rates often fluctuate. For the most up to date rates please refer to the following website: www.oanda.com.
The official currency of Russia is the Ruble (RUB). 1 ruble = 100 kopeks.
We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in Russia they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.
ATMs are widespread in Russia so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart and note that recent travellers have experienced difficulties in using credit cards without a debit function from US banks for purchases or withdrawals. Some banks will allow a cash advance against a major credit card which will incur a service charge of 5% or more.
The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. In any case, some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies - we recommend around US$400 per person. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange as what is advertised is sometimes only for transactions above US$500, carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.
Due to restrictions on changing money in Russia, only US$50 and US$100 notes/bills printed after 1996 and in good condition (no creases, marks, stamps or tears) will be accepted. Avoid bringing US$ notes in smaller denominations. By law, all purchases in Russia must be made in local currency.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you are happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Imaginative Traveller destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants/cafes with table service: We suggest 5% to 10% of your bill, however check if a service charge has already been added.
Local guides: Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest 50-100 RUB per person per activity day for local guides with the amount adjusted accordingly for guides who are with you for a for a full day.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey, while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however a base of 50-100 RUB per person, per day is generally appropriate, with the amount adjusted accordingly for drivers who are with you for less than a full day.
Please do not tip with coins, notes of and less than 10 RUB or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline $US3-5, or the equivalent in any currency used on the trip, per person, per day can be used.
Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip isn't compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
Please note that Red Square and Lenin's Mausoleum are likely to be closed from late August until mid-September for the International Military Tattoo taking place in early September. Your tour in Moscow may not be able to enter Red Square during this time but will still include the Kremin & Armoury Museum.
Maximum of 12 travellers per group.
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure.
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Hotel (5 nts), Overnight sleeper train (1 nt), Guesthouse (1 nt)
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in your selected accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for your arrival, especially if you're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible, which means you won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, you can store your luggage and explore the new destination.
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Please be aware that Russia requires all foreign nationals to register their passports upon arrival in each city. Since March 25th, 2011 the registration rules for foreigners have been relaxed in Russia. According to these rules, foreign citizens must register themselves within 7 business days of their arrival into Russia (instead of the 3 days required before). This means that if you are arriving in Russia before the trip start date or staying extra days after the trip has finished (less than 7 days), whether at our Imaginative Traveller hotels or at accommodation of your choice, you don’t have to be registered and pay any registration fees. Imaginative Traveller will take responsibility for registration of passports at our first place of stay in Russia including any associated costs. If you are arriving more than 7 days prior to the start of the trip, or staying more than 7 days post-trip, you will need to be responsible for your own passport registration and any extra charges for this service. Failure to register could lead to problems at immigration when departing the country.
Overnight 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 (4 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. If the group number does not divide into 4 then you can also expect that some group members will be sharing a compartment with other travellers including local people. Please note that It is NOT possible to upgrade to a higher class train compartment on any section of this trip. There are generally no power points available in the compartments of the trains. The only power outlet occasionally available is one in the corridor for the whole carriage, and this is not guaranteed to have a steady flow of electricity or to be accessible from the compartment.
Trains are generally heated but most do not offer air conditioning. The train can become very hot even in winter and the train attendants will not allow the windows to be opened, please pack clothing appropriate for the warmer conditions on these train journeys.
Some of the accommodation along the way is very basic, staying in local guesthouses and homestays with limited facilities. Some facilities are shared and some accommodation has cold water only.
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. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. 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. There's no obligation to do this though.
Vegetarians might find the menu selection less varied than they would see at home. Vegetarianism is not as common in this region and generally the choices are basic, involving vegetables and fried cheese. Vegans will find it even more challenging. Vegetarians might choose to supplement meals with supplies bought from home, e.g. protein bars, dried fruits and so on.
6 Breakfasts, 1 Dinner
Budget for meals not included:
Metro, Bus, Taxi, Boat, Minibus
There are some long travel days and some of the transport can be quite cramped and without air-conditioning.
All Imaginative Traveller group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Imaginative Traveller endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Imaginative Traveller we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Arbat-House Hotel Отель Арбат Хаус
13, Skatetrny Pereulok
Metro station: Arbatskaya
Phone: +7 (495) 6431910
Arbat House Hotel is located in Moscow’s centre, 3 minutes walk from New Arbat avenue and only a short distance to Arbatskaya metro station. From here you can easily walk to Red Square and the Kremlin through Moscow's historical and cultural centre. The nearest airport is 30km away. Rooms are equipped with TV, telephone, air-conditioning, hairdryer, Wi-Fi, and minibar. Reception staff speak English.
Visit the hotel's website here: www.arbat-house.com
Moscow has 5 international airports (Sheremetyevo 1, 2 & C, Domodedovo and Vnukovo). Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo are the most commonly used by foreign travellers.
All airports have public transport links that allow you to get to our starting point hotel cheaply and quickly. From Sheremetyevo 1, 2 and C, you can take the airport express train (RUB300, 30-40 minutes) to metro station Belorusskaya (Белорусская) on the dark green & brown (circle) lines. The train runs every hour from 6am to midnight. You can find timetables and buy aeroexpress ticketы on-line at www.aeroexpress.ru.
From Domodedovo, the airport express train runs every hour to metro station Paveletskaya (Павелецкая, RUB 300, 40 to 50 minutes) on the brown (circle) & dark green lines. From Vnukovo airport, the airport express train goes to Kievskaya (Киевская) metro station on the dark blue & brown (circle) line and takes approx. 35 minutes (RUB 300).
From these stations, take the metro (RUB26) to the blue or dark blue line. Our starting point hotel is located 7 minutes walk from metro station Arbatskaya (Арбатская). There are two 'Arbatskaya' metro stations - one is located on the blue line, the other on dark blue. Both are linked.
Exit the metro, cross by the underground walkway to the north side of Novy Arbat Avenue. Head west along Novy Arbat (Новый Арбат), pass the post-office (ПОЧТА) and turn right into Merzlyakovskiy pereulok (Мерзляковский переулок). Go straight. The second street on your left is Skatertny pereulok (Скатертный переулок). A bit further up this street on the left side you'll find the Arbat House Hotel.
The taxi ride from the airport to our starting point hotel takes at least one hour depending on traffic and should cost around 1550 RUB (approx. US$50, 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 MosCab) located on the ground floor inside the arrival terminal.
Arrival transfers are available - if you have pre-booked a transfer with us your driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals section near where you clear customs. The driver will wait for an hour after your scheduled arrival time. If you are delayed beyond one hour after your scheduled arrival time, please make your own way to the hotel. In the unlikely event that your transfer is not waiting for you, please call Sveta on +7 916 542 18 58.
Your leader will put a welcome note on the reception. Please look for it as it contains important information.
Luggage storage is available free of charge.
Please note the address for Arbat House Hotel below in Russian which may be useful to show to a taxi driver or to ask for directions:
Отель Арбат Хаус
Скатертный переулок, дом 13
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
If you have pre-booked an airport transfer (where available) and have not made contact with our representative within 30 minutes of clearing customs and immigration, we recommend that you make your own way to the starting point hotel, following the Joining Instructions in these Trip Notes. Should this occur, please apply to your travel agent for a refund of the transfer cost on your return.
No refund is available on missed transfers or portions of your trip owing to a different flight arrival or delayed flight arrival. Any additional cost incurred in order to meet up with your group is at your own expense.
Sadovaya street #22/2
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.
If you have pre booked a departure transfer, please inform your leader and they will notify you of your departure transfer time.
If you are making your own way to the airport the hotel will be able to help book you an airport shuttle or taxi. Please ask at reception.
In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, the St Petersburg Office can be reached on Tel: +7 911 7033155.
We also have a dedicated 24 hour telephone number which should only be used once you have left the UK and in the event of a real emergency. Should you need to call the number, we will do what we can to help but please bear in mind that real progress or action may not be possible until normal office hours.
If your flight is delayed or cancelled, please let us know and then make your way to the joining hotel as instructed in these trip notes. If you cannot get through leave a message and a contact number as these will be regularly checked. Emergency Number: +44 (0) 7985106564
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Yes - in advance
Most nationalities require a visa for Russia. You will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI), sometimes called a Voucher or Visa Support Letter in order to apply for your visa.
You can obtain your LOI online through our local partners in Russia. Instructions and a link to the website will be sent to you at the time of booking. Read the instructions carefully and fill in the online application form. You will then be able to download your LOI instantly. Please note that we will add 3 days to the LOI duration before and after your trip dates for your convenience. If you are planning to stay longer than these dates please let us know as we will need to manually request a LOI to fit your specific travel plans.
The LOI included in the cost of your tour is for a Single Entry Tourist Visa. LOIs for other types of visas may be organised at your own expense and paid directly to our local partners, Parallel 60 (www.parallelsixty.com)
You must apply for your Russian visa in advance. Visas are not available on arrival or en-route. Once you have received your LOI it is your responsibility to apply for your own visa either directly at an embassy or by using a visa agent. We do not recommend trying to obtain your Russian visa outside of your home country or place of residence as your application may be refused.
Use ONLY the information and dates on your LOI when filling in your visa application. There is no need to reference Imaginative Traveller Travel or include a copy of your itinerary as Parallel 60 is the official inviting organisation, not Imaginative Traveller. Do not be concerned if the destinations and accommodation listed do not match your Imaginative Traveller trip exactly. This information is for the purposes of obtaining the visa only, not an indication of where you must travel and stay in Russia.
* Letter of Invitation (LOI)
* Photocopy of your passport
* Passport size photo (up to 4)
* Flight or other transport details - if required
* Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
Please be aware that visa extensions are NOT possible in Russia.
Train tickets in Russia are booked with passport numbers. Please make sure you provide us with your correct passport number. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip. If we receive changes to passport numbers less than 30 days prior to departure we cannot guarantee purchase of train tickets.
We do NOT recommend travelling on multiple passports for trips that involve border crossings by train. This can cause difficulties with train ticket bookings and cause significant issues delays at Immigration.
All foreign citizens entering Russia are required to fill in a migration card. The entry portion of the card will be retained by Immigration upon arrival. The stamped exit portion of the card must be kept with your passport during your stay in Russia and submitted to Immigration upon departure. If you are not given a migration card at Immigration on arrival you must request one, even if the immigration official says that you do not need one. Loss or failure to receive the exit portion of the card will result in you not being able to travel on our trip as all hotels require this card for registration and may result in significant delays or fines upon departure.
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. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
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 you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. 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 ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day.
It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary to store your luggage separately (and unattended) from the group. The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers, for when it comes to travelling on local buses and trains it's often only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas. If your bag does not fit in these areas then often the only place to put it is on your bed or seat. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
Where Imaginative Traveller covers the cost of luggage storage for included day trips, we allow for one bag/backpack only, so it's advisable that you travel lightly and keep luggage to a limit of one item (plus your day pack). Extra luggage storage will be at your own expense.
The climate in this region is extremely varied. From October until May you can expect temperatures close to and below zero, while from June until September temperatures can reach well above 30 C. For departures October to May you will need to bring a warm windproof jacket, scarf, gloves, warm hat and waterproof footwear. On all other departures it can still get quite cool at night especially when in the countryside, so we recommend that you bring a warm jacket or fleece.
During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and "talk" with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos/postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc. Another good tip is to bring badges/pins from your country as many people that you meet will appreciate a small memento of your home.
POTENTIAL HEALTH ISSUES:
Giardia intestinalis, a parasite that causes severe diarrhoea has been reported from time to time in the water supply in Russia. For this reason Imaginative Traveller recommends against drinking unboiled tap water in all Russian cites.
In spring and early summer in rural areas of Russia and Mongolia ticks are prevalent. Please take precautions when walking in these areas by wearing long trousers and boots and check your clothes and body thoroughly.
The diet and hygiene standards of Russia, Mongolia and Central Asia may be very different from what you are used to so please take care with washing hands before meals etc. and bring some medication/rehydration salts etc. should you experience stomach problems.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Imaginative Traveller itinerary, and Imaginative Traveller makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for more information:
At Imaginative Traveller we love helping our clients experience the beauty and cultures of the destinations we visit. However, hand in hand with this we have always been aware that we have a responsibility to minimise any negative impacts that tourism can bring.
Responsible Travel is twofold. It's about taking people to the places they want to go in a safe and responsible manner but also about respecting and maintaining the natural and often delicate balance of the destination. Economic gain from tourism is often fundamental to a country, but should never be at the expense of its culture or the environment.
Our guidelines are meant not as rigid instructions but rather as suggestions to make our holidays more enjoyable – for everybody. As cultural and environmental sensitivities vary from country to country more specific guidelines can be found in our individual country and trip dossiers.
We recommend that you dress respectfully at all stages of the trip especially when in and around religious sites. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees for both men and women. Women are advised to cover their heads when entering functioning churches in Russia, while men should remove their hats.
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Imaginative Traveller travellers. Imaginative Traveller's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
Carbon Offset C02-e 328.00 kgs per pax.
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