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Old 04-03-2008, 01:54 PM   #1
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Hey guys,

I am thinking of canning my return to the states on the 10th in order to get to China via Russia. (I had been planning on flying roundtrip to Hong Kong from the states or doing a Circle the Pacific kind of deal but I think that is going to fall through)

It looks like I need three visas, so does anyone know how difficult it is to get a hostel in Russia to get you an invitation? If anyone has done this, or knows someone who did this (already read up a bit on seat61) and has any advice let me know

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Old 04-03-2008, 04:41 PM   #2
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Use this site to get your visa invite for Russia. Its only 30USD and then I would think pop into your nearest Russian consulate with the fee (Im thinking 100USD since thats what I paid) and the app and the passport photo and six days later you got it. I met lots of people doing the trans mongolian in Russia so I know alot of info even though Ive never done it lol...plus I can tell you all about Russian night trains =)

Last edited by Elizabeth; 04-03-2008 at 04:51 PM. Reason: book early or sleep on top
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Old 04-03-2008, 04:47 PM   #3
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Joe, as much as we'd love you have back over this side of the Atlantic, it sounds like an awesome opportunity and one hell of a trip. I would love to see some pics! and I'm more than a little jealous. Good luck with everything
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Old 04-04-2008, 04:31 AM   #4
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In May I'll be travelling along the transiberian, but only as far as Novosibirsk, then travelling traveling south to the Altay republic.

I've got some pretty good books on the subject, but i cant remeber their titles right now .

which route will you be doing? the Transsiberian? because that doesn't go to beijing. or the Transmongolian/transmanchurian?
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Old 04-04-2008, 07:26 AM   #5
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^ Rory you and your technicalities . Although from what I read I think I am actually probably taking the Transsiberian to Irkutsk and from there, traveling to Mongolia and from there to China. Apparently the Moscow-Beijing trains have a greater demand than supply.

Yeah Lizz I will take any of the info you got on Russian night trains (a Swedish girl told me her friend woke up to find a lady trying to steal his passport from under this shirt). Thanks for the getrussian link

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Old 04-04-2008, 01:58 PM   #6
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OK so there are three classes and I've travelled in all of them - platskart, kupe, and SV. Once you enter Mongolia though there is no platskart. Platskart is the cheapest, and its open seating, six to a section. See this pic. Kupe is four to a compartment, and the door closes and you can lock it. SV is first class. I've only ridden in it once by accident in Ukraine, and it was two to a compartment with fancy linen. I can't afford it in Russia and maybe you can but IMO its not worth it.

I recommend platskart. Why? 1. Its the cheapest. 2. For me as a solo woman its the safest. Imagine if you are in kupe and you are in a closed compartment, which can be locked, with some men you dont know...which has happened to me but nothing bad happened. 3. No matter what class you choose you get there at the same speed.

Positives of kupe: Cleaner bathrooms, door can be shut so it will be quieter (though I never find platskart exceptionally loud), more selective compartment-mates possibly. I can't think of anything else at the moment.

Sample fare platskart vs. kupe: From St. Petersburg to Moscow I paid 600 roubles in platskart and someone else staying in the hostel paid 1600 roubles for his kupe ticket (1 USD = 25 roubles). We travelled on the same date.

I have taken about 15 Russian night trains in all my travels and nothing bad has ever happened to me, nor have I ever had any close calls. I sleep with my money and my passport in my pocket. My advice is pretty obvious. Don't be advertising the fact that you're a foreigner and be discreet. Watch how everyone else behaves. In my experience, 99% of people in the train are helpful and the other 1% are like "whatever dumb tourist" but not threatening. No one has ever told me a story where they had a negative experience where their safety or valuables were at risk.

Choosing a seat - In platskart, my preference is the bottom seat by the window. I have never done more than an overnight train but this is what people told me about multi day trains and it makes 100% sense. If you are on the bottom you can decide when to put the linen away and sit up for the day. Whereas if you're on top you gotta wait for the guy on the bottom to make that choice. And between the roof of the train and the top bunk there is not enough space to sit up, you must lay down. Also in this bottom seat you can look out the window (duh). Plus getting up top is not my favorite experience. The slavs can push themselves up with the greatest ease into the top bunk...but not me haha! So if you wanna be on the bottom you have to book as early as possible because if you wait the babushkas will book up the bottom seats.

Thats all I can think of but if I think of more I will post or if you have a question just ask.
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Old 04-07-2008, 11:33 AM   #7
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You should try to break it up or something, I would seriously kill myself if I had to spend 7 days/6 nights on a Russian train, people stop at Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, also Novosibirsk (if thats on your route) though its supposedly a big tourist trap.

No question about it I would start learning the alphabet now. It is very easy to learn and it is very useful so you can read the signs because they are generally NOT in the Latin alphabet. I just saved you from getting trampled in the metro. And I'm only half joking. =P Also learn some essential Russian words. They say this for every country you visit but its really important in Russia. Who, what, when, where, why, how, numbers, please, thank you (though you don't hear spaciba alot haha), etc.
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Old 04-07-2008, 02:46 PM   #8
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ahh the old trans-siberian/mongolian. something im working towards, in fact looking at doing it next year

russian invite is easy to get, many websites will organise it for you, dont forget to register when you cross the russian border if your on a tourist visa, im not sure what the rules are for a 'transit' visa or indeed if there is one. be sure to plan your visas correctly e.g. when you arrive/how much time you will spend/when you will exit.

im sure youve seen this website but www.seat61.com will give you so much info and help...ive also emailed the guy and he actually replied to me! so dont be afraid to get stuck in.your trip sounds amazing, something id love to do!

@ lizz - how easy is russian? as a dyslexic i struggle enough with english, i can speak langauges well but as for reading and writing in another style of letters in not sure i could hack it, is a year a realistic time to get the basics down? how did you learn?
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Old 04-07-2008, 03:06 PM   #9
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Im not really talking about the basics, Im talking survival, but if you have time to get the basics down thats great. I bought this workbook two weeks before I left and I worked on it like every other day or every two days for 20 or 30 minutes. I recommend this book not just for Russian, but for any other language they have because it teaches you things you really need to know like numbers and "I want." I didnt find this too difficult. There are some loan words but its a slavic language so its not related to English. Give me a year and maybe I could be halfway fluent!

The rule for tourist visa is that you have to register it within 3 working days of your arrival in a new city. This costs 600 roubles in SPb and Moscow.

Also make sure your Mongolian and Russian visas have overlap. I met a couple who tried to put overlap with their visas but the Mongolian embassy I guess ignored their request or made a mistake and put their entry date for April 1 and their Russian visa expired on April 1, so there could have been a problem as you can see.
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Old 04-07-2008, 06:52 PM   #10
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Lizz, that's not as bad as a french guy I met in Kyrgyzstan, his Kyrgyz visa expired on August 30th and his Kazakh visa didn't start until September 1st. The last I heard from him was when he left to go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bishkek to see if he could get his visa extended.
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Old 04-08-2008, 01:08 PM   #11
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I don't know if you've resolved this issue already or not, but when I was checking out hostels in both Moscow and St. Petersburg, it would say right on the hostel websites if they did the visa invitation and a lot of them do, it's super easy to get an invite, you just gotta show them you're coming or whatever.

Now as for getting the actual visa, haven't done that so I have no idea. I am, however, quite jealous that you're going to Russia. I want to go so bad!!!
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Old 05-01-2008, 11:58 PM   #12
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Hey guys..
Its great reading very helpful information on this great trip, specially Lizz has described a lot of details I was not aware of, even though I already got my Trans Siberian Handbook which is really good, I`m still learning a lot from the experts.
My trip`s starting less than a month from now (May 24), visas for china and mongolia are ready, russia`s comming may 15th. I also got my visa invitation thru Way to Russia and worked very good.

I`m still thinking about 2nd or 3rd class on the trains. Lizz advice on the platskart sounds ok but I think a 2-3-4 day journey demands more comfort don`t you think? (I`m doing it solo) Of course the long journey needs more cash.. I`m actually departing in Berlin, and ending it in Shanghai.
So any extra advice will be welcome!
thanks all

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Old 05-02-2008, 08:59 AM   #13
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^^^Great plan ! What kind of budget are you on ? And have you already decided the cities you'll be stopping by ? Beside Moscow the obvious one, I mean.
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Old 05-02-2008, 11:07 AM   #14
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It depends on what makes you comfortable I suppose. Nothing about kupe in my opinion is more comfortable. The linen and bedding are the same. They are both equally as clean (with the exception of the bathroom, which is only a little less smelly). The thing you could make a case for is if you are a light sleeper kupe might be more comfortable because there are less people in the compartment. But in my experience once they hit the lights everyone is quietly asleep.

And another general tip here I forgot to add, this was a few weeks ago I had this experience. Do not have a seat by the bathroom. You will hear the slamming door all night of people going to the bathroom.
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Old 05-07-2008, 07:57 AM   #15
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Lizz, you are clearly a great resource on the TSRR. Thanks for sharing. I did also see this today as I was looking up something else and thought I'd share it it.
http://shop.lonelyplanet.com/Primary...il=lphp-edpick

It's LP's Trans-Siberian Railroad guide. Although it was published two years ago so Lizz is probably still better!
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Old 05-07-2008, 08:11 AM   #16
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Wow, I am really sorry Lizz, I thought I responded to this thread. Your information was fantastic! Unfortunately, I need to apply for my visa in the States, so I am going to try going West instead of East. The Russians at the consulates in Madrid and Barcelona were the rudest people I have ever met in life. The guy in Madrid actually pushed me! A woman in Barcelona hung up on me. I just keep telling myself that a woman from the Spanish consulate hung up on me when I asked her how to expedite a student visa and I still love Spain.

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Old 05-07-2008, 11:11 AM   #17
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Ah so you are going to revert back to your original plan to go to the US? And then do it from China to Russia? Or not do it at all? I forgot where you were supposed to go after China lol
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Old 05-07-2008, 12:32 PM   #18
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China was supposed to be the end (well actually, Japan was but that got scrapped a little bit ago) but if I get the visa I will go up through Mongolia into Russia and then west to Moscow. In a way this is better. I was a little worried about coordinating the train from Russia to Mongolia. I thought if I spent two weeks between St Petersburg and Moscow I could find myself on a train for five days to Irkusk and if ANYTHING went wrong (full train, schedule of transportation that doesn't mesh up), I would be stuck in Russia. I would have had a 30 day visa and tourists can't extend it. Also if your visa is expired, you can't stay at a hotel.

Not a good situation to be in. This way if I get to Moscow with 3 weeks of wiggle room, all the better. If I have 2 days, that is cool too, at least I can get out.

--Joey
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Old 05-10-2008, 04:16 PM   #19
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My plan is always low budget, Im looking for hostels or cheap hotels in the cities on the route. I actually once asked about what cities people here recommend (between Novosibirsk, Yekaterinbug, Krasnoyarsk and Ulan Ude) but never got a reply
My idea is to spend around US$ 2500 but reading the transsib hadbook Im actually thinking It could be less-

Maybe atchoum or Lizz could help? Besides St Petes, Moscow and Irk.. Im thinking making a stop in 2 of these 4 cities but aint sure where !

Also Lizz, do you know hows the weather this time of the year? Im starting to get all my stuff together and still cant decide on the clothes.

Thanks for the bathroom advice!
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Old 05-10-2008, 06:46 PM   #20
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I mentioned this earlier in the thread but I'm going to say it again. I have never done the TransSiberian or TransMongolian so I can only say what people have told me about cities along the route. But I have been to Russia and Ukraine and the trains are the same all the way through so thats why I can tell you about them. =] I don't think any of Tpunk's regular posters have done the TS or TM so thats probably why no one responded.

What I have heard about Novosibirsk is that it doesn't have much as far as sights as it is a pretty modern city but its a good base if you wanna check out the Altai Mountains. Haven't heard that much about the other cities, except Yekaterinburg. I really wanna go there because I used to be into Russian history and thats where they were killed.

How long is your trip for? I can only comment on Moscow and SPb for budget (prices current as of March 08). In Moscow a hostel will run you 30 USD a night, SPb 18 USD at Cuba Hostel. A metro ride costs 19 roubles. A McDonalds (and most other fast food) will run you 150 roubles, and of course you can cook for yourself from the produkti, but I'm not much of a chef haha. A beer in a club or bar will be at least 50 roubles, and from a produkti about 30 roubles.

In platskart, a train ticket from Moscow to SPb will be 20-30 USD and SPb to Moscow its slightly more. I don't know if they raise the prices in high season. The key to getting this price is to be flexible about your departure time. For example, they might quote 900 roubles for the 9PM train but the 11PM train might be 550 roubles. I think in Moscow and SPb the prices are fair but I'm not sure about in the other cities. I've heard its "hard" to book tickets in cities outside of Moscow and SPb but I've never heard whats so hard about it. Probably people just unaccustomed to booking tickets in Russia. People try to jump you in the queue, you have to find the right ticket window, the ticket lady yelling at you in Russian even though she knows you have no idea what shes saying.

For hostels I recommend Napoleon Hostel in Moscow and Cuba Hostel in SPb.

I don't know about the weather this time of year, but you can report that back to me after your trip because all this TS talk has made me wanna go next summer =]
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