A cheaper alternative from Sundowner Overland is the Vodkatrain - a 21 day journey from Beijing to St. Petersburg. You have the services of Vodkatrain Honchos in Beijing, Mongolia, Irkutsk, Kazan, Moscow and St.Petersburg. I'm not sure what Honchos are although I am familiar with the expression - "head honcho" meaning the big boss or the one in charge! Instead of 3/4 star hotels. you stay in hostels, dorms as well as hotels which doesn't bother me. The Vodkatrain tour looks like this:
1. Transfers to and from the train stations are taken care of - you don't have to fight your way being lost to finding a bus or taxi to your hotel.
2. Sightseeing is organised.
3. Help with visas.
Day 1 - Arrive Beijing
Day 2 - Beijing - Take a wander through the hutongs and bargain in the markets.
Day 3 - Beijing
Day 4 - Depart Beijing for Ulaanbaatar - The first train and an opportunity to spot your first camel in the Gobi.
Day 5 - Arrive Ulaanbaatar - Try your own throat singing.
Day 6 - To Terelj National Park and Ger Camp - Enjoy life on the Mongolian steppe.
Day 7 - Terelj National Park
Day 8 - Return to Ulaanbaatar and depart for Irkutsk.
Day 9 - Trans Mongolian Railway
Day 10 - Arrive Irkutsk and to Lake Baikal - You've arrived in Siberia!
Day 11 - Lake Baikal - Are you brave enough for a swim?
Day 12 - Return to Irkutsk and depart to Kazan.
Day 13 - Trans Siberian Railway - Watch the changing landscapes from the comfort of the train.
Days 14 -15 - Arrive Kazan - Capital of Tartarstan.
Day 16 - Kazan and onto Moscow - Get amongst the locals in Kazan's bustling Bauman Street.
Day 17 - Arrive Moscow - Visit the Kremlin, Lenin's tomb and St Basil's all on Red Square.
Day 18 - Moscow - Explore the glitz and glamour of the GUM department store.
Day 19 - Moscow and to St. Petersburg.
Day 20 - Arrive St.Petersburg - Discover the live music scene - your Honcho is sure to have some favourite spots.
Day 21 - St.Petersburg - Journey concludes.
What is Included?
Visa support for pre-booked services
Services of Vodkatrain Honchos in Beijing, Mongolia, Irkutsk, Kazan, Moscow and St.Petersburg
Accommodation on a share basis (twin/triple or dorm rooms, private facilities not guaranteed)
Accommodation in traditional gers in Mongolia
4-berth train tickets Beijing - Ulaanbaatar - Irkutsk - Kazan - Moscow - St.Petersburg
All departure and arrival transfers en-route. Please note: Arrival transfer on Day 1 and departure transfer at the end of your itinerary are not included. Please see the ‘Extra Stuff’ section for details on booking these services.
Three days in Beijing. Having been to China, I'm not happy about spending money to stay in Beijing, I'd much prefer the extra days in Moscow .
Although cheaper than their other tours, $3945 is still a lot of money, especially considering no meals are provided. At all. Then again, I've noticed their tours don't seem to include meals bar a couple of piddly breakfasts and a lunch!
Surely I could do this by myself for less? More planning and reading up needed.