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Monday, 22 August 2016

6. Itineraries - Vodkatrain

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:


Advantages:
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.

Cost: $3945.00



Itinerary
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.

Disadvantages:
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.

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