Early Planning For The Trans Siberian Railway Holiday

Previous page - Gathering travel facts


Buying rucksacks

It's early March and so far we have one rucksack - bought from Mountain Designs. You might wonder why we bought one when there are two of us travelling?

Our rucksacks Rucksack plus a bubby rucksack

It was the sales assistant's idea. We are to pack all our gear in this first one and then see if the second one should be bigger. The next size up holds an extra 10 litres but only costs slightly more. The idea will be that Jean (being the more delicate creature :) carries the one we've just bought and Ian (the strong male:) will carry the larger one if needs be. The rucksack has a lifetime warrantee which is wonderful.

Hopefully we'll get lots of use out of it and the kids can use it too at some stage.

Important point to note:

Join the Mountain Designs membership club before you buy anything major. It doesn't cost anything to join but it gets you a 10% discount on all their products. We wish we had known this before we spent our $369 on our first rucksack!


It is now mid March and rucksack #2 has been purchased. Mountain Designs had a special 25% off sale so we took the opportunity to save a few dollars. We bought the bigger one. We were lucky as it was the only one on the shop floor at the time and it was explained to us that only goods on the floor had the 25% off. If they had needed to order it in then we wouldn't have got it for such a good price.


Learning the Russian Cyrillic alphabet

I've started to learn the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. So far I'm not doing too badly. But notice I did say I'm learning the alphabet - not the language. I haven't got as far as forming words yet. An "H" in Russia is pronounced as an "N" would be in Australia. A symbol like our "r" is pronounced as a "g" (a hard "g" as in goat). This is very much an upwards curve. Ian has to find some time to start learning the language too.

Fact added later:

We've now realized not only do we need to recognise the sound of each letter in the alphabet but we need to know the order of the alphabet otherwise it is very difficult to find a word in the Russian dictionary.


Cost of a tour package on the Trans Siberian Railway

Nikki the travel agent has now contacted us with a rough cost estimate of this trip. We have to do some re-thinking. We already knew of the Grand Trans Siberian Tour that Sundowners Overland operate. It is a 29 day tour that starts in Japan and ends up in Saint Petersburg. Right from the start we didn't particularly want to do the Japanese part. To us we felt the Trans Siberian adventure should start in Vladivostok in Russia. We felt the Japan segment didn't relate to what we wanted to do and would be a cost we didn't need to pay for. After all, we repeatedly get told that Japan is an expensive place to be a tourist in - don't we! I had rung Sundowners Overland earlier and they told me we were very welcome to pick up the tour in Vladivostok and that it would cost about $2500 AUD less for each of us to do so. We thought we could somehow use our Frequent Flyer points to get ourselves to Vladivostok and then to get ourselves home again at the end of the rail journey - perhaps from Frankfurt in Germany.

Upon making enquiries Nikki soon found that we could easily use our F.F. points to get home from Russia. We could use Qantas' partner airline, British Airways, to get us from Saint Petersburg to London. Then we would be using Qantas to fly from London back to Perth via Singapore. Excellent!

However, there was no way of getting to Vladivostok from Perth using only our points. The best case scenario was to fly from Perth to Singapore with Qantas using our F.F. points and then pay for a flight from Singapore to Vladivostok via Seoul using Korean airlines. Initially I thought "Oh, OK, that's do-able" but then when I read further Nikki said the cost for the Singapore - Vladivostok segment was going to cost us $2900 AUD each. Screech!

Sundowners Overland Trans Siberian railway tour

That seemed outrageous. We would be better off to start our adventure the way Sundowners Overland start their tours with the darned week in Japan. The "Japanese week' involves train tours, accommodation and meals plus a ferry ride to Vladivostok. And all of that would cost us less than the flight from Singapore to Vladivostok. We can now see why Sundowners Overland organise their trip that way.

The 29 day tour would end up costing us around $14,000 AUD each and that is not including all the incidentals such as visas, travel insurance or spending money. It's a lot of money. But what is the alternative? We've been doing quite a bit of research and it really does seem that it would be a daunting task trying to organise the trip by ourselves. Getting the necessary invitations and visas seems like a nightmare in itself. Russian officialdom doesn't look kindly at overseas tourists. We think we would have great difficulty buying our rail tickets and finding accommodation. It is extremely easy to get ripped off by unscrupulous people and very often Russian hotels simply don't want tourists from overseas.


Tomorrow we meet Kevin, the teacher, and his Russian wife who very kindly contacted me when they read my letter to the editor in our newspaper a week ago. They are coming here for morning tea and with lots of information for us.


Next page: Meeting Kevin and Alla



Our trip in the order it happened:

Travel Planning Necessities
World time zones, world weather, currency converter, language translator services.

Search over 25,000 hostels.

Trip Advisor Forum - Russia
The place to find information about Russia when you can't find it elsewhere.

Way To Russia
Another very good forum

Getting A Russian Visa
The process is explained

Trains between Moscow & Saint Petersburg
Explanation of the types of trains on that route.

Firmenny Trains
An explanation of what they are.

Moscow's Railway Stations
A map of their locations and proximities.

Learn How To Speak Russian
Free lessons.

Map of St. Petersburg
Lonely Planet's map of the city.

Map of Moscow
Lonely Planet's map of the city.

Moscow Times Newspaper
English version.

The Russia Club
A forum for all those interested in anything "Russian".

Russian Rail Timetable
It takes a bit of mastering but Ian managed it (eventually).

The Art Of Travel
Very interesting travel information for all locations.

Smart Traveller
Australian Government's site dealing with current travel advice.

Travel Independent
A site written by travellers for travellers. Lots of information.

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Alice Springs

History of ...
Alice Springs