The Legendary Trans Siberian: Xmas & New Year Special

Tour Cost ($AUD): $17,250.00

Tour Dates: 14 December 2017 - 8 January 2018

Single Supplement ($AUD): $3,450.00

Tour Duration: 26 days

The Legendary Trans-Siberian Express is a spectacular adventure from Beijing to St Petersburg on one of the world’s greatest railways. Our exclusive 26-day Christmas and New Year Special is our most popular ‘Trans-Sibe’ of all as we celebrate a white Christmas in Siberia and New Year’s Eve in Red Square.

To make the journey at this time of year is a sensational experience as we travel through a winter wonderland, conjuring up memories of Dr Zhivago. Among the highlights are a sleigh-ride through a snowy Siberian forest followed by a traditional Christmas with a local family, and an unforgettable New Year’s Eve celebration in Moscow’s Red Square. Russia in winter is simply glorious and a white Christmas is almost guaranteed. The train journey is spectacular as we journey through magnificent landscapes, and there is a distinct festive atmosphere on board as tourists and locals alike enjoy the holiday season. The other great advantage of making the trip at this time of year is the lack of other tourists. Often we enjoy the rare privilege of having famous sights such as the Great Wall of China virtually to ourselves!

Tour Fitness Level: Active

China

  • Exclusive picnic in a watchtower on the Great Wall of China
  • Attend the magnificent Beijing Acrobats show
  • Enjoy lunch with a local family in the Hutong district
  • Explore the fascinating Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square
  • Ride the great Trans-Mongolian train from Beijing to Mongolia

Mongolia

  • Watch an exciting horse race with Mongolian riders in the snowy Gobi Desert
  • Visit a nomadic family in their traditional ger
  • Attend a concert featuring Mongolian musicians

Russia

  • Celebrate a magical white Christmas Day with a troika ride through a snowy Siberian forest
  • Enjoy traditional Christmas celebrations at the home of a Siberian family
  • Stroll through the delightful village of Listvyanka on the shores of Lake Baikal
  • Attend an exclusive classical music concert in a Siberian mansion inIrkutsk
  • Experience the legendary Trans-Siberian railway journey from Irkutsk to Moscow through Siberia’s magnificent winter landscapes
  • Extensive city tour of Moscow including the Kremlin,Red Square, St Basil’s Cathedral and the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
  • Travel on Moscow’s famous metro and visit some of the beautiful stations
  • See a traditional Russian wedding at the estate of Kolomenskoye on the Moskva River
  • Join with the revellers in Moscow’s Red Square at the world’s best New Year’s Eve party
  • Visit The Hermitage, Catherine the Great’s Winter Palace and home to the world’s greatest collection of art
  • See a thrilling Cossack show in a magnificent palace in St Petersburg
  • Enjoy a tour of the stately Yusupov Palace where Rasputin was assassinated
  • City tour of St Petersburg including St Isaac’s Cathedral and St Peter and Paul Fortress where the Romanov family are interred
  • Visit Catherine the Great’s Palace at Pushkin

Inclusions

  • All flights between Australia and Beijing/Europe and Australia (incl domestic from your preferred capital city)
  • All accommodation (twin-share)
  • All ticketable air taxes (may be subject to change)
  • All meals as specified
  • Travel Directors’ tour leader throughout
  • Expert local guides
  • All entrance fees in specified sightseeing
  • All visas and courier fees
  • All tips and gratuities

14/12/2017 Australia – Singapore

Depart from your chosen Australian airport on the flight to Singapore. On arrival we connect with our flight to Beijing.

15/12/2017 Singapore – Beijing (LD)

Depart Singapore SQ 800, 01.05

Arrive Beijing 07.10

After completing customs and immigration formalities at Beijing airport we transfer to our hotel. After check-in we visit the Silk Markets to shop for any extra items of warm clothing we may need. The bargains are remarkable! We then drive to the beautiful Summer Palace. This was the favourite retreat of the emperors and empresses during the hot summer months. At this time of the year it is equally beautiful and we have it virtually to ourselves. In the evening we enjoy dinner at a popular local restaurant.

Novotel Peace Hotel

Beijing

16/12/2017 Beijing (BLD)

This morning we take a stroll in the world’s biggest public plaza, Tiananmen Square. Covering 100 acres and dating back to 1420, the square has witnessed many of China’s most historic events. Entering the Gate of Heavenly Peace, we visit the extraordinary Forbidden City, the world’s largest ancient palace structure. Covering 72 hectares and containing no fewer than 9,999 rooms, this incredible complex was built between 1407 and 1420 by an estimated one million labourers. Until 1924 it was the Imperial Palace for China’s emperors and in 1987 was World Heritage listed by UNESCO. A visit here is never to be forgotten.

17/12/2017 Beijing (BLD)

After breakfast we drive out of Beijing and head for the incredible Great Wall of China. We visit the beautiful section at Mutianyu, which is far less touristy than many other parts. Built more than 2,000 years ago under the orders of China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huamgdi, it remains one of the largest construction projects of all time and stretches an incredible 6,400 km. We have plenty of time to stroll on the ramparts and fully take in this Wonder of the World. We also enjoy an exclusive picnic in one of the watchtowers lining the wall. Returning to Beijing, we attend a stunning traditional Chinese folk show.

18/12/2017 Beijing (BLD)

Today is our last in Beijing and we spend much of it in the fascinating old part of the city, known as the Hutong, which we explore by cycle rickshaw. We also enjoy a traditional lunch in the home of a typical Chinese family.

19/12/2017 Depart Beijing – Ulaan Baatar (B)

This morning we board the Trans-Mongolian Express for the thrilling journey to Ulaan Baatar.

Depart Beijing Train 23, 11.22

As the train heads north towards the Mongolian border, we pass through mountainous countryside and enjoy several glimpses of the Great Wall. Now is the chance to read books, play games or retire to the dining car for drinks or a meal. Arriving at Erlian, the Chinese/Mongolian border town, giant hydraulic lifts raise the train and the wheel bogies are changed to fit the wider gauge tracks in Mongolia. With Chinese and Mongolian border formalities completed, the train makes its way into the vast Gobi desert.

20/12/2017 Arrive Ulaan Baatar (D)

This morning we travel through the rolling steppes of Mongolia, which stretch 1,000 km north to south and 2500 km east to west. Yaks, camels and Mongolian horses dot the austere landscape. The few towns and traditional homes, or gers, which can be seen, are testimony to man’s ability to adapt to and survive in almost any environment.

Arrive Ulaan Baatar 14.40

We transfer to our hotel with the rest of the day at leisure.

Bayangol Hotel

Ulaan Baatar

21/12/2017 Ulaan Baatar (BLD)

Today we explore the city, visiting the largest and most important Buddhist centre in Mongolia, the famous Gandan Monastery. We also drive up into the hills for a panoramic view of the city in the valley below. After lunch we head out of the city to the grasslands where we have an opportunity to meet villagers and local horsemen and watch a thrilling display of Mongolian horsemanship. We also take an exhilarating dog-sleigh ride across a frozen lake. In the evening we enjoy a beautiful folk show.

22/12/2017 Ulaan Baatar (BLD)

Today we further explore Mongolia’s capital visiting the famous History Museum and Sukhe Bator Square. In the evening we board the train for our journey north to Russia.

Depart Ulaan Baatar Train 263, 20.15

23/12/2017 Onboard train

The train heads towards the Mongolian border town of Sukhe Bator, arriving in the early morning. Here there are thorough customs and passport inspections before we proceed to the Russian border town of Naushki, 5,900 km from Moscow. We pass through beautiful mountain scenery laced with conifer forest. Following the Selenga River along the valley floor, we reach Ulan Ude, capital of Buryatia.

24/12/2017 Arrive Irkutsk (BLD)

Early this morning we join the main Trans-Siberian railway line and head west towards mighty Lake Baikal. The train often skirts the shore of this vast lake, which contains 20% of the world’s fresh water supply. The mountains and small decorative Russian houses provide a beautiful backdrop before the train rolls into Irkutsk, the capital of Eastern Siberia.

Arrive Irkutsk 06.15

On arrival we transfer to our hotel and after breakfast take a city tour. Once known as the ‘Paris of Siberia’, Irkutsk dates back to 1661. This afternoon we enjoy a classical music concert in a Siberian mansion.

Hotel Intourist

Irkutsk

25/12/2017 Irkutsk (BL)

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Today is a very special day as we travel out of the city to beautiful Lake Baikal. In a snow-covered forest we enjoy an unforgettable experience: riding in horse-drawn Russian sleighs, or troikas, while being entertained by the locals. After exploring the lake and the picturesque village of Listvyanka, we enjoy a traditional Christmas lunch with a fun-loving Siberian family. The festivities continue throughout the afternoon and into the evening!

26/12/2017 Irkutsk (BLD)

After breakfast we enjoy a tour of this charming city. Founded as a Cossack outpost, it continued to develop as a fur and gold trading city with access routes to Mongolia and China. Today the city is a regional cultural centre with theatres, museums and a symphony orchestra.

27/12/2017 Depart Irkutsk (B)

An early start this morning as we transfer to Irkutsk railway station and board the world’s most famous train, the Trans-Siberian Express, for the epic journey to Moscow.

Depart Irkutsk Train 1, 06.47

Now is the time to relax and watch the winter wonderland outside. Life on the train is comfortable and fun-filled, with much merriment in both the dining car and in our compartments.

28/12/2017 Onboard the Trans-Siberian Express

The train pushes inexorably towards Moscow, passing through famous cities such as Novosibirsk and Yekaterinburg, where Tsar Nicholas and his family were executed.

29/12/2017 Onboard the Trans-Siberian Express

The train now cuts through the foothills of the Ural Mountains and we pass the famous obelisk, marking the border of Asia and Europe. We are now 1,777 kilometres from Moscow.

30/12/2017 Arrive Moscow (LD)

Arrive Moscow 06.01

Finally the train rolls into Yaroslavsky Station, Moscow, at the end of its momentous journey. On arrival we transfer to our hotel. Late this afternoon we stroll into famous Red Square. Dating back to 1493, the magnificent square is flanked on one side by the red walls of the Kremlin and on the other by the majestic GUM department store. At one end is the imposing history museum and at the other is one of the world’s most famous buildings, the unique St Basil’s Cathedral. The square also houses Lenin’s mausoleum.

Metropol Hotel

Moscow

31/12/2017 Moscow (BLD)

Our tour of Russia’s magnificent capital begins this morning with a visit to the Church of Our Saviour. Following lunch we visit the famous pedestrian mall, Arbat Street, with its busy market stalls and fine shops. After dinner we walk to Red Square for the New Year celebrations – a night you will never forget as people of all ages flock to the square for a spectacular party.

01/01/2018 Moscow (BLD)

HAPPY NEW YEAR. WELCOME TO THE YEAR 2018!

After breakfast we travel outside Moscow to the stunning religious capital of Russia, Sergiev Posad. This is one of the country’s most beautiful towns, particularly under a covering of snow.

02/01/2018 Moscow (BLD)

Our tour of Russia’s magnificent capital begins this morning with a visit to the famous Kremlin, We also visit the great Armoury Museum, which houses Russia’s crown jewels including the fabulous collection of Faberge eggs. After lunch we explore some of the palatial stations of Moscow’s stunning underground system.

03/01/2018 Moscow – St Petersburg (BL)

Today we head out of Moscow to the beautiful estate of Kolomenskoye. Situated on the banks of the Moskva River, this was the summer residence of Alexei Romanov. This estate dates back to the 14th century and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the afternoon we transfer to the railway station for our journey to St Petersburg.

Depart Moscow Train 768, 16.30

Arrive St Petersburg 20.25

On arrival we transfer to our hotel.

Helvetia Hotel

St Petersburg

04/01/2018 St Petersburg (BLD)

After breakfast we take a city tour of beautiful St Petersburg. Formerly known as Petrograd and Leningrad, this most European of Russian cities is the country’s intellectual and cultural heart. Perched on the banks of the Neva River, it is often referred to as the ‘Venice of the North’ because of its glorious canal system. We enjoy such sights as St Isaac’s Cathedral, the Winter Palace and Peter and Paul’s Fortress, where the bodies of Tsar Nicholas and his family are interred.

05/01/2018 St Petersburg (BLD)

Today we travel out of St Petersburg to the town of Pushkin where we visit the beautiful palace of Catherine the Great. We explore the palace interior, including the recently-restored and magnificent Amber Room. This evening there may also be the opportunity to attend a performance by one of the great St Petersburg ballet companies.

06/01/2018 St Petersburg (BLD)

This morning we visit the Winter Palace. Completed in 1762, the palace was home to the Tsars until the Russian Revolution in 1917. It now houses the Hermitage Museum, arguably the world’s greatest art collection. The afternoon is at leisure, providing the option of spending more time in the Hermitage. Others may prefer to stroll down the city’s great boulevard, Nevsky Prospekt. In the evening there is the opportunity to attend a traditional Cossack folk show.

07/01/2018 Depart St Petersburg – Moscow (B)

Early this morning we transfer to the airport for our flight home via Moscow and Singapore.

Depart St Petersburg Aeroflot, SU 6131, 10.05

Arrive Moscow 11.50

Depart Moscow Singapore Airlines SQ61, 15.20

08/01/2018 Singapore – Australia

Arrive Singapore 05.45.

Connect with your fight back to Australia.

This will be a cold trip. What kind of clothes will I need for the journey?

The most important clothing items for this trip:

1. A down jacket or ski jacket

2. Thermal underwear

3. Boots with good tread (preferably hiking boots)

4. Scarf and gloves

5. A good hat

Do I need to buy a lot of expensive clothing?

No, it can be done quite cheaply. We recommend that thermal underwear and boots be bought in Australia. The rest of the items on the list can be bought in China at a fraction of the cost of purchasing them in Australia. On arrival in Beijing, and after check-in at our hotel, we go immediately to the Silk Market department store where all these items can be bought cheaply. For example, a Canada Goose jacket can be bought for around USD $45. Here in Australia, the same jacket may cost upwards of $300!

Just how cold will it be and where is the coldest place likely to be?

In recent years the temperatures have been varying a great deal. On average it is expected that Mongolia will be coldest at around -15C during the day. It is a dry cold and therefore is nowhere near as cold as one might expect. However, as the Russians say, ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes’. Generally at this time of year there is no wind and clear blue skies throughout. Our pre-departure information booklets will provide more information on weather.

How much is a single supplement in the hotels?

The cost of a single room upgrade for the entire journey is AUD $3,450.

What is the cost of upgrading to twin berth on the train?

The cost of upgrading on the entire journey is AUD $1,715pp.

If I travel alone, do I have to pay the single supplement?

If you do not want to share a hotel room with another person in the group, you will have to pay the single supplement. However, if you are willing to share we will team you up with another passenger of the same sex and similar age in the hotels. If a match-up is not possible, we will upgrade you at our expense.

Why are meals on the trains not included and how much do they cost?

We don’t include the meals on the train because the days are not so structured and people like to eat at different times. Also, as you are not exercising, you don’t need so much food. Meals on the train are cheap (around USD $5-8). Cheap snacks can also be purchased at some stops. In addition some people like to take packet soups and pot noodles on the train which are easily prepared with boiling water from the samovars located in each carriage.

Do I need vaccinations for this journey?

No vaccinations are mandatory on this route but we would recommend you seek advice from your doctor. Tetanus should certainly be up to date and a flu jab is useful to help prevent colds.

Do I have to fly straight home from St Petersburg?

No. We encourage our travellers to take advantage of this great location for further travel in Europe and will arrange for passengers to return home from any city in Europe that Singapore Airlines serves. All we ask is that you nominate a city and a return date before you leave Australia. These dates can be changed, however, and the ticket is valid for one year. ‘Add-ons’ are relatively inexpensive and easily organised.

I have been to Beijing before. Can I join the tour later and avoid this section?

Yes, you can fly to Beijing later and join the tour prior to the departure for Mongolia. We can advise on the saving depending on which night you join.

I heard that visas are difficult to obtain. Is this the case?

A Russian visa is very difficult to obtain, but because we arrange all this paperwork there is no need to worry. We also organise the Chinese and Mongolian visas. However, we require your passport three months before departure in order to process the visas.

A lot of companies have many expensive optional extras on their tours. Do you?

We don’t believe in a lot of expensive ‘optional tours’. Our itineraries are designed to make the best possible use of time and to include all the must-see sights, plus additional surprises. Therefore practically everything is included in the tour cost. However, if there is a ballet on in St Petersburg that you would like to attend, for instance, we can book it for you, but it would be at your own expense.

Is the water safe to drink en-route and what is the general standard of hygiene?

We err on the side of caution on all of our tours and advise travellers to drink only bottled water. This is easy to obtain everywhere. The standard of hygiene is surprisingly high along the entire route.

Is it possible to have a shower on the trains?

Although there are ‘officially’ no showers on the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Siberian routes, because we are friends with many of the conductors on the trains we can sometimes organise the use of a shower on request, but this cannot be guaranteed. However, the washrooms are spacious and there are two per carriage. Hot water is always available so keeping clean is not a problem.

Are the trains heated?

The trains are well heated. The train from Irkutsk to Moscow is controlled at 24C.

I’ve heard that some trains in Russia and China are of a poor standard. Is this true?

Yes, some trains in Russia, Mongolia and China are not up to the same standard as trains in Australia and can be very poor. However, we schedule our tours to coincide with the timetables of the very best trains in these countries.

What is the security like on the train?

Security is first class on the trains. On the Trans-Siberian Express there are two permanent security guards. However, we still urge basic precautions such as locking your compartment when visiting the dining car.

What is the standard of the hotels?

We choose our hotels for their central locations, which we believe is very important. They are generally 3-4 star quality (or better), comfortable, clean and all with en-suites.

What currency do I need to take?

Both Euros and US dollars are easily changed into the local currency in every country en-route. Euros are probably more popular now, which is why we encourage you to take your cash in this currency.

How much spending money do I need for the entire trip?

Because almost everything is included, we would suggest an amount of 600 Euros per person as being ample for the whole month-long journey.

Are credit cards acceptable?

Credit cards are widely accepted throughout the journey and ATMs are available along the entire route. However, we don’t recommend relying on these as your main source of funds. It is advisable to take some cash.

Do you recommend travellers cheques?

Travellers cheques can be changed in the hotels in Beijing and St Petersburg. Elsewhere it is often difficult and time-consuming to get them changed. Therefore we do not recommend bringing travellers cheques as your principal source of funds.

Are there internet facilities en-route?

All the hotels we use have internet facilities. There are also many internet cafes in the vicinity of the hotels we use, which generally offer cheaper access.

Do mobile telephones work?

Telstra and Optus mobiles work throughout the entire journey except on some parts of the train journey. You will need to ensure you have global roaming. Contact your service provider for further details.

How much should we tip the guides and porters?

There is no need to tip guides or porters as all tips and gratuities are included in the tour cost.

Listed below is a selection of books which you may wish to read prior to, or during, your journey.

Wild East: Travels in the new Mongolia

Jill Lawless

Dateline Mongolia: An American Journalist in Nomad’s Land

Michael Kohn

The Trans-Siberian Handbook

Bryn Thomas

The Trans Siberian Rail Guide

Robert Strauss

The Princess of Siberia

Christine Sutherland

Russia: A Journey to the Heart of a Land and its People

Jonathan Dimbleby

The Great Railway Bazaar

Paul Theroux

Through Siberia by Accident

Dervla Murphy

The Big Red Train Ride

Eric Newby

In Siberia

Colin Thubron