Highlights of Russia & the Baltics Germany, Poland, Baltic states, Russia

Highlights of Russia & the Baltics

Germany, Poland, Baltic states, Russia

Hiking
19 days
2020

Wed, Jun 03

Sun, Jun 21

€3,350

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More available dates (10)

Overview

Taste mystery and intrigue on a revealing tour of Russia - a land that lay hidden behind the Iron Curtain for decades. Experience the grandeur of Moscow, the beauty of Russia's ancient capitals Suzdal and Novgorod, and the grace of St Petersburg. Visit the intricately detailed cathedrals, historic monuments, age-old treasures and romantic landscapes of this great nation, and find the heart of enigmatic Russia. Experience the diverse delights of the Baltic states on this adventurous journey through Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany. From the medieval spires of Tallinn and the funky bars of Riga to the Baroque-styled quirks of Vilnius, hidden delights await. Visit colourful markets, be immersed in art and architecture and trek past Lithuanian lakes.

Map

Itinerary

Day 1Moscow
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia. The great city of Moscow has survived centuries of revolution and tumult, from the days of the tsars through the communist era to the growing pains of democracy. Beneath its modern veneer – a sign of Russia's recent embrace of capitalism – Moscow is a fascinating, historic city with a wealth of sights to see. There’s so much to see and do in Moscow that it’s worth arriving a few extra days before the start of the trip. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm at the hotel today, where your insurance and next of kin details will be collected. Please also have two copies of your passport, visa and migration cards ready. Your leader will collect one; the other is for you to keep on you at all times whilst on the trip. After the meeting, your leader will organise an optional meal so you can enjoy your first taste of delicious Russian cuisine with new friends.
Day 2Suzdal
Travel by private bus to Suzdal (approximately 4 hours). The town is a main stop on Russia’s legendary Golden Ring, the circle of ancient and former capitals that played an important part in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church and that hold the memories of significant events in Russian history. The fairytale-feel historic small town of Suzdal is filled with contrasting examples of early Russian architecture, where onion-domed monasteries stand next to lovingly decorated wooden cottages. Here there are opportunities to drink mead by the riverside with a symphony of cathedral bells in the air, and peek inside the crumbling churches that line the narrow streets and alleys. You’ll stay in a guesthouse in one of Suzdal's quiet streets. Some rooms are twin share, while others are triple or quad share or interconnecting rooms. There’s a shared toilet and bathroom on each floor, and you have access to a spacious kitchen and group dining area. On occasion, the group may stay in different guesthouses that will be located nearby. Tonight you’ll have a chance to try heart home cooking at the home at one of our local friends.
Day 3Suzdal - Moscow
Get to know the Suzdal a little better today with a walking tour of this ‘open-air museum’. Take in the sights – the grandeur of the Kremlin, the carved stonework of the Cathedral of the Nativity, the trading square, market and monasteries (approximately 3 hours total). If there’s time, walk along the banks of the river, spanned by wooden footbridges and then pop in to a local cafe for tea, bliny (pancakes) with caviar or the Suzdal specialty of medovukha, a honey-based spiced mead. Transfer to Vladimir by private van (approximately 30 minutes) and then take the super modern high speed Sapsan train to Moscow (less than 2 hours). Return to the hotel by metro. Spend the evening back in Moscow – maybe wander around the famous Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral by night if you haven't already.
Day 4Moscow - Overnight Train
Visit the mausoleum of Russia’s most famous revolutionary – Lenin. He was the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution that ushered in the era of communism, and you will join the sometimes long queue lining up to visit his austere eternal resting place on Red Square. Then enter the Kremlin grounds with a local guide, home to the oldest and most important churches in the country, and where many Tsars and Tsarinas are laid to rest. Walk through the soaring towers and cathedrals of the political and spiritual heart of Russia before entering the Armoury Museum, home to an eye-bulging former royal collection of ambassadorial gifts, Faberge eggs, coronation robes and glittering jewels. This evening board an overnight train to Novgorod (approximately 8 hours) from Moscow's Leningradskiy railway station. Trains on this journey are simple but comfortable. You’ll travel 2nd class on this trip. There's a toilet/bathroom at the end of each carriage with a small sink and cold water. An attendant is assigned to every carriage to look after your comfort and safety (although service standards can vary greatly). Each compartment has four bunks with luggage storage space inside. Bedding is provided, although some travellers still prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. There's hot water available for making drinks or instant meals, tea and coffee. Sometimes snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and most trains also have a dining car, although with a limited menu. Please note that in many cases, due to high demand for tickets on this route, the group is not always together. It's likely that at least some members of the group will be sharing compartments with other travellers, either foreign or local, particularly if your group does not divide evenly into four. A brief word about drinking on the train: Social drinking is common on trains in Russia and can be an enjoyable way to meet local people as well as interact with your fellow Intrepid travellers (in moderation). While alcohol is often available for purchase on the train, spirits (including vodka) should only be consumed in the dining car. While we certainly want all our Intrepid travellers to have a great holiday it's important that you show due respect for your fellow group members, and keep in mind that many of your local companions use the train as a means of transport to get home or to work.
Day 5Novgorod
Arrive early in the morning in the oldest city in Russia, and see how well-preserved architectural treasures linger as echoes of medieval times and glories of the past. As the former capital of ancient Russia, Novgorod is often seen as the cradle of modern Russian civilisation. Explore the city's sights on foot with your local guide. The city's foremost attraction is the graceful Kremlin on the banks of the Volkhov River. Inside there are museums and the Cathedral of St Sophia, as well as the amazing Millennium Monument, which tells the story of 1,000 years of Russian history. On the opposite bank of the river are quiet shady streets, the graceful ruins of Yaroslav's Court, and other echoes times gone by. In your free time here you might like to check out the Yurev Monastery on the shores of Lake Ilmen, visit the Wooden Architecture Museum just outside of town, or catch a performance at the Philharmonic Hall. In the summer you can also relax on the little riverside beach, or take a boat trip on the Volkhov River for glimpses of the quiet countryside surrounding Novgorod. Tonight, maybe join your leader and plenty of friendly locals for a refreshing steam and wash at the public banya (bath house) – no trip to Russia would be complete without experiencing this custom.
Day 6St Petersburg
Travel by private bus from Novgorod to St Petersburg, one of Russia’s most celebrated cities (approximately 4 hours). Truly one of Europe's finest cities, the living museum of St Petersburg is a blend of baroque European architecture and Russian royal history, built by the Russian tsar Peter the Great, whose legacy can be felt in its enigmatic streets and showcase cathedrals and museums. After arriving and checking in, go out on a walking tour with your leader to learn about this great city. In the evening, visit the home of our local friends and have a tea party Russian-style. Not all family members speak English, but with your leader on hand to interpret and their warm hospitality, you'll be feeling like one of the family in no time. These families live in St Petersburg's communal apartments, which date from Soviet times. Such apartments and their way of living have ceased to exist in other Russian cities, but they are still common in St Petersburg. This is a truly unique local experience that you won't find anywhere else.
Day 7St Petersburg
Built on 42 islands, St Petersburg is also known as the ‘Venice of the North’. Spend the day exploring the city, crossing its many rivers and canals at your own pace. Perhaps enjoy incredible views across the city from the colonnade at St Isaac’s Cathedral, or walk along Nevsky Prospekt, St Petersburg’s main street. Maybe pop into one of the many bakeries or coffee shops along the way, or head down to Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra where Russia's great musicians and writers like Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky are laid to rest in the cemetery. The Hermitage Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, and houses one of the world's premier art collections. A whole day could easily be spent wandering its halls. Feeling artistic? Give life to a family of matryoshka dolls in a painting workshop. Whatever you choose, the city is easy to get around and your leader can also help you make the most of your free day. On your final evening, perhaps gather together your fellow travellers and seek out a cosy restaurant for a farewell meal.
Day 8Helsinki
Your Russian adventure will come to an end today after breakfast. You will be taken to the train station in St. Petersburg for your onward travel to Heksinki. Say goodbye to your Russian leader and hop on the train to Helsinki. Note: your travel from St Petersburg to Helsinki is unaccompanied. After arrival at train station in Helsinki, please make your own way to our hotel there. The hotel is very close to the train station with a 3 min walk. Your Russian leader will give you detailed instruction on how to find the hotel. There will be a group meeting held at 6pm, so you'll have some free time until then to meet your new group leader and fellow travellers.
Day 9Tallinn
Leave Helsinki after breakfast and catch a ferry across the Gulf of Finland to the Estonian capital of Tallinn (approximately 3 hours). Arrive mid-afternoon, check into your hotel and start your time here with a short orientation walk through the city. The rest of your day is then free to enjoy this exceptionally preserved medieval city and all it has to offer. Perhaps head out and enjoy some of the region's culinary specialties or stop for a drink and people watching on the main square. With its steep red roofs, spires, pastel-coloured buildings and new restaurants and bars, Estonia's capital is a real treat to explore. Seeing the vibrant streets of Tallinn now, it's difficult to fathom that Soviet occupation only ended in 1991.
Day 10Tallinn
Today is free to do as you wish, but an exploration of the Old Town is recommended. Located here is the last remaining gothic town hall in northern Europe, Old Thomas; the Raapteek, which has housed a pharmacy since the 15th century; and St Olaf Church, a major landmark of Tallinn. You can head towards Upper Tallinn, home to the noble families, to see amazing views of Lower Tallinn and the medieval spires of the town walls. The 13th-century Toompea Castle, where the Estonian Parliament sits, and the 19th-century orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral are some of the main attractions of Upper Tallinn. Alternatively, you could head to Pirita to chill out at Tallinn's most popular beach, or visit Kadriorg Palace, a palace built by czar Peter the Great for his second wife Catherine I. Make sure you spend some time in the beautiful gardens surrounding the palace. Or perhaps head to the Kalamaja district, with it's well-preserved streets lined with colourful wooden houses.
Day 11Tallinn / Riga
Spend the morning in Tallinn and visit any sites you missed yesterday. Depart by bus after lunch, crossing the border and arriving in the Latvian capital of Riga in the early evening. The 4-hour journey is a good chance to take a nap or relax with a podcast. Riga is renowned for its welcoming locals and a fascinating art nouveau heritage. Tonight, perhaps grab a drink at one of the many bars in the Old Town after you’ve settled into your lodgings.
Day 12Sigulda / Riga
Travel by public transport to Sigulda, a pretty town with medieval history that backs onto Gauja National Park. Take the cablecar across the river to Turaida Castle, which began construction in 1214 and is made from striking red bricks. Take a guided tour and then explore the castle grounds which feature sculptures set in evergreen woodland. Take a hike along the winding Gauja River with your leader, taking in the clear air and thick Latvian forest. Return to Riga in the afternoon and spend the rest of the day as you please.
Day 13Riga
Today you will finally get the chance to explore your base for the past two nights, beautiful Riga. Take an orientation tour and see the Doma Cathedral, St Peter's Basilica, House of Blackheads, the Swedish Gate, The Great Guild & Small Guild and the Cat House. There is nothing scheduled for the rest of the day, so you are free to explore at your own pace. Perhaps pay a visit to The Museum of Occupation of Latvia, which offers insight into the hardships suffered by Latvians during its occupation by, first, the Germans and, later, the Soviets. The Central Market Halls are a great place to haggle for supplies for a picnic lunch if it takes your fancy. Make sure you give the bitter but reputedly healthy Riga Black Balsam a try. The recipe is secret, but it contains rare ingredients such as Valerian, Wormwood, Black Pepper, Ginger, Gentian and Linden flower.
Day 14Siauliai / Klaipeda
Set off by private bus after breakfast and cross the border into Lithuania. After a stop at the famous Hill of Crosses at Siauliai, continue onto the former Prussian city of Klaipeda (approximately 6 hours in total), the city of sculptures and jazz. Klaipeda used to be a member of the Hanseatic League and is the gateway to the Curonian Spit – a long and narrow sand dune peninsula separating the Curonian lagoon from the Baltic Sea. Upon arrival check into our local family-owned guesthouse, then head out to the waterfront and explore the Old Town centre, which features 18th-century wooden buildings and other historic monuments.
Day 15Curonian Spit National Park / Klaipeda
Today, take a day trip to explore the unique World Heritage-listed Curonian Spit National Park – the second-oldest national park in the former Soviet Union. This is a spectacular landscape full of beaches, sand dunes and forested areas. The peninsula is only 400 metres wide in parts but 98 kilometres long. It formed only 5000 years ago by strong winds and currents which constantly change the shape of the landscape to this day. Only recently a whole village was swallowed by the inexorable sand. According to legend, the spit was formed by the girl giant Neringa, who poured sand into the Baltic Sea to protect the bay from storms and create an embankment for fishermen to live. On our day trip you will explore the tiny village of Nida and the surrounding beaches by bike. Look in the distance to see the Russian border, and learn about amber, which has been mined here since the 19th century. Spot the rather unique attribute of the area, the weather vanes. Each village has its own unique design. For lunch, perhaps try the smoked pike for which the spit is famous.
Day 16Aukstaitija National Park
After breakfast, travel by a mix of private transport and local trains to the town of Ignalina (approximately 6 hours) and then on to Aukstaitija (pronounced owk-sty-chee-ah) National Park and the charming village of Ginuciai where our home stay is located. As one of the most delightful national parks in the Baltic states, Aukstaitija has 126 lakes, an abundance of waterways, hills and woods. Enjoy the hospitality and home-cooking of our host family for the next two days.
Day 17Aukstaitija National Park
This morning you will take a guided kayak ride through the lakes and rivers, past villages and through forests, to an ancient pagan site on top of a hill with a wishing tree. The top affords great views across the surrounding forests and lakes. The rest of the day is free to visit some of the local attractions, such as the nearby villages that date from the 14th century and consist of traditional wooden houses and farmsteads. The 19th-century Ginuciai Watermill is another point of interest. You can hike to some glorious lookouts, do some fishing, take a swim in the lake or river rapids, or just relax. Perhaps ask our host family to fire up the sauna for the ultimate relaxation and cleansing experience.
Day 18Vilnius
Continue your journey today by local train to the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius (approximately 4 hours). Having once been occupied by Sweden, Poland, France and Russia, each occupier has left its mark in some way on this picturesque city. Vilnius offers a different picture of the Baltics than Riga and Tallinn, but it’s every bit as interesting. On arrival, take an orientation walk with your leader that covers Cathedral Square and its free-standing belfry an the length of pedestrianised Pilies Gatve, lined by baroque churches. The rest of the day is free. A definite must is a visit to the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, previously called the Museum of Genocide Victims and better known under the name KGB Museum, as it is located in the former KGB headquarters of Vilnius. If you’d like a break from Vilnius’ historic monuments, maybe take a walk through some of the charming gardens around the city. Perhaps visit the ‘republic’ of Uzupis. This inner-city quarter declared independence from Lithuania in 1997 and has statue of Frank Zappa.
Day 19Vilnius
Your Baltic Experience comes to an end today. Have the time to stay on and dive deeper in Vilnius? An Urban Adventure is the perfect way to see the city through local eyes. Check out urbanadventures.com/destination/Vilnius-tours for information.

Trip title

Highlights of Russia & the Baltics

Trip code

WBSRC

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Validity: 01 Jan 2019 to 31 Dec 2019
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Introduction

Taste mystery and intrigue on a revealing tour of Russia - a land that lay hidden behind the Iron Curtain for decades. Experience the grandeur of Moscow, the beauty of Russia's ancient capitals Suzdal and Novgorod, and the grace of St Petersburg. Visit the intricately detailed cathedrals, historic monuments, age-old treasures and romantic landscapes of this great nation, and find the heart of enigmatic Russia. Experience the diverse delights of the Baltic states on this adventurous journey through Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany. From the medieval spires of Tallinn and the funky bars of Riga to the Baroque-styled quirks of Vilnius, hidden delights await. Visit colourful markets, be immersed in art and architecture and trek past Lithuanian lakes.

Style

Original

Themes

Explorer

Transport

Overnight Sleeper Train,Private Vehicle,Public Bus,High Speed Train,Taxi,Metro,Ferry,Canoe,Tram

Physical Rating

2

Physical preparation

A good level of fitness will be expected and will certainly help increase the enjoyment of the trip. You will be required to carry your own bags through busy train and metro stations (including up and down stairs or escalators) and some accommodation may not have lifts.

Joining point

Arbat-House Hotel Отель Арбат Хаус

Joining point description

Arbat House Hotel is located in Moscow’s centre, 3 minutes walk from New Arbat avenue and only a short distance to Arbatskaya metro station. From here you can easily walk to Red Square and the Kremlin through Moscow's historical and cultural centre. The nearest airport is 30km away. Rooms are equipped with TV, telephone, air-conditioning, hairdryer, Wi-Fi, and some rooms will have a small fridge. Reception staff speak English. Visit the hotel's website here: www.arbat-house.com

Joining point instructions

Moscow has 3 international airports (Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo). Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo are the most commonly used by foreign travellers. BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT: All airports have public transport links that allow you to get to our starting point hotel cheaply and quickly. From Sheremetyevo you can take the airport express train (RUB470, 30-40 minutes) to metro station Belorusskaya (Белорусская) on the dark green & brown (circle) lines. The train runs every hour from 6am to midnight. You can find timetables and buy aeroexpress ticketы on-line at www.aeroexpress.ru. From Domodedovo, the airport express train runs every hour to metro station Paveletskaya (Павелецкая, RUB 470, 40 to 50 minutes) on the brown (circle) & dark green lines. From Vnukovo airport, the airport express train goes to Kievskaya (Киевская) metro station on the dark blue & brown (circle) line and takes approx. 35 minutes (RUB 470). From these stations, take the metro (RUB50) to the blue or dark blue line. Our starting point hotel is located 7 minutes walk from metro station Arbatskaya (Арбатская). There are two 'Arbatskaya' metro stations - one is located on the blue line, the other on dark blue. Both are linked. Exit the metro, cross by the underground walkway to the north side of Novy Arbat Avenue. Head west along Novy Arbat (Новый Арбат), pass the MTS Bank and turn right into Merzlyakovskiy pereulok (Мерзляковский переулок). Go straight. The second street on your left is Skatertny pereulok (Скатертный переулок). A bit further up this street on the left side you'll find the Arbat House Hotel. BY TAXI: The taxi ride from the airport to our starting point hotel takes at least one hour depending on traffic and should cost around 4000RUB (approx. US$65, to be paid in local currency). Avoid taxi touts. From all airports we recommend you use the services of one of the official taxi desks (such as MosCab) located on the ground floor inside the arrival terminal. ARRIVAL TRANSFERS: Arrival transfers are available - if you have pre-booked a transfer with us your driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals section near where you clear customs. The driver will wait for an hour after your scheduled arrival time. If you are delayed beyond one hour after your scheduled arrival time, please make your own way to the hotel. In the unlikely event that your transfer is not waiting for you, please call Sveta on +7 916 542 18 58. Your leader will put a welcome note on the reception. Please look for it as it contains important information. Luggage storage is available free of charge. Please note the address for Arbat House Hotel below in Russian which may be useful to show to a taxi driver or to ask for directions: Отель Арбат Хаус Скатертный переулок, дом 13 121069, Москва м. Арбатская

Finish point

Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof

Finish point description

Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof in the popular district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg is a comfortable hotel with free use of Wi-Fi all throughout the hotel. The 210 guestrooms feature ensuite bathroom facilities, LCD TV and air-conditioning.

Finish point instructions

If you are making your own way to the airport the hotel will be able to help book you an airport shuttle or taxi. Please ask at reception. Alternatively it is easy to travel to both Berlin Airports and the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) by public transport. To Tegel Airport (airport code TXL) take the TXL express bus from Alexanderplatz. To Schoenefeld Airport (airport codes SXF/BER) take the S9 S-Bahn from Ostkreuz station. Pre booked departure transfer to Tegel and Schoenefeld airports: You will be collected at the hotel reception 3 hours before your flight departure time. In case of flight cancellations, changes or if you are not able to find the driver, please contact the transfer operator directly: +49 30 2016 3040.

Important information

1. A Single Supplement is bookable on this trip, with the exception of Day 2 and Day 4, subject to availability. 2. In order for our local operator to book train tickets we require the following information at time of booking or no later than 31 days prior to departure. • Passengers full name • Full Passport Details (number, expiry, issued) • DOB • City of Birth Please note that the above information needs to be the same as your travelling passport, any wrong information provided may result in extra personal expense to reissue train tickets. 3. To avoid disappointment we recommend that you book any theatre performances that you wish to attend in Moscow or St Petersburg in advance. If you wish to book the theatre performances in Moscow, please book for Day 1 of the trip. There's no time in the evening on Day 3 to see the performances because we return to the city in the evening. And there's no time to see performance in St. Petersburg on Day 6 in the evening as we are visiting the local communal apartment. 4. Please note that this is a combination trip which saves you from the hassle of making multiple bookings. But your tour leader and group composition will change on Day 8 and you will be unaccompanied on the train from St. Petersburg to Helsinki.

Group leader

All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders. Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.

Safety

Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:

Visas

Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time. RUSSIAN VISAS Most nationalities require a visa for Russia. RUSSIA - LETTER OF INVITATION (LOI) You will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI), sometimes called a Voucher or Visa Support Letter in order to apply for your visa. You can obtain your LOI online through our local partners in Russia. Instructions and a link to the website will be sent to you at the time of booking. Read the instructions carefully and fill in the online application form. You will then be able to download your LOI instantly. Please note that we will add 3 days to the LOI duration before and after your trip dates for your convenience. If you are planning to stay longer than these dates please let us know as we will need to manually request a LOI to fit your specific travel plans. The LOI included in the cost of your tour is for a Single Entry Tourist Visa. LOIs for other types of visas must be organised directly with our local partners Parallel 60 (www.visain.ru). INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR RUSSIAN VISA APPLICATION: Once you have obtained your LOI you can apply for your visa. You must apply for your Russian visa in advance. Visas are not available on arrival or en-route. It is your responsibility to apply for your own visa either directly through a consulate or by using a visa agent. We do not recommend trying to obtain your Russian visa outside of your home country or place of residence as your application may be refused. Use ONLY the information and dates on your LOI when filling in your visa application. There is no need to reference us or include a copy of your itinerary as Parallel 60, our Russian partners, is the official inviting organisation. Do not be concerned if the destinations and accommodation listed do not match your trip exactly. This information is for the purposes of obtaining the visa only, not an indication of where you must travel and stay once in Russia. DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR RUSSIAN VISA APPLICATION: * Letter of Invitation (LOI) * Photocopy of your passport * Passport size photos (up to 4) * Flight or other transport details (if requested) * Please check with the consulate for any other specific requirements VISA EXTENSIONS IN RUSSIA Please be aware that visa extensions are NOT possible in Russia. INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR RUSSIAN TRAIN TICKET BOOKINGS Train tickets in Russia are booked with passport numbers. Please make sure you provide us with your correct passport number. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip. If we receive changes to passport numbers less than 30 days prior to departure we cannot guarantee purchase of train tickets. We do NOT recommend travelling on multiple passports for trips that involve border crossings by train. This can cause difficulties with train ticket bookings and cause significant issues delays at immigration. RUSSIAN MIGRATION CARDS All foreign citizens entering Russia are required to fill in a migration card on arrival. The entry portion of the card will be retained by immigration upon arrival. The stamped exit portion of the card must be kept with your passport during your stay in Russia and submitted to immigration upon departure. If you are not given a migration card at immigration on arrival you must request one, even if the immigration official says that you do not need one. Loss or failure to receive the exit portion of the card will result in you not being able to travel on our trip as all hotels require this card for registration and may result in significant delays or fines upon departure. Visas for Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany are not required for passport holders of the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada. All other nationalities should check with the relevant authorities. CROSSING BORDERS With the so called "Schengen Agreement" border controls between many European countries have been abolished. However in special situations passports may still be checked. Passport stamps are no longer issued.

Why we love it

Red Square has long been at the heart of Russian history – visit the austere mausoleum of Lenin, the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution, contrasting with the eye-bulging treasure collection in the Kremlin and Armoury Museum

Is this trip right for you

This trip includes an overnight train journey. Conditions are simple but comfortable – a truly Intrepid experience and a great way to meet, and travel like, the locals. There is a toilet/bathroom and compartments with bunks/berths. Please note that we travel 2nd class on all overnight trains (4 people per compartment). While we always try to have our groups staying together, there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. As well as overnight train travel, we experience a variety of different transport types on this journey high-speed train, public & private bus, metro and of course plenty of exploring on foot. Some of the accommodation along the way is basic, staying a guesthouses with shared rooms and bathroom facilities. Please note that on occasion Lenin's Mausoleum and Red Square may be closed to the public during regular opening hours without prior warning.

Health

All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared. GIARDIA Giardia intestinalis, a parasite that causes severe diarrhoea has been reported from time to time in the water supply in Russia. For this reason, we recommend against drinking unboiled tap water in all Russian cites. MEDICATION From June 2016 legislation was introduced requiring travellers bringing prescribed medicines into Russia to carry a prescription in the traveller’s name, plus the name of the drug and prescribed quantity. According to official channels if your medication contains "narcotic or psychoactive substances", a notarised translation is also required. In practice we are yet to hear of a traveller encountering an issue with bringing medicines into the country, provided they are able to show that they are prescribed to them however you need to be aware that doing so is at your own risk. Some medicines which you can buy over the counter in your home country may require a prescription in Russia. If you’re unsure whether you need to provide a prescription and notarised translation to bring your medicines into Russia, check with the Russian Embassy before you travel. TICKS In spring and early summer in rural areas of Russia and Mongolia ticks are prevalent. Please take precautions when walking in these areas by wearing long trousers and covered shoes, and check your clothes and body thoroughly. DIET/HYGIENE The diet and hygiene standards on this trip may be very different from what you are used to so please take care with washing hands before meals etc. and bring some medication/rehydration salts etc if you commonly experience stomach problems with a change in diet.

Food and dietary requirements

Vegetarians might find the menu selection less varied than they would see at home. Vegetarianism is not as common in this region and generally the choices are basic, involving vegetables, soups, salads, bread, cheese, fruit, yoghurt, eggs etc. Vegans and those on gluten-free diets may find this region very challenging and may need to supplement meals with their own supplies from supermarkets and markets. Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for any included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may need to provide their own. There are some basic breakfasts included on this trip which may simply include bread/toast or pastries, butter, jam, coffee/tea/juice (or similar). FOOD IN RUSSIA: What is food in Russia really like? See our blog here for some must try foods: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/5-foods-really-need-try-russia/ VEGETARIANS & VEGANS: Vegetarians in Russia certainly won't go hungry as there are usually plenty of meat-free options on menus including salads, certain soups, and cooked dishes such as mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, buckwheat, dumplings with vegetable fillings, savoury pancakes etc. Vegans will need to look for options without mayonnaise, sour cream and cheese which are common in Russian dishes. Moscow, St Petersburg and increasingly other towns have an ever growing number of excellent vegetarian and vegan eateries. DIETARY NEEDS: Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may wish to supplement inclusions with their own supplies from markets or supermarkets.

Money matters

SPENDING MONEY: When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document). The local currency in Russia is Rubble (RUB). The local currency in Poland is the Zloty (PLN), however, the rest countries visited on this trip have now adopted the common currency of the European Union, the Euro (EUR). The most convenient and cheapest way to acquire money in Europe is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Bancomat as they are often referred to. Check with your bank in advance concerning the suitability of your account / card overseas and any international fees that will be applied. You can withdraw local currencies easily at airports, major train stations and most city centres, but be sure to bring some extra emergency cash in a major currency that can be exchanged if the ATMs are not functioning. When leaving home don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it is stolen. Keep this in a safe place. Credit cards are not always accepted in stores and restaurants. We recommend you carry some cash to pay for restaurant bills and other services. TIPPING IN RUSSIA and Europe If you are happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader. The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers: - Restaurants/cafes with table service: We suggest 5% to 10% of your bill, however check if a service charge has already been added. - Local guides: Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest €2-€3 per person per activity day for local guides with the amount adjusted accordingly for guides who are with you for a for a full day. - Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey, while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however a base of €1-€2 per person, per day is generally appropriate, with the amount adjusted accordingly for drivers who are with you for less than a full day. - Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline €4-€5, or the equivalent in any currency used on the trip, per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip isn't compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service. Please do not tip with coins, notes of and less than €1 or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult. CONTINGENCY FUNDS: We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved.

What to take

PACKING On this trip you must pack as lightly as possible because you will be expected to carry your own bag and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we strongly recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb. Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps to accommodate the cobbled streets, uneven surfaces, stairs and steps you are lightly to encounter while carrying your luggage. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips. You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.

A couple of rules

Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden. Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking, and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption. The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips. By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. Your group leader has the right to remove any member of the group for breaking any of these rules, with no right of refund. If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.

Feedback

After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/

Emergency contact

While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip. We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager. You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete. For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/ In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact our local office: Intrepid's Local Operator: +49 8677 9186 657 Local office: +7 918 615 1572

Responsible travel

We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller DRESS CODE In general, there are few dress restrictions in Europe. Note when visiting churches, monasteries or other religious sites modest dress is required - shorts or skimpy tops may not be permitted, for both men and women.

The Intrepid Foundation

Help us change thousands of lives by creating meaningful work and supporting skills training in communities around the world. The Intrepid Foundation is the not-for-profit for Intrepid Group. We work with local organisations around the world to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and communities through sustainable travel experiences. With our travellers’ help, we’ve contributed more than AU $6 million to over 100 community organisations since 2002. Did you know that tourism is one of the biggest contributors to the global economy, making up 1 out of every 10 jobs? That’s why we support local projects that create meaningful jobs and give people the skills they need to work in the destinations we take you to. And it’s why we exist – to make it easy for travellers to give back to the communities and places they’ve been in an effective and meaningful way. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation are matched by Intrepid Group dollar for dollar (up to AU$10,000 per donor and AU$500,000 in total each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And because Intrepid Group covers all administration costs, every cent goes directly to the projects. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information about the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or visit our website: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/ Organisations and projects currently supported by us in Russia include: * Nochlezhka provides food, shelter, social services and support to Russia’s most vulnerable and marginalised, their homeless. https://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/nochlezhka Please advise your leader if you have any unneeded clothing or toiletries you would like to donate, so that they can arrange for them to be passed on to Nochlezhka.

Accommodation notes

Accommodation on this trip is on a twin-share basis. The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in your selected accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances. Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for your arrival, especially if you're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible, which means you won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, you can store your luggage and explore the new destination. If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights. RUSSIA REGISTRATION: Please be aware that Russia requires all foreign nationals to register their passports upon arrival in each city. Since March 25th, 2011 the registration rules for foreigners have been relaxed in Russia. According to these rules, foreign citizens must register themselves within 7 business days of their arrival into Russia (instead of the 3 days required before). This means that if you are arriving in Russia before the trip start date or staying extra days after the trip has finished (less than 7 days), whether at our hotels or at accommodation of your choice, you don’t have to be registered and pay any registration fees. We will take responsibility for registration of passports at our first place of stay in Russia including any associated costs. If you are arriving more than 7 days prior to the start of the trip, or staying more than 7 days post-trip, you will need to be responsible for your own passport registration and any extra charges for this service. Failure to register could lead to problems at immigration when departing the country. HOT WATER: Please note that in many cities in Russia, including Moscow, hot water is turned off for up to one month during summer for routine maintenance. During this time only cold water may be available. HOMESTAYS and GUESTHOUSES: Please note that at our homestays and guesthouses you might be required to share a room with people of the opposite sex or with your leader. When we stay at people's homes, beds might be pull-out couches or mattresses on the floor. DOUBLE BEDS: Please note that rooms with double beds are not always available. Wherever possible we will put couples in rooms with double beds but there may be times when only twin share rooms are available. RUSSIA TRAINS: Overnight trains are simple but comfortable. There is a toilet/bathroom and compartments with bunks/berths. Please note that we travel 2nd class on all overnight trains (4 people per compartment). While we always try to have our groups staying together there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. If the group number does not divide into 4 then you can also expect that some group members will be sharing a compartment with other travellers including local people. There are generally no power points available in the compartments of the trains. The only power outlet occasionally available is one in the corridor for the whole carriage, and this is not guaranteed to have a steady flow of electricity or to be accessible from the compartment. Trains are generally heated but most do not offer air conditioning. The train can become very hot even in winter and the train attendants will not allow the windows to be opened, please pack clothing appropriate for the warmer conditions on these train journeys.

Transport notes

TRANSPORT IN EUROPE Half the fun of travel is the travelling itself, that's why we like to travel the local way – whether that means mingling with commuters on a train in Spain, cycling past a historic chateau in France, or encountering the world's most extravagant public transport system on the Moscow Metro. In Europe, you are guaranteed to travel by genuine local public transport wherever possible, which puts you right in the centre of the action.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader. If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/insurance.php

Your fellow travellers

As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. SINGLE TRAVELLERS: Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.

Itinerary disclaimer

ITINERARY CHANGES: Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Accommodation

Hotel (12 nights),Guesthouse (6 night),Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night),Homestay (2 nights)

Map

Itinerary

Day 1Moscow
Zdrastvutye! Welcome to Russia. The great city of Moscow has survived centuries of revolution and tumult, from the days of the tsars through the communist era to the growing pains of democracy. Beneath its modern veneer – a sign of Russia's recent embrace of capitalism – Moscow is a fascinating, historic city with a wealth of sights to see. There’s so much to see and do in Moscow that it’s worth arriving a few extra days before the start of the trip. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm at the hotel today, where your insurance and next of kin details will be collected. Please also have two copies of your passport, visa and migration cards ready. Your leader will collect one; the other is for you to keep on you at all times whilst on the trip. After the meeting, your leader will organise an optional meal so you can enjoy your first taste of delicious Russian cuisine with new friends.
Day 2Suzdal
Travel by private bus to Suzdal (approximately 4 hours). The town is a main stop on Russia’s legendary Golden Ring, the circle of ancient and former capitals that played an important part in the formation of the Russian Orthodox Church and that hold the memories of significant events in Russian history. The fairytale-feel historic small town of Suzdal is filled with contrasting examples of early Russian architecture, where onion-domed monasteries stand next to lovingly decorated wooden cottages. Here there are opportunities to drink mead by the riverside with a symphony of cathedral bells in the air, and peek inside the crumbling churches that line the narrow streets and alleys. You’ll stay in a guesthouse in one of Suzdal's quiet streets. Some rooms are twin share, while others are triple or quad share or interconnecting rooms. There’s a shared toilet and bathroom on each floor, and you have access to a spacious kitchen and group dining area. On occasion, the group may stay in different guesthouses that will be located nearby. Tonight you’ll have a chance to try heart home cooking at the home at one of our local friends.
Day 3Suzdal - Moscow
Get to know the Suzdal a little better today with a walking tour of this ‘open-air museum’. Take in the sights – the grandeur of the Kremlin, the carved stonework of the Cathedral of the Nativity, the trading square, market and monasteries (approximately 3 hours total). If there’s time, walk along the banks of the river, spanned by wooden footbridges and then pop in to a local cafe for tea, bliny (pancakes) with caviar or the Suzdal specialty of medovukha, a honey-based spiced mead. Transfer to Vladimir by private van (approximately 30 minutes) and then take the super modern high speed Sapsan train to Moscow (less than 2 hours). Return to the hotel by metro. Spend the evening back in Moscow – maybe wander around the famous Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral by night if you haven't already.
Day 4Moscow - Overnight Train
Visit the mausoleum of Russia’s most famous revolutionary – Lenin. He was the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution that ushered in the era of communism, and you will join the sometimes long queue lining up to visit his austere eternal resting place on Red Square. Then enter the Kremlin grounds with a local guide, home to the oldest and most important churches in the country, and where many Tsars and Tsarinas are laid to rest. Walk through the soaring towers and cathedrals of the political and spiritual heart of Russia before entering the Armoury Museum, home to an eye-bulging former royal collection of ambassadorial gifts, Faberge eggs, coronation robes and glittering jewels. This evening board an overnight train to Novgorod (approximately 8 hours) from Moscow's Leningradskiy railway station. Trains on this journey are simple but comfortable. You’ll travel 2nd class on this trip. There's a toilet/bathroom at the end of each carriage with a small sink and cold water. An attendant is assigned to every carriage to look after your comfort and safety (although service standards can vary greatly). Each compartment has four bunks with luggage storage space inside. Bedding is provided, although some travellers still prefer to bring their own sleeping sheet. There's hot water available for making drinks or instant meals, tea and coffee. Sometimes snacks and drinks are available for purchase on board and most trains also have a dining car, although with a limited menu. Please note that in many cases, due to high demand for tickets on this route, the group is not always together. It's likely that at least some members of the group will be sharing compartments with other travellers, either foreign or local, particularly if your group does not divide evenly into four. A brief word about drinking on the train: Social drinking is common on trains in Russia and can be an enjoyable way to meet local people as well as interact with your fellow Intrepid travellers (in moderation). While alcohol is often available for purchase on the train, spirits (including vodka) should only be consumed in the dining car. While we certainly want all our Intrepid travellers to have a great holiday it's important that you show due respect for your fellow group members, and keep in mind that many of your local companions use the train as a means of transport to get home or to work.
Day 5Novgorod
Arrive early in the morning in the oldest city in Russia, and see how well-preserved architectural treasures linger as echoes of medieval times and glories of the past. As the former capital of ancient Russia, Novgorod is often seen as the cradle of modern Russian civilisation. Explore the city's sights on foot with your local guide. The city's foremost attraction is the graceful Kremlin on the banks of the Volkhov River. Inside there are museums and the Cathedral of St Sophia, as well as the amazing Millennium Monument, which tells the story of 1,000 years of Russian history. On the opposite bank of the river are quiet shady streets, the graceful ruins of Yaroslav's Court, and other echoes times gone by. In your free time here you might like to check out the Yurev Monastery on the shores of Lake Ilmen, visit the Wooden Architecture Museum just outside of town, or catch a performance at the Philharmonic Hall. In the summer you can also relax on the little riverside beach, or take a boat trip on the Volkhov River for glimpses of the quiet countryside surrounding Novgorod. Tonight, maybe join your leader and plenty of friendly locals for a refreshing steam and wash at the public banya (bath house) – no trip to Russia would be complete without experiencing this custom.
Day 6St Petersburg
Travel by private bus from Novgorod to St Petersburg, one of Russia’s most celebrated cities (approximately 4 hours). Truly one of Europe's finest cities, the living museum of St Petersburg is a blend of baroque European architecture and Russian royal history, built by the Russian tsar Peter the Great, whose legacy can be felt in its enigmatic streets and showcase cathedrals and museums. After arriving and checking in, go out on a walking tour with your leader to learn about this great city. In the evening, visit the home of our local friends and have a tea party Russian-style. Not all family members speak English, but with your leader on hand to interpret and their warm hospitality, you'll be feeling like one of the family in no time. These families live in St Petersburg's communal apartments, which date from Soviet times. Such apartments and their way of living have ceased to exist in other Russian cities, but they are still common in St Petersburg. This is a truly unique local experience that you won't find anywhere else.
Day 7St Petersburg
Built on 42 islands, St Petersburg is also known as the ‘Venice of the North’. Spend the day exploring the city, crossing its many rivers and canals at your own pace. Perhaps enjoy incredible views across the city from the colonnade at St Isaac’s Cathedral, or walk along Nevsky Prospekt, St Petersburg’s main street. Maybe pop into one of the many bakeries or coffee shops along the way, or head down to Aleksandr Nevsky Lavra where Russia's great musicians and writers like Tchaikovsky and Dostoyevsky are laid to rest in the cemetery. The Hermitage Museum is one of the largest and oldest museums in the world, and houses one of the world's premier art collections. A whole day could easily be spent wandering its halls. Feeling artistic? Give life to a family of matryoshka dolls in a painting workshop. Whatever you choose, the city is easy to get around and your leader can also help you make the most of your free day. On your final evening, perhaps gather together your fellow travellers and seek out a cosy restaurant for a farewell meal.
Day 8Helsinki
Your Russian adventure will come to an end today after breakfast. You will be taken to the train station in St. Petersburg for your onward travel to Heksinki. Say goodbye to your Russian leader and hop on the train to Helsinki. Note: your travel from St Petersburg to Helsinki is unaccompanied. After arrival at train station in Helsinki, please make your own way to our hotel there. The hotel is very close to the train station with a 3 min walk. Your Russian leader will give you detailed instruction on how to find the hotel. There will be a group meeting held at 6pm, so you'll have some free time until then to meet your new group leader and fellow travellers.
Day 9Tallinn
Leave Helsinki after breakfast and catch a ferry across the Gulf of Finland to the Estonian capital of Tallinn (approximately 3 hours). Arrive mid-afternoon, check into your hotel and start your time here with a short orientation walk through the city. The rest of your day is then free to enjoy this exceptionally preserved medieval city and all it has to offer. Perhaps head out and enjoy some of the region's culinary specialties or stop for a drink and people watching on the main square. With its steep red roofs, spires, pastel-coloured buildings and new restaurants and bars, Estonia's capital is a real treat to explore. Seeing the vibrant streets of Tallinn now, it's difficult to fathom that Soviet occupation only ended in 1991.
Day 10Tallinn
Today is free to do as you wish, but an exploration of the Old Town is recommended. Located here is the last remaining gothic town hall in northern Europe, Old Thomas; the Raapteek, which has housed a pharmacy since the 15th century; and St Olaf Church, a major landmark of Tallinn. You can head towards Upper Tallinn, home to the noble families, to see amazing views of Lower Tallinn and the medieval spires of the town walls. The 13th-century Toompea Castle, where the Estonian Parliament sits, and the 19th-century orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral are some of the main attractions of Upper Tallinn. Alternatively, you could head to Pirita to chill out at Tallinn's most popular beach, or visit Kadriorg Palace, a palace built by czar Peter the Great for his second wife Catherine I. Make sure you spend some time in the beautiful gardens surrounding the palace. Or perhaps head to the Kalamaja district, with it's well-preserved streets lined with colourful wooden houses.
Day 11Tallinn / Riga
Spend the morning in Tallinn and visit any sites you missed yesterday. Depart by bus after lunch, crossing the border and arriving in the Latvian capital of Riga in the early evening. The 4-hour journey is a good chance to take a nap or relax with a podcast. Riga is renowned for its welcoming locals and a fascinating art nouveau heritage. Tonight, perhaps grab a drink at one of the many bars in the Old Town after you’ve settled into your lodgings.
Day 12Sigulda / Riga
Travel by public transport to Sigulda, a pretty town with medieval history that backs onto Gauja National Park. Take the cablecar across the river to Turaida Castle, which began construction in 1214 and is made from striking red bricks. Take a guided tour and then explore the castle grounds which feature sculptures set in evergreen woodland. Take a hike along the winding Gauja River with your leader, taking in the clear air and thick Latvian forest. Return to Riga in the afternoon and spend the rest of the day as you please.
Day 13Riga
Today you will finally get the chance to explore your base for the past two nights, beautiful Riga. Take an orientation tour and see the Doma Cathedral, St Peter's Basilica, House of Blackheads, the Swedish Gate, The Great Guild & Small Guild and the Cat House. There is nothing scheduled for the rest of the day, so you are free to explore at your own pace. Perhaps pay a visit to The Museum of Occupation of Latvia, which offers insight into the hardships suffered by Latvians during its occupation by, first, the Germans and, later, the Soviets. The Central Market Halls are a great place to haggle for supplies for a picnic lunch if it takes your fancy. Make sure you give the bitter but reputedly healthy Riga Black Balsam a try. The recipe is secret, but it contains rare ingredients such as Valerian, Wormwood, Black Pepper, Ginger, Gentian and Linden flower.
Day 14Siauliai / Klaipeda
Set off by private bus after breakfast and cross the border into Lithuania. After a stop at the famous Hill of Crosses at Siauliai, continue onto the former Prussian city of Klaipeda (approximately 6 hours in total), the city of sculptures and jazz. Klaipeda used to be a member of the Hanseatic League and is the gateway to the Curonian Spit – a long and narrow sand dune peninsula separating the Curonian lagoon from the Baltic Sea. Upon arrival check into our local family-owned guesthouse, then head out to the waterfront and explore the Old Town centre, which features 18th-century wooden buildings and other historic monuments.
Day 15Curonian Spit National Park / Klaipeda
Today, take a day trip to explore the unique World Heritage-listed Curonian Spit National Park – the second-oldest national park in the former Soviet Union. This is a spectacular landscape full of beaches, sand dunes and forested areas. The peninsula is only 400 metres wide in parts but 98 kilometres long. It formed only 5000 years ago by strong winds and currents which constantly change the shape of the landscape to this day. Only recently a whole village was swallowed by the inexorable sand. According to legend, the spit was formed by the girl giant Neringa, who poured sand into the Baltic Sea to protect the bay from storms and create an embankment for fishermen to live. On our day trip you will explore the tiny village of Nida and the surrounding beaches by bike. Look in the distance to see the Russian border, and learn about amber, which has been mined here since the 19th century. Spot the rather unique attribute of the area, the weather vanes. Each village has its own unique design. For lunch, perhaps try the smoked pike for which the spit is famous.
Day 16Aukstaitija National Park
After breakfast, travel by a mix of private transport and local trains to the town of Ignalina (approximately 6 hours) and then on to Aukstaitija (pronounced owk-sty-chee-ah) National Park and the charming village of Ginuciai where our home stay is located. As one of the most delightful national parks in the Baltic states, Aukstaitija has 126 lakes, an abundance of waterways, hills and woods. Enjoy the hospitality and home-cooking of our host family for the next two days.
Day 17Aukstaitija National Park
This morning you will take a guided kayak ride through the lakes and rivers, past villages and through forests, to an ancient pagan site on top of a hill with a wishing tree. The top affords great views across the surrounding forests and lakes. The rest of the day is free to visit some of the local attractions, such as the nearby villages that date from the 14th century and consist of traditional wooden houses and farmsteads. The 19th-century Ginuciai Watermill is another point of interest. You can hike to some glorious lookouts, do some fishing, take a swim in the lake or river rapids, or just relax. Perhaps ask our host family to fire up the sauna for the ultimate relaxation and cleansing experience.
Day 18Vilnius
Continue your journey today by local train to the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius (approximately 4 hours). Having once been occupied by Sweden, Poland, France and Russia, each occupier has left its mark in some way on this picturesque city. Vilnius offers a different picture of the Baltics than Riga and Tallinn, but it’s every bit as interesting. On arrival, take an orientation walk with your leader that covers Cathedral Square and its free-standing belfry an the length of pedestrianised Pilies Gatve, lined by baroque churches. The rest of the day is free. A definite must is a visit to the Museum of Occupations and Freedom Fights, previously called the Museum of Genocide Victims and better known under the name KGB Museum, as it is located in the former KGB headquarters of Vilnius. If you’d like a break from Vilnius’ historic monuments, maybe take a walk through some of the charming gardens around the city. Perhaps visit the ‘republic’ of Uzupis. This inner-city quarter declared independence from Lithuania in 1997 and has statue of Frank Zappa.
Day 19Vilnius
Your Baltic Experience comes to an end today. Have the time to stay on and dive deeper in Vilnius? An Urban Adventure is the perfect way to see the city through local eyes. Check out urbanadventures.com/destination/Vilnius-tours for information.

Trip title

Highlights of Russia & the Baltics

Trip code

WBSRC

Validity

Validity: 01 Jan 2019 to 31 Dec 2019

Introduction

Taste mystery and intrigue on a revealing tour of Russia - a land that lay hidden behind the Iron Curtain for decades. Experience the grandeur of Moscow, the beauty of Russia's ancient capitals Suzdal and Novgorod, and the grace of St Petersburg. Visit the intricately detailed cathedrals, historic monuments, age-old treasures and romantic landscapes of this great nation, and find the heart of enigmatic Russia. Experience the diverse delights of the Baltic states on this adventurous journey through Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany. From the medieval spires of Tallinn and the funky bars of Riga to the Baroque-styled quirks of Vilnius, hidden delights await. Visit colourful markets, be immersed in art and architecture and trek past Lithuanian lakes.

Style

Original

Themes

Explorer

Transport

Overnight Sleeper Train,Private Vehicle,Public Bus,High Speed Train,Taxi,Metro,Ferry,Canoe,Tram

Physical Rating

2

Physical preparation

A good level of fitness will be expected and will certainly help increase the enjoyment of the trip. You will be required to carry your own bags through busy train and metro stations (including up and down stairs or escalators) and some accommodation may not have lifts.

Joining point

Arbat-House Hotel Отель Арбат Хаус

Joining point description

Arbat House Hotel is located in Moscow’s centre, 3 minutes walk from New Arbat avenue and only a short distance to Arbatskaya metro station. From here you can easily walk to Red Square and the Kremlin through Moscow's historical and cultural centre. The nearest airport is 30km away. Rooms are equipped with TV, telephone, air-conditioning, hairdryer, Wi-Fi, and some rooms will have a small fridge. Reception staff speak English. Visit the hotel's website here: www.arbat-house.com

Joining point instructions

Moscow has 3 international airports (Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo). Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo are the most commonly used by foreign travellers. BY PUBLIC TRANSPORT: All airports have public transport links that allow you to get to our starting point hotel cheaply and quickly. From Sheremetyevo you can take the airport express train (RUB470, 30-40 minutes) to metro station Belorusskaya (Белорусская) on the dark green & brown (circle) lines. The train runs every hour from 6am to midnight. You can find timetables and buy aeroexpress ticketы on-line at www.aeroexpress.ru. From Domodedovo, the airport express train runs every hour to metro station Paveletskaya (Павелецкая, RUB 470, 40 to 50 minutes) on the brown (circle) & dark green lines. From Vnukovo airport, the airport express train goes to Kievskaya (Киевская) metro station on the dark blue & brown (circle) line and takes approx. 35 minutes (RUB 470). From these stations, take the metro (RUB50) to the blue or dark blue line. Our starting point hotel is located 7 minutes walk from metro station Arbatskaya (Арбатская). There are two 'Arbatskaya' metro stations - one is located on the blue line, the other on dark blue. Both are linked. Exit the metro, cross by the underground walkway to the north side of Novy Arbat Avenue. Head west along Novy Arbat (Новый Арбат), pass the MTS Bank and turn right into Merzlyakovskiy pereulok (Мерзляковский переулок). Go straight. The second street on your left is Skatertny pereulok (Скатертный переулок). A bit further up this street on the left side you'll find the Arbat House Hotel. BY TAXI: The taxi ride from the airport to our starting point hotel takes at least one hour depending on traffic and should cost around 4000RUB (approx. US$65, to be paid in local currency). Avoid taxi touts. From all airports we recommend you use the services of one of the official taxi desks (such as MosCab) located on the ground floor inside the arrival terminal. ARRIVAL TRANSFERS: Arrival transfers are available - if you have pre-booked a transfer with us your driver will be waiting for you in the arrivals section near where you clear customs. The driver will wait for an hour after your scheduled arrival time. If you are delayed beyond one hour after your scheduled arrival time, please make your own way to the hotel. In the unlikely event that your transfer is not waiting for you, please call Sveta on +7 916 542 18 58. Your leader will put a welcome note on the reception. Please look for it as it contains important information. Luggage storage is available free of charge. Please note the address for Arbat House Hotel below in Russian which may be useful to show to a taxi driver or to ask for directions: Отель Арбат Хаус Скатертный переулок, дом 13 121069, Москва м. Арбатская

Finish point

Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof

Finish point description

Moxy Berlin Ostbahnhof in the popular district of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg is a comfortable hotel with free use of Wi-Fi all throughout the hotel. The 210 guestrooms feature ensuite bathroom facilities, LCD TV and air-conditioning.

Finish point instructions

If you are making your own way to the airport the hotel will be able to help book you an airport shuttle or taxi. Please ask at reception. Alternatively it is easy to travel to both Berlin Airports and the main train station (Hauptbahnhof) by public transport. To Tegel Airport (airport code TXL) take the TXL express bus from Alexanderplatz. To Schoenefeld Airport (airport codes SXF/BER) take the S9 S-Bahn from Ostkreuz station. Pre booked departure transfer to Tegel and Schoenefeld airports: You will be collected at the hotel reception 3 hours before your flight departure time. In case of flight cancellations, changes or if you are not able to find the driver, please contact the transfer operator directly: +49 30 2016 3040.

Important information

1. A Single Supplement is bookable on this trip, with the exception of Day 2 and Day 4, subject to availability. 2. In order for our local operator to book train tickets we require the following information at time of booking or no later than 31 days prior to departure. • Passengers full name • Full Passport Details (number, expiry, issued) • DOB • City of Birth Please note that the above information needs to be the same as your travelling passport, any wrong information provided may result in extra personal expense to reissue train tickets. 3. To avoid disappointment we recommend that you book any theatre performances that you wish to attend in Moscow or St Petersburg in advance. If you wish to book the theatre performances in Moscow, please book for Day 1 of the trip. There's no time in the evening on Day 3 to see the performances because we return to the city in the evening. And there's no time to see performance in St. Petersburg on Day 6 in the evening as we are visiting the local communal apartment. 4. Please note that this is a combination trip which saves you from the hassle of making multiple bookings. But your tour leader and group composition will change on Day 8 and you will be unaccompanied on the train from St. Petersburg to Helsinki.

Group leader

All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders. Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.

Safety

Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your Leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns. For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:

Visas

Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time. RUSSIAN VISAS Most nationalities require a visa for Russia. RUSSIA - LETTER OF INVITATION (LOI) You will need a Letter of Invitation (LOI), sometimes called a Voucher or Visa Support Letter in order to apply for your visa. You can obtain your LOI online through our local partners in Russia. Instructions and a link to the website will be sent to you at the time of booking. Read the instructions carefully and fill in the online application form. You will then be able to download your LOI instantly. Please note that we will add 3 days to the LOI duration before and after your trip dates for your convenience. If you are planning to stay longer than these dates please let us know as we will need to manually request a LOI to fit your specific travel plans. The LOI included in the cost of your tour is for a Single Entry Tourist Visa. LOIs for other types of visas must be organised directly with our local partners Parallel 60 (www.visain.ru). INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR RUSSIAN VISA APPLICATION: Once you have obtained your LOI you can apply for your visa. You must apply for your Russian visa in advance. Visas are not available on arrival or en-route. It is your responsibility to apply for your own visa either directly through a consulate or by using a visa agent. We do not recommend trying to obtain your Russian visa outside of your home country or place of residence as your application may be refused. Use ONLY the information and dates on your LOI when filling in your visa application. There is no need to reference us or include a copy of your itinerary as Parallel 60, our Russian partners, is the official inviting organisation. Do not be concerned if the destinations and accommodation listed do not match your trip exactly. This information is for the purposes of obtaining the visa only, not an indication of where you must travel and stay once in Russia. DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR RUSSIAN VISA APPLICATION: * Letter of Invitation (LOI) * Photocopy of your passport * Passport size photos (up to 4) * Flight or other transport details (if requested) * Please check with the consulate for any other specific requirements VISA EXTENSIONS IN RUSSIA Please be aware that visa extensions are NOT possible in Russia. INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR RUSSIAN TRAIN TICKET BOOKINGS Train tickets in Russia are booked with passport numbers. Please make sure you provide us with your correct passport number. If you have to renew your passport after booking please notify us as soon as you have a new passport number and bring your old passport with you on your trip. If we receive changes to passport numbers less than 30 days prior to departure we cannot guarantee purchase of train tickets. We do NOT recommend travelling on multiple passports for trips that involve border crossings by train. This can cause difficulties with train ticket bookings and cause significant issues delays at immigration. RUSSIAN MIGRATION CARDS All foreign citizens entering Russia are required to fill in a migration card on arrival. The entry portion of the card will be retained by immigration upon arrival. The stamped exit portion of the card must be kept with your passport during your stay in Russia and submitted to immigration upon departure. If you are not given a migration card at immigration on arrival you must request one, even if the immigration official says that you do not need one. Loss or failure to receive the exit portion of the card will result in you not being able to travel on our trip as all hotels require this card for registration and may result in significant delays or fines upon departure. Visas for Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany are not required for passport holders of the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada. All other nationalities should check with the relevant authorities. CROSSING BORDERS With the so called "Schengen Agreement" border controls between many European countries have been abolished. However in special situations passports may still be checked. Passport stamps are no longer issued.

Why we love it

Red Square has long been at the heart of Russian history – visit the austere mausoleum of Lenin, the initiator of the 1917 Russian revolution, contrasting with the eye-bulging treasure collection in the Kremlin and Armoury Museum

Is this trip right for you

This trip includes an overnight train journey. Conditions are simple but comfortable – a truly Intrepid experience and a great way to meet, and travel like, the locals. There is a toilet/bathroom and compartments with bunks/berths. Please note that we travel 2nd class on all overnight trains (4 people per compartment). While we always try to have our groups staying together, there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. As well as overnight train travel, we experience a variety of different transport types on this journey high-speed train, public & private bus, metro and of course plenty of exploring on foot. Some of the accommodation along the way is basic, staying a guesthouses with shared rooms and bathroom facilities. Please note that on occasion Lenin's Mausoleum and Red Square may be closed to the public during regular opening hours without prior warning.

Health

All travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid Travel reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund. You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared. GIARDIA Giardia intestinalis, a parasite that causes severe diarrhoea has been reported from time to time in the water supply in Russia. For this reason, we recommend against drinking unboiled tap water in all Russian cites. MEDICATION From June 2016 legislation was introduced requiring travellers bringing prescribed medicines into Russia to carry a prescription in the traveller’s name, plus the name of the drug and prescribed quantity. According to official channels if your medication contains "narcotic or psychoactive substances", a notarised translation is also required. In practice we are yet to hear of a traveller encountering an issue with bringing medicines into the country, provided they are able to show that they are prescribed to them however you need to be aware that doing so is at your own risk. Some medicines which you can buy over the counter in your home country may require a prescription in Russia. If you’re unsure whether you need to provide a prescription and notarised translation to bring your medicines into Russia, check with the Russian Embassy before you travel. TICKS In spring and early summer in rural areas of Russia and Mongolia ticks are prevalent. Please take precautions when walking in these areas by wearing long trousers and covered shoes, and check your clothes and body thoroughly. DIET/HYGIENE The diet and hygiene standards on this trip may be very different from what you are used to so please take care with washing hands before meals etc. and bring some medication/rehydration salts etc if you commonly experience stomach problems with a change in diet.

Food and dietary requirements

Vegetarians might find the menu selection less varied than they would see at home. Vegetarianism is not as common in this region and generally the choices are basic, involving vegetables, soups, salads, bread, cheese, fruit, yoghurt, eggs etc. Vegans and those on gluten-free diets may find this region very challenging and may need to supplement meals with their own supplies from supermarkets and markets. Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for any included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may need to provide their own. There are some basic breakfasts included on this trip which may simply include bread/toast or pastries, butter, jam, coffee/tea/juice (or similar). FOOD IN RUSSIA: What is food in Russia really like? See our blog here for some must try foods: https://www.intrepidtravel.com/adventures/5-foods-really-need-try-russia/ VEGETARIANS & VEGANS: Vegetarians in Russia certainly won't go hungry as there are usually plenty of meat-free options on menus including salads, certain soups, and cooked dishes such as mushrooms, potatoes, cabbage, buckwheat, dumplings with vegetable fillings, savoury pancakes etc. Vegans will need to look for options without mayonnaise, sour cream and cheese which are common in Russian dishes. Moscow, St Petersburg and increasingly other towns have an ever growing number of excellent vegetarian and vegan eateries. DIETARY NEEDS: Wherever possible we will cater for dietary needs for included meals, but there may be times when those with special requirements may wish to supplement inclusions with their own supplies from markets or supermarkets.

Money matters

SPENDING MONEY: When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document). The local currency in Russia is Rubble (RUB). The local currency in Poland is the Zloty (PLN), however, the rest countries visited on this trip have now adopted the common currency of the European Union, the Euro (EUR). The most convenient and cheapest way to acquire money in Europe is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Bancomat as they are often referred to. Check with your bank in advance concerning the suitability of your account / card overseas and any international fees that will be applied. You can withdraw local currencies easily at airports, major train stations and most city centres, but be sure to bring some extra emergency cash in a major currency that can be exchanged if the ATMs are not functioning. When leaving home don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it is stolen. Keep this in a safe place. Credit cards are not always accepted in stores and restaurants. We recommend you carry some cash to pay for restaurant bills and other services. TIPPING IN RUSSIA and Europe If you are happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader. The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers: - Restaurants/cafes with table service: We suggest 5% to 10% of your bill, however check if a service charge has already been added. - Local guides: Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest €2-€3 per person per activity day for local guides with the amount adjusted accordingly for guides who are with you for a for a full day. - Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey, while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however a base of €1-€2 per person, per day is generally appropriate, with the amount adjusted accordingly for drivers who are with you for less than a full day. - Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline €4-€5, or the equivalent in any currency used on the trip, per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip isn't compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service. Please do not tip with coins, notes of and less than €1 or dirty and ripped notes. This is regarded culturally as an insult. CONTINGENCY FUNDS: We try to plan for every eventuality, but there are still some things beyond our control. Please make sure you have access to an extra US$500 for emergencies (e.g. severe weather, natural disasters, civil unrest) or other events that result in unavoidable changes to the itinerary (e.g. transport strikes or cancellations, airport closures). Sometimes these things necessitate last minute changes to enable our trips to continue to run, and as a result there may be some extra costs involved.

What to take

PACKING On this trip you must pack as lightly as possible because you will be expected to carry your own bag and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we strongly recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb. Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps to accommodate the cobbled streets, uneven surfaces, stairs and steps you are lightly to encounter while carrying your luggage. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips. You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.

A couple of rules

Everyone has the right to feel safe when they travel. We don’t tolerate any form of violence (verbal or physical) or sexual harassment, either between customers or involving our leaders, partners or local people. Sexual relationships between a tour leader and a customer are strictly forbidden. Use or possession of illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. If you choose to consume alcohol while travelling, we encourage responsible drinking, and expect that you’ll abide by the local laws regarding alcohol consumption. The sex tourism industry is known to exploit vulnerable people and have negative consequences on communities, including undermining the development of sustainable tourism. For this reason, patronising sex workers will not be tolerated on our trips. By travelling with us you are agreeing to adhere to these rules. Your group leader has the right to remove any member of the group for breaking any of these rules, with no right of refund. If you feel that someone is behaving inappropriately while travelling with us, please inform your tour leader or local guide immediately. Alternatively, contact us on the emergency contact number detailed in the Problems and Emergency Contact section of this Essential Trip Information.

Feedback

After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/feedback/

Emergency contact

While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip. We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager. You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete. For general contact details please use the following page: http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/contact/ In the case of a genuine crisis or emergency, please contact our local office: Intrepid's Local Operator: +49 8677 9186 657 Local office: +7 918 615 1572

Responsible travel

We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ourtrips/rt/responsibletraveller DRESS CODE In general, there are few dress restrictions in Europe. Note when visiting churches, monasteries or other religious sites modest dress is required - shorts or skimpy tops may not be permitted, for both men and women.

The Intrepid Foundation

Help us change thousands of lives by creating meaningful work and supporting skills training in communities around the world. The Intrepid Foundation is the not-for-profit for Intrepid Group. We work with local organisations around the world to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable individuals and communities through sustainable travel experiences. With our travellers’ help, we’ve contributed more than AU $6 million to over 100 community organisations since 2002. Did you know that tourism is one of the biggest contributors to the global economy, making up 1 out of every 10 jobs? That’s why we support local projects that create meaningful jobs and give people the skills they need to work in the destinations we take you to. And it’s why we exist – to make it easy for travellers to give back to the communities and places they’ve been in an effective and meaningful way. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation are matched by Intrepid Group dollar for dollar (up to AU$10,000 per donor and AU$500,000 in total each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And because Intrepid Group covers all administration costs, every cent goes directly to the projects. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information about the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or visit our website: http://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/ Organisations and projects currently supported by us in Russia include: * Nochlezhka provides food, shelter, social services and support to Russia’s most vulnerable and marginalised, their homeless. https://www.theintrepidfoundation.org/nochlezhka Please advise your leader if you have any unneeded clothing or toiletries you would like to donate, so that they can arrange for them to be passed on to Nochlezhka.

Accommodation notes

Accommodation on this trip is on a twin-share basis. The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in your selected accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances. Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for your arrival, especially if you're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible, which means you won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, you can store your luggage and explore the new destination. If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights. RUSSIA REGISTRATION: Please be aware that Russia requires all foreign nationals to register their passports upon arrival in each city. Since March 25th, 2011 the registration rules for foreigners have been relaxed in Russia. According to these rules, foreign citizens must register themselves within 7 business days of their arrival into Russia (instead of the 3 days required before). This means that if you are arriving in Russia before the trip start date or staying extra days after the trip has finished (less than 7 days), whether at our hotels or at accommodation of your choice, you don’t have to be registered and pay any registration fees. We will take responsibility for registration of passports at our first place of stay in Russia including any associated costs. If you are arriving more than 7 days prior to the start of the trip, or staying more than 7 days post-trip, you will need to be responsible for your own passport registration and any extra charges for this service. Failure to register could lead to problems at immigration when departing the country. HOT WATER: Please note that in many cities in Russia, including Moscow, hot water is turned off for up to one month during summer for routine maintenance. During this time only cold water may be available. HOMESTAYS and GUESTHOUSES: Please note that at our homestays and guesthouses you might be required to share a room with people of the opposite sex or with your leader. When we stay at people's homes, beds might be pull-out couches or mattresses on the floor. DOUBLE BEDS: Please note that rooms with double beds are not always available. Wherever possible we will put couples in rooms with double beds but there may be times when only twin share rooms are available. RUSSIA TRAINS: Overnight trains are simple but comfortable. There is a toilet/bathroom and compartments with bunks/berths. Please note that we travel 2nd class on all overnight trains (4 people per compartment). While we always try to have our groups staying together there may be times where due to ticket availability the group will be staying in different compartments and carriages. If the group number does not divide into 4 then you can also expect that some group members will be sharing a compartment with other travellers including local people. There are generally no power points available in the compartments of the trains. The only power outlet occasionally available is one in the corridor for the whole carriage, and this is not guaranteed to have a steady flow of electricity or to be accessible from the compartment. Trains are generally heated but most do not offer air conditioning. The train can become very hot even in winter and the train attendants will not allow the windows to be opened, please pack clothing appropriate for the warmer conditions on these train journeys.

Transport notes

TRANSPORT IN EUROPE Half the fun of travel is the travelling itself, that's why we like to travel the local way – whether that means mingling with commuters on a train in Spain, cycling past a historic chateau in France, or encountering the world's most extravagant public transport system on the Moscow Metro. In Europe, you are guaranteed to travel by genuine local public transport wherever possible, which puts you right in the centre of the action.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects. When travelling on a trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader. If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country. http://www.intrepidtravel.com/insurance.php

Your fellow travellers

As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part. Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. SINGLE TRAVELLERS: Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.

Itinerary disclaimer

ITINERARY CHANGES: Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It is important that you print and review a final copy prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in country. The order and timing of included activities in each location may also vary seasonally to ensure our travellers have the best experience. Your tour leader will keep you up to date with any changes once on tour. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES: A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your leader know you are interested and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Accommodation

Hotel (12 nights),Guesthouse (6 night),Overnight Sleeper Train (1 night),Homestay (2 nights)
Time until next start
258
days
18
hours
:
19
min
:
22
sec

Prices from

€3,220

Duration

19 days
2020

Wed, Jun 03

Sun, Jun 21

€3,350

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Overview
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