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OGA Russia/Mongolia/China

Any interest in 5000 miles of adventure? From the cathedrals of Russia to the imperial palaces of Beijing, you'll encounter the best of St Petersburg and Moscow before boarding the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway en route to Lake Baikal. Experience secluded Mongolia's colorful culture and spend a night in a ger before continuing on to the palaces of Beijing. An experienced tour leader will lead the way and take care of the details so you’re free to enjoy one of the world's greatest train rides. Offering a balance of guided excursions and free time, this adventure is proof that getting there is half the fun.

GEEO and the Oregon Geographic Alliance (OGA) are collaborating on this program in the summer of 2013 to Russia, Mongolia and China. The OGA wanted to offer a program where their members could travel together at discounted prices.

This program is limited to OGA members and their guests.


Itinerary

July 10 : Depart USA

Depart USA

July 11 : St. Petersburg

Arrive in St. Petersburg.

July 12 : St Petersburg

Various activities in St. Petersburg

July 13 : St Petersburg (B)

Overnight train to Moscow. Optional visit to The Hermitage, St Isaak's Cathedral, canals boat trip.

July 14 to July 15: Moscow

Explore Moscow with optional visits to numerous museums and galleries, Kremlin and Lenin's Mausoleum.

July 16 to July 18: Trans-Siberian Railway

Riding one of the world's most famous rail routes, journey 72 hours across the Ural Mountains and through the wilds of the Siberian taiga.

July 19 : Listvyanka–Lake Baikal (D)

Homestay in Listvyanka village on the shore of Lake Baikal offers options of banya (Russian sauna), boat trip on Lake Baikal and trekking.

July 20 to July 21: Trans-Mongolian Railway (B)

Guided tour of Irkutsk before two nights spent on the train to Ulaan Baatar. Crossing border to Mongolia.

July 22 to July 24: Ulaan Baatar and Traditional Ger Camp (2B,L,D)

Explore Ulaan Baatar and stay overnight in the traditional ger camp.

July 25 : Trans Mongolian Railway (B)

36-hour journey through Inner Mongolia to Beijing with border crossing to China.

July 26 to July 27: Beijing

Buzzing capital of China with optional visits to the Great Wall, Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square.

July 28 : Depart Beijing

Depart Beijing at any time.

Detailed Itinerary

July 10 : Depart USA

Depart USA

July 11 : St. Petersburg

Arrive in the St. Petersburg. Though there are no arranged activities on Day 1 please arrive by 6pm as we have a group meeting. Please check hotel's noticeboard for details. You will be met by your tour leader, who will run through the trip itinerary and answer your questions. After the meeting you can join your tour leader for group dinner.

July 12 : St Petersburg

St Petersburg is a beautiful city, rightly known as the Venice of North Europe. One of the most delightful of Russian cities, St Petersburg is built of baroque European architecture, combined with the opulent palaces of Russian royalty. Its tree-lined streets and cosmopolitan atmosphere make it a favorite for many travelers.

Various activities in St. Petersburg

July 13 : St Petersburg (B)

Explore the immense treasures of the luxuriant Hermitage museum - Winter Palace.

On Day 4 in the evening we board the overnight train for the ride to Moscow (approximately 7 hours). Our first ride in what will be an epic journey.

July 14 to July 15: Moscow

We arrive to the Russian capital in the early morning on day 5.

The great red city of Moscow has seen Russia through some of its most turbulent years, surviving the trauma and tribulations of revolution, from the days of the tsars through the communist era to the growing pains of democracy. Despite the glamour and show of modern capitalism, exploring Moscow is like taking a step back in time and being lost in history.

Names of places such as the 'Kremlin' and the infamous 'Red Square', bring forth unforgettable images of espionage, secrecy and the Cold War era. Explore the streets of this evocative city to truly gain a sense of Muscovite life. We also recommend visiting the fantastic Kremlin with its Armoury, Red Square and Ivan the Terrible's extraordinary St Basil's Cathedral, absolutely not to be missed.

In the afternoon or evening of Day 6 (train departure time depends on the train schedule) we board the train for 3 days and 4 nights long trip to Irkutsk.

July 16 to July 18: Trans-Siberian Railway

The Trans-Siberian Railway is the world's most famous train line. Extending from Moscow across Siberia to the far flung town of Vladivostok, it is also the longest. We experience part of this celebrated train odyssey, boarding in the bustling hub of Moscow for the long journey to Irkutsk (approx. 78 hours).

Traveling through time zones in style, we pass mountain ranges and wind our way through taiga, big Russian cities and small Siberian villages. The train is a simple affair, but with enough modern luxuries to make it a comfortable journey. The carriage bathrooms are well equipped and have hot water, though if you wish to have a shower you will need to bring your own shower attachments. An attendant is assigned to every carriage to look after your needs and each compartment has four convertible beds, with luggage storage space provided.

Restaurant car tends to have a jovial atmosphere and can offer an interesting insight into local cuisine- it's also a great place to make friends on this long journey!

Trains run on Moscow time even though there may be several hours time difference, making for interesting meal times. Station platforms nearly always have an array of food for sale at stalls run by the Babushkas.There are lists of stations that the train will stop at and the time they stay there, ranging from two to twenty minutes. Always double check with the carriage attendant - it's a long wait for the next train to come through if you make a mistake!

July 19 : Listvyanka–Lake Baikal (D)

The long journey brings us to the charming Siberian city of Irkutsk where we transfer to a bus for the short trip to Listvyanka (approx. 2 hours), a small and picturesque village on the shores of Lake Baikal. We spend the rest of the day exploring the area and an invigorating swim in this Siberian lake is highly recommended.

July 20 to July 21: Trans-Mongolian Railway (B)

After a free day in Listvyanka we re-board the train for a two-night journey that crosses the Russia/Mongolia border and takes us into the Mongolian capital of Ulaan Baatar. This train is the most local of all the trains we take on this journey and, as such, the amenities are limited. A restaurant car is normally not provided so we take time to stock up in one of Irkutsk's markets.

July 22 to July 24: Ulaan Baatar and Traditional Ger Camp (2B,L,D)

There is plenty of time to explore all the fantastic museums and temples the Mongolian capital has to offer. The sleepy capital is an evolving city, showing many signs of its Soviet past contrasted with an increasing Chinese influence and a re-emergence of traditional Mongolia.

We also spend overnight (day 14) in the Ger camp - enjoying nomadic life in traditional Mongolian "house" - ger.

July 25 : Trans Mongolian Railway (B)

We board our last train on the morning of Day 16 from Ulaan Baatar which brings us into the capital of China in the afternoon the next day, traversing dramatic desert-scapes that give way to the rugged mountainous terrain that is home to China's ancient defense system, The Great Wall- keep an eye out for glimpses of it as we get closer to the journey's end.

July 26 to July 27: Beijing

Beijing, China's capital city, is one of the world's largest and most fascinating cities.

There is enough time to explore the most famous attractions - legendary Tiananmen Square and enigmatic Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace and the Lama Temple Monastery or get lost in Beijing's hutongs - traditional alleys hiding a labyrinth of courtyard dwellings.

July 28 : Depart Beijing

Our epic journey concludes in Beijing and you may depart at any time on day 19 (Unless you have arranged for additional days). Check-out time is 12:00 pm. The hotel has luggage storage facilities, and taxis to the airport can be arranged.

Stuff You Need to Know

Terms and Conditions

It is very important for you to visit our Terms and Conditions page before signing up for this program. Please note OGA will be responsible for the payment portion of the Terms and Conditions.

Trip Notes

We have designed this as a basic trip. That means that there are not many inclusions in the price of the trip. Entrance fees to very important places like the Hermitage and Kremlin are not included in the price of the trip and you must pay for them at those locations.

We have found paying locally for activities allows our participants to save money. If our partner G Adventures includes an activity in the price of the trip they sometimes have to charge you more than you would pay locally so they can cover any increase in the price that occurs in the months between when we set our trip price and when your guide would pay for the activity during the trip itself. Also, not every activity is appealing to everyone and we don't want you to pay for services you might not use. Perhaps you feel sick one day and would prefer to rest. This allows you to decide on the spot what you want to do each day with your free time and at the same time control your budget. We have a list of all of the optionals and their costs on our website so you can budget for such activities in advance. If you have a chance, please take a look at our optionals section on the Russia/Mongolia/China page.

A letter of invitation for Russia is needed in order to get your Russian visa. Please complete the visa information form which will be emailed at time of booking.

On arrival in Russia you will receive a double immigration card, you must fill out both parts and one is taken away upon entry, the other must remain with your passport at all times and you must have it when you are leaving Russia to hand to the relevant authorities.

Service Level

Basic:

Our Basic service level is for trips that are slightly more rustic than the normal service level. Our basic, accommodation is clean and well kept. For some of our our basic trips camping is involved. Others might have have the occasional multi-share accommodation. When it comes to getting around, public transport is often the best and most colourful way to go. Alternatively, travel is by private van or coach. Ideal for travellers looking to combine the convenience of small group travel at a competitive price.

Physical Grading

2:

2: Light walking and hiking that is suitable for most fitness levels.

Minimum/Maximum Group Size

This program is guaranteed to run and will have a maximum of 15 participants.

Group Leader Description

All GEEO/G Adventures group trips are accompanied by one of G Adventure's group leaders, which they refer to as Chief Experience Officers (CEO). The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. They 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. Our itineraries often have plenty of free time to explore on your own.

While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the countries visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. We also use local guides where we think more specific knowledge will add to the enjoyment of the places we are visiting- we think it’s the best of both worlds.

It is important to note that in Europe, all guiding is based around local guides all of whom are licensed to work only in a particular city. As such, our leaders are able to provide orientation walks which will show you the layout of each town and city as well as the location of local services such as post offices and laundromats, but are unable to legally share historical facts and figures in public places. Your tour leader will be able to help you find a local guided tour in each location if you would like one.

Packing List

You will be on the move a good deal, so pack as lightly as possible (try to stay under 10kg / 22lb). It is in your own interest as you are expected to carry your own luggage.

If you pack too much stuff you will have trouble fitting your luggage in the storage spaces on the train. Large rolling suitcases will not fit in the storage spaces. It is highly recommend to use a hiking backpack, NOT rolling luggage. Those with rolling luggage will have trouble trying to roll their luggage from place to place, especially going up some steep staircases at the train stations.

Please, note that we use public transport on this trip - the walking distance is never too far, but having a backpack makes travelling easier. We don't recommend bringing suitcases.
It is important that your bag can be locked. You will also need an overnight pack for the Terelj ger stay (Ger camp in Mongolia). This should be big enough to carry a spare set of clothes and basic necessities (approx. 30 litre/8 gallons capacity).

Suggested Checklist

Travel documents and their copies: passport, visa, travel insurance, air tickets, voucher.
Money: cash/credit card
Money pouch
First aid kit
Day pack to carry your personal needs during the day
Alarm clock
Torch or flashlight
Lightweight travel towel
Mosquito repellent
Refillable water bottle
Cutlery and plastic mug for the train journeys
Ear plugs and eye mask can be useful if you are a light sleeper
Tampons can be difficult to buy in Mongolia and China,
Phrase books
Guide books. The Trans-Siberian Handbook by Bryn Thomas is a good book to have on this journey
Inner sheet/sleeping sheet for train journeys - bed linen is provided on all trains but some people like to travel with their own
Comfortable clothes for the train - tracksuits and open toe shower shoes are the best combination
Raincoat or umbrella
Comfortable walking shoes
Lock for your bag
Sunscreen and sunglasses - Spring and Summer
Some warmer clothes if the air conditioning on the train is turned up high
Lightweight clothes for all seasons

Laundry

Laundry facilities are offered by some of our hotels for a charge. Last year's group reported good laundry services in Lake Baikal, UB, and Beijing. There will be times when you may want to or have to do your own laundry so we suggest you bring non-polluting/biodegradable soap.

Single Travellers

We believe single travelers should not have to pay more to travel so our trips are designed for shared accommodation. Single travelers joining group trips are paired in twin or multi-share accommodation with someone of the same sex for the duration of the trip.

Money

Spending Money

Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travelers may drink more than others while other travelers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.

Money Exchange

China : USD1 = approx 6.7 Yuan. Mongolia: USD1 = approx. 1400 Tugriks. Russia: USD1 = approx 30 Roubles.
You will find that USD and EUR are the easiest to exchange currency in all three countries (AUD and CAD can be exchanged also, mostly in big cities).

IMPORTANT: Due to the restrictions on changing money in Russia, Mongolia and China, only notes/bills printed after 1996 and in good condition will be accepted for exchange. Usually 50 and 100 USD/EUR notes get better exchange rate.

For security reasons the safest way to carry your money is as travelers checks. But you should be aware that not many banks in the region are familiar with travelers checks, and there might be very long delays when changing them. The easiest cheques to change are Thomas Cook or American Express in US currency.

The easiest and quickest way is to change USD or EUR cash but please, remember about the security risk of carrying large sums of money. In any case some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies. Black markets do exist but we strongly advise that you do not get involved. We recommend that you don't use money changers on the street.

There are lots of ATM's in every big city on the way: in all of them you can withdraw local currency. Some ATM's in Moscow and St Petersburg allow to withdraw USD. Major credit cards are accepted in the shops and restaurants almost everywhere in Mongolia and Russia. Some banks in Beijing, Irkutsk, Moscow and St Petersburg (but not Ulaan Bataar) will allow cash advances against a credit card but cash withdrawals are subject to a 3% to 4% service charge, depending on the local bank rules.

Medical Forms

GEEO travel programs bring together people of all ages. It is very important you are aware that, at minimum, an average level of fitness and mobility is required to undertake our easiest programs. Travelers must be able to walk without the aid of another person, climb 3-4 flights of stairs, step on and off small boats, and carry their own luggage. Travelers with a pre-existing medical condition are required to complete a short medical questionnaire, which must be signed by their physician. This is to ensure that travelers have the necessary fitness and mobility to comfortably complete their chosen trip. While our tour leaders work hard to ensure that all our travelers are catered for equally, it is not their responsibility to help individuals who cannot complete the day's activities unaided. Please refer to the physical ratings above for more information.

The medical questionnaire can be found online at: www.gadventures.com/medical-form.

Optional Activities

Please note: All optional activities are booked and paid for locally in the local currency. You do not have to decide in advance which activities you would like to sign up for. The prices listed are based on the latest information we have received from our participants and G Adventures. They are not guaranteed to be accurate. Please feel free to use them as a guide for budgeting your trip.

OGA will be paying for some select group optional activities.

Russia

All prices are per person (unless stated otherwise), and are subject to change as services are provided by third party operators. Prices include entrance fees only, and exclude transportation to the sights.

The Hermitage museum (St Petersburg) - USD11
St Isaacs Cathedral (St Petersburg) USD10
St Petersburg Walking Tours (St Petersburg) - USD14-18
Canal tour (St Petersburg) - USD12
Mariinsky Theatre (St Petersburg) - various USD25 - USD250
Peterhof (St Petersburg) - USD17
Kremlin (Moscow) - USD26
River Cruise (Moscow) - USD11
Pushkin Fine Arts Museum (Moscow) - USD8
Tretyakov Gallery (Moscow) - USD8
St Basils Cathedral (Moscow) - USD5
Bolshoi Theatre (Moscow) - various USD50 - USD250
Regional Museum (Irkutsk ) - USD4
Russian Banya (Listvyanka) - USD5
Boat Trip (Lake Baikal) - USD60 p/boat p/hr

Mongolia

Horse riding at ger camp (Ulaan Baatar) - USD5 p/hr
Gandan Monastery (Ulaan Baatar) - USD3
Bogd Khaan Palace (Ulaan Baatar) - USD3
Statue of Chingis Khan (Ulaan Baatar neighbourhood) - USD8

China

Temple of Heaven (Beijing) - USD5
Summer Palace (Beijing) - USD5
Forbidden City (Beijing) - USD8
Entrance to the Great Wall (Beijing) - USD7

Costs

Please keep in mind this trip is designed to give you the freedom to do whatever interests you. Make sure you look over all of the optional activities and keep in mind these additional costs when deciding whether you can afford this program. No meals are included in this trip, giving you the opportunity to eat on your own budget. The prices below are in US dollars and are rough estimates so you can budget your trip.

Optional Activities

$150 USD (Note OGA will be paying for some of the optional activities. $150 should be a healthy budget for arranging activities in your free time.)

Insurance

$50 (Insurance will be paid for by participants and arranged by OGA)

Tipping

We recommend $50-$80 USD for your G Adventures tour leader if you feel they did a good job. Budget another $30 to tip others service people along your trip.

Meals Not Listed in the Itinerary

$300-400 USD

Laundry, Drinks, Phone Calls, etc.

(Make sure you budget for these types of expenses)

Vaccines

$0-$300 USD (Check with your doctor to see what you will need and what is covered by your insurance)

Visa

$170 USD for Russian Visa, $140 USD for Chinese Visa

Souvenirs

$0-???

FAQ

What should I know before reading this FAQ section?

The FAQ section of website has been written for regular GEEO departures. Because this is a private customized program that has been pre-paid for by OGA, not all of the FAQ answers will be relevant. Please contact OGA if you have any questions.

What should be my expectations for this GEEO program?

Before you decide on travelling with GEEO it is important that you read all of the information about the program you are considering. To summarize, our programs are quite adventurous.

• We use basic, no frills accommodation. The purpose of the accommodation is to provide a safe place for you to sleep. Sometimes you will be pleasantly surprised, but do not expect luxury.

• The same goes for transportation. We use a mix of transportation that gets our guests from location to location safely. This program has several full days and nights of transportation as you will be covering over 5000 miles. The transportation will often be an adventure in itself.

• You must be able to easily carry or roll your luggage, so do not over-pack. We recommend using a large backpack along with a smaller daypack, which is typically the most comfortable way to carry your possessions.

• Many of our programs occur in locations where it is very hot during the day. Please make sure you have thoroughly read the itinerary and can handle the group activities, which sometime include day hikes with your daypacks.

• We recommend always carrying snacks with you because sometimes meals can be far apart.

• Please make sure you understand the role of your tour leader on this trip as they are not the traditional “guide” you may be expecting. While our trips are educational, they aren’t study/lecture trips. We want you to learn through exploring and much of your experience will be based on how active you choose to be in acquiring knowledge and interacting with locals.

• We try to set up anywhere from 1-3 school visits per program, but these sometimes fall through due to complications. Please understand they are not a guaranteed part of the program.

Hopefully this is the kind of adventure you are interested in!

Do I need a Passport? Do I need a visa?

All GEEO trips require that the participant have a valid passport that will not expire within 6 months of trip departure. If you have a U.S. passport, but it has expired, or will expire within 6 months of trip departure, click here for information on how to get it renewed. If you have never been issued a passport or have lost your passport, please click here. Processing time for US Passports is 4-6 weeks so please start this process immediately.

For this trip you will need at least 6 full pages open in your passport. 2 for Russia, 2 for China, 1 for Mongolia and 1 to spare just in case.

RUSSIA: Almost all nationalities require a visa to visit Russia. Exceptions: Holders of Israeli and Thai passport and citizens of most former Soviet Republics. The Russian government often changes their visa rules, so we recommend you double check all information with the Russian embassy's website in your home country.

A single entry tourist visa provides a 29 days (30 nights) stay maximum in Russia. Please, remember that it is impossible to extend a tourist visa within the country. If you are planning to travel in Russia before the trip starts and your total time in the country is more than 29 days, you will have to arrange a business visa (there are no double entry Russian visas). In this case, please, contact the nearest Russian embassy or consulate for details.

To obtain a Russian visa everyone requires a Letter Of Invitation (LOI) from one of the companies in Russia, who has a tourist license.

G Adventures passengers can obtain this letter through our visa support agent in Russia by completing our on-line visa application. A LOI support link will be sent to you by G Adventures.

We recommend you contact the nearest Russian embassy or consulate before filling out the form, as the document requirements might vary from country to country. Please, be aware that many Russian embassies throughout the world issue visas only to citizens or official residents of the country where the embassy is located.

Submitting the online form, you must read the instructions carefully and fill out all the details. The group will spend 10 days of the trip in the territory of Russia. We recommend to add at least one extra day at the start and one extra day at the end. If you depart later, put the departure day in the application one day after your actual departure from Russia.

First Name: Should include your First and Middle and Third names - as per your passport. Russian embassies have a right to deny visa, if the information in passport is different from information you provided for the LOI.

Arrival date: We recommend you put the arrival date 1-2 days before your actual arrival to Russia.
Departure date: Group departs Russia on day 10 of the trip. We also recommend to put departure date 1-2 days later than your actual departure to give you some flexibility in the case of an unexpected delay.

Your Russian visa LOI will be emailed to you within 7 working days upon submission of your online application. We cannot issue the LOI earlier than 3 months before trip departure.

If you haven't received an email with your Russian LOI within 5 working days after the submission - check your SPAM folder. Emails sent from an .ru server are sometimes automatically directed into SPAM.

Once you have received your LOI you can apply for your Russian visa by going to your closest Russian embassy or by using a visa service. Do not obtain your visa until 6 weeks prior to your trip departure.

Take the LOI to the embassy along with your passport, three passport photos, the filled in visa application form, a copy of your trip voucher and proof of onward travel from Russia and they will issue the visa. Please, contact the embassy you are going to apply in and check what documents you are required to bring. It can take up to 15 working days for the embassy to issue your visa.

Helpful Hints for completing your application:

*Please wait until you receive your Russian visa LOI before completing your application as information must match in order for you to receive your visa from the embassy.

* Please, note that Letter Of Invitation may state hotels or cities that are different from your tour. These hotels may not be the exact hotels that you will be staying at during your trip. It is critical however, that when you complete your Russian visa application that you copy the hotels that are on your visa support letter rather than those that are on your G Adventures voucher or dossier.

*Answers to questions on Visa Application:
1. The type/purpose of visa: Tourism
2. Company or organization in Russia to be visited: Karelia Plus
3. Name of Russian Travel Agency: Karelia Plus
4. Reference number of Russian tour agency: This is in the top right hand corner of your visa support letter
5. Route of Journey: Copy the dates and cities that appear below your name on the left hand side of your visa support letter (Moscow & St Petersburg)
6. Confirmation voucher/Invitation number: This usually starts with SPC

Please note: On arrival in Russia you will receive a double immigration card, you must fill out both parts and one is taken away upon entry, the other must remain with your passport at all times and you must have it when you are leaving Russia to hand to the relevant authorities.

MONGOLIA: You do not need a visa to travel to Mongolia if you are American. Most other nationalities require a visa to travel to Mongolia. For more exceptions, please, contact nearest Mongolian embassy. Some nationalities might require Letter of Invitation. In this case G Adventures will be able to provide one through our local supplier.

When filling out embassy visa application form please list "Monkhutuch Trade & Travel, Bayanzurkh Duureg, 13-r Horoolol 12-179, Ulaan Baatar, tel: 976 1199199291" as the hosting company or individual in Mongolia.

Groups enter Mongolia on Day 10 of the trip and depart on day 14, travelling by rail.

CHINA: all nationalities require a visa.

You will need a Tourist visa for travel in China. Please visit this website to get instructions on the process of getting a Tourist Visa (L Visa).

When filling out the visa application form list the trip's finishing point hotel (Harmony Hotel, Beijing) as the "company or person to visit in China". We enter China on the day 14 of the trip, travelling by rail. Exit date will vary depending on how long you are planning to spend in China after the trip is finished. We recommend to put departure date 1-2 days later your actual departure from China

Where do I meet the group? What happens when I arrive at the airport?

Our groups meet at the hotel we use for the first night of the trip. Your tour leader will leave a note for you at the hotel's front desk with the introductory meeting time and location.

When you arrive at the airport you can either take a taxi to the first hotel or book an airport transfer. For an airport transfer you will be greeted at the airport by someone with a sign with your name on it. Some people find this comforting when getting off a long flight in an unfamiliar environment. Typically an airport transfer will cost about twice as much as a taxi would. If we have multiple participants on the same flight we can group those people together to share an airport transfer and save money. We cannot group people together if they are on different flights, even if those flights are scheduled to arrive within minutes of each other.

In May G Adventures will contact you to book both airport transfers and extra hotel nights.

Is it OK if I am traveling alone? Do I have to have a roommate?

Half of the people that travel with us are traveling by themselves so please don’t worry if you have no one who wants to join you on our trip. Our pricing is based on multi-share, in other words, two or more people to a room. If you do not have someone that you are traveling with that you would like to room with GEEO will find you a roommate of the same gender.

What is group travel like?

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 travelers will probably come from all across the US and beyond and are likely to be of a variety of ages too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travelers 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.

How long have we been running this program?

GEEO was founded in 2007 and our inaugural trips were run to Peru and India in the summer of 2008. 2012 was the first year that we ran the Russia/Mongolia/China program. G Adventures, who actually handle the logistics of the trip have been running this itinerary for many years so you can have faith that your trip will be safe and well run.

Is it possible to get references for GEEO?

Over 500 educators have traveled with GEEO since we ran our first programs in 2008. We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the quality and value of the life changing experiences that we provide.

To read comments from past travelers, please feel free to visit a website that reviews non-profit organizations called Great Non-profits. Please click here for those reviews.

Please contact us if you would like to communicate with some of our former participants for a reference.

Who travels with GEEO?

GEEO participants are mostly made up of American K-12 teachers. Each group tends to have a good mix of educators in their 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's and 60's. About half of our participants are coming alone and do not know anyone in the group prior to the trip. We group single travelers of the same gender together as roommates, unless a participant prefers to pay an additional fee for their own room. If we have an odd amount of one gender we will rotate the single room for free among the participants.

GEEO trips are open to all Kindergarten to University teachers, school staff, school administrators, and soon-to-be teachers pursuing their teaching certificate. Our programs are also open to retired educators. Non-American educators are welcome on our trips.

Participants in our programs are permitted to bring friends or family members on their trip. You must be at least 18 years old to participate and of adequate fitness level for your chosen trip.

Will I be eating on my own? With the group? Why aren't all meals included?

Eating is a big part of traveling. Traveling with GEEO you experience the vast array of wonderful food that is available out in the world. Generally meals are not included in the trip price when there is a choice of eating options, to give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat. It also gives you more budgeting flexibility, though generally food is affordable. Our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There is no obligation to do this though. Your group leader will be able to suggest favorite restaurants during your trip. Please refer to the meals included and budget information for included meals and meal budgets.

Is the itinerary exactly as described on this website?

While it is our intention to adhere to the route described on our website, there is a certain amount of flexibility built into the itinerary and on occasion it may be necessary, or desirable to make alterations. The itinerary is brief, as we never know exactly where our journey will take us. Due to our style of travel and the regions we visit, travel can be unpredictable. The information on our website is a general guide to the tour and region and any mention of specific destinations or wildlife is by no means a guarantee that they will be visited or encountered.

Additionally, any travel times listed are approximations only and subject to vary due to local circumstances.

What cities/airports should I book my flight in and out of?

Please double check our itinerary for the date on which you must arrive in St. Petersburg by, which would usually mean departing the USA one or two days prior. You can arrive at anytime you choose.

Your trip ends in Beijing on the 17th day of the trip and you can depart on that or any later date you choose.

Do you recommend spending extra days in St. Petersburg or Beijing and if so what should I see?

Yes! This trip does not include much time in either city so I highly recommend giving yourself an extra 3 days in both St. Petersburg and Beijing. The other option for Beijing is to also sign up for our 8-day China program that starts right after this trip ends.

When should I purchase my flights?

You must wait until this trip is confirmed with the minimum amount of required participants before you book your flights. Typically we have the minimum amount needed by the end of April. GEEO and G Adventures bear no responsibility for any flights purchased before the trip is confirmed.

Where can I purchase flights?

We recommend using www.kayak.com to see what is out there in terms of flights. G Adventures also has a wonderful air department, which can be reached at 1-800-708-7761.

You may also want to take a look at the prices at www.flyforgood.com or call 1-877-359-4466 to speak to a person. They get humanitarian rates from airlines and GEEO is registered with Fly for Good as a non-profit. If you purchase a humanitarian rate flight, you will need a supporting document from GEEO. Please request this from us after you purchase the tickets. Note that humanitarian rates are not available for all flights to GEEO destinations, and are sometimes higher than tickets found on on kayak, travelocity, orbitz, etc. Often the layovers are long and sometimes impossible to navigate. Look very carefully at the offer before purchasing your ticket.

Where can I purchase travel insurance?

One of the least expensive options is the "International Volunteer Card." They have a $35 card (The individual plus option) that includes the amount of travel medical, evacuation and repatriation insurance you need for our trip, plus other trip insurance benefits.

To sign up for the card you can follow this link:

http://www.volunteercard.com/.

We recommend purchasing cancellation insurance too, which the IVC offers as an additional option.

Another option is www.insuremytrip.com. They offer different options from many different companies. You can also get your insurance directly through G Adventures if you wish.

Please note it is mandatory for all of our travelers to have Emergency Medical insurance that covers both emergency evacuation and repatriation to the sum of $200,000USD.

Can GEEO book extra hotel nights for me?

You may want to stay longer in both St. Petersburg and Beijing so feel free to arrive a few days early or depart a few days later. We can book your extra hotel nights for you if you wish. The price for extra hotel nights for this trip can be found in the costs tab.

In May we will send you a form that allows you to book both airport transfers and extra hotel nights.

Why are some activities included in the price of the trip and others are not?

We have found paying locally for activities allows our participants to save money. Not every activity is appealing to everyone and we don't want you to pay for services you might not use. Perhaps you feel sick one day and would prefer to rest. This allows you to decide on the spot what you want to do each day with your free time and at the same time control your budget.

Do you have advice on tipping?

Tipping is never a compulsory, but always a sign of appreciation. If you are happy with the guide or driver service, you can tip them (about 2-5 usd p/p, depending on how much guide/driver spent with the group). Before tipping in restaurants, check your bill and menu - many dining facilities in Russia include 10% service charge in the bill. There is no restaurant tipping culture in Mongolia and China. We recommend $50-$80 USD for your G Adventures tour leader if you feel they did a good job.

What vaccinations do I need for this trip?

We legally cannot give you any medical advice. It is very important to consult your doctor or a travel clinic about which vaccinations you will need for your trip. GEEO recommends contacting Passport Health, (http://www.passporthealthusa.com/) who have travel clinics throughout the US. Please take this seriously!

Is there any safety advice we should know about?

We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, travelers' checks, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of the hotels we use have safety deposit boxes which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is needed for securing your luggage.

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. We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe keeping of your passport, air tickets, travelers' checks, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of the hotels we use have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage. When travelling on a group trip, please note that your tour leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it is deemed necessary due to safety concerns. Your tour leader will accompany you on all included activities. During your trip you will have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your tour leader will assist you with options available in a given location please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your itinerary, and we offer no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgment when selecting an activity in your free time. Although the cities visited on tour are generally safe during the day, there can be risks to wandering throughout any major city at night. It is our recommendation to stay in small groups and to take taxis to and from restaurants, or during night time excursions.

Protests and Demonstrations- Protests and demonstrations, even those that are well intended, have the potential to turn violent with no warning. Counter protests can also turn violent. Action by security forces to disperse demonstrators and protesters may occur at any time. If you are in an area where demonstrators or protesters are gathering, avoid the temptation of staying for a good photo opportunity and leave the area immediately.

Water based activities have an element of danger and excitement built into them. We recommend only participating in water based activities when accompanied by a guide(s). We make every reasonable effort to ensure the fun and adventurous element of any water based activities (in countries with varying degrees of operating standards) have a balanced approach to safety. It is G Adventure's policy not to allow our tour leaders to make arrangements on your behalf for water based activities that are not accompanied by guide(s).

Swimming, including snorkeling, is always at your own risk.

What are the emergency contact numbers for this trip?

Should you need to contact G Adventures during a situation of dire need, it is best to first call their local office. If for any reason you do not receive an immediate answer, please leave a detailed message and contact information, so they may return your call and assist you as soon as possible.

If you are experiencing complications with your St Petersburg AIRPORT TRANSFER that was booked through G Adventures please call: +7 921 374 77 61 - Ulyana (St Petersburg)

G Adventures Asia Office in Bangkok
8am-6pm CST (GMT +7)
Tel: +66 2 252 6642

After hours emergency numbers:

Russia Operations Manager Mobile: +86 1511 691 4874 - Jessica

If you are unable for any reason to contact their local office, they have a toll-free line for North America, which will connect you directly with their Toronto office. In the event that you cannot get through, you can reach a member of their Operations department at the mobile number below.

Toll-free, North America only: 1 800 465 5600
Calls from UK: 0844 410 1030
Calls from Australia: 1 300 796 618
Outside North America and the UK: +1 416 260 0999

What are the trains like?

All long distance trains are 2nd Class Kupe Soft sleepers: 4 berth compartments that have lockable doors. Overnight train from St Petersburg to Moscow is 3rd Class Hard sleeper: 4 berth in compartments with no doors and two additional beds in the corridor. Bed linen is provided on all trains. There is enough space for medium size luggage under bottom bunks and in overhead shelf up top. Each carriage has two toilets and one hot water boiler. Each carriage is accompanied by two train attendants - they take care of passengers and clean the facilities. All trains, apart from the train Irkutsk - UB have dining cars.

Do I need plugs and current converters for my electronic devices?

There are two components to provide external power to your device: adapters and transformers. The adapter is the plug, adapting the prongs on a standard U.S. two to three-pronged power cord to match the prongs required by the local outlets. The transformer changes the local voltage to that required by your device.

Russian primarily uses a type C plug, which is the same two circular prong plug you find in most of Europe. Their voltage is 220 Volts.

Mongolia primarily uses a type C plug, which is the same two circular prong plug you find in most of Europe. Their voltage is 230 Volts.

Most hotels in China use either Type I plugs or non-grounded Type A plugs, which is the same plug design used in America. Their voltage is 220-240 Volts.

U.S. outlets are 120V. Most new devices (phones and laptops) can handle the different voltage rates, but some devices only work on the U.S. standard of 120V. Check your device to see what voltage range it handles. Most transformer blocks will have an "Input" line that defines its voltage capacity. For example, "Input: 100 - 240V" means that it will work on voltages from 100V to 240V. If your transformer can't handle the different voltage, you'll need to purchase a voltage converter. You can find world regional voltage converters power packs at various vendors.

Should I bring school supplies with me to donate to a school?

You can if you wish. Please keep in mind it is important for you to pack light for your trip and school supplies can take up a lot of space. Sometimes school visits are at the end of the trip so you may be carrying the supplies for the entire trip. Sometimes we aren't able to arrange a school visit at all so you would then have to figure out a way to give them out yourself.

Our advice is to bring little if any supplies with you and instead buy supplies locally when your tour leader tells you a school visit is planned. They can help the group pool money and purchase supplies such as books, athletic equipment, pencils and paper. This will allow you to give an appropriate gift, save room in your pack and also help the local economy. We encourage you to establish relationships with the schools that we visit. In the past some of our participants have run fundraisers for needy schools and have mailed supplies to the schools.

What should I expect in terms of school visits?

GEEO tries to include anywhere from 1 to 3 school visits per program; however these visits are never a guaranteed part of our programming. School visits can be very tricky.

• In many of the countries we visit, schools will be closed for vacation over the summer. In that case we try to arrange an informal meeting with local teachers or a visit to a summer school.

• Some of our shorter programs are so packed with activities and places to see that we feel a school visit would mean the group would have to miss out on something important. In that case a school visit may not be scheduled.

• Many times we spend hours setting up a visit only for the school to cancel on us at the last minute.

• Often arranging school visits is easier if done in person with short notice. Your tour leader will try to schedule ad hoc school visits for your group when possible.

• Each school visit is different. We aim for you to get a tour of the school, sit in on a class and have a Q and A session with some of the staff.

• If we do schedule a school visit it is important that the entire group attend. In the past we have offended schools that were expecting ten visiting educators and only three came.

• Over time we try to establish long term relationships with schools so we can have more predictable, immersive visits that are rewarding for both our guests and the schools themselves.

Is the water safe to drink?

Unless your tour leader tells you differently, only bottled water should be drunk, and this is readily available for purchase. Fruit and vegetables should be peeled, washed in boiled water and in the case of the latter, well cooked. Meat and fish should also be fresh, well-cooked and hot, to avoid possible infection.

Is there Internet access? Should I bring a computer? Mobile phone?

There are Internet cafes in most of the places we visit and many of the hotels also have computers that can be used. Expect to be able to check your email every two to three days. You can also bring along your mobile phone if you choose. Make sure you check with your phone company before you leave to find out the rates for calling back to the US and if they have any special international plans that are worth taking advantage of. International roaming rates can be extremely high, so you don’t want to be surprised. You can bring a laptop/netbook/tablet computer if you wish, but remember, GEEO and G Adventures are not responsible for the damage or theft of you valued items.

What is the weather like?

It will be warm throughout this trip, getting hotter as you reach Beijing. Expect similar weather to that of an American summer in the the Northeast.

Is there clothing that is considered inappropriate that I should not bring?

When packing be aware that dress standards are conservative throughout the area. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and practical. As a general guideline shoulders and knees should be covered at all times - short shorts, singlets and tank tops are not suitable.

Where can we get a list of hotels for this trip?

Other than the first hotel, our partner G Adventures does not provide hotel lists for any of their trips.

The reason for this is sometimes hotels change at the last minute. G Adventures does not want to give out incorrect information because in an emergency that can only cause more issues. Instead we give you 24-hour emergency phone numbers where you and your family can reach staff in the country that you are travelling to or in Canada at G Adventure's headquarters. This way at anytime your loved ones can call the emergency contact who can immediately put them in touch with your tour leader no matter how plans have changed.

Is there any advice for finding funding for this program?

The first thing we recommend you do is speak to your school's principal and/or professional development coordinator. They may know of grants that your school district or state offers. Often schools reimburse teachers for professional development expenses. You can also try contacting your school's PTA or professional organizations that you belong to.

We also recommend applying for a Fund for Teachers grant, www.fundforteachers.org. These grants can be used on GEEO trips. Please note that they are only offered to teachers in a limited number of pre-selected school districts around the country.

What is expected from me from an educational stand point?

Please take a look at the "Sharing your Adventure section of our website by clicking here.

How much money in US cash should I bring? Should I exchange local currency in advance?

This is entirely up to you, but we think it is critical for you to bring along $200 USD in cash for emergencies. This is what GEEO's executive director Jesse does in regards to money while traveling:

"I do not exchange any money before travelling to a country but instead bring somewhere between $300-500 US in cash. I go to a bank before I leave the US and take out the cash there rather than an ATM. I make sure each bill is in great condition with no rips or tears. I like to have mostly 20's, but in some countries you are better off with 50's and 100's. In some countries it is also good to have about 20 singles for when you have no small bills in local currency. I divide this money between a money belt and my main backpack and my daypack.

I also bring an ATM card and a credit card. Before I leave the country I call the bank and credit card companies to let them know I am traveling abroad so they don't think the foreign transactions are fraudulent and cancel my cards when I am most reliant on them. Having a second bank account and bank card is pretty handy so that just in case one card doesn't work at an ATM or is lost, you always have a back up account. It's also important to check with your credit card to see if there is an international transaction fee. Some cards charge up to 4% extra for any transactions made out of the US. My Capital One visa card doesn't have any international transaction fee. I just use this card for traveling so if it gets stolen and I have to cancel it I won't have to worry about recurring automated payments. I like to split up my cards between my money belt, wallet and one emergency one hidden in my main bag.

When I arrive at the airport I make sure to go to an ATM before leaving the airport and typically take out the equivalent of $150 USD in the local currency. I find that ATMs give the best exchange rate so throughout the trip I will use the ATM card to draw out my spending cash. I will ask our tour leader for an estimate on how much I will need if I am close to leaving a country so this way I do not draw out too much money.

I try not to use the US cash I brought with me so that I can use it in an emergency. Typically I will come back to the US with most of that US cash unspent. On a recent trip I lost my ATM card and was able to get cash by paying for our group dinners with my credit card and having people pay me their share in local currency. I NEVER take cash advances on my credit card as they charge you an arm and a leg.

I also never use travelers checks, but have heard good things about AAA ATM cards that you can load up with money instead of using travelers checks."

What is the relationship between G Adventures and GEEO? Who is running this trip?

GEEO is an independent non-profit organization that helps teachers travel. GEEO negotiates with tour companies to get great deals for teachers. GEEO customizes these trips for teachers. GEEO provides educational materials to teachers before and after the trip to help bring the participating teacher's experience into the classroom. GEEO markets these programs to convince teachers to explore the world. For more about GEEO, please see our mission statement.

G Adventures is a tour company that GEEO has partnered with to run our trips. For over 20 years G Adventures has been sending hundreds of thousands of people abroad and today they are the largest adventure travel company in the world. They design the trips, provide expert tour leaders, ground logistics and work hard to make sure you have an excellent experience.

What happens if GEEO doesn't reach the minimum number of participants needed for this trip?

Typically we reach the minimum number for our groups in the month of April. If we do not have the minimum number of participants needed we will re-price the trip for the amount of people signed up, adding on a surcharge. It will be up to each individual whether they still wish to travel with the group at the new rate. If they choose to withdraw from the program at that time they will be issued a full refund. If need be we will cancel a trip and issue the entire group a full refund. It is important that you do not book your flights before a group is confirmed! It is pretty rare for us to have to cancel trips.

What happens if it becomes unsafe to travel on this trip?

Your safety is our utmost priority and we will cancel a trip if we do not feel our participants will be safe. If GEEO or G Adventures cancels your trip we will issue a full refund of any payments you have made including the deposit. If YOU decide to cancel your trip you will have to abide by the rules of our terms and conditions.

Should I book my theater tickets in advance?

To avoid disappointment we recommend that you book any theater performances that you wish to attend in Moscow or St Petersburg in advance. Please consider carefully which performances you are going to want attend and make sure that the dates correspond to your trip. Here are some useful internet sites to check for what will be on (ballet, opera, exhibitions, etc) in Moscow and St Petersburg when you are there. In particular we recommend you see what's playing at the Bolshoi and Mariinsky, as it may be difficult to get tickets when you are there especially during White Nights in St Petersburg. The most useful sites to check in English are www.mariinsky.ru, www.bolshoi.ru and www.ticketsofrussia.com.

What is the GEEO book club and which books have been selected for this program?

GEEO's book club is a way for you and your fellow participants to learn through literature about the places you will be traveling. For each trip we have selected four books, two fiction and two non-fiction. It is completely up to you whether you choose to read them as the GEEO book club is not required for our participants. We hope you will enjoy the books we have selected and they will enhance your experience. We welcome feedback on our selections so we can develop and improve the list for the following summer.

For your convenience we have a hot-linked each of the selected books to amazon.com. If you purchase this book through the link, Amazon will share some of the proceeds from the sale with GEEO, helping to fund our operations. You should hopefully be able to find most of our selections through your library system as well.

For this program we have selected the following books:

Fiction:
The Brothers Karmazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong

Non-Fiction:
Natasha’s Dance: A Cultural History of Russia by Orlando Figes
Genghis Khan and the Making of Modern History by Jack Weatherford

For those looking for more suggestions, here are some other books you may want to consider:

RUSSIA:

Non-fiction:
Lenin's Tomb by David Remnick
Nicholas and Alexandra by Robert K. Massie
The Whisperers: Private Life in Stalin’s Russi, by Orlando Figes
A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution: 1891-1924 by Orlando Figes

Fiction:
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov
Dr Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

MONGOLIA:

Non-Fiction:
Hearing Birds Fly by Louisa Waugh
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Saved His Empire by Jack Weatherford
The Secret History of the Mongols by Arthur Waley

Fiction:
Mongolian Folktales by Hillary Roe Metternich and Khorloo Purleviin

China:

Fiction:
Empress Orchid by Anchee Min
To Live: A Novel by Yu Hua
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The Flowers of War by Geling Yan
Love in a Fallen City by Eileen Chang
The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

Non-Fiction:
China: A History by John Keay
Oracle Bones: A Journey Through Time in China by Peter Hessler
Search for Modern China by Jonathan Spence
Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China by Jung Chang
Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
The Good Women of China: Hidden Voices by Xinran
Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler
Yin-Yang American Perspectives on Living in China Edited by Alice Renouf and Mary Beth Ryan-Maher

Is there advice that past participants would like to pass onto you?

"In June, I started to wonder what I was thinking going on a trip which included 4 consecutive nights on a train. I was still excited to see a part of the world which was new and different, but I was a little nervous about how I was seeing it. It turned out to be an incredible journey."

"I recommend three days in St. Pete as a pre-trip option for those who have not been there. You should see the summer palace, Petershof fountains, a ride on the canals, Rasputin's murder location, etc."

"If you pack too much stuff you will have trouble fitting your luggage in the storage spaces on the train. Large rolling suitcases will not fit in the storage spaces. It is highly recommend to use a hiking backpack, NOT rolling luggage. Those with rolling luggage were having trouble trying to roll their luggage from place to place, especially going up some steep staircases."

"When packing for the trip, I brought something for every day but some of us actually ended up wearing pjs on the train. So actually fewer clothes are needed. Also, you can do laundry on most of the stops for a fee. It is humid so quick drying fabrics are recommended."

"St Petersburg was surprisingly hot, but it gets cold at night at the Ger Camp. Bags should only be 14 inches wide if you want them to fit under your bunks on the train. It was okay on most trains with wider luggage, but on the last Trans Mongolian train 3 of the 4 bags in our compartment would not fit where luggage was supposed to go. We did have an outlet for charging in our compartment for the Trans Siberian Railway, but I am not sure if that is always the case. We didn't have outlets in our compartments on overnight trains."

"That there were definitely good laundry stops in Lake Baikal, UB, and Beijing...so I wouldn't have brought so much along."

This program is guaranteed to run and will have a maximum of 15 participants.

What's Included

  • St Petersburg cathedrals and canals, Trans-Siberian Railway, Trans-Mongolian Railway, Moscow Red Square, Local homestay in Listvyanka, Lake Baikal shores, Tradtional Ger Stay outside Ulaan Baatar, Tiananmen Square

  • G Adventures Tour leader throughout

  • 5 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch, 2 Dinners.

  • International Airfare and airport taxes

What's Not Included

  • Incidentals

  • Insurance

  • Applicable visas

  • Tips or gratuities

  • Beverages

  • Meals not mentioned above