Real Russia Blog

An interview with seasoned Trans-Siberian travel writer Matthew Woodward
10
October
2019

An interview with seasoned Trans-Siberian travel writer Matthew Woodward

Learn more about Trans-Siberian rail travel through our quick Q&A session with Matthew Woodward where he will introduce his new book ‘The Railway to Heaven’.

For many rail enthusiasts, the Trans-Siberian is considered the pinnacle of train travel. Hailed as the longest railway line in the world connecting Moscow with Vladivostok in the far east, this railway line has since expanded to connect Mongolia (Trans-Mongolian) and China (Trans-Manchurian) and continues to expand at pace.

We always have plenty to talk about when it comes to the Trans-Siberian, however, nothing quite beats the first-hand experience from a fellow traveller. Speaking about his adventures to Tibet via the Trans-Manchurian Railway, seasoned Trans-Siberian travel expert and long-standing friend of Real Russia, Matthew Woodward sits down with our team for a quick Q&A session to discuss all things trains, along with the release of his upcoming book ‘The Railway to Heaven’.

Interview:

What’s your earliest memory of ‘trains’?

I wasn’t ever a trainspotter, but I did travel quite a bit by train when I was a small boy. I was a latch key kid and used to spend most of my pocket money travelling to places that seemed far away and exotic like Kentish Town and Bedford Midland. I was given the Hornby mixed freight OO gauge railway set for my tenth birthday and got quite excited whenever visiting the nearest model shop in Mill Hill – by train of course.

Do you have a favourite rail journey?

It’s hard to beat a modern Russian train in the middle of the Siberian winter, but I have been lucky enough to travel on so many amazing journeys. I loved travelling on the International Express that used to connect Bangkok and Butterworth, and also some of the Amtrak routes, the Southwest Chief and the Coast Starlight in particular.

Is there an explorer that inspires your adventures (living or not)?

I was lucky enough to meet Sir Ran Fiennes at the RGS a few years ago. We only spoke very briefly, but his penetrating eyes, firm handshake and lovely way of speaking totally captivated me. Of course, I don’t think of myself as an explorer in the carrying an ice axe sense, but more in that one job of an explorer is to bring back news from a distant place, and I do try to do that. I wrote a bit about Sir Ernest Shackleton in my new book, and I have always imagined it would have been truly inspirational to meet him. Instead, I used to plan my adventures in the front room of his Edinburgh home. More practically I have always loved reading about the adventures of Robert Twigger. Some of his journeys have been absolutely awesome, and when we met at the Edinburgh Book Festival, I found him to be something of a kindred spirit.

You worked in marketing before you started dedicating your life to be a professional rail adventurer, what made you throw the towel in on corporate life and follow your dreams?

It didn’t happen in one single moment, but looking back, like many I was in a bit of a comfort bubble when I used to wear a suit and sit behind a desk. Once I had left this world, I started to really challenge myself on what I wanted from life, and to begin with, it wasn’t easy to find the right answer. I had always travelled a lot, and as I had more time I started to blog and write articles. The first book came at the suggestion of a good friend, and I wrote it for personal satisfaction rather than for commercial success. Since then my travels have been very rail focussed, and this has become the niche that I now love writing about.

Do you take lots of photos on your travels?

I try to take fewer photographs, but better photographs these days. I carry compact mirrorless cameras that are great to use and allow me to capture the essence of my journey without standing out too much as a traveller or photographer. I like to get into a routine each day of reviewing them and transferring only the very best ones to a portable hard drive that I back up in the cloud.

Night owl or early bird?

Night owl unless forced to be an early bird by work and travel plans. I go out my way to avoid early starts having survived the experience of years’ worth of red-eye flights when I was living the corporate existence.

Do you save all your tickets?

I have a series of thick files with all the tickets and paperwork from each of my adventures. It is helpful to keep them as I often find myself wanting to find out the detail of which carriage I was in or the exact time and date I travelled on a particular train.

Matthew With Assortment of Asian Food

What do you never leave home without on a rail adventure?

I’m guilty of carrying far too much kit, and each time I set off on a new adventure I try to lighten the load. There are some things that I would never set off without – my portable espresso machine, my lucky Flying Scotsman thermos flask and an industrial supply of Jelly Babies. Oh, and the secret key that seems to open all doors and windows on Russian trains.

If you could only take 5 things with you on your Trans-Siberian journey, what would they be and why?

I never travel without a portable espresso maker! Other than that, a good supply of music and books on my Kindle, plus plenty of jelly babies and I’m happy. A head torch, a good penknife and a roll of duct tape will solve most problems on board. I used to take far too much kit, but I’m getting better at carrying less now.

What has changed from your first Tran-Siberian journey to your latest one?

My first two trips were on the Trans-Mongolian. Whilst it's very comfy, it’s not as nice on board as the modern Russian carriages like on the Vostok and the Rossiya. The timekeeping has changed too. Until recently trains kept Moscow time which was a complication.

So, would you say that the Tran-Siberian has got easier since your first trip?

Well, it’s always been easy once I learned to let Real Russia worry about getting the tickets. Every journey presents a few challenges, but the only thing that has changed is that I am more used to how things work. In a way that’s not as much fun as your first trip, when it’s all so new.

On your latest journey, you mention that you went as far as Tibet, how easy was it to get the permit needed to travel to Tibet?

Well its actually quite complex, but I used Real Russia to handle all my tickets and visas. The advantage of this was that the paperwork was tied up together. A ticket on the train is no good without a permit for the same dates, and you also need the services of an official guide. Knowing that the same people in the visa and ticketing team were dealing with this gave me a lot of confidence in my plan. You need a Chinese visa before you can even approach applying for a permit too.

You have been on the Trans-Siberian quite a few times now – what makes you keep going back?

With three major routes and several branch lines, there are lots of places to explore. For overland adventurers, it is also the easiest way to reach Central and South East Asia. It was the perfect way to reach Beijing to connect with the train to Lhasa on my last trip. I have been as far as Singapore by train too, using the Trans-Sib as part of the route.

When looking back across all your Tran-Siberian experiences, is there one thing in particular that really stands out for you?

Perhaps that first moment when you sit back in a cosy compartment on your first ever trip to Siberia in the winter. The smell of coal burning to heat the samovar, and the view outside of everything working normally in such a hostile environment. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Who would you recommend the Trans-Siberian to?

Almost everyone. As long as you do not expect to be on board the Orient Express, it’s fun for all. It is very social, very relaxed and pretty safe. People often ask me what you do to fill the time, but it rushes by.

Looking back across all your trips, what would be your most important piece of advice for travellers looking to do the Trans-Siberian?

Talk to everyone. There are so many interesting people on a train like this. Make friends with the staff and they will go out of their way to look after you.

Do you ever take a more conventional holiday? Will we find you lazing on a sun-lounger sipping cocktails by the pool for example?

I have tried. I like to treat myself to a few nights somewhere at the end of a big trip, but if I hadn’t done the trip I would not be able to settle down. I wrote much of my second book in a lovely hotel in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand.

What’s the dream rail journey…your bucket list?

That’s really tough to answer as there are so many. I have never been on a private train like the Venice Simplon Orient Express or the Golden Eagle, and I like the idea of dressing for dinner. The Mauritania iron ore train is on the other end of the spectrum, and I will finally be ticking it off soon. I’d love to do the full length of both the Indian Pacific and the Ghan. I did a night on the Ghan a few years back and loved the atmosphere (and the good quality wine) on board. But Europe offers so many possibilities closer to home. Steam trains in the Hartz Mountains, the Glacier Express in Switzerland, and the Arctic train in Scandinavia.

The Railway to Heaven by Matthew Woodward

So let’s talk about your upcoming book, ‘The Railway to Heaven’. Writing a book of any kind takes a lot of dedication and perseverance; how long did it take to write?

It took close to a year, but I did move from my home in Edinburgh to West Sussex at the same time. The Engine Shed had no roof on earlier this year, and I had an army or builders around me demanding tea and biscuits. I think this could take just 3 or 4 months if I were more disciplined. I should learn from Enid Blyton. She wrote a 60000-word book, The River of Adventure, in just five days!

How do you prepare yourself for a writing session, presumably with your love of coffee it starts with a flask of a strong brew?

I often find that I have my greatest breakthroughs in how to describe my journeys in the darkness of the night or even first thing in the shower. I like to get an outline of these thoughts down on paper as placeholders in the draft before I lose them. Although social media can be a huge distraction, I need the internet to fact check everything as I go along. Coffee is both my saviour and my biggest enemy. I like to kick off with a cup of something quite strong and exotic, but then make frequent trips to my trusty espresso machine, often resulting in procrastination from writing.

When sitting down to pen a chapter or two how long do you write for, usually?

I can’t keep my focus for more than a couple of hours. I like to write in the mornings, but sometimes dabble with a glass of wine in the evening, which some say to be a dangerous pursuit. I can always change it the next morning though.

This is the third book about your rail adventures, does it get easier with each one to tell your tales of train travel?

It gets easier in some ways and harder in others. I have had to grow into my writing style, and whilst I feel more confident in my writing ‘voice’ now, I really fuss over the detail. After several redrafts of my latest book, I have occasional moments of self-doubt that it isn’t fluid enough or interesting enough, then I reread, and it seems fine. You can just get too close to it at times.

What’s your personal style…are you an avid notetaker or does it all come flooding back to you when you put pen to paper?

I do have very vivid memories of all my journeys, but I take lots of notes and keep a diary as a travelogue. I feel I owe it to my readers to have layers of detail so that if they were to take the same train they would recognise it from my description. Possibly even the staff.

The book shows your humorous side…is this a natural part of your personality? Do you see the funny side in yourself and situations?

I don’t think of myself as a funny person, but I guess I’m not afraid to share my experiences when I get it horribly wrong. Travelling solo I can get quite introspective and self-deprecating. Maybe I get therapeutic benefit from being totally honest with the reader about my experiences. I’m not trying to big myself up as an adventurer, more to prove that I’m a human being and anyone could do what I’m doing.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I believe that there are days when things don’t come easy, but as I’m writing about a real adventure, not fiction, I don’t have to worry about the story or the narrative structure. By far, my biggest problem is staying motivated to start writing at all. There are so many distractions at The Engine Shed, the place where I now write in my little corner of rural West Sussex.

Before your book goes to print, aside from your publisher and editor, do you read any to family or friends?

I have tried reading it to some close friends, but they seem to end up laughing too much for me to concentrate. I’m not sure if it’s the subject matter or the reading style. Maybe I should release an audiobook next time.

What does literary success look like to you?

I think I was lucky to set out without any hard goals, as I have not had to pressure myself to write in a certain way or to a certain timescale. At the moment success is when readers tell me to keep writing as they enjoy my books. The next stage will be for the popularity of my books to allow me to fund increasingly complex new journeys.

What’s next on the horizon…more rail adventures?

I have started researching and planning for the journey that will hopefully become my next book, but before then I’m off to the Sahara to take the iron ore train in Mauritania.

We would like to thank Matthew for his detailed responses to our questions! For more information about Matthew Woodward and his adventures, visit his website www.matthew-woodward.com, or visit Amazon to get a copy of his new book. Alternatively, take a look at our interview with Matthew from 2016, as part of the launch of our Trans-Siberian Guides, and find out what his funniest Trans-Siberian experience was!

Couple Taking the Trans-Manchurian

If Matthew’s experience has inspired you to create your own Trans-Siberian journey, then please contact us directly or use our custom-made Trans-Siberian travel planner to begin your adventure!

Real Russia Blog

A beginner’s guide to Russian train travel
4
October
2019

A beginner’s guide to Russian train travel

An essential guide answering the most common questions regarding Russian train travel

Train travel is one of the simplest ways to navigate the vast expanse that is Russia, from speedy domestic trains connecting major cities such as Moscow and St. Petersburg to international sleeper trains operating on the Trans-Siberian train route.

In this post, we will equip you with the essential facts you need to know about Russian train travel from planning, booking and understanding your train ticket to what you need to take with you.

Are Russian trains reliable?

Perhaps the most frequent question we get asked is, ‘are Russian trains reliable?’. Simply put, yes. Russian trains are often on time so you should always aim to get to your platform a good 10-15 minutes before you need to leave.

What types of Russian trains are there?

Russia has a variety of trains in operation including high-speed, firmeny, skory, Elektricha, passenger and more. Therefore, it can be useful to read up on the different types of trains available before planning your journey.

You can find a comprehensive list of Russian trains and some information about these on our website.

How do I understand Russian train classes?

Russian train classes can be quite tricky to understand, moreover, you may even find that some facilities differ depending on the age of the train.

View our ‘Classes of Russian Trains’ poster below for a brief overview of Russian train classes and what to expect. For a downloadable version, please click on the image below.

Russian Train Classes Poster
Classes of Russian train carriages

Onboard . . .

Since we provide train tickets for Russia ourselves, we often get asked questions that are not concerned with the usual booking procedure and understanding of train classes. With this in mind, our train experts have picked out some of the most common questions which should help alleviate some of that pre-travel angst.

Russian Train Interior Seating
Seating on a Russian train

Is it possible to pay with card on trains?

This largely depends on the type of train you take. Newer domestic trains may now take card payments for products or food purchased on the train; however, most older commuter trains may not have card payment facilities. When taking Trans-Siberian trains from Russia, it is important to note that other countries such as Mongolia, have a currency that often cannot be acquired easily prior to entering the country and may not have card facilities. Therefore, you should adequately prepare yourself with supplies for this leg of your journey.

Are showers available on the trains?

This depends on the type of train and class you choose. Some privately-run trains that operate between Moscow and St. Petersburg may have showers provided in certain classes. First-class cabins may have a shower shared between two cabins although these are usually shower heads connected to a tap on the wall rather than conventional showers. Luxury trains such as the Golden Eagle offer private en-suite bathrooms with a power shower.

Which power sockets are used in Russia?

Russia operates on a 220V supply voltage and 50Hz; they have two plug types which are the C and F. Both plug types use two round pins as standard in Europe.

For Trans-Siberian travellers passing through different countries, we recommend packing a multi-adapter as the power mains may change if you need to swap trains in a different country. UK travellers will need an EU converter plug to convert the 3 square prongs into the standard EU two prongs.

Is vegetarian food available on Russian trains?

Vegetarians shouldn’t have too many problems finding things to eat on the train. Vegetarian dishes are available on most menus and bread, fruit and vegetables can be purchased on many train station platforms. Trans-Siberian travellers may find themselves restricted for choice if visiting countries such as Mongolia which are prolific meat-eating countries, although you should still be able to find something.

Bar and Snacks on Russian Train
Bar on a Russian train

Are there disabled facilities on Russian trains or stations?

It is possible to find disabled facilities on certain trains, such as the Sapsan, that travels between Moscow and St. Petersburg. Unfortunately, disabled facilities are not widespread yet, however, newer trains are starting to challenge this. It is possible to find a lift at the carriage entrance on these trains to aid wheelchair-bound passengers on these trains and the cabins will have wider corridors and cabins. Plug sockets, call buttons and switches will have braille instructions for passengers with visual impairments.

Most train stations have facilities for disabled passengers including toilets and wheelchair ramps.

Are pets allowed on Russian trains?

Pets are allowed on Trans-Siberian trains although you must buy a specific ticket that allows a pet to accompany you. Any pets you take must be small and need to be kept in a cage or carrier of some kind that will easily fit in the spaces provided for regular luggage. Exceptions are made for guide dogs who are allowed anywhere onboard free of charge.

If you have any other questions regarding Russian train travel, please see our Russian trains FAQs.

Booking made simple with Real Russia!

If you plan to travel by train around Russia or on the Trans-Siberian, our website can help! We show live train schedules, average ticket prices and have our own simple and straightforward booking process should you wish to book your train tickets with us. If you are unsure about the type of ticket you need or have any questions, please contact our dedicated train travel experts.

Planning a whole Trans-Siberian journey? Use our Trans-Siberian planner to help align your train journeys side-by-side!

Real Russia Blog

Customer Tales: The Ultimate Trans-Siberian Adventure
2
January
2018

Customer Tales: The Ultimate Trans-Siberian Adventure

Unforgettable 5-weeks journey along the Trans-Siberian railway and beyond

Read how our customer Linda fulfilled a lifelong dream, with her daughter, taking a tailored Trans-Siberian tour with Real Russia. She spent 5-weeks experiencing as much of the diverse cultures as she could along the way and taking in the unrivalled sights.

So, what did she experience on the world’s most famous rail journey?

The Rossiya train

We booked on the Rossiya, the flagship of the Trans-Siberian. Interestingly, for staff benefit, no matter how many time-zones we passed the train kept to Moscow time – this is crucial to understand when using the restaurant car!

The Rossiya was home for four days, we travelled hundreds of miles with ever-changing scenery. From the riches of central Moscow we noticed changes in housing immediately, memorably an estate of pink houses with marshmallow like roofs.

As we made a stop at its grand station, I concluded in hindsight I would have liked to have stopped at Yekaterinburg, famously where the massacre of the Romanov Royal family took place. Now memorialised in a little church a little way out of the city.

Irkutsk and Lake Baikal

We arrived at Irkutsk, the capital of Siberia, to see Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake. We booked a day trip to Lake Baikal from Irkutsk by taxi. As it came into view the site was immediately breath taking, on one side of the lake was a seaside complex and on the other majestic mountains loomed large.

​ Serene Lake Baikal – a jewel of the Trans-Siberian

Ulan-Bator

Ulan-Bator, Mongolia’s capital, the land of Genghis Khan. We arrived at 5.45am to the most glorious sunrise. 1.5 million people live in Mongolia, and 1 million of them live right in the capital. A huge golden god oversees the capital and is worth a morning trek. Mongolia is known as the ‘land of sky’, nothing but miles and miles of horizon. We found four more travel companions and hired a jeep and driver, who would also be our chef for the next six days to head into the Gobi. At the time, there were no roads to the Gobi; only well used scrubland tracks with flocks of sheep, goats and camels that scattered when our jeep appeared. We stayed in local yurts along the way and our meals were rice with goat meat, only horse milk was available.

Beijing

Our train was now the Trans-Mongolian, a proud engine with 16 coaches. As night descended the train pulled into a huge factory-type complex. My daughter said, ‘I feel like I’m going up’; we drew back the curtain to find ourselves 10ft in the air, supported by hawsers, as the men below changed the wheels from 8’ to 6’. Foreign trains could not use China’s tracks without this change.

We arrived in Beijing and stayed in the Old City. We explored Tiananmen Square, with the huge photo of Chairman Mao being the meeting place for all tours and taxis. We visited the Forbidden City, home of China’s emperors for 500 years. We climbed part of the Great Wall whose route we had already followed along the train journey from Mongolia. We experienced a cultural evening of song, dance and food. We visited a silk factory and finally, a jade factory.

Xian

We left Beijing after 4 days and travelled to Xian, home of the Terra Cotta army. It was impressive, each face unique, the detailing intricate. Our guide pointed out though sometimes described as life-size, being made around 2,200 years ago they would have been huge compared to the population, therefore formidable guardians to protect the emperor in the afterlife.

We visited a Rescue Centre for pandas, after an hour of waiting Bam Bam appeared right in front of us. He put on a tree climbing display for half an hour before shuffling back into the undergrowth.

Hong Kong via Shanghai

Shanghai was a beautiful modern city where we stopped for 3 days before Hong Kong, our final destination.

Hong Kong

We climbed to Victoria Park on the funicular railway revealing a stunning harbour view; and visited the oldest Taoist temple in the world where a local shaman will put a curse on the head of your enemies at £4 a head. You will also find the third largest Marks and Spencer in the world, constructed in adherence to Feng Shui naturally.

We did a whole island tour by coach and sampan, Hong Kong was beautiful, the temperature is never lower than 15 degrees throughout the year.

We flew back to Heathrow, my dream holiday over. We had physically traversed over a third of the planet by train.
​_________________________________

Where would you go?

The Trans-Siberian route offers a completely unique experience that can be tailored to suit your dream journey. Thanks to our dedicated and knowledgeable customer service we can work together to make sure you won’t miss a thing.

​If this personal experience has inspired you, why not to take a look at the Trans-Siberian routes and start planning your adventure?

Real Russia Blog

I travelled 5,793 kilometres on the Trans-Siberian railway
7
December
2017

I travelled 5,793 kilometres on the Trans-Siberian railway

Read excerpts from an article by Javier Sinay, recently published in the Argentine newspaper La Nacion.

Javier Sinay travelled 5,793km across the iconic Trans-Siberian route (the whole thing measures 9,288km!), seeing unrivalled natural beauty, and finding himself equally entranced by the locals and travellers the route attracts. Here are a few excerpts from an article he originally published in La Nacion, telling the tale of his Trans-Siberian adventure.

The Trans-Siberian Route and how it came to be

The Tran-Siberian Train, sometimes called The Tran-Sib, isn’t a single journey. Its central route is 9,288km from East to West Russia, ending in Vladivostok, the great Russian port of the Pacific Ocean. The route is a collection of unforgettable images showing the changing and varied cultures of Russia. Moscow, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, home to the awe-inspiring Lake Baikal, and Ulan-Ude are some of the most memorable stops on the train. Ulan-Bator and Beijing appear beyond, like two intense epilogues.

The train was created at the end of the 19th Century, under the government of Tsar Alexander |||, to unite St. Petersburg and Moscow with Sibera, a giant region rich in resources, and the Pacific Coast. In 1891, some 90,000 workers, soldiers and prisoners, began the work of cutting roads, cutting down trees, digging tunnels and building bridges. It took 25 years to complete.

The rail foundations to Vladivostok cost around 330 million rubles, equivalent to 7,000 million dollars today. It was too much for a disappearing empire but China was expanding in the South, and though half the Russian territory was almost empty, the Tsar could not idly stand by. The train was inaugurated in 1916 and by then a war with Japan, in 1904 and 1905 had served as an early trial for rail utility.

With the passage of time, some 4 million people arrived in Siberia from the West to work in the new stations and in the budding infrastructure of a new steppe. Russia built the Trans-Siberian railway, and in return, the Trans-Siberian railway helped build Russia.

Discovering Russia through its people


I’m travelling in a Platskartny car, the third class. The wagon has 54 bunks, without doors or divisions, a single plug to share, and no WiFi. There are almost no foreigners, instead local families, workers and soldiers travel. I carry a Russian to Spanish phrase-book and when I say “Ya iz Argentiny”, there are surprisingly long talks.

Zina is my travelling companion for the 900km journey between Yekaterinburg and Omsk. She’s a quiet, shy girl who studies Geography and lives in Omsk, near the Kazakhstan border. She was, in fact, raised in Petropayl, a city in Kazhakstan. I ask about Petropayl and her face lights up, she tells me it’s quiet with lots of trees.

We have the simple, nostalgic melody of the train as accompaniment while we talk, play chess and share sandwiches. Although one of the most repeated tips I heard was, “Do not accept Vodka from strangers on the train”, I do. On the last leg of my Trans-Siberian journey, I am the one with homemade vodka, a gift from a muzhik from Irkutsk, and offer it to strangers.

Anton, another neighbor, cannot believe I’m Argentinian and travelling on the Trans-Siberian train; Zina acts as our interpreter. It’s past 10PM and the train lights have gone out. We use our cell phones for light, and the sudden intimacy makes it seem like we’re huddled around a fireplace. Anton works in a river port processing fish. He tells me about his village, Ust-Ilimsk, where a hydroelectric dam operates. The nearest large city, Irkutsk, is 650km away. “Only a few hours’ journey”, he says, accustomed to the enormous Russian dimensions.

The Trans-Siberian verdict

The forests we see occupy almost half of Russian soil, and here, in the middle of Siberia, they appear like an incessant image through the windows. We watch the spectacle of nature, hypnotized. The sights merge with the clank of the train in a small fragment of our lives that, with the reddish colours of the morning, look like a movie. I have learned to say, ‘Krasiva Siberia’.

Experience​ the journey yourself

The trains run along the Trans-Siberian railway all year round, as well as the Trans-Manchurian and Trans-Mongolian railways. Whether you want to experience Ulan-Bator on the way to Beijing, or take in the immense natural beauty of Lake Baikal before heading to Vladivostok, Real Russia will be able to help. Who knows what friends you might make on the way?

Real Russia Blog

Real Russia Visits Russia!
17
November
2014

Real Russia Visits Russia!

A Series of Blogs about Russian Rail Travel

Over the last two weeks, I have had the pleasure of travelling through Finland and Russia, experiencing the people, places, food, culture and, importantly, the trains first hand. Over the next few weeks, I shall be trying to sum up my experiences into a series of blogs in order to give you a brief ‘insider view’ into the good, the bad, and the ugly, of travelling in this region.

Before finding out what I thought, or felt, it may help to have some context. What did I expect to find in Finland and Russia? How did I expect to feel?

Russia ‘is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’. The words of Winston Churchill in 1939 hold just as true today as they did 75 years ago. It is unique. Both in the sheer size of the country, and in everything that is within those borders.

What I am trying to say is this, that even though I have been working with Real Russia for 10 months now, I still did not know what to expect. Particularly after the events of 2014.

Warmth?
Hostility?
Poverty?
Affluence?
Peace?
Turmoil?
All of the above?

To find out how I got on, and whether any worries I had were necessary, stay tuned to our social media and follow my blog posts over the next few weeks.

Spoiler Alert: Generally, Russia has been very kind to me, particularly the colleagues that I have met for the first time in our Russian offices, and any worries I may have had were unfounded.

Real Russia Blog

New Tour Ranges Now Available
10
April
2013

New Tour Ranges Now Available

Allow us to introduce our improved tour ranges, inspired and designed around you. Now with unbeatable choice and flexibility, you’re free to customise your trip exactly how you want. Combining our years of practice and unparalleled expertise, it’s time to book your truly life-changing experience.

With a choice of Trans-Siberian, Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Manchurian routes, you’ll have the opportunity to witness some of the World’s most breathtaking scenery. Depending on your choice, you might pass amazing destinations such as Moscow, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Ulan-Bator, Yekaterinburg and Beijing.

The Trans-Continental tour routes are arranged into three exciting options taking into account your individual needs:

The Explore Range is ideal for independent travellers who love getting off the beaten track. You can explore what you want, and when, without losing time booking complicated routes and transfers; accommodation is also arranged.

The Discover Range works well if you like the best of both worlds. You will be taken straight to the heart of the action with introductions to destinations in the comfort of professional guides, but also enjoying the flexibility of your own time to explore. The Discover tours are structured with routes and transfers, again with accommodation provided.

The Experience Range is the premium choice. If you always wanted a life-changing experience but didn’t know where to start, you can explore in comfort with quality transport and the finest accommodation. You will receive a truly unique and in-depth adventure with as little planning as possible. Relax safe in the knowledge that your entire trip is taken care of for you.

For everything you need to make your trip as easy and enjoyable as possible, look no further. We can also arrange all visas, train tickets, upgrades and extensions to suit your individual tour requirements.

Through multiple time zones and nations, your adventure will bring memories that you will never forget. We hope the new product ranges will encourage you to explore, discover and experience the real Russia.

To see our Trans-Siberian tours click here

Real Russia Blog

Duty Free Shopping on International Trains
19
March
2013

Duty Free Shopping on International Trains

On Monday, it was announced that as of May 2013, Russian Railways will trial duty free shopping on board international Russian trains, complimenting the summer timetables. Initially, the service will only run on the Moscow – Kiev route and then after a year, if the project is successful, it will be implemented on other international routes such as the Allegro service between St Petersburg and Helsinki.

In addition, it has been planned that duty free shops will also be opened by Russian Railways in train stations that serve international routes. The first station to benefit from a duty free shop is St Petersburg’s Vyborsky and Finlyansky stations; however if successful, duty free will be introduced into all other Russian Railways terminals with international links.