Personal Testimonials from 2004


From: Ken & Judy Thomson,

Date: 12-11-2004 08:41 PM

RE: Our Trans Siberian trip

Chris

We have finally finished our writings about the trip from Beijing to St.Petersburg. Photos are also attached. You can view our accounts at http://www.downwithup.com/china/

Once again we are impressed at how well Monkey Business does things. We have recommended your group to many of our friends.

Ken and Judy Thomson

Tang Kai-en. Tang Zhu-de (our Chinese Names) at Harkaway House on Georgian Bay Ontario, Canada


From: "Henk van Lambalgen"

Date: 29-12-2004 17:05 PM

Re: VAN LAMBALGEN: info

 

Hello

A few weeks back I started my Trans Mongolian trip which I booked through you. The trip was great going all the way through a snowcovered landscape.

Everything was arranged well. I got my onward ticket to Moscow at the trainstation in UB. In Moscow your Momo was waiting and she was very helpful in order to arrange accomodation in the same hotel for someone I have met on the train. Hotel Zarya was very good.

The trainride from Moscow to St.. Petersburg was indeed very comfortable and in St. Petersburg I was waited for by my homestay 'mother'. So the whole trip was well arranged. Thanks.

Nevertheless I got a bad start as my moneybelt was stolen while boarding the train. I suspect the carriage attendant to play a role in it as she must have allowed someone without a ticket to get on the train. After reporting the loss to her it turned out that she already had found it. My passport and creditcards were still there but my money was gone. At least I could start my trip. It was my own choice not to wait in the stationhall for your assistant but at that moment I felt very sorry for that choice and I would advice Trans-sippers who book through you, to get the ticket at the station and board the train with your assistant.

 

In Moscow people tried to some kind of scam on me. You can't warn all the people who book through you for all the scams that there are but at least it might be good for you to know for what kinda scams there are. I was walking near the Red Square when someone 'accidentally' dropped a small package covered in plastic. I could only see a dollar note so it seemed to be a big bundle of money but probably there was only a note on the outside. Even before I could even think anything someone next to me picked it up, turned to me and told me not to say anything and to split the money. I was not interested and told him to go away and when he didn't listen I pushed him away. He got a bit violent but he indeed walked away. I don't know what the trick would be but I would probable got in trouble if I would have agreed on splitting the money.

Maybe also good to know, there's a direct nighttrain from St. Petersburg to Vilnius.

Thanks for arranging the trip. I enjoyed it very much and will have good memories about.

Wish you a happy new year.

Henk van Lambalgen


Name Dick FRANCISCO
Trip BM5 (1/2)
Dates 15-05-04

Hi Mom (Mildred), family & friends:

Attached is a narative of our recent trip to Europe for your leisure reading.

open Dick's essay in Word here ...


Name: Bronny Robertson
Package BM8
Date: July 2004, Nadaam

Would recommend this trip simply for the fantastic people we met; Locals, travellers, guides, all brilliant and made the trip a unique time

Thanks,
Bronny

Mongolia - Our guide was fantastic given the large and diverse needs of our group

Irkutsk - Our guide at Lake Baikal was wonderful, she made our trip. And our host family was beautiful.

Moscow - Great hotel close to subway. Grumpy staff.

St Petersburg - Beautiful city.

Train Journeys - Great experience.

Updates for Info-Pack? - I didn’ t receive one, just Tiffany

Other Aspects

Will you Recommend Us? - YES, and we have a long list of people at school ready to come


From: Zelda Weightman
Dates: 03-07-04 to 22-07-04
Trip: BM9

Dear Andy and Chris,

Just a quick note to let you know that Kathryn and I had a fabulous trip on the Trans- Zip. Enjoyed the scenery, the different lifestyles in Mongolia, Siberia and Russia. The countryside, the housing, the food, the sightseeing and the palaces/churches all added up to an interesting experience.
Had wonderful travelling companions too, fun, interesting and thoughtful- we had a ball, even a fancy dress farewell party on our last night on the train.
The artful tweezer-using pickpocketer in Ekaterinburg was (I think) unsuccesful, while the mosquitoes in St Petersburg encrusted Kathryn with jewel -like (garnet) adornment on her hands and legs particularly: a very nasty condition.
The Moscow Metro tour was surprising, the accommodation in Irkutsk humbling, the difference between the weath and poverty of Russia illuminating. Certainly a trip to remember.
Thanks for all your advice.

Regards
Zelda Weightman


Name Paul and Jackie Farthing
Package # BM3
Date 3rd July 2004

Mongolia - You should encourage people to stay at the Ger Camp a little longer. We wished we had at least one extra night rather than staying in Ulan Bataar. Truly the best part of the trip. And don't try to heat up the thermos in your ger. Paul wanted a cup of tea at 1 am after a few beers and decided to heat up the thermos on the wood fire!! Big mistake. There was plastic on the bottom. Lots Mongolians running around thinking we were going to burn the ger down. Good fun though. Really wished we had stayed longer.

Moscow - It wouldve been nice to know the hotel Zarya didn't have hot water. After five days on the train we were looking forward to a nice hot shower and were very disappointed when only ice cold water came out. We wouldve happily paid more money to stay in the three star ASTof for some hot water.

St Petersburg - Did not go

Train Journeys - Good. I would advise people not to go straight through from Mongolia to Moscow. The journey was a little long and there were no other westerners to talk to for five days - only Russians. We were a little bored by the third day and sick of looking at each by the time we got to Moscow. At least one stopover wouldve been better.
Updates for Info-Pack? - Moscow summer pipe cleaning - No hot water!! Also, you no longer need to worry about the customs hassle at the Mongolia / Russia border. You only have to declare money if it exceeds $3000.

Other Aspects

Will you Recommend Us? Of course, as well as the Tour Company in Mongolia. Overall an amazing experience and would recommend it to anyone.

Keep up the good work!!

 


From: Stefan Meyer
Date:
July, 2004
Email: Stefan Meyer

Dear Monkeys,

Could you please post this two pictures for a while, as i am looking for these peoples, travelled on the Transsib in April 1991. Maybe some of them will write me back when they remember the wonderfull trip we had together.
Thanks
Stefan Meyer, St.Gallen - Switzerland

Are you one of these ex-zippers?Stefan Meyer, do you remember him?


From: Kerry Bruington and Lisa Macdonald
Date:
3rd August, 2004
Trip: BM8

General:
Booking: Great assistance, timely responses, flexibility.
Value for Money: Would love to see you take Credit Card Payments.
Train Journeys: Russia train #9 was the best.
Transfers: Flawless – on time and professional

Mongolia
Our guide Boogie was fantastic – We did the first night in Ulan Bator and second at Ger camp. Out train was 4+ hours late, so by re-sequencing, we were able to do what we wanted in the city, and have a full day at the Ger Camp – which we LOVED. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of accommodations at the camp – the information we read, led us to believe that we would be roughing it

Irkutsk
In spite of poor weather, had a great time. Our guide was very knowledgeable. Staying at Olga’s was great – she is an amazing cook.
Great Service. Our guide arranged for a driver Nikolia to take us back to the train station that night. He was really friendly, walking us to our train car, making sure that we were OK boarding.

Updates
A few tips for future travelers: The souvenir shop at Lake Baikal [Listvyanka] is a rip off – we paid 4 times what we should have. During Irkutsk stopover, see the Decembrist houses first – Knowledgeable English speaking guides are provided, while all other museums and churches are Russian only, so the tours are good preparation for what you will see.

Other Aspects
Customs and Immigration were more relaxed than expected. Continue to stress the need to manage the washroom breaks. A few folks on our car were clearly in pain :-)

Kevin, and Sarah, fellow "monkeys" decided that we should have a "dress up" party, so you can see some creativity at work :). We stepped off the train, for one of the photos, which was pretty entertaining for the Russians.

You did a great job preparing us, and we had an amazing time. We would highly recommend you

Party on the Corridor The Gang on the Platform Kerry, the Matrishka!


Name Stephen and Carol Green
Package # BM8
Trip Dates From12/6/04 To27/06/04

Mongolia Absolutely superb. Everybody, particularly the Ger camp staff, were excellent and determined we enjoyed Mongolia and we did. The guide was outstanding. We loved this stopover
Irkutsk Lake Baikal was great, the homestay was terrific the facilities (lack of!) were flagged up beforehand. The homestay in Irkutsk was awful, dirty and unfriendly
Moscow The hotel was too far out and made sightseeing and going out in the evening difficult. You should offer a city centre hotel – some we noticed were not too expensive
St Petersburg N/A
Train Journeys Great fun, met a lot of terrific people, the restaurant cars were good – why so few users? Mongolia/Russian border crossing a tad tedious but part of the experience
Updates for Info-Pack? As most of your clients were in their thirties the emphasis on clubs and pubs was misplaced. Most wanted to know how to book/see cultural attractions. A modern map (post Soviet era) would be better, clearer info on when and where gauge changed. The timetables were extremely helpful as was most of your info
Other Aspects We had a wonderful trip – thank you
Will you Recommend Us? YES definitely


Name Maria and Ottar Midtrod
Trip BM1
Dates 7th July

Hi!

We are back in (cold, cold) Norway after a fantastic journey. We have so many memories, so extremely many pictures ( digital camera is a blessing...) and so much to tell our friends about. Of course we tell all our friends about you!!

Thank you so much for your great work to make our trip the best!

Best regards from
Maria and Ottar Midtrod, Norway

Booking It was easy to find information on your web-pages.Your site was also full of inspiration for doing this trip.You were easy to contact by mail, and gave answers back to us really quick! It was a really smooth process for us, thank you! We got the feeling that you really knew your job, and that made us feel safe all the way. We try to spread the words about your superb service around.
Value For Money Absolutely!
Moscow The infopack was really handy with Metro map and a street map. Nice hotel stay (AST) but the room was really hot without AC…
Train Journeys We had a great ride in second class! The service was excellent! But the dining cars could really need a cleaning up… The Chinese train was great.We followed the time schedule almost punctually. We had second class tickets and don`t regret it!! We had just chinese people in our carriage.The conductors couldn`t any english at all, neither could the rest of the chinese. But we got a kind of communication, and it was really sad to say good bye to them all. We were so impressed by the conductors. They kept the carriage clean at all times, cooked rice for us, and took good care of us at the stations… they shouted “go go go” when we should come back in, and had always a big laugh on their faces when we tried to ask some questions. They explained in Chinese and we asked in Norwegian. It was a special moment in Moscow when 20 Chinese people came towards us shouting “Bye Bye Go Go” at the end of our journey. The toilets were really OK. No showers, but half-cut water bottles really do the job. We mixed hot and cold water in the bottles, and got to wash our hair EVERY day!! We recommend second class! :-)
Updates for Info-Pack? The pack gave us all the necessary and important information we needed for the trainride and our stay in Moscow. We had some problems at the bordercrossings with some fill-in forms that just came in chinese or russian… and we had no english speaking chinese in our carriage. It might have been a good idea to have a small glossary for these forms in the infor-pack.On the borders, we all had our body temperature checked by a lady with a “laser-gun”. It looked quite serious, but its nothing to worry about. It was all because of the SARS. Maybe it would have been an idea to say something about all the things that can happen at the border?And: Do not take pictures of trains with “suspicious” load at russian stations. We saw a train with nuclear waste at a station in Russia…interesting! But we didn`t see the soliders guarding it. They saw our camera, and came after us into the station. Luckily for us, the train stopped for just a few seconds before it took off… the soliders tried to get into our carriage, but fortunately it was locked…so…be careful.
Transfers Perfect! It made it all so easy. Angel got us all safely into our carriages, and gave us the last info. Great! It was a fantastic feeling to be picked up in Moscow without having to look for a smart taxi driver or a metro station.
Other Aspects It was nice to stay at the Zhaolong youth hostel in Beijing. We also recommend the hike they arrange to Jinshanling-Simatai… And it is allowed to take the short trip just to Simatai as well. We are so happy we chose Monkey Business for our trip. The trans-siberian is a great trip in itself, but when all is so well organized from you, our holiday turned out to be a great holiday full of wonderful memories and no trouble. Thank you so much!
Will you Recommend Us? YES, OF COURSE

 


Name Stephen and Carol Green
Package # BM8
Trip Dates From12/6/04 To27/06/04

Mongolia Absolutely superb. Everybody, particularly the Ger camp staff, were excellent and determined we enjoyed Mongolia and we did. The guide was outstanding. We loved this stopover
Irkutsk Lake Baikal was great, the homestay was terrific the facilities (lack of!) were flagged up beforehand. The homestay in Irkutsk was awful, dirty and unfriendly
Moscow The hotel was too far out and made sightseeing and going out in the evening difficult. You should offer a city centre hotel – some we noticed were not too expensive
St Petersburg N/A
Train Journeys Great fun, met a lot of terrific people, the restaurant cars were good – why so few users? Mongolia/Russian border crossing a tad tedious but part of the experience
Updates for Info-Pack? As most of your clients were in their thirties the emphasis on clubs and pubs was misplaced. Most wanted to know how to book/see cultural attractions. A modern map (post Soviet era) would be better, clearer info on when and where gauge changed. The timetables were extremely helpful as was most of your info
Other Aspects We had a wonderful trip – thank you
Will you Recommend Us? YES definitely


Name Maria and Ottar Midtrod
Trip BM1
Dates 7th July

Hi!

We are back in (cold, cold) Norway after a fantastic journey. We have so many memories, so extremely many pictures ( digital camera is a blessing...) and so much to tell our friends about. Of course we tell all our friends about you!!

Thank you so much for your great work to make our trip the best!

Best regards from
Maria and Ottar Midtrod, Norway


Name: Jame COOPER
Date: 3rd July to 17th July
Trip: BM8

Mongolia - Very good stay, although on the two day package it would be better to have more time at Elstei and less in UB. For those on the evening train, going back to UB the afternoon before the train is too soon (there is only so much you can do in UB in 24 hours!). We arranged to go out to Elstei again on the last day, and then back into UB to catch the train at 2100.

Irkutsk -

Listvyanka - homestay was excellent, but the Irkutsk one was not. Tanya’s apartment was very small and we felt as if we were impinging on the family’s space. Although they were not rude, we were not made to feel welcome. In fact, we had asked for the Angara upgrade in our booking form but it was not entered into the package and we did not notice (we had already corrected a number of errors on the booking and this was the one we missed). I appreciate you have high volume and mistakes will occasionally be made but more care does need to be taken.

Moscow - Own accommodation

St Petersburg - N/A

Train Journeys - All very enjoyable.

Updates for Info-Pack? - Generally reliable and useful.

Other Aspects - Generally, an enjoyable memorable trip. Thank you. As mentioned above, more care needs to be taken to ensure all aspects of the application form are reflected in what is booked. If the form makes this difficult, change the form.

Will you Recommend Us? - YES


Name Anne CAHILL
Trip BM8
Dates 26th June

Dear Monkey Business

sorry but I am useless at completing forms on computers - so I though I'd just send you a brief e mail to say that I personally was well satisfied with the trip and will recommend you to anyone else I know who wants to go on the trans-siberian.

Thanks for making all the arrangements on our behalf

anne


Name: Christina CHANDLER
Date: 12th June
Trip: BM5 (1/2)

Hi,

Here is the questionnaire. Sorry it took me a while, but I just returned from my summer vacation, and didn't have all of my travel info with me til now. Overall, the trip was fantastic! I have recommended the trip to everyone, and for my friends here in Beijing I have recommended Monkey Business. I hope the questionnaire info is helpful.

Thanks again for all your help!

Christina

Booking - convenient (in Beijing), and good advice.

Info-Pack - Excellent! Full of information, very useful (like train times and all the stops) other travellers wanted to borrow the info pack or even order a copy!

Value for Money - Excursion prices seem hefty where is all that money going

The Train itself - Much better than I expected.

Transfers - No problems

St Petersburg - Cool city, little homestay problem.

Irkutsk - Homestay in the city (with Olga & Sergei) was fabulous! Great food, very nice people. I would have liked to spend more time there on my own. We had a short (rushed) tour there on the way back from Lake Baikal, but not enough time to really enjoy the city.

Lake Baikal (in B-G, with Galina) was crowded / four travellers in one house, which detracts from the experience of getting to know a local person and understanding their life a little better.

Moscow - The Ast Hof hotel is ok, but minimal service and quite far from the center. However, the little restaurant across the street is well worth a visit / the people were friendly, and I had a huge meal for a nice low price! The Marlis guide had a bland personality, took vouchers but did not need them, and I had trouble later in St Petersburg

St Petersburg - Problem at the homestay when the guide did not have my voucher or info (see Moscow note) I had to reject some food and the hostess got angry. Despite that little issue, my guide Jenya, was great. He was extremely helpful . St Pete is a great city, and I plan to return someday to spend a lot more time

Train Journeys - No problems, but I would go first class all the way next time, for comfort and slightly better quality. As a woman travelling alone, I had a first class cabin to myself, which was very nice

Infopack Updates - Bike Rental available at Sport Shop, a bike shop near the Theatre District. Price: 200 rbl for 6 hours, 250 rbl for 12 hours (with a large deposit). Address: Glinki ul. #3 (Metro Sadovaya, Minibus #186 or #1 to Teatralnaya Pl.)
American Medical Center has moved, now on the Moiki Canal behind the cathedral. Address: 78 Moika Emb, tel: +7-812-140-2090

Other Aspects - Aqua-Eco seems to be a very well organized company doing lots of interesting activities. And by the way, Alexander (Sasha) is a really sexy guy - a nice way to start the trip! Twice I had problems with food being served at the homestays - an issue of the vouchers not being passed from guides to hosts. Any way to change the voucher system?

Will You recommend Us ? - YES (Already have, several times)



Name Ben Holder
Trip BM8
Dates Fr: 11/06/04 To 11/29/04

Mongolia Great surprise
Irkutsk
Moscow
St Petersburg
Train Journeys - AC Russian train turnoff
Updates for Info-Pack? You need to belong to a tour group to get into many of the sites in Russia. Otherwise you will miss many as I did.
Other Aspects
Will you Recommend Us? YES - X


Name Kyle Hogaboam
Package #BM8
Dates 26th June

Booking
quick response, friendly, efficient, covered all the bases, lots of good information, most prices reasonable

Mongolia
the scenery was very nice and the company in Mongolia was good, but there were extra costs for activities that could be included in your info pack, such as horseback riding, buying water, ect. There was a problem with my guide where I asked him about leaving my luggage in the hotel and he said it was fine, and there ended up being a $40 US charge for late check out. The company ended up paying for that, but that should have been clear.

Irkutsk
No problems, the family was very kind and generous, and the scenery was amazing. My guide was great and very friendly.

Moscow
The homestay in Moscow was excellent. While she didn't speak much English she welcomed me into her home. There was a problem with the local police, they tried to tell me my visa was unregistered and to get me to go down an alley. Perhaps having each local company prepare a card of emergency numbers might help so that there is quick access to someone in case someone else gets stuck. I stuck to the Lonely planet for restaurants, Patio pizza and Tibet kitchen are two that ring out as good. In the Okhotny Ryad shopping mall there is a food court that is good but very very expensive.

St Petersburg
No problems in St. Petersburg. The homestay seemed far away but I learned that everything is spread out. I used the lonely-planet for most sight seeing, it was very useful. Some good restaurants were Cafe Idiot, the Stroganoff Yard (for the lunch), and Green crest for salads. The Kafe Kat could not be found, perhaps it has closed down now. The Yusopov Palace and Dostoevsky museums were excellent and worth seeing.

Train Journeys
No problems, I met some interesting people throughout the whole thing.

Updates for Info-Pack?
See the comments above

Other Aspects

Will you Recommend Us? YES


Surname Neale/Collins
Package # BM9
Departure Date 05.06.04

Mongolia - excellent, Chimca our guide was fantastic, wish we'd stayed at the ger camp longer. Everything was fantastic! Accommodation was excellent.

Irkutsk (Bolshoe Goloustnoe) - OK, Lena our guide was a bit monosyllabic, had to keep prompting her for information, and the walk along the beach to the fishermans place for lunch which is listed as 8km is more like 8 miles (someone had a pedometer!), so a 16 mile roundtrip in one day, and was (to be quite honest) rather dull cos you spent the whole time looking at your feet to see where to walk. Alternative suggestion - to have a boat trip out onto the lake? The homestay was very good -except the rooms don't have doors on them, just curtains! It was a good thing we all knew each other quite well!? Our time in Irkutsk itself was limited due to the late arrival of our driver to BG meaning we had a whirlwind city tour, which deserved more time.

Ekaterinburg - very good, our guides were excellent again, really enjoyed our time there. Homestay was excellent, Dean enjoyed Raisa our football loving granny who kept him up to date with all the Euro 2004 scores!

Moscow - everything was great, homestay lovely, but we found Moscow itself a bit frustrating - opening/closing times etc, being told things were closed (for no reason) when you've just queues for 2 hours, pain in the arse! Oh well, that's Russia I guess!

St Petersburg - good, very posh train from Moscow to St P's. Homestay OK but we could never have a satisfcatory shower - either scalding and too hot to stand under (rarely) or just stone cold (often). Not a major problem, but did cause some frustration!

Train Journeys - all pretty good, nothing to report really, met loads of great people

Updates for Info-Pack? Nothing that immediately springs to mind

Other Aspect

Will you Recommend Us? Yes


Name Tim HENRY
Package #BM3
Trip Dates From 09.06 To 14.06

Moscow - Very nice

Train Journeys - The train seems to be marketed as a wild vodka fueled party on a train. Its no party but it was still an enjoyable, relaxed experience.

Updates for Info-Pack? - Warning about high meal costs on board. Get some roubles in advance is good advice. Very poor rate for changing money on board.

Other Aspects - No shower!! I don’t think that was made clear in the info pack. Everyone assuemed there would be somewhere.

Will you Recommend Us? - YES (Depending on their budget)


Name: Eileen and Rod YOUNG
Date: 05-06-04 to 19-06-04
Trip: BM9 (1/2)

Dear Chris, Andy & Ailing,

Thanks for organsing our trip so professionally - it was good having someone to meet us at the station and return us after each stopover. Our reservations about this travel firm based in Beijing were quickly put to rest and we are glad we organised our trip with you.

A few suggestions that you might like to consider in your brochure and potential changes to your programme:
a.. Advertise the fact that the Ger camp has hot showers and flush toilets (this would have removed some of the reservations that we had about the place).
b.. Having been there, we would have been happy with 2 nights in the Ger, and return to UB in the morning to explore the town prior to catching the train in the evening (provided there was somewhere to leave our baggage in UB)
c.. Train 263 - would have been nice to know that there was a good toilet on the station at the Mongolian side of the border (for 100 togrucks). We had not realised that it took 11 hrs to travel from Mongolia to Russia across the border and it would have been nice to have known that.
d.. Bolshoi Gloustnoe - Homestay comfortable, food good. Activities quite limited (a lot of walking along a gravel road or track to nowhere in particular). One night would have been good and would have preferred one night in Irkutsk to have more time to look around.
e.. We went to folk shows in Beijing, Mongolia and St Petersburg - would be good to include these in your brochure.
Your agents in Mongolia, Ekatarinburg and Moscow / St Petersburg were very good.

Once again, thanks for your organisation.

Regards Eileen & Rod Young


Name Thomas Thong
Trip BM9 trip, group of 16 Malaysians
Date 26th June 2004

Mongolia - Ger Camp good, perhaps should have more activities apart from horse riding

Irkutsk - Hotel location is good, home stay at Lake Baikal is good in spite of the pit latrine, the Banya is excellent.

Ekaterinburg - Nice city to visit, the Russian buffet was excellent

Moscow - Hotel location is superb

St Petersburg - n/a

Train Journeys - Generally good, unfortunately the air con in our carriage on Train # 9 failed, it was a worm day, we asked the train conductor for a small refund but were told to sue!

Updates for Info-Pack? - The Moscow Metro now cost 10 Roubles per trip

Other Aspects - Perhaps a stopover in Kazan

Will you Recommend Us? - YES


From Pete Chonka
Package # BM1
Trip Dates From 02/06/2004 To 09/06/2004

Had a really great trip, cheers. My buddy Jasper and I had a couple of guitars and managed to record a song ‘sausage and beer’ on the train (on a palm-top pc) We were rather proud of it and can email the recording to you. Maybe it can replace bon jovi on your monkey cd

Great fun. Border crossings are an experience in themselves. Lake Baikal was beautiful. Would stop off in Irkutsk next time.


From Jasper DICKSON
Trip BM1
Date: in June

Ok well this is not going to be in the format as you guys wanted but it will get my points across easier I hope...

1) As far as booking and dealing with you guys as a business, it was a pleasure. Super customer service, quick replies(Very important thing I believe), very informative and very friendly as well. I don't believe you could have done it better.

2) The train ride itself wasn't as good as I thought but I still had some good times, best was around Irkutsk. Our trip was a straight ride all the way through. And as I know you can't tell people what to do, I would strongly recommend that people get off somewhere in the middle, cause it is brutle going all the way through straight to Moscow.

3) Lastly the biggest thing that we had trouble with is that we were told that there are money changers that come on the train and everything will be more or less ok. That was not the truth. Even with US dollars, the dinning cart would except it but of course they are over priced anyway and even though they exchange some US$ to rubles, they would only exchange so much in one day and it was never enough. People need to try to get rubles in china if they can before they leave. [getting roubles in China is not possible except on the blackmarket]

-Jasper

p.s. Thanks for being very helpful and informative, and making the booking process alot more pleasurable than most parts of the train ride


From Chris BOOTON
Trip BM7
Dates: 22nd May

IRKUTSK
Homestay in Irkutsk was not too welcoming, having been on the train for 3 days without a shower, we were told to wait until the next day as the water was not ready!The trip to Bolshoi Golshoe? Was excellent, welcoming and fascinating. Toilet no shock after your brochure. Scenery stunning. Loved the sauna. Our guide Elli was excellent and her English perfect. We even watched a Russian soap on the one channel TV. Visited the local school and shop. Irkutsk itself was dull, not helped by the weather. Wish we had spent more time by the lake and missed out the city.

EKATERINBURG
This city was hot and dirty with lots to see. We had a very good guide on the first day who was interesting and pleasant and very well informed. Second day was disappointing we expected a 6 hour trip which finished up only 2 hours. The guide was young, not well informed, and knew very little other than what we had read in the guidebook. Her English was not good therefore she could not answer questions nor explain about things. We spent the rest of the day on our own – not a problem.

MOSCOW
Interesting! Good guide, good hotel quick access by the metro into the centre. Direct line to the Kremlin – literally! Everything closes on Thursday so did not see Lenin! Russians have not got the hang of tourists or customer service. Did a whistle stop tour on arrival and got tickets to the Bolshoi to see Swan Lake from ticket touts. $20 each. Worth going.


From: Simon Wisbach
Trip: BM8
Dates: From 25/05/04 To 15/06/04

Mongolia Fantastic trips and activities, made all the more enjoyable by our guide, Chimka. She really went out of her way to make our stay entirely memorable.

Irkutsk Listvyanka was beautiful and interesting. Given the option we may have taken an up-grade at the Angara for a few creature comforts. No complaints as such, just a bit old.

Moscow The Ast Hof hotel was very nice but too far away from the centre. We felt uncomfortable travelling late at night and were charged R1927 for a R350 taxi trip.(Did not pay as the driver was unwilling to discuss it with the police!). Moscow itself was amazing and the information in the pack was essential.

St Petersburg Thoroughly enjoyed St. Petersburg. Again, the information in your pack was excellent and up to date and helped to make our stay better.

Train Journeys A great experience. The stopovers were just far enough apart that we did not get bored on the train. The trains themselves were well run and maintained and were a pleasure.

Updates for Info-Pack? On the timetables the Europe-Asia border is marked as being 1748 km from Moscow but it is at 1777km. Almost missed it!

Other Aspects There are enough options for both the journeys and stopovers to cater for all needs which we found very helpful. Our guides and drivers were all on time and very helpful and professional. All in all we had a wonderful trip and would like to thank you all for everything you have done.


From: Emma Freeman
Trip: BM8
Dates: 13th April

Mongolia
The time in Mongolia was excellent, the guide was fantastic, well-informed, interesting and chatty. I would strongly recommend to anyone getting out of Ulaan Baatar while you’re there, the ger camp was wonderful and the Mongolian countryside spectacular.The hotel in Ulaan Baatar (the Baygol?) was lovely. Hardly budget but I was glad of that when I left my money belt under the pillow and checked out only to realize 3 hours later and go rushing back. The maid had found it and handed it in, needless to say I left a large tip.

Irkutsk
We had a great time in Irkutsk but there was room for improvement. The guide was nowhere near as attentive, helpful or organised as in Mongolia. Also, the stay in the ‘fisherman’s house’ was not what it sounded like. The ‘fisherman’s house’ was clearly some kind of centre set up for tourists, and noticeably absent of fishermen. We were also taken on a very strange walk that we were told would take an hour but in actual fact took 3 and involved climbing a very steep (and I mean really steep), rocky, slippery, slope. All to see a local ‘cave’ which turned out to be little more than an arch in a rock. Hilarious though this was you might want to be careful about how you sell this particular portion of the itinerary as had we not all been reasonably young and fit and lucky we may not have made it through that one.That said, the home stays were wonderful, Our hostess in Bolshoi Galloestnae (sorry if that’s horrendously spelt) was enormously welcoming and motherly and served great Siberian food, just what we needed. The family in Irkutsk was also nice even if we felt a little guilty about kicking out half the family to fit us in. Staying on the edge of Lake Baikal while it was still frozen over was magical, definitely one to recommend.

Moscow
Moscow was great. Largely thanks to the fantastic guide Lena. She couldn’t have been more helpful, organised and informative. She really knew her city and was clearly passionate about it. She helped us make the most of our short time there. We did the Metro tour while we were there which she did herself and I can’t recommend it enough. We also went to the Bolshoi ballet, pricey but worth every penny, one of the best things I’ve ever done. Although the hotel was a long way from the center it wasn’t really a big deal, the metro was 10-15 minutes away and the route across the railway tracks was a bit like an adult assault course.

Train Journeys
Different countries, different border guards, different trains. The Chinese border guards were hilarious, like schoolboys in uniform, they looked shyly at our passports and waved a polite goodbye. The Mongolians were efficient and professional. And the Russians were just really scary, be prepared for them to check your cabin up to 4 times, well. The trains were pretty good all round. The cabins were clean and nice. It’s not worth shelling out for train food though, just get off the train at stops for drinks and stock up at supermarkets before the journies. Also, the Russian train ladies (prodovitznas?) can be evil. Stay out of their way, they are not nice. If you want to take track pictures out the back of the train it’s perfectly possible but be discreet and best do it before the Moscow to Irkutsk leg as we weren’t allowed then for some reason. Oh and pictures through the windows work surprisingly well.

Updates for Info-Pack?
The info-pack was good. It would have been nice to have more information about wages etc. in Russia and Mongolia just to help us get used to the money quicker, especially in Mongolia with all those zeros! Also a colour version of the metro map provided would have been really helpful.

 


From Florian Harms
Trip BM1 Direct Trip
Date: 12th May 2004

Dear Monkeys,

We always wanted to tell you how happy we are about our Transsiberian trip - but just didn't have enough time these last weeks . Your questionary is a welcome occasion to do so and to tell you some details.

First of all: our "Tranzip experience" is still lasting a little ! Our "train#3-bathroom-mate" Jono, an Australian guy who traveled all the way from Canberra overseas/overland, just arrived in Paris and we continue seeing each other quite frequently. He will stay in Paris for one year... ! Maybe a way to improve my english ? [see Jono's website]

All your services were just perfect and really professional. Having spent hours and hours on your quite 70's-layouted website, I more expected to meet some expat-hippies at Dong Da Qiao Xie Daje, than you all, friendly, highly equipped and handling our demands in just a second ;-) Thanks also to Ailing for having us put on the train so kindly (including a briefing about the functioning of our bathroom...) !

I will restrict my comments to some practical details - otherwise this email would become a novel, with all what we saw during the trip.

The first nice surprise happened already half an hour after having left Beijing - we were invited to have lunch and dinner in the chinese retaurant car. This might usual for DeLuxe-travelers, but we didn't know and were happy about that. [dining covouchers are sometimes included with the Chinese Ticket - even the ticket officedon't know when and how this happens !]

There was one thing in the Mongolian restaurant car which we didn't know either: we were really ripped-off when ordering "lunch". We payed this 15 $ and therefore didn't taste any mongolian-style food. Instead, we should have asked for the menu, where the dishes were - as you say - "mutton-flavored" and a lot less expensive... . Maybe a comment to ad to your Info-Pack... . Bryn Thomas mentions this in his handbook, but we saw it too late.

We spend six hours in the middle of the Gobi desert - on of the bogies was broken and needed to be changed. Apparently, it took only 1 hour to fix it up, but five hours to discuss the price (lol) !

We remarked that most of the travelers got off at Ulan Bator - after Ulan Bator there were nearly no more "western" travelers on the train. This really changed, compared to my first trip on the Tranzip in 1993: as there are even groups traveling on the Transsib, and with all these stopovers, it is harder to get in contact with other travelers. In 1993, we spent all of our time in the restaurant car, discussing, playing cards and drinking. Maybe it was a very special trip in 93 also, because we were forced to stay in Mongolia for three additional days (rain had washed away the tracks), and people became more close... ?

Because of the six hours delay, we nearly missed the train in Naushki ! Our "fuwuyuen" could't tell us, how long we would stop at Naushki. We went to change money at that "bank" at the end of the platform - which took "hours". When we stepped out, all the doors of the train (except ours) had already been shut, and we could see Jono making us signs to hurry. As our agon was one of the first behind the engine, we ran for our lives. I think I never run so quickly in my whole life, all the 400m along the platform, the train even started moving slowly... .

Lake Baikal was incredible ! The half frozen lake with the trees alreday getting green was among the most beautiful we saw on our trip ! We regret not to have tasted "Omul" at Slyudyanka ! The fish seemed just to come right from the oven - but your warnings in the InfoPack were so strong, we didn't dare to try. Others did and didn't go sick. Maybe you should limit your warnings to the critical summer months, or tell people that, if they want to
buy some, they should only buy steaming, fresh ones ?

As we expected, the russian restaurant car was the worst - but it was even worse than in 1993 ! When in 93, there was a small choice of five or six dishes and we could even taste caviar on the train, this time, they only had Gulasch and Solyanka (getting richer every day...). The other "western" travelers didn't even show up, and so we were left lonely amongst drunk
russian travelers. The lady who run the restaurant car kept the money in her bra (!) (her husband was responsible for the Gulasch and Solyanka), and the main attraction of the car was a small, black cat, that came sharing your dish while you were eating... .

Having met so many kind people in China, Moscow was a quite diffrent experience. Maybe people are just too tired to be polite or firendly ? The AST Hof Hotel certainly is a good/cheap choice, but with all those black-suited security people in the lobby and the restaurant being open 24/24, it seemed that there is some shady stuff going on... . But maybe this is only the actual russian way of life.

We adored the food at My-My and had a amazingly cheap (russian!) dinner at "Matrioshka" (described in Thomas Bryn's Handbook).

THANK YOU FOR EVERYTHING ! We will recommend MonkeyBusiness to whoever asks us about taking the Transsib (already did...!) and hope to maybe do the trip once again - with some stopovers, this time.

Best regards !

Florian


Name Jono Crane
Package #BM6
Dates 12th May
Web: http://www.getjealous.com/jonnycrane

Irkutsk - Delicous food at Lystvyanka – make sure you stay with Galena.

Moscow - Professional staff

St Petersburg - Life savingly friendly staff

Train Journeys - Chinese train was the best. Russian train was not as good. Russian dining car was pretty bad.

Updates for Info-Pack? - Everytime the train stops, you usually have to ask the provodnik to turn the power back on if you are using a laptop or anything plugged into power. I think its some auto switch off thing. On the Chinese train it was easy to open the window for taking photos, but on the Russian train (number 9) you couldn’t open any windows… a bit annoying!

Will you Recommend Us? YES


Name Marty Osredker
Package # BM9
Departure Date April 6th
---------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pre-Booking 8
Booking Process 8 These were done mostly through Eldon and Netia
Monkey Team 10 friendly and patient
Info-Pack 10
Value for Money 8 changing to Euro currency was a bite
The Train itself 8
Transfers 10 just great to be met and whisked away for an adventure -- saved the headache of trying to find places on our own
Mongolia Stop-Over 10++++
Irkutsk Stop-Over 2 see below
Ekaterinburg Stop-over 10
Moscow 8
St Petersburg 5

---------------------------------------------------------------------------
FURTHER COMMENTS
Mongolia
Really liked Mongolia. Booggi was absolutely wonderful. She knew her stuff and shared it with us. When one of our group was sick, she went out of her way to assist. The Ger Camp staff were great. It was a terrific break from the train.

Irkutsk
Not so good. We saw nothing of Irkutsk and not much of the village at Lake Baikal. Lena (?), our guide, was young and not very receptive to the wishes of an older clientele. She may have known her stuff, but was not as forthcoming with it as the other guides. Our host families, however, were wonderful and they treated us well.

Ekaterinburg
Very interesting. Jhonna (?) our guide, was informative and fun. The visits to the monastery and the Asia/Europe marker were great. I'm partial to this time of Russian history, however.

Moscow
The guide makes all the difference. Lena was terrific and quite knowledgeable and had a great command of English. She was willing to accommodate us with any type of tour. Besides all that, she had a great sense of humor.

St Petersburg
On our own

Train Journeys
okay. Definitely should encourage people to break the long ride up with side trips.

Updates for Info-Pack?
Make people aware of how useless travellers checks really are. It takes too much energy and fees to make them worthwhile and it's too hard to find a place to cash them. Encourage people to bring crispy bills for tipping and a good all-round ATM card

Other Aspect
liked the booklet, it was helpful. We shared it with others on the train. Appreciated being met at the trains and helped to get back on the right train by friendly representatives

Will you Recommend Us?
I did....all along the trip. I would use you again if I did this trip in the future.

Marty Osredker, book-lovin' retiree
630-D W. 47th St.
Anchorage, AK 99503
907-561-5607


From Colin McKinnon
Dates 13th April
Trip: BM3

Mongolia - We had a brilliant time in the Ger camp in Mongolia thanks to the people there and the amazing scenery. So clean and fresh, if a little windy! Cant remember what the tour operator was called in Mongolia but their rep, Bogey (I think) was really cool and help us a lot, especially when I had my phone stollen in UB station when we arrived.

Moscow - Wonderful city, amazing and very different people, a bit gutted we didnt spend longer there.

St Petersburg - n/a

Train Journeys -

Beijing - UB: nice journey, sharing with other tourists, good fun.

UB - Moscow: the dreaded train number 5, it was amazing, a compartment to our selves all the way, funny mongolians on the border, helper attendants (sorry cant remember what they are called in Russian) and some really nice people sharing the carraige.
A great trip.

Will you Recommend Us? Deffinately recommend you to anyone going that way or there already and unsure how to get back.

One of my best experiences on my travels, thank you very much!


From: Fred and Brenda Nel
Dates: April 2004
Trip: BM4, First Class
Subject: Thanks!

Sorry that I took so long to e-mail, but things sort of got a bit busy when I returned to South Africa after 5 months away.

We want to thank you for the arrangements for our Trans-Siberian trip, your organization was excellent, and everything went more smoothly than we would have believed possible.The guides (Elena Ruboshkina in Irkutsk, and Lena of Marlis in Moscow) were really outstanding, and contributed in no small way to the overall success and enjoyment of the trip.If you have contact with their firms, I would appreciate it if you would let them know that we were really impressed with the service and friendliness.(I am e-mailing them independantly as well, to express our gratitude)

Please pass on our warm regards to Andy and Ailing as well, for their part in the organization and success of the trip. We have recommended you to other people in South Africa, as well as the biggest travel magazine, who ran an article on the Trans-Siberian railway last year. Hopefully it will bring you some business.

Once again, our sincere appreciation for your efforts.
Best wishes and kind regards
Fred and Brenda Nel


From Jon HARTMAN
Trip BM8
Date: 27th April
Subject Questionnaire reply

Mongolia--outdoor squat toilets 200m from ger camp were a bit much. No showers---they were working on the building. Warn travelers of scam: Three mongolian men rushed into my compartment and offered to "help me move my bag". I had it safely in the compartment below my bed and just sat on it. They moved onto another compartment where they "helped themselves" to someones money belt. [squat toilets are used in the winter when the restaurant and shower block are unusable because of frozen pipes]

Irkutsk- Lake was nice. Good home stay.

Moscow- Good home stay.

St Petersburg- Watch out for pickpockets on Nevsky. No one met me at train and so I spent a half day sorting out accomodations.

Check my journal on http://www.digitalnomad.org


From Magnus Bengtsson
Dates May 2004
Trip: BM3

Mongolia great place nine days is perfect

Moscow future travelers: consider to spend more time here than two nights if you can afford it.


From: Eamonn Sweeney
Trip: BM8
Date: 11th May

Mongolia Elstei and Shuren excellent outfit (only downfall, the showers were not available at Elstei)

Irkutsk Baikal homestay excellent. Svetlana from travel agency excellent. Spent lot of time with my elderly father (gave me a break!). Fisherman’s house disappointing – expecting authentic fisherman plying his trade

Moscow Hotel fine

St Petersburg Homestay sufficient.

Train Journeys As expected. Comfortable and unpredictable!

Updates for Info-Pack? No updates. Additions – do the Beijing bike ride as laid out in Lonely Planet BUT do not stop off as locals punctured our tube and demanded payment to fix! Do not take the 200 TG shoe shine in UB as the price dramatically increases during the shine – stand tough and they’ll back down!

Will you Recommend Us? YES (have done so)


From: Kate Thomas
Trip: BM8
Date: 13th April

Mongolia: Fantastic guide, ger camp- brilliant food and accomodation

Irkutsk: Guide not so helpful, accomodation in village (bolstoy?) very good- family very friendly

Moscow: Very well informed guide- knew everything and everybody! accomodation only ok, but free breakfast buffet very good

Train Journeys: Cabins smaller than imagined and buffet car far too expensive for travellers on a budget like ours! But fun to be had providing appropriate company and musical instruments!

Will you Recommend Us?: already have done- Thank you monkeys, we had a great time!


From Gerladine Stewart
Package # BM9
Departure Date April 6

Booking Process
Elden handled it for all of us to make things simple. The only problem I had which was not of your making I think was the switch from US$ to euros in the middle of the process.

Monkey Team:
you guys were great. Very helpful and responsive in answering e-mail (just the beer in the office when we were hot and tired would warrant a 10!)

Info-Pack
very informative. We used it a lot as a reference. Loved the CD!

Value for Money
I thought the stopovers were a little pricey, but on the whole a good deal

The Train itself
I love trains and this was an unique experience. the border crossings were a pain but over all the train was fun.

Transfers:
Some good some poor. It depended on how easy the escort was to spot and how much help we got with the luggage. Konstantin in Ekaterinburg was great. Very helpful and very informative on the ride to our hostel. (What happened to our home stay there?) He did it the way it should have been done!

Mongolia Stop-Over
Our guide Booggi was wonderful. Very attentive to our needs and interesting to talk to. Made our stay memorable and fun. Loved the ger camp and the visit to the nomadic family and the ride on the horse to get there. The outhouse at the ger camp was the only sour note and it didn't have to be. I live in a state where out houses are not unusual and I also used pit toilets on my job with wild fires in the wilderness and I know that a little sprinkle of lime (a fertilizer and environmentally safe product) will take away all the odor. They were disgusting. [the outside toilet is only used during the winter when water in the shower room freezes!]

Irkutsk Stop-Over
Our guide, Lena was not very good. I think it was because she was young and inexperienced, but she had nothing to say to us, nor to tell us, about the country we were driving through during the whole 2 hour drive to Bolshoi Glasnoe nor did she on the way back, preferring to talk to the driver and not answering when we asked questions. She was very inattentive to our needs and preferred to stay with the 2 young people instead of the 6 of us. We were also on a tour that was inappropriate for people in their 60s & 70s. I don't know why that was so. Our home stay with Zoya was 8/10. She worked very hard to keep us fed and the banya was wonderful. Again the out house was the worst part. (See my comments for Mongolia) I enjoyed staying in a small village and seeing how those people live.

Ekaterinburg Stop-over
Konstantin was excellent in arranging our transfers and in the little things that mean a lot (a small calendar, an amusing certificate when we went to the Asia/Europe border, the picnic lunch. Our guide, Jhanna was wonderful. Very friendly and informative. It was a pleasure be with her. She was also very accommodating to our requests.

Moscow
Our guide Lena was great and took the time and much trouble to make arrangements for us. She also showed us one of her favorite city views at night when we were with her on the Metro tour. And she made sure we had the proper tickets for the public transportation before we left her that night. Our other guide, Leana was the same; willing to go the extra mile and she was a fountain of knowledge about all aspects of the soviet system and of the Kremlin and the Armory. The agency, Marlis was also very accommodating and went beyond the call of duty I think. They supplied transport to the hostel from the hotel and from the hostel to the train station altho I don't think that was part of their arrangement. The driver stayed with us to make sure we got on the right train even tho' it was near midnight.

St Petersburg
Very helpful most of the time. When I had a problem with my immigration form they contacted Moscow and got a letter saying that I had stayed there faxed to me and also made up another letter for my stay there. (Fortunately neither were needed as my form wasn't even looked at when collected). They supplied a laundry rack when our clothes came back wet from the wash.

FURTHER COMMENTS: I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the accommodations and at the friendliness and helpfulness of the people along the way. I would highly recommend this trip.

Mongolia: Hotel Bayangol: room very nice and well situated to walk to stores.

Irkutsk; not enuf time there; would have liked to wander around and spend some time in the huge market there. Very rushed.

Ekaterinburg; rooms in Geology University very nice. Just renovated. One of the nicest breakfasts provided.

Moscow; hotel AST very nice. good breakfast buffet provided in dining room.

St Petersburg; close to transportation. Could get no info re bus to Helsinki. Finally took train.

Train Journeys: finally realized that we should change money before going to another country. Makes using the loo in the next station a little less of a problem. Of course keeping the toilets open would be helpful. Why not a holding tank?


From Paul WESTALL
Date 16-03-04

Hi guys

I've attached our feedback, there are a couple of recommendations but believe me overall we had a fantastic time and it was a great end to our year off. I've also hopefully attached a couple of photos.

Thanks for organising everything - the dog sledding really was brilliant!

All the best
Paul Westall

Mongolia Great fun staying at the gher, hotel was excellent.

Irkutsk Staying with our host at Lake Baikal was really good, she was very friendly and her cooking really was superb. Loved the outside sauna! Our host in Irkutsk was friendly but less welcoming, the food left a lot to be desired and the flat had a dog and cat. If there was a downside to this trip and I have to say we did mean to get back to you on this and recommend that this home stay should not be used – sorry.

Ekaterinburg Excellent – though we were at first expected to make our own way to the tour operators’ office the following morning for 9am, we didn’t get in till 5’ish the previous evening. I did tell them we wanted to be picked up and they did this without any problem. Otherwise the home stay, dog sledding (brilliant!) and tour were great.

Moscow Hotel not up to much and a bit more info for places to eat and drink locally could be useful but we certainly had a good time.

St Petersburg NA

Train Journeys Good fun, most memorable point probably a three bottles of vodka drinking session with the Mongolian ‘chuckle brothers’ one afternoon. Don’t know what they did but they had 10 passports between them!

Updates for Info-Pack? There’s a good Mongolian BBQ just passed metro on the left from hotel which is good value IF you fill up your bowl to start with


From: Nicolas Makiewicz
Date: 10-03-04

Moscow Very nice , very beautiful city
Train Journeys
Updates for Info-Pack?
Other Aspects The only “ problem “ , was the hotel in moscou , to far from the city center, and not good quality , better pay more and have something better. the travel was perfect , everything was ok , the train not too long and moscou is beautiful , we don t have any problem with visas or train ticket . it s a very good " souvenir". we would like to make more trip with train, maybe, the silk road, more. if you can organize more trips, you can send us emails, with offers.
thank you again sorry for my bad english
nicolas and nathalie


From: Dominic Khojasteh
Date: 10-03-04

Pre-Booking = 8 My friend took care of it…
Booking Process = 8 …but no problems at all
Monkey Team = 8 Helpful & v friendly
Info-Pack = 10 Really good & informative (especially the bachelor monkey chat up lines)
Value for Money = 5 A bit more than in reality but everything was really well organized & saved so much hassle, thanks.
The Train itself = 10 Good. Pretty quiet & the food on the Chinese side really sucked.
Transfers = 8 Helpful & always on time. Train to St. Pete was expensive compared to original price.
Moscow = 10 LOVED IT, WELL GOOD. Great home stay in Arbat.
St Petersburg = 8 Pretty but too tired. Not enough Metro stations. Hotel wasn’t bad.

Further Comments
St Petersburg
Moscow
Train Journeys Remind passengers to get money before hand. There are 1 or 2 banks close to the stations in Russia.
Updates for Info-Pack? Difficult to get the KGB tour in Moscow. Need to call in advance as much as possible. Recommend Mama Zoya’s (Georgian) restaurant & ice skating in Gorky Park (winter) + graveyard of statues of Soviet leaders (next to Gorky).


Name Adam Hendy
Package # BM1
Trip Dates From 3.3.04 To 8.3.04

Thanks for your mail and I have filled in the questionnaire - see below.

I had a wonderful trip thanks in the main to your organisation and tips. I met some wonderful people it made the return leg of my world tour. Have to say though that the St. Petersburg hotel is not good at all and the location leaves a bit to be desired - especially in contrast to Moscow. Perhaps the guests should be met at the the station if arriving by train as it is easy to get lost. The guide said I made good time even though I got a little lost and she said some people take two hours to get there! As you arrive in rush hour too with a large backpack it is difficult toi get onto the tubes and new customers should be warned.

Also the mark up on the St. Petersburg overnighter is a little steep to say the least. The Moscow station is dodgy at night too. I was OK and had no problems but female travellers should be warned as the train leaves late and every other person in the station is drunk or on the prowl. Finally directions to the left luggage here should be improved as well as directions to the station itself.

Overall though I met so many great people and am grateful for all your advice and chat.Keep the the good work lads.

All the best

St Petersburg Great city to visit but as mentioned the hotel location and condition was poor. The only downer on the whole trip and perhaps the guest should be greeted at the station.

Moscow Excellent hotel, if a little off the beaten track. Leanna the guide was so helpful and knowledgeable

Train Journeys 11/10 for The Trans–Sib. It made my round the world trip and the advice given before departure was excellent.

Updates for Info-Pack? The train timings and KM markings need to be looked at as there is an error about three quarters of the way through.

Other Aspects St Petersburg hotel angle needs to be looked at completely.

Will you Recommend Us? YES – 100%


Name Sacha Metzemakers
Package # BM1
Departure Date 18/02/04

Hi dear Monkeys,

Transsib trip was fine, Moscow snowy and expensive and there was no proble for the boxed bike until belgium where I was told that a box is not a luggage and that I had to pay for it (expensive and unsympathic 10 euros)...

Thanks for your job, and maybe see you again.

Moscow
St Petersburg
Beetroot
Train Journeys
Updates for Info-Pack? security : for those who feel insecure after locking their door in train n°3, yhere is a little "switch" at the upper left corner of the door, impossible to open the door if it is switched out
Other Aspects
Will you Recommend Us? Maybe but I will tell to book the hotel in moscow with internet or when there


Name John Hutch
Date April 2004
Trip From Norway to Beijing

St Petersburg
Moscow AST Hotel ok and service minded. Even Internet facilities in a smoky room.

Ekaterinburg Hotel a bit difficult to find back to in the winter night. Knowledge of Russian useful.Guides excellent, Good contents and good English. Pleasant stay.Bought straw-sandals in the market, useful for the train journey onwards.

Irkutsk Received well by Sasha and driver Igor. Hotel Angara (renovated part) much better than Hotel Intourist where I stayed five years ago. Room service the same: “Would you like to enjoy a beautiful woman, Sir?”

Ulan Ude / Mongolia Probably the only tourists at Ivolginsk Datsan in –15 centigrades. Guide Sveta knowledgeable and helpful, homestay family Sasha and Ljudmila too. – The huge head of Lenin in the central square is unforgettable. And so is the new chapel in the middle of the main street commemorating the execution of Tsar Nicholas II and his family.Ulan Ude is a peaceful, charming city, even more so in the summer. Guide Boogi informative and service minded. Stay in ger-camp pure luxury compared to staying in tents in the winter in Norway. Pleasant atmosphere and good food.

Train Journeys No problems. Info-pack prepared us well, although stay on Russian – Mongolian border was somewhat longer than expected (8 – 9 hours). Starched linen damask table cloth in the compartment in the Chinese train!

Updates for Info-Pack? You seem to have done it already…..


From Kiara King
Package BM8
Date: 9th March

Sorry for the delay in filling out the questionnaire, the realities of work I'm afraid. Myself and Richard had a wonderful trip, which was made so much easier by your organisation and help so thank you very much, we will definately keep you in mind should we find ourselves on that side of the world again,

all the best
Kiara (and Richard)


From Brian Cheng
Package # BM1
Trip Dates From April 7 To April 15

I had a great time on the Trans-Siberian, espcially with Bulgakov, Dostoyevsky and Chekov as my constant reading companions. I will certainly recommend you guys to my friends contemplating the journey.

Despite having heard mixed reviews from previous visitors, I found Moscow to be an amazing city, which combined exotic architecture with the hustle-bustle of a large metropolis. The city does have its rough edges, but I found that this actually added to its mystique. The Marlis Travel walking tour was definitely a highlight. Overall I had a great time in Moscow.


 

Name Chris Black
Package # BM1
Departure Date APRIL 24

IMPRESSIONS
(please give mark for each area) SUPERB = 10 // GOOD = 8 // FAIR = 5 // BAD =2 // AWFUL =0

Pre-Booking 10 - quick replies to e-mails, useful, informative.
Booking Process 7 - no problems, but money transfer was a a bit of a pain - credit cards would be much easier
Monkey Team 10 - lovely :-)
Info-Pack 10 - didn't really realise how good it was until I got back!
Value for Money 9
The Train itself 10 - not luxurious, but sort of what I expected, it was great
Transfers 10 - no problems at all
Moscow 8 - hotel was much better than expected, Marlis were very professional
St Petersburg n/a

FURTHER COMMENTS
Moscow Perhaps emphasising more clearly that you must book the KGB museum tour a day in advance.
Train Journeys
Updates for Info-Pack?
Other Aspects
Will you Recommend Us? Absolutely


Surname Glyn-Jones/Finigan
Package # BM1
Departure Date 11.02.04

We had a fantastic time and if it wasn't for the efficiency of your office I don't think the trip would have been possible for us. We were travelling at the time so good communication was essential. The only time we had trouble was when we did the money transfer with the bank of China who were suspicious of the reference code we put down on the form. They wouldn't release the cash until they had a proper explanation. This caused us a few panicky days. So if there were any improvements I would suggest it would be to have a less problematic payment system. We didn't have the permanent addresses or contact numbers for bank staff to get in touch with us when the transfer went wrong. It took many phone calls at booths on Malaysian street corners to get the problem sorted out!

The only negative thing that happened was a gang of men tried to rob us on the St Petersburg metro. We have been travelling 18 months and this was the closest we came to crime. The first time the gang of men tried to herd James into a position where they could seize his bag and then they followed me on to the train and tried crowd me while someone attempted to get into the same bag. They didn't succeed but this had been preceeded by someone trying a more subtle pickpocket earlier that morning. It didn't spoil our time in St P though!


Name Tara DUNCAN
Package # BM1
Date FEBRUARY 11TH, 2004

Moscow - the city was beautiful. I only had a day and a half there, but i Managed to take the metro around and see half a dozen sites. With the Temperature being at least -20 with the wind, and snow covering everything, It truly felt like russia in the winter.

Train journeys - the feeling i took away with me from the trip on the train Was the comraderie (sorry for the spelling) with our carriage-mates. After We left ulan-bataar, we found ourselves on a half-empty carriage full of Chinese men, none of whom spoke english. However, after an attempt to Introduce ourselves (by using our handy chinese-english dictionary), we Began a friendship with the men that included xchanging food and drink, Having a snowball fight at one of the stops, and even them teaching us Chinese chess - which was a painfully slow process since they didn't speak English and we didn't speak chinese!! All in all, I would recommend the trip During the winter to those who really want the authentic experience. Updates for info-pack? - absolutely none, the info-pack was amazing, and Checking the timetable of stops (and corresponding times) along the route Became an hourly ritual for us.

Other aspects

Will you recommend us? I already have.


From: Anne-Maris Gregory
Date: 10-03-04
Trip: BM1 Beijing to Moscow on Train #3

IMPRESSIONS = SUPERB 10 GOOD 8 FAIR 5 BAD 2 AWFUL 0
Pre-Booking: 10
Booking Process: 10
Monkey Team: 10
Info-Pack: 8
Value for Money: 8
The Train itself: 5-8-10 (seriously dodgy toilet)
Transfers: 10
Moscow: 8 (guess you mean the hotel, not the city)
St Petersburg: dunno

Moscow is fab. Was there at the right time for sales shopping (post Orthodox Xmas?). It has a very cosmopolitan European vibe...unlike last time I was there (1992). The Zarya hotel room was a little shabby, compared to value for money in BJ, but fine. Their breakfast was good. The Moscow people apologized profusely for not meeting me with an English speaker at the station, but the transfer was absolutely fine. Never found an Internet caff there. The deli shops nr the Metro are excellent (and the best croissant place I ate at in Moscow just outside...they are now everywhere), as is the one just round the corner (go down the road and turn at first corner, its +/- immediately on your right). Go to the Coffee Bean places in town (e.g. Tvervskaya ul ... nr the 'Russian Harrods' Eliseevsky Food Hall) to chill/warm up in comfort. Their luggage storage arrangements (at the Zarya hotel) are a pain...I spent 30min checking my stuff into their store across the road for a fee so that I could spend 2 hours in town that morning before heading to the airport.

Train Journeys It was nice n quiet when I travelled. Another foreigner (not a MB customer) wasnt so happy with his carriage as there was a Chinese family in it....no space and they got hassled at the border crossings. Maybe add some detail about this to your info pack. I would have benefited from the Bryn Thomas book sections on what to look out for at the km markers...finally saw the thing in London. Yes, the LP book is crap. Both arent awfully helpful in being written from a W to E perspective. We cross the Great Wall for the first time at about 9:20am, certainly earlier than I thought (was caught short and kinda missed it).

The 2nd class accom on the train is not quite like the soft sleepers in China...the washroom is converted to the extra fuwuyuans quarters...so no-where clean to wash. They locked the second toilet in our carriage for the whole journey...the other was dirty before we left Beijing....people at one point were simply peeing on the floor cos it was so dirty. Can imagine people freaking out over this. Take plenty of wet wipes. I also took disposable gloves and was very glad I did. The shower in first class was very weak. Chinese smoked all over the train til well into Russia. The windows are locked closed so photography has to be through them....clean them with wet wipes (though my pictures are still crap).

Erlian is the last place you can buy fresh fruit. I raided Carrefour in BJ and took along salad and fresh fruit....glad I did. When the train stops at Erlian, if you get out it will move off, without you, without warning. This is when they change the wheels. I wasnt clear on this from the infopack. If you're on the platform you won't see the train for another 4 hours. There is a karaoke bar upstairs diagonally opp (a bit to the right) the station. Russians are paranoid about photography. Do not take photos at the station just on Russian soil, cf Erlian, which is laid back about such things.

The Chinese dining car is fairly crap (breakfast sux, dinner is better). The tokens youre handed in BJ are only valid for the Chinese dining car. The Mongolian dining car ROCKS. Slightly OTT Mongolian decor. Excellent range of food, all currencies accepted (RMB, Mongolian stuff, roubles, dollars)...and low prices. Russian dining car...the food is quite good (another foreigner didnt like it....all the veg is preserved. Some people hated the Russian soup...theres not too much choice...maybe 6 things available in total) but expensive. Mrs Russian dining car matriarch will accept dollars (for a fee) but might not have change, forcing you to buy stuff from her in lieu of change. Bring your own caffeine. The restaurant does not serve lunch on the last day. There were no Tran-Sib goodies (cavier etc) available on the train. The vac-packed smoked salmon from the Russian kiosks is excellent. IMHO Mongolian beer (lager) is pants, Russian beer is good.

Check the train times around Yekaterinburg....the time you give is for the previous stop. The guards are not keen on laowai getting off at the stops, I think they are genuinely worried about losing us. Also loading coal in through the doors prevents you getting out onto the platform. The train ran to time all the time except one station in the middle.

Updates for Info-Pack? See above
Other Aspects See above
Will you Recommend Us? YES