Has anyone used the All Russia Travel Service when booking a trip like this they appear to ok and they have put together a nice itinery for us but I just want to know a bit about the company before I hand over my hard earned dosh
Sorry, I haven't heard of them before. I have done the Trans-Siberian, and I know that if you don't speak Russian using an agency is probably a good idea. You might try looking for one recommended by a guidebook - unfortunately, my experience with Russia is that scams abound. I lived there for a year, speak Russian fluently and still got scammed by a real estate agent. And know Russians who have been scammed. So look carefully before handing over the cash!
Thanks Emily thats why I want to check it out when are asking me for 3000 euros as a deposit
How many people are there? 3,000 euros is far more than my sister and I paid together for the whole trip. Of course, I bought the tickets in Russia at the international ticket counter in St. Petersburg. It was 2 years ago, but I think for us to get from St. Petersburg to Ulan-Ude was about 7,000 rubles, which is about $250. We traveled Kupe, which means in a enclosed sleeper that has 4 beds in each compartment. From Ulan-Ude we took a bus to Ulan-Bator and then took a combination of train and bus to Beijing. From Ulan-Ude to Beijing was definitely less than $100 each, though. If you are staying in Hotels along the way, though, it could get more expensive fairly quick.
If you don't already have the Lonely Planet guide to the Trans-Siberian, get it. It will be the best $20 spend to plan your trip, and they recommend agencies that will help you with the tickets. I would probably trust any agency they recommend. Unless you're traveling with a group of 10, though, 3,000 euro is way more than you should be paying, especially for a deposit.
Another note: the busy season just ended, so if you don't worry too much about train tickets selling out. Plus, the more expensive train tickets rarely sell out on Russian trains, usually it is the platzkart, or cheapest, open benches that sell out fast. Anyway, you could always show up in Russia and buy the tickets then. Or if you are near Berlin, there is a Russian Railroads office there. Check out the Russian Rail website for more info.
Hotels should probably be booked in advance, though, at least in our experience!
Emily there is 4 of us and this includes homestay accomodation in each of the 4 cities we are visiting plus transfers etc. I got a number of quotes and this was the cheapest at about 6000 euros for the 4 of us when Penquin Travel and Monkey shrine wanted over 9000 euros.
I have also visited a number of other sites and discovered that they are probably better known as Grint Hospitality and it would appear they are not a scam but can be a bit hit and miss with thier communications. I will also check out the lonely planet guide as I have a couple of months to book it yet.
Emily could you speak basic Russian when you booked your tickets? I can't afford to book through a tour company, its just wasted money anyway, but I really can't speak a word of Russian!! Apparently it isn't as guarenteed booking in the countries??