It’s hard to believe these days that just a couple of months ago we were making our way from Beijing to St. Petersburg by rail.
When you dream about executing a plan like that for so long, there’s always a struggle in dealing with the reality of its finality — a finality that came all too soon if I might add. And to think it all started seriously with the chance encounter at a travel show here in Sydney with a company that specializes in rides on the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian trains.
That got me excited, and initially, I thought I might work with said company, but when it came down to it — beyond having a cool name and a pre-planned system, it was extremely expensive. I’m talking over $3k JUST for the train tickets, accommodation, and some local assistance along the way. That didn’t include the airfare, visa fees, food, tours, and everything else that would be needed to make the 21 day trip happen. Add that into the equation, and you’re looking at something in the $5k range (for less than one month!).
The Budget Friendly Option
So, I started looking around at how we could do the whole trip cheaper. Being outside of Russia, resources for booking the train tickets are quite limited, and that means it is easy for companies to charge a premium. However, when I saw that Katie Aune had chosen to work with Real Russia on her train trip, I started the emailing process.
Low and behold, they responded rather quickly and were eager to answer any of my questions — and questions I had! With several months to go before the trip, you could say we emailed dozens of times back and forth (I literally mean dozens). I was more than happy with the amount of service and information they offered, and that is why my group decided to work with them.
But, Brooke… didn’t they sponsor you? Isn’t that why you worked with them?
Well yes, they did provide my group with a hefty discount on our train tickets, but… that was quite late in the game when it was decided. We had already pretty much chosen our route and were in the process of making bookings when the offer was presented. So while Real Russia were sponsors, their sponsorship had no effect on our decision to work with them. You’re just going to hear a bit more about them from me now.
Real Russia Rocked My Socks
In addition to amazing customer service and free information and train trip planning for Russia (it’s a tough cookie to crack, by the way), Real Russia exceeded my expectations in price, convenience and personal service. Here are a few of the ways they rocked my socks:
- Our train tickets without the discount came to somewhere around a third of the price of the other company I was looking at. Yeah, that doesn’t provide accommodation or local assistance, but… that doesn’t cost $2k now does it.
- We got free letters of invitation for our Russian visas. Just had to take that with my visa application and bam, Russian visa granted. Ok, there was more involved with that process than I would have liked.
- When I told them our plans had to change once or twice, they didn’t bat an eye. They just did their awesome jobs and helped us.
- We actually had someone hand-deliver a packet of train tickets to us at our stop in Irkutsk. How’s that for service?!
All in all, great company to work with, and I’m happy that they are helping so many people easily experience a journey through Russia by train. Big thanks to Real Russia for the assistance on a trip of a lifetime.