Too Ambitious for a Novice Solo Traveller?
Replies: 23 - Last Post: Aug 2, 2012 10:13 AM Last Post By: kiwibabe
Jul 9, 2012 2:09 AM
Jul 9, 2012 2:12 AM
Jul 10, 2012 2:44 PM
17ValerieLYC_Mt - Thanks for your reassurance :) I look forward to visiting China, especially some rural areas away from the east coast.
hurricanebertha - I agree that you can never really be “ready” :) What I meant was, wait until I’m ready in terms of plans (research, bookings, visas etc). But I am getting very close to the point of just saying “sod it” to all of my doubts/concerns and just going! In fact I want to give my boss my leaving date this week.
everbrite (Ruth) – Thank you so much for such comprehensive advice! I’ve also seen your posts on other sites and have found your info really helpful. Since you seem to really know your stuff, I’m hoping you’ll help me just a bit more before I make any final decisions about going solo to Russia.
I’ve been reading the Trans-Siberian Handbook and the Lonely Planet version, and have started learning the cyrillic alphabet. I’ll have a lot of time in the next few months to do more research on places/things I’d like to see and accommodation etc. Hopefully I can learn the alphabet and some basics of the Russian language and go with your suggestion of using rzd.ru website. So if you don’t pre-book any tickets in the UK through an agency, it’s just a matter of going to a ticket desk in Russia and writing down what you’re after? e.g. Date, Kupe class, Omsk to Novosibirsk? So the only necessities I need to sort out in advance are visas and any vaccinations?
I’m warming to the idea of travelling in winter now. I think I’d rather extreme cold than intense heat (I get sunburnt VERY easily!). I’m sure I’m probably underestimating just how freezing it’ll be but as long as you make sure you book hostels/hotels with decent heating and pack a lot of warm clothes? As I’m looking to buy the Trans-Siberian tickets as I go along I suppose going in winter suits this as you are more likely to get the dates/class you want? But what is Russia and the railway like in November/December for meeting other travellers? For the average person how would you weigh up doing this independent vs an organized group trip? I won’t be in any rush whatsoever and would like to make full use of the 30 day visa. I’m definitely up for some adventure, but at the same time don’t want to do anything too risky or dangerous. I’m not a physically strong/well built person, but I think I must be reasonably strong minded (or just ignorant) to even consider doing this solo and independent having not travelled much in my life.
Just a couple more things I promise!
I’m keen to do whole thing by rail (London to St Petersburg) just for the journey, the feeling of travelling through places instead of flying for once. But is it worth it? Someone suggested applying for a double entry Russian visa to visit Kaliningrad before going through Lithuania & Latvia – would you recommend this?
I’m planning to bring a lightweight 10” laptop along, as well as a small but decent camera and kindle (e-reader) – any real concerns about theft and safety nowadays for a young guy travelling solo through Russia? When doing web searches for that kind of thing a lot of it’s not positive, but I wonder how many of these people have actually been there in the last 5 years and know what they’re talking about.
Jul 10, 2012 3:48 PM
Look for what I have posted many times which I call my starter information for this trip.
Jul 11, 2012 5:27 AM
19Thanks again Ruth! Your info has been really helpful and cleared up loads of my questions. :) Will take a look at your links.
I have decided: just going to go for it! Solo and as independently as I can, leaving in the first half of November (whether I go the whole way by train or take a flight some of the way). Will continue trying to learn the alphabet and also as many words/phrases as I can.
I know things will go wrong and be stressful at times but I'm up for the challenge - hopefully won't regret saying that!
Jul 22, 2012 12:52 PM
20Hello again Ruth! And of course to anyone else who can offer advice :)
This time my questions are concerning the weather... I understand that this simply cannot be predicted and seasons in Russia vary from year to year, but I was hoping you could give some insight from your experiences there.
Here's my "dilemma": my bro's wedding in mid-October is really my last commitment keeping me here in the UK, and I've already postponed my travelling plans twice, so from November onwards I'm keen to leave asap! Trouble is, I keep reading that November is generally one of the worst times of year to travel around Russia as winter hasn't set in yet and there's more chance of freezing rain and muddy slush. But then the closer to Dec 22nd the shorter the daylight hours, and as I'm going alone and want to do things independently I'm going to move about really slowly and get lost a lot - in Japan it took me at least 3 times longer to do anything by myself compared to with the group and I imagine Russia will be more difficult - so the lack of daylight could cause problems especially if I'm focused on getting back to where I'm staying before it gets too dark. I know your favourite time is around February. :)
I want to make full use of a 30 day tourist visa (or say about 27 days to avoid cutting it too fine). Have started putting together a rough Trans-Sib itinerary (and this is rough as I want to buy tickets as I go): St Petersburg, V.Novgorod, Moscow, Suzdal, Kazan, Yekaterinburg, Tobolsk, Novosibirsk, Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk/Olkhon Island, Ulan Ude. I am wondering if that's way too much to try and fit in... So my general "plan" is a month in Russia (say 12th Nov to 8th Dec), 1-2 weeks in/around Ulaanbaatar, getting to Beijing before Christmas, 2-3 months in China and then maybe a ferry to Japan in time to see the cherry blossoms, which I missed 2 years ago when the Icelandic volcano cancelled my flight!
So basically my question is: is doing Russia at this time just asking for the start of my trip to be ruined by bad weather? Or is it just impossible to tell and I should stop worrying about it and go when I want? Is there likely to be winter activities in Russia during the period of 12th Nov to 8th Dec?
I'm really up for the challenge of experiencing the Trans-Siberian in Winter and seeing everything covered in snow, although my dad is telling me that people freeze to death during the worst times of winter and that I don't understand how cold it'll be, so I'm willing to compromise and go when the temperature is a bit milder. And also by leaving in November hopefully Mongolia won't be as freezing as it would be if I Ieft in December or January.
Many thanks! Really appreciate your help.
One side question: I read that during winter time the Trans-Manchurian has more beautiful scenery than Trans-Mongolian. Any advice on that? I do like the occasional museum and cultural day, but my main interest is nature.
Jul 22, 2012 1:43 PM
In my view there isn't much difference between the TransManchurian route and the trans Mongolian route. The one major difference is that the stop off point for The Mongolian route is Ulan Bator and for the Manchurian route, Harbin but the Harbin ice festival isn't until after the first of the year so traveling in mid late December you are too early to see it.
Honestly, I wouldn't worry so much about getting lost. We aren't talking about pitch black. There are street lights and lots of activity.
Jul 31, 2012 11:07 PM
22'First you jump off the cliff and then you build you wings on the way down.'
Good on you for having the guts to go for a big solo overland trip! Your idea is perfectly doable. Go for it! Last year I travelled as a solo 26yr old female overland from Sth-East Asia, through China, Mongolia, Russia, Eastern and Western Europe to London. The trip took 5months, I had about $20,000 (Aus) saved up for the trip but only used half of that. I thought I'd wing it and book trains and accommodation as I went. I got to China and had such a hard time booking Chinese trains (travel in China during their public holidays not recommended, sooo many Chinese people travelling during this time) and decided to book my trains through Mongolia and Russia through the Real Russia website. They were brilliant, not exactly the cheapest option but it did provide a bit of peace of mind.I wouldn't worry about booking accommodation too much ahead of time, just a day or two in advance should be ok.
Go out and get yourself the Lonely Planet books for Europe, Trans-Siberian Railway, China and Sth-East Asia, they are a great help and provide tips and inspiration. Also check out the Thorntree posts from Everbrite (Ruth) and email her for any questions, her posts here on Thorntree were really helpful for me when I was planning my trip.
Don't worry about those who tell you the trip is too long or too difficult. It's the challenge that makes travel exciting! Good luck :)
Aug 2, 2012 10:13 AM
23Hi had a bit of a read through your posts and answers - ive been travelling a lot and done China in winter - I bought heavy duty boots to be geared up for winter in north China and even a local in Beijing gave me her husbands PLA coat for my trip on up to Harbin - Ive done a lot of travels around Europe in conditions like that but with cars with snow tyres the cushier way but thats how I managed to get around and get to heaps of places limited otherwise , havent done Russia yet but think i will be doing it enroute to my next trip to China in july/aug next year - done a lot of places elsewhere through all the seasons and travelling independently is such bliss
bringing your trip forward to Oct is going to help a lot - and the suggestion to do Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia in my opinion is a very good one - these countries can be a lot easier to get around while finding your feet as an independent traveller - and transport and food is pretty cheap - there are good hostels there so things are geared up quite well. I absolutely loved Bulgaria even more so - but I drove there and i think having done my travelling by rental car in many places has opened up things for me to appreciate a lot than i could and have done by bus and train - especially when i love landscapes and gettin to historical sites and creating routes using my guidebooks rather than A to B with public transport (i did lots of train and planes in china for example which is another form of experiencing the coutnry at people level)
I have spent quite a number of years being part of the travel community on www.virtualtourist.com and there is a member there gyuriFT who is great for train travel info all over Europe - particularly in the areas of the 'eastern block' countries so if you are going to take those directions for your next travel drop him a line
If you are at any possibility of considering making Morocco your destination to find your travel feet that also is a country full of variety and a great place for a challenge - i write a lot of stuff for there to help people have an easier time finding their way about there so they have a better chance of getting under the negatives that a lot of unprepared tourists get put off by and see the beauty spots there.
all the best
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