We thought it might be useful to include links to websites and blogs
that we have used planning/during our trip. So that’s what this bit is….
The man in Seat 61: http://www.seat61.com/
What this bloke doesn’t know about train travel, isn’t worth knowing. This has probably been the single most helpful website in planning our trip. He even has a section on getting from the UK to Australia by train, which was really helpful. The amount of detail is pretty astonishing, and this isn’t a company or a team, this is one guy and his passion for train travel.
Hostel world: http://www.hostelworld.com/
Does what it says on the tin. There may be other sites like this, but this seems the most popular and convenient, aimed specifically at travellers/hostels. Seems to have a better interface and more options and results than hostelbookers.com, although hostelbookers may well be slightly cheaper. We haven’t used either of them enough to say which is best for definite. Anyway, the basic premise is: Search for a place and dates, and view available hostels with ratings. Then book. Simple. We used tripadvisor occasionally for a second opinion but the problem with tripadvisor is that a huge portion of people leaving reviews seem to be idiots. “£20 a night for a room in a hostel, and there was no silver service! Outrageous!”
Real Russia: http://www.realrussia.co.uk/
Probably the biggest ball ache of sorting the trip was arranging visas for our trip on the trans-siberian. I was going to arrange these myself, but I’m glad we went through a travel agent in the end, as the process is a nightmare and you need help of people who know. We needed a Belarusian transit visa (£77 each, just for passing through the country without getting off!), and Russian, Mongolian, and Chinese tourist visas. The Russian Visa application form is like being interviewed by the KGB, some of the most intrusive examples are: They want to know every country you’ve been in the past 10 years, whether you have been a member of ANY organization, public, private or charitable, and whether you’ve ever been involved in an armed conflict (reasonable I suppose). They also need to see bank statements and if they decide you don’t earn/have enough money, your not coming in. Realrussia were helpful in helping us get round this by listing Amy as a “home maker”, which bizarrely meant no need for any proof of income/earnings (and also didn’t mean I had to have more cash to bring my home maker with me). Overall, it was well worth using realrussia as the whole ticket/visa process was a big job, and I imagine it would of been ridiculously frustrating without the help of a travel agent.