Travel Advice \ Travelers' Feedback
Moscow was AWESOME! I saw many cultural things - Musuem of Great Patriotic War, St. Basil's Cathedral, Kremlin, Glinka Music Museum, and I walked around many areas including Arbat and the walking area a few blocks behind the Bolshoi. Thanks to the time change from USA, I woke up very early every day (5-6 am) and got in some nice runs around the park by the hotel. One morning I took the Metro into the center and ran around Red Square and surrounding areas while it was virtually empty. The train ride was fantastic. I think it was 70% my mistake and 30% provodnitsa's mistake, but I was actually initially seated in the wrong car - and it was a platskart 3rd class! After about 15 minutes my seatmates realized the mistake and we got it fixed, but I did get a glimpse. I am glad you recommended spending extra on the kupe! That being said, platskart looks fun, so maybe next time I'll take a shorter ride in one of those...
Noah K. (Moscow to Mongolia via BAM railway, July 2013)
First of all, wanted to thank you for arranging a terrific trip! After the missed airport pick-up in Beijing I was understandably nervous about the rest of the journey, but everything else was flawless. The accommodations were generally first rate with very helpful staffs, the transfers and tour were on-time and usually early, the vehicles used were clean and ran well, the drivers were careful and safe, and the help exchanging e-tickets for paper ones in Irkutsk was very helpful. FYI, all of the trains we were on in Russia had aircraft style vacuum toilets, so the bathrooms were never closed. I was also able to get a wheelchair in all of the Russian train stations, which was a big help. Also, while we did print out all of the vouchers and train tickets, most of the hotels and our last two trains just wanted to see our passports.
Steve & Jensen family (Beijing - St. Petersburg rail journey, June 2013)
Well, the part of the trip that you have helped me with has come to an end! All I have to do is get on the plane for Moscow tomorrow morning. It has been an incredible trip-- the trip of a lifetime. Thanks for helping to make it happen. Rachel.
Ms. Rachel Wilson (BAM railroad, Ust-Barguzin, Lake Baikal, Ulan-Ude, Feb 2013)
Visit Rachel's Frozen Vacation blog for cool stories and pictures about frozen Siberia.
Enjoy Lena River & Yakutia slideshow by Mr. Saatcioglu taken during his 2 weeks cruise on Lena River from the heart of Yakutia to the Laptev Sea of Arctic Circle.
Mr. Saatcioglu and his son (Lena River, Yakutia- Sakha Republic, Russia, August 2012)
We are finally back in Australia and wanted to thank you for making our trip the amazing experience it was. All our guides and drivers were such lovely people their knowledge of their country and local area was excellent. They really made our trip into something very special and we will never forget them. The planned tours you offer are interesting and well planned and offers free time to do your own thing but always having some tour to look forward to, it really made our experience of Siberia far more fulfilling. The people we met throughout Russia were all so helpful and friendly . I was surprised that such a high portion of Russians speak english, even if its just a little. Communicating was never too much a problem anyway and we picked up basic Russian words quite easily. I would recommend anyone to travel to Siberia as I dont think St Petersburg and Moscow offer the same insight into the Russian way of life nor allow you to experience the amazing variety of cultures nor see the amazing scenery that Siberia has on offer. We Love Russia
Mr/Mrs. Leanne & Rayner Ruditsch (Lake Baikal, August 2012)
Just wanted to thank you for setting everything up. It all worked out perfectly and we had a great time. And you were right about 1st class (Moscow to Irkutsk) - that was definitely the way to go.
Dan and Abraham (Moscow-Irkutsk-Ulaanbaatar-Beijing, August 2012)
It was a terrific trip and we very much appreciate your help along the way. For what it's worth, just about everything was great except for Krestovaya Pad (hotel). We lost track of the many highlights of our trip, but in particular we liked all of our guides and we were very happy with our hotels in Moscow, Irkutsk, and Ulaan Baatar. We couldn't believe the beauty, history, and convenience of the Metropol (hotel) in Moscow. The Marriott in Irkutsk had terrific service and was a perfect place for roughly the middle of our stay. The train reservations all went off without a hitch. The trains from Beijing to Ulaan Baatar and from Irkutsk to Moscow were both outstanding in their own way. The one from U-B to Irkutsk was a little slow and prone to delay, but we knew that when we booked it. We've posted a number of positive reviews of many of the places we visited on Trip Advisor Again, thanks for your help. We couldn't have done it without you.
Gregory and his son James M. (China-Mongolia-Russia/Siberia by rail, August 2012)
I just wanted to give you a little more detail about our trip. Boris was an excellent and thoughtful driver/guide. We enjoyed meeting him and spending the day with him. He brought a bottle of mineral water for us, picked a really nice rest stop on the way to Suzdal, knew what sights to point out, and all in all things went really well and we were quite happy.
Kathy M. (Golden Ring of Russia Day Trip, August 2012)
Thank you so much for all you did to make our trip go smoothly. All your partners in the various cities came through without any problems. We thought our tour guide for Irkutsk/Lake Baikal was the best. The only time I was uncomfortable was in Jining town (Mongolia / China border). As it turned out, it was dark when the train passed through all the areas I wanted to see. The wait in Jining was unsettling. We were met by the expected contact with our tickets to Beijing, and asked if we didn't want to use a resting room since we had about 7 hours to wait. I was envisioning a resting room like the ones in Russia. What we were shown to was not even close. We were led down a back alley, where there was a police station, but still not the most reassuring environment particularly when I thought about coming back that way at midnight to catch our 1 a.m. train. The resting room was disgusting. We stayed for about 20 minutes and decided we would be safer in the train station. Anyway, it all worked out. One other change I would make is that I wish I had asked you to make our arrangements in Beijing. Everything went fine for us, but I think it would have been great to have had someone meet us there, take us to our hotel and then tour the Ming Tombs and the Great Wall with him/her. We met some English-speaking university students in Jining who helped us negotiate the cab fare to our hotel, but had we not met them that would have been difficult. Also, the tour to the Ming Tombs, in particular, and the Great Wall was really a bust. We booked through the hotel and it just didn't come close to the quality of tours we had of Irkutsk/Lake Baikal and Ulaanbaatar/Gorkhi-Terelj Park (booked with Sokol Tours). Oh, all our lodging accommodations were perfect, too. We loved both the hotel in Listvyanka and the yurt camp in the Park.
Ann with her son Alex (Trans-Siberia-Mongolia-China Trip, April 2012)
I just would like to tell you that we had a great tour yesterday! Sergei is great guide, and Tatiana and the driver were also very kind. Thanks for everything! We loved it.
Paula Fragomeni & Friends (Driving day tour to Golden Ring towns, April 2011)
I can't speak highly enough of the outstanding travel support we've received from Artour Yatchenko of Sokol Tours. In my extensive travels, I've never worked with a more conscientious and professional agent. He excels in providing customized arrangements and building itineraries tailored to his clients.
Richard S. George (China - Mongolia - Russia travel planning, 2011)
You were a great help with the scheduling of where we wanted to stop, having to add or subtract a day here and there in some places in order to meet the train schedule. You were also quite responsive to getting us where we wanted to go and eventually buying the tickets and the visas for us without the need or pressure to purchase a "tour package." You allowed us to find our own accommodations and used couriers we met for the tickets. You worked with us in a manner we greatly appreciated and still recommend you to anyone who wants to travel to russia or asia.
Richard and Ann (Xian -> Beijing -> Siberia -> Moscow -> St. Petersburg, Sept 2010)
"My travel to Siberia was wonderful, just can't get over. Irkutsk is very nice stay, really the Siberian Paris. My guide SERGIO earn 5 stars, friendly helpful on time. Listvyanka beautiful sightseeing. I wish could stay one week at least. Hotel Victoria in Irkutsk rooms super clean. Train ride Irkutsk to Moscow more than nice, excellent service, clean, safe. Food was including is fine. In cabin we were 4 persons friendly sharing helpful. My Russian is very poor but we have some nice conversation. Should take Russian before trip. With English language can't get far except St. Petersburg and large hotels. Let be polite and respect their culture and manners is recommended. There are electric plugs to shave, charge cameras, ect. Moscow subway on time safe but very busy. One of the best in the word. Taxi very expensive. Saint Petersburg is the nicest city I ever seen or visit. When you plan travel to Russia call SOKOL TOURS. Many thanks
Anton Malensek (Beijing -> Lake Baikal -> Moscow -> St. Petersburg, Sept 2010)
"...Everything is superb! I had a very pleasant journey (almost everyone I met was nice people), and I got the ticket at the train station. I ask the driver to take me to a 3 star hotel, so I could get my visa registered, get a bath, some breakfast and some sleep. Then I send him home, and later I took a taxi to the ferry. Now I am on my way, and is oh so close to my dream. I thank you a lot.
Solvej Knudsen (Copenhagen -> Moscow -> Vladivostok -> Japan, Apr 2010)
"...I hope you are well. Thanks for sorting out the hotels - all worked out great. I would say both hotels had great locations, the breakfast in Vladimir was better but both were fine. We could have spent more time in Suzdal but a day in Vladimir was fine. There was lots of great places - just walking the streets was really nice but I would say some of the best food we had in Russia was in the little shop in the big Church complex in Suzdal (the one of the two complexes that is open).
Logan Skinner & friends (Suzdal and Vladimir visit, Oct 2009)
"...we've just arrived in Moscow on the fabulous train 025 from Novosibirsk. Blue crushed velvet upholstery and etched mirrors "Siberiac"! The food is good, too. Everything went smoothly at the Mongolia - Russian border and a girl on the train with a cute little baby said we should pay no more than 250 for a taxi downtown but we paid 300. The hike at Lake Baikal was a bit of an adventure, definitely worth doing but not for everyone and almost not even for us, especially the bits that involved clinging to muddy cliffs in the rain 40 meters above the lake. Everything went well in Tuva. Choodra is a lovely person and a good guide. She was always there when needed. We saw a total of five throat singing concerts, 4 in Tuva and 1 in Mongolia, so Dave is happy. We took the Moscow's subway this morning from the train station to Mayakovskaya where our hostel is. I had heard they were decorated, but this is quite over the top. You could just ride the metro and skip the art museums. Read more about Ray and Dave's trip here
Ray Spears & David Oppenheim (Mongolia-Baikal-Tuva-Novosibirsk-Moscow, Aug 2009)
"...I'd just like to thank you for arranging the tickets for us from Berlin to Beijing. i was a bit worried about not having them in my hand before leaving but everything went as you said. Please feel free to post this comment on your web site. Many thanks. James Murphy, Birkenhead, England
James Murphy & Louise Reddington (Berlin-Moscow-Ulaanbaatar-Beijing RR, Aug 2009)
"...Now Irkutsk, back from Olkhon. Wonderful! Soon to leave Russia. Now using a connection in Hotel Angara. A few minutes...The Trans-Siberian hit a cow ("Why are we stopping?"), kind of delaying us, though we made up the time. Poor animal...We were stuck about 45 minutes. Thanks! Dean
Dean Moore (Moscow - Beijing via Siberia & Manchuria, July 2009)
"...Great trip! In particular, Natasha in Ulan Ude is a national treasure. You should encourage all your clients to do her tour. In the four months we traveled through Russia, Mongolia, China, and Japan, she was the very best. Indeed, everything Sokol Tours arranged went well. We have just arrived in California and will leave by train for N.C. on Friday. We will be home Oct. 5 and will recommend you to our friends who want to travel in Russia.
Theda Perdue & Michael Green (Moscow - Irkutsk - Ulan Ude - Mongolia, June-July 2009)
"...Russian Visa worked out in Shanghai thanks to your quick turnaround of the material. They accepted Sokol travel voucher as evidence, no questions asked :) Thanks again!
Ola Weibull (Beijing-Ulaanbaatar-Moscow train, June 2009)
"...I just want to thank you for everything, all was as promised. All my friends and I were impressed. What a country! Till next time.
Barry O'Sullivan & friends (Russia, Mongolia, Siberia, China), Nov 2008)
"...I am writing to comment on the Mikhail Svetlov August 1-14 cruise you arranged for us on the Lena river. After traveling on three airlines across fifteen time zones, we arrived in Yakutsk rather exhausted. But our arrival was eased by our being met by Larissa Solovera who transported us to the Polar Star for a needed day of rest. (It was a fine hotel). After a tour of the city the following day, we embarked on our voyage. We were the only native English speakers aboard. read more here + travelers photo report
Don & Arlene Kaufman (Lena River Cruise, the Russian Far East, August 2008)
"...we have been back from Russia since July 2008. First of all, thank you for your services and for working with us on our individualized itinerary. It all worked out extremely well--connections, hotel vouchers, and trains. We had a good experience in St. Petersburg. The hotel was very central but overpriced when compared internationally. We had bought tickets for the Hermitage on line and avoided the lines and scalpers. We were able to take a Marschrutka from Pulkovo to Moskovskaya and then the Metro and avoided the Euro 100 taxi touts but paid R17 instead. The train (Red Arrow) to Moscow was truly first class and on time. We can recommend The Holiday Inn Sokolniki very highly--great location, great rooms, great service. It was easy to maneuvre the metro and on a Friday hit museum night (open till 2am and free) and hit more museums on a Sunday--when entrance was free. How the Russian government can justify $7 for a cup of coffee at at Starbucks in Arbat or $18.000 for a suite at the Ritz-Carleton is incomprehensible Continue here
Hartmut Heep & Charles Levine (Trans - Siberia - Mongolia - China rail travel, July 08)
"...We are back from our trip to Russia and Mongolia and I want to thank you for perfectly arranged travel plans. We made all connections, hotel reservations were perfect, and Russia was far more exciting than I ever imagined. We are ready to go back - probably the boat between St. Petersburg and Moscow next spring. There is still much we want to see in St. Petersburg and Moscow. But I suppose it would take a lifetime to see everthing in both of those cities. Lake Baikal is another place that we didn't get enough of. But then, we had 18 hours of rain while hiking -- unheard of according to the locals. And, although Mike and I had a good tent and our own sleeping bags and pads, the others on the trip got drenched. You might recommend that the tour operator you use there reinvest is some better equipment or recommend that people bring their own gear. I am glad that we did the train all the way through. That in itself is a unique experience. We had an older Russian crew of provodnistas who were wonderful to us and we were sorry to part when we got to Vladivostok -- another great city. I think that the only thing that we should have done differently was to fly from Irkustk to Ulaanbaatar as the Chinese train just didn't compare with the Russian one. And we had seen plenty of country side and were going to see plenty of Mongolia.
Mike & Peggy Bond (Vladivostok-Irkutsk-Ulaanbaatar-Moscow-St. Petersburg, July 2008)
"...We are now at the hotel in Krasnoyarsk and just wanted to let you know that everything has worked out excellent so far and we have had a great trip. We got the tickets immediately upon arrival at the Holiday Inn Sokolniki, and in Severobaikalsk the Davidovi family met us at the station and had brought an English-speaking guide as well. In Kyzyl we located the tour agency EcoTuva and went with them on a three-day excursion in the mountains and stayed in tents. Truly beautiful landscape, and the throat-singing is amazing. We look forward to see Mongolia now and will try to make the best of the two weeks that remain of the trip. Thanks again for organizing things so well, and we hope that you too have had a great summer so far.
Karin & Johan (Moscow- Siberia - Baikal - Tuva - Mongolia by Rail, June 2008)
"...Thanks so much for all your help. The trip was great!!!!!!!!!! and we had no problem getting all the tickets. although the train journey was long we really enjoyed it. we also loved st petersburg - it was fantastic...thanks again.
Kevin Hartt (Mongolia - Russia, June 2008)
"...YIPPPPEEEE! Thank you so much. Now once the visas and my daughter's russian passport get here, I'm going to crack a bottle of champagne and start packing. I think this is going to be a magnificent trip! I really appreciate your help in the whole process, you really made it easy.
Elizabeth Wash (St. Petersburg - Moscow - Tomsk, June 2008)
"...The trip was very good. Weather was excellent; driver Boris spoke good English! We were too tired after Yasnaya Polyana to go to see the Kremlin of Tula...Altogether very satisfactory, thank you. We now intend to learn Russian & return to Russia every 2 yrs, so you may hear from us again!
Mary & Robert Dale (Moscow - Tula: Tolstoy's Yasnaya Polyana Estate Tour, May 2008)
"...My vacation was incredible. I really appreciate you putting together the trains and hotels. I heard of travelers who got stuck in cities because they did not have a train ticket or with short term visas because they did not get one in advance. I got to see and do everything that I wanted, and more. I really enjoyed the tour to Terelj. I really liked the landscape, sleeping in a ger, and riding a pony. Thanks again for putting together a great trip!
Erick Bulla (St. Petersburg to Shanghai via Siberia and Mongolia, Nov 2007)
"...We are back from the fantastic trip you planned for us. We kept saying during the trip that you planned everything so perfectly and that we wouldn't have changed a thing- from the itinerary , the choice of hotels and the contacts. You did the best job and it is truly a trip that we will remember and perhaps take again with our daughters. Thank you for the great job! Marc and Sema ( keep us for references!)
Marc & Sema Gamson (St. Petersburg-Moscow-Irkutsk-Ulaanbaatar-Beijing, Nov 2007)
"...I am back in the States now. Thanks for your help. It was a great trip.
Joel Eben Futral (Moscow-Irkutsk-Ulaanbaatar-Shanghai-Hong Kong, Oct 2007)
"...Back home. Everything went well with the tickets and the trains.
Lorna & Victor Karja (Australia - China - Mongolia - Siberia, September 2007)
"...Our whole Russian experience was excellent; we thoroughly enjoyed St. Petersburg, Moscow, and the river-side towns in between--and of course the Golden Ring tour we took with your assistance. Of the Golden Ring places we visited, Suzdal and the monastery at Sergiev Posad were particularly impressive. Our driver/guide (Boris Shumilkin) was most helpful and cooperative; his English was fairly good, and the information and explanations he provided were very valuable. All of the local guides were also excellent and we recommend them highly. One small fault I'll mention: We found Boris' vehicle to be very small for four persons, with insufficient leg room, particularly for a trip of several hours duration. And it was even more crowded during the times in Suzdal and Vladimir when we were carrying the local guide in adddition to the four of us. All in all, though, we have no complaints and would be happy to recommend your tour service (and Boris) to others.
Mark Krackov (Suzdal-Vladimir-Sergiev Posad of the Golden Ring, September 2007)
"...I just wanted to say thanks for all the help with my trip. Everything went perfectly--my tickets all arrived on time and my guide and driver to Listvyanka were great (they showed me the sites and took me to an excellent little restaurant for delicious omul).
Michael Lattis (China - Mongolia - Siberia, September 2007)
"...This is just to let you know I've arrived safely back in Suzhou and to thank you for your meticulous organization of my trip. I thoroughly enjoyed myself even though there were a few stressful times - changing planes at Moscow for Irkutsk when the plane from St Petersburg had arrived late!! Next time I will not arrange so many things in so short a time! I arrived at the hotel Angara in Irkutsk at 12.30pm and was picked up for a 6 hour tour at 1pm! Consequently when I got in that evening I was very tired and just glamced at the time on my train ticket. When I went down in the morning to book the taxi to the station the receptionist said that the ticket time was Moscow time and that the train would leave 7pm. Of course when I got to the station it had left 7am! That was an interesting experience trying to find out what I should do. I ended up standing in the middle of the station shouting, "Does anybody speak English!!" A kind young lady helped me but then they said I could go on another train and I paid for that ticket, having been refunded some of the money for the missed train trip. At the hotel I discovered that the train they had booked me on would exceed my visa time. Back to the station to cancel!! Then I contacted Evgenia (Sokol Rep) and she waved her magic wand and booked me into a hotel on Lake Baikal and I spent a lovely relaxing last two days in Russia. I don't have Evgenia's email but I hope you can give it to me or at least convey my grateful thanks to her for all her efficiency. I like to travel alone but it was good to have her there to smooth my exit from Riussia. I think the main ingredient for fun travel is to keep a sense of humour - of course this sometimes only clicks into place after the traumatic event!!! Till the next time..... Sybil
Sybil Pretious (Beijing-St. Petersburg-Moscow-Irkutsk-Shanghai, July 2007)
"...Hi Artour! I'm so sorry I never emailed after the trip. It was great and everything went off without a hitch. Our guides were wonderful and we had a fantastic time. Thanks so much for helping us plan everything!
Alissa Lipson & Urmila Paranjpe (Beijing-Xian-Chengdu, July 2007)
"...Hi Artour...The group really enjoyed the tour guides - thank you!....and of course they were astounded by Moscow traffic. Thanks again for everything!
Andrea Hargrave, AMC Network Event for Google group (Moscow, June 2007)
"...i want to thank you for your help with the train arrangements in irkutsk. your representative there met me on time and was very reliable.i hope to go to central asia next year and perhaps i will again need your services. i wish you success for the future.
Steven Kessin (Lake Baikal, June 2007)
"...I just wanted to thank you for all your work on the trip and patience with me while planning it. All went well (I had no doubts it would). By Hermitage Hotel in St. Petersburg, though expensive, is quite good. All staff speaks at least some English, room was small but well appointed, location is excellent. Vostok Hotel in Moscow is, well, the room was OK (the second, the first has a bad toilet). It is a long way out on line 9, and then a good walk from the metro. Staff is mostly unfriendly (to put it mildly), and the one receptionist who speaks English is the most unhelpful of all (and I only saw her there once). Angara Hotel in Irkutsk is HORRIBLE. Room was awful, hotel's full of prostitutes and drunk men; kind of scary. The lobby looks like it belongs to another hotel; it's nice, and the staff all spoke English, but when you have drunk men and prostitutes in the hall to your room, it kind of cancels it out. Train #38 was excellent. And thank you for getting the UB to Beijing tickets. We were lucky on the #362 and had the kupe to ourselves except for the actual border crossing, when we had some Mongolian traders with us for immigration.
James Brennan & Miguel Silva (Trans-Siberia-Mongolia-China rail tour, June 2007)
"...We began our Trans Siberian trip from Beijing on 23 May 2007, and are pleased to report that everything went as planned. In particular we would like to mention your representative in Irkutsk, Ms. Eugenia Arbatskya, and her assistant who was our guide on the Circumbaikal Tour, Varvara. Both were especially kind and helpful. Other comments: the Mongolia visit was too short. The hotel in Irkutsk had a fine central location, as you suggested. The Ismailovo was big but the trip to the City Center of Moscow was only 15 minutes of actual time on the subway. The Comfort Hotel in St. Petersburg was a very nice small hotel with good personal service in contrast to the very large Ismailov, and the location was superb. Of course the rail travel was an unforgettable experience. All in all, a great trip. We thank you for helping make this 50th anniversary trip a success.
John and Jeanette Chambers (Trans-Siberia-Mongolia-China rail tour, May 2007)
"...The day was great Tatiana fabulous. Thanks so much for all this. (only small quirk - it was almost 90 degrees and the car had no a/c - but we survived!). Saw LE COQ D;OR at Bolshoi, which was delightful; and L'ELISIE DAMORE at Novaya Opera, which for opera lovers should be a must see. Unique and terrific work. All best
Martin Platt, Co-director, Perry Street Theatre (Tolstoy's Estate Tour, May 2007)
Learn more about Mr. Platt production dedicated to Tolstoy's work HERE
"...I made it back to Amsterdam and I just wanted to extend my complements to you for a great trip! It was a very complicated itinerary and yet all the flights, guides, and hotels worked out without a single problem. I thought all the guides were great, even the ones in Magadan who were quite surprised that a foreigner such as myself was interested in vistiting their town, but I enjoyed it nonetheless because it offered quite a different experience in Russia. Again, great job on coordinating this tour.
Bradley Boswell (Magadan, Khabarovsk, Vladivostok, Krasnoyarsk, May 2007)
"...My wife and I just returned last night from our trip to Russia and China and we wanted to thank you for organizing it. We have traveled all over the world for the last 35 years and this recent trip was one of the best we have taken. Everything about this trip was very well planned and we had no problems with any of the contacts, transfers and guides. Leonid Batorov, our guide in Siberia was particularly professional and went out of his way to help make that part of our trip very memorable.
Read more about Bill and Margaret travel in local media The Concord Monitor newspaper
Bill and Margaret Cain (Beijing - Irkutsk - Harbin, January 2007)
"...As I traveled, Sokol representatives showed up promptly with tickets for my onward journeys from each city. Sofia in Ulan-Ude, Russia, was particularly helpful, as I decided to change plans slightly and stay a day longer in the city. She went in to action and helped me sort out a railway ticket change and a rebooking of accommodation in Irkutsk. Well done! No one likes waiting in lines for train tickets, showing up at hotels in strange cities only to be told that they are full, or single-handedly negotiating the murky world of tourist visas. That's where a service like Sokol can be so appreciated. They ultimately let the traveler sit back and enjoy the trip!
Brian Kleinsmith (Taiwan - China - Mongolia - Siberia / Russia, Fall 2006)
"...Yes, everything went very well, thank you. The only problem we had with the hotel (in case this will be helpful for feedback) was that although they advertise that they have an English speaking staff, this is not exactly true. Only two girls in the whole hotel spoke and understood very limited English. Oh, I almost forgot- two of our most important pieces of luggage were lost on the first day. When we landed in Moscow, we had planned to shoot, but this was not possible because all of our chargers never made it on the plane from Atlanta to Moscow. We were able to have them delivered the next day which is fortunate. At first, our trip looked cursed, but as the days continued, we were very successful with our b-roll and interviews so overall, the trip was definitely a success. When all is said and done, the most important part of the trip is: Did we accomplish our mission? And that answer is yes, so that's all that matters.
Brittany Graham, Associate Producer, Flight 33 Productions (Moscow, summer 2006)
"...even you are in the USA and i am in Kuwait you made my dreem to go on the trans sibrean train come true by making this well arranged tour on orient express and, you will be the first travel agent i shall consult when ever i think about travelling in the future. Regarding the russian visa it was ok although we were kept in the passport dept on arrival to moscow more than an hour for no obvious reasone, the mongolian visa was issued on the borders as you told me and there was no problem at all cus the train ppl were oriented to this and knew the procedures wery well.
Ms. Nawal@Kuwait News Agency & Ms. Nazeelah Alduwaisan@Kuwait Ministry of Health.
(Trans - Siberian Orient Express, summer 2006)
"...Just to let you know that I got home safe and sound. Thanks again to you and all your partners - especially the young guy who stood in the pouring rain at Moscow station as my train pulled in to give me my ticket to Cologne. He was there on the platform right outside my wagon - couldn't have been easier for me - thanks for organising not just this ticket but all my others. It was a great trip and I owe a large part of it to you and your help / advice / organisation of tickets. My many and very best regards.
Dan Bennett, Senior Lecturer in Marketing, FdA Tourism Enterprise Management Course Leader, School of Service Management, University of Brighton."
(Trans - Vietnam - China - Mongolia - Russia rail travel, summer 2006)
...My wife and I have just returned from our trip round the world. A definite highlight of this trip was certainly the Trans-Mongolian journey from Moscow to Beijing. We keep incredible memories from this journey, from the time on the train, from the places we visited and from the people we met. Everything ran very smoothly. I wanted to thank you for all your help in planning this trip. As we organized this very late, it was a stressful process and your help was invaluable. Thank you for taking the time to explain all the options and subtleties of this journey to me. Thank you also for sorting out the small issue we had with the hotel reservation at the Angara in Irkutsk so quickly. Your agent there, Evgenia, was incredibly efficient and helpful. She also helped us ascertain that the train was traveling on to Ulan Baator when there were rumors of floods having cut the rail track. As a token of our appreciation, I sent the recommendations below to the authors of the Trailblazer and Lonely Planet Trans-Siberian handbooks. Continue
- PS: Our photos are on www.davidandsilke.phanfare.com
David Ebstein and Silke Goethel (Trans-Siberia-Mongolia Rail Journey, summer 2006)
...You are a wonderful travel agent. I will definitely share your travel agencies name with anyone that goes to Russia. We could not afford the 4000.00. We just winged it. It did not always work like clock work but that is part of traveling. I was lucky to call you because you made this adventure sound fun and took the fear out of it.
Patty Idler (Ulaanbaatar, Ulan-Ude, Chita, summer 2006)
...Once again I want to thank you for organizing my trip via the Trans-Siberian-Mongolian (and on by train to Nanjing) and for dealing with all my questions prior to departure. It was a really great experience and one which I think others will want to have on the basis of my enthusiastic recommendation. I have only shown my pictures to a few people so far but I am giving a presentation to staff and students here in a few weeks time and am certain they will be impressed. I'll mention Sokol Tours! I decided to travel by train for 'environmental' reasons (as well as to enjoy the superb scenery) and there were a few others who had made the same decision. It won't have escaped your attention that 'northern Eurasians' could travel to the Beijing Olympics by train and I think you might be able to promote this as the environmentally friendly option. Another thing in which I am sure there would be much interest is the recently opened line to Lhasa. I would dearly love to make this journey as well as to explore the other rail lines in northern and central Asia - unfortunately no time in the foreseeable future! There are one or two minor things of which it might be useful for you to be aware for the benefit of future travellers. Continue here
Dr. Andrew L.A. Johnson (Trans-Siberia-Mongolia Rail Journey, summer 2006)
...If you ever need an endorsement for your excellent work you can count on me. Every arrangement you made was perfect. Documents were delivered when you said they would be, cars and guides were waiting for me with NO delays at any point on the trip. The many details you included in the written materials and over the phone greatly assisted me and this was one of the best trips I've ever taken in my life. Ulaanbaatar was fabulous. A number of us "the train gang", a group that bonded between Beijing and Ulaanbaatar enjoyed dinner together and exploring the night life there. Continue here
Prof. Ron Hull (Trans-Siberia-Mongolia Rail Journey, Spring 2006)
...Everything went very well, thanks. We had only minor difficulties with things not related to the arrangements you made for us." Continue here for more comments
Laurence & Margaret Van Meter (Moscow and St. Petersburg visit, Spring 2006)
...After thawing out and getting some feeling back in our very numb feet, we went outside as saw a huge sign showing it was negative 30 degrees Celsius! This was bloody cold." Read more about Megan and Ricks's journey in their Travel Blog
Megan Di Pilla and Richard Mallen (Trans-Mongolia-Siberia Rail Journey, winter 2006)
...For the Moscow - Hong Kong portion, I purchased on line with a company called Sokol Tours. I found them to be the cheapest after spending 6 hours or so looking. They charged me about $US 1000 for the tickets. However, the ticket prices were printed on the tickets, and thus if you wanted to try and buy the tickets yourself you might get a much better deal. However, trying to deal with ticket agents without language skills could be a problem. Some people who purchased tickets were charged extra fees in addition to the ones listed on the tickets." Read more about the trip in Greg's Travel Blog
Greg Wesson (Trans-Siberia-Mongolia-China Rail Journey, fall 2005)
"...I just wanted to mention that the language course in Moscow was excellent. Irina was an excellent instructor and I would highly recommend her to anyone else taking the course. As well, thank you for all of your assistance with my train tickets..."
Gordon Celesta (Trans-Siberian Rail Journey, fall 2005)
"Just to say thank you so much for organizing my trip for me - all went really well and totally to plan. I will definitely recommend you to anybody I hear of who needs help with itinerarys for Russia! With best wishes, Fiona."
Margaret Fiona McKenzie Johnston (Trans-Siberia-Mongolia Journey, summer 2005)
"We are back, and with a few minor exceptions everything went very well. As I expected, we did not make the connection in Frankfort, but as you expected, they did put us on another flight to Moscow leaving two hours later. The flight from Ulan-Ude had been renumbered and rescheduled. It went three hours later than we expected. That meant a ten hour layover, which we dealt with by checking into the hotel at Domodedovo and using the gym, sauna, restaurant, etc. Everything else went very well. Your partners in Irkutsk/Baikal and in Ulan-Ude did a fine job. We were especially pleased by all of our accommodations in Siberia. They were much better than we expected. It was a long way to go, but we are glad we did it, and we had a good time. Your willingness to work back and forth with me to create the best possible tour for us made a great difference. In the end we were very pleased with your arrangements."
Robert Jones and Robert Nucci (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Lake Baikal, summer 2005)
"Our trip is going well so far. We are currently in Moscow and leave for Ekaterinburg tomorrow. So far all tickets have arrived promptly so we are very impressed. We really enjoyed St Petersburg & Moscow and are looking forward to our journey across Siberia."
- Christopher and Jenny Braham (Trans-Siberia-Mongolia Rail Journey, summer 2005)
"The trip went well....your Irkutsk rep did well. Thanks for your help. I will recommend you to other TBI (Tahoe-Baikal Institute) travelers in the future."
Tom Mertens (China, Mongolia, Russia, summer 2005)
"Our Russia trip was a very enjoyable experience. Both guides were exceptionally personable and knowledgable. Natasha in St. Petersburg really did an excellent job! Overall, Moscow was much more impressive than St. Petersburg...Muscovites seemed to try much harder to be friendly and helpful than their St. Petersburg neighbors. Our train trips were a unique and enjoyable experience. You had indicated that the KGB Museum Tour might need to be re-scheduled. Our guide insisted it was closed "forever". I got a strong impression that she was personally uncomfortable with the prospect of that tour so it was "closed". Thank you again for all your hard work which made our trip a success!"
Richard and Linda Marra (Moscow and St. Petersburg, summer 2005)
"...Just got back to LA. All your arrangements worked. Thanks. Siberia is very interesting indeed. Very pretty in summer. The local guides in Ulan Ude and Irkutsk were all very nice. Hotels were a bit spartan with bad toilets and bathrooms but otherwise OK. Hot water was on. Food OK. Enkhaluk primitive camp by western standards but food excellent and plentiful. Location on Baykal is spectacular. Other Russian and Buryat guests were interesting and friendly. Border crossing (from Mongolia) took 4 hours into Russia and 11 hours out again. Customs and immigration officers were thorough but quite young and very polite. No evidence of currency scams..."
David Warburton group (Lake Baikal, summer 2005)
"...Hello from Saint Petersburg! Natalia and I returned here on Sunday after a very exciting and interesting trip to Siberia and Mongolia. Tatiana did a very good job for us and she is a very nice young woman. She enjoyed our company as much as we did hers!!! Thanks for all of the arrangements and I'll talk to you soon."
Larry and Natalia Coleman (Mongolia and Lake Baikal, summer 2005)
"...The trip was very successful and fulfilling - you did a great job arranging it. Some suggestions for inclusion in your "Information and Tips" are to bring disposable bath mats and a mug for train travel."
Gail Stasky (Trans-Siberian Rail Journey, summer 2005)
"...Until now we had a really great trip. Organization is outstanding. Trekking a little bit hard but we made it and now we are very glad, because we saw landscapes we wouldn't have seen otherwise. We are in Irkutsk, depart tonight to Ulan-Ude! If you have some spare time during the long winter evenings, and if you are interested, you can have a look at the diaporamas I made from our wonderful travel...1. Click on VIEW. 2. Sort by DATE. 3. Right-click on FULL SCREEN. It was not easy to take beautiful pics from the train...I even had to clean the windows! To view the show, you will need to install Photodex reader. Classic Trans-Siberian RR in pictures
Leo and Claudine Granbichler (Trans-Siberian Rail Journey, May 2005)
"...I am currently in Almaty, waiting for the bus into China. I took your advice and avoided the Fergana Valley, which turned out to be a very good thing! The Izmailovo hotel was fine; my train tickets arrived on day one. The service was excellent and I would wholeheartedly recommend your company."
John Treco (Silk Route, spring 2005)
"...We have just returned from our trip and wanted to write and thank you. Everything went wonderfully. The tickets all arrived when they should have and we had a marvellous time. Thank you for all your efforts in making things go so well. We will be writing to the guidebooks here in England to let them know you exist and to recommend others to you. Thank you again. I won't hesitate to use you again if I travel in that part of the world."
Rachel, Catherine and Jane (Trans-Siberia-Mongolia Rail Journey, spring 2005)
"...Everything so far is going well, tour guide is a fun and a bit a nutty which is very good, we like the sovetsky hotel (which has free internet for guests!) and even got a big snow fall on first day here!! Moscow ending up being a surprise for me as i had always wanted to see St Petersburg, but hadn't really thought much about Moscow except to see Red Square, very much a London/New York feel and boy were they decorated for the holidays. Not sure i have seen so many lights and christmas trees... continue here"
Kelly and Samantha (Christmas 2004 trip to Moscow, Suzdal and St. Petersburg)
"...Since our arival six months ago to Chili, we still remember the wonderful jorney across ASIA. We must write before to thanks for all your advices, but as you now time go as fast as the wind...In Russia, everything was ok, Baikal remember us the South of Chili, still untouch by humans. Ulaan Batar really impress us, we regret not have much time to travel across that wonderful country, but we are sure that we will be back!!! Now, we are planning the silk route, from Turkey to Beijing."
Ricardo Dorado & Francisca Larach (Russia, Mongolia, China trip, fall 2004)
"...Thank you very much for your arrangements, I had only minor complaints about the tour. On the positive side the guides were excellent and went out of their way, I felt to make my stay enjoyable. In light of their performance I will recommend your service to those who ask. As it turned out getting second class tickets (train) was a lucky break. People wandered from compartment to compartment visiting. I was able to meet several Russians that way and learning something of the Russian people and culture was an important part of my trip. Once I hit first class everybody shut their doors and that was that! A description of my trip and a photo gallery can be found right here
John Burkholder, Trans-Siberian Journey (Moscow-Lake Baikal-Vladivostok)
"Thanks for the updates and the documentation. I have to say that your Orientation guide is a lot better than some expensive travel guides...in the Vostock train between Irkutsk and Beijing (not through Mongolia but through Mandchouria), there was no electrical outlet but the provdnitsa (conductor) was able to recharge my camera battery when I asked it. She filled all the papers for the customs and "protected" us from the Russians and Chinese customs officers. At every stops around the Baikal lake, it was possible to buy smoked fish. Once passed trhough the Chinese border, the Russian restaurant car is changed by a Chinese one with Chinese food wich is better quality and less expensive than in the russian car but they open wen they want to... "
Charles Hottelet & Muriel Mohy, Rail Journey (Moscow-Irkutsk-Harbin-Beijing)
"...All of your hard work and forms paid off. The trip was a success down to every detail. I had all the right documents and did not find myself in any problems. With money, Russia can be fun. Saw the Faberge eggs from the Forbes Collection in Ekaterinburg—first week of exhibition there. Unbelievable! Cost of exhibit—100 million dollars, paid by Russian industrialist from Ekaterinburg. Well, it was good to have your services for planning the tour. Without reservations, I would have had difficulty in several cities about hotels, tickets, etc..."
Stewart Lillard (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia)
"I want to thank you for organizing my trip. The contacts--(Diana working for Tatiana Klimova in Ulaan Bataar) Natalia and Olga in Irkutsk, and the excellent efforts and guidance of Natasha Rostova in Moscow were all extremely helpful. The trip went smoothly, and the tours were all interesting. So, the trip was what I wanted and expected, an interesting and amazing experience I will certainly remember all of my life."
-Don Augenstein (Trans-Siberian Journey, Beijing -Moscow via Irkutsk)
"... Artour, Just wanted to let you know that everything went smoothly. Thanks for arranging everything. We had a wonderful time in Russia.
Cathy Chen & Albert Rosato (Moscow-St. Petersburg-Novgorod)
"... Thanks very much for arranging the Moscow and St. Petersburg tours. Everything went on as planned and the two guides were fluent in English, knowledgeable and very pleasant personalities. We were able to savor Russia thru their presentations. "Sovietski" was an interesting and old hotel, with full of history and a wonderful buffet breakfast. While, Nevsky was remodeled and as you said, like a BB. The entrance was not remodeled yet and opened in a back alley. Though, they had a security guard all the time. Hope in the future it'll be a nice place to stay....
Aroyan family (Cities of the Czars tour: Moscow-St. Petersburg)
"...Just wanted to tell you I had a great time in Ulan Ude and that Sveta was an excellent guide, as well as her husband. They were incredibly nice people, and so was my host mother Irina there. Thanks again!.
Doug Dyer (Ulan-Ude city, Lake Baikal, Eastern Siberia)
"I believe I wrote you last summer to thank you for all the work you did for Lois and me in helping to make our trip to Russia a really great experience. All the tours you arranged for us were excellent as was Vladimir's bed and breakfast in Suzdal. So, again I want to thank you....
Doris Birmingham & Lois Hartman (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Suzdal)
"... All in all, our trip was great, we enjoyed ourselves very much, met wonderful, charming, generous people and we are only sorry that we do not speak the language. We thank you, very, very much for your help and specially because you were very gracious when you sent Vera to meet us at the train station so that we could wait with her for the departure time ... .
Anita and Victor (Golden Ring)
"I just wanted to thank you again for all your great assistence with my clients' trip. They had a wonderful visit, everything worked out very well. So thank you again i look forward to working with you another time."
Margaret at Travelhouse, Inc.
"Artour- I wanted to thank you for all your help and attention in organizing my Russian trip. I returned home last night and have been reflecting on how well everything went, from the visa to the airport pickups and the lodgings you arranged (especially the bed and breakfast in Moscow- beautiful!). I'm very happy with the services you rendered and had a great time in Russia and I wanted to express that to you...thanks again!"
Rachel (Lake Baikal)
"... I know that it wan't easy to create these trip, may be because we are in Italy and very far from you and we have E-mail as contact, but I say you really thanks for your kindly collaboration. Here in Italy nobody makes trip so difficult in Russia, I've found you throught Internet and "Russiaonline" and I think you are very professional..."
Selene (Yenisei River cruise)
"... in short we had a very enjoyable trip, our only regret being that we did not allow ourselves nearly enough time to explore and appreciate more of Moscow and St. Petersburgh, a common regret we have felt at the end of many of our vacations! We confidently would use Sokol Tours in the future as well as recommend their services to anyone planning a visit to the Russian Federation."
John and Catherine (Moscow, St. Petersburg)
"... It has taken me a week to recover from the jet lag, but we had a great trip. Thanks for your assistance. By the way, Michael, Tatiana's son, was an absolutely excellent guide in St. Petersburg. His historical knowledge was excellent.
Don (Moscow, St. Petersburg)
Dear Mr. Yatchenko, The itinerary looks great! Next step, the Russian Embassy...In Japanese they have a phrase, "Go-kurosama" It means thank you so much for your hard work and sorry for all your trouble. Go-kurosama. Thank you so much for all your help.
Cindy & Ciara (Trans-Siberian train: Vladivostok-Irkutsk-Ulaanbaator-Moscow)
You have been very helpful. Our outside sales agent Tessie Finkelstein is trying to arrange this tour for a Cruise group she has going August 27th. I will forward the information to Tessie and ask her to follow up with you. Your service is exceptional and very professional, I will make sure my coworkers are aware of your service.
Pat Bennett, www.thomascook.ca (St. Petersburg, Hermitage)
"...Thanks for all of your help and good advice on my recent trip to Russia. I am glad that I decided to use home stays and B&B's because I really was able to get to know Russia, Russians, and other travelers that would not have been possible in hotel stays. The locations were wonderfully central allowing me to walk to many things. Of course, these private accommodations posed their own challenges such as the unappealing nature of the apartment building in one city...We tried out the baths in Moscow and that was a highlight of the trip. The one hitch I had was in my encounter with police at the airport in Novosibirsk as I was returning home. I was stopped by a guard who said that my St.Petersburg registration (visa) "didn't work in Siberia." Another good lesson in the Russian system...Until my next trip.. Maybe Siberia in winter next time?..."
Julie Hirschler (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Tomsk)
"...I will be starting my trip on the Trans Siberian Railroad this August. This is the company I used. Definitely the cheapest one I found out on the market. Fast, reliable service, and a great price. Please contact the company with any questions. You can get in touch with me as well while I am still in Japan at firstname.lastname@example.org..."
Jason Wians (Ulaanbaatar - Moscow)
"...Artour, Thank you for all your help. Although I had a few anxious moments at the hotel eventually my reservation was found, ticket delivered exactly on time and the trip was a delight. I was amazed to have not only a first class compartment on the train to myself but the entire railcar as well. It was very plush. The biking in Mongolia was superb. I thought it was the most beautiful country I had ever visited...(and I've been everywhere). Beijing was certainly bustling and I lucked out and was upgraded to first class with a full bed for the flight home..."
Herb Kavet (Trans-Mongolian Express)
"...We are finally back from the trip and I just wanted to give you some feedback. To start off, the Russian part of the trip was excellent. Your representatve in Irkutsk was very efficient and the trekking round Lake Baikal was probably the highlight! ..."
Kristian Scicluna & Nicolas Schede (Lake Baikal)
"...I am glad that I got the Russia visa in Beijing last month. For me, it was easy: But many others were having a difficult time...I am delighted to report that I have picked up the Beijing-UB train ticket. Your itinerary in the emails was excellent. All of the necessary information was there, and complete with the address in Chinese. All the trip that you arranged went perfectly. I'm now in my nervous first day in Vladivostok, but feeling better as I just bought tickets for three nights of classical music. That should be a great healing change from the bustle of the last two months! Thank you."
James G. Johnson (Beijing-Irkutsk-Vladivostok train journey)
"...The transfers and everything else you provided was first-rate. Everything, other than the Prichal (hotel) situation that did get fixed, was extremely smooth. The folks you have working with you over there are great--Natalia even met us at the Petersburg train station...."
Roy Robson group (Moscow-Solovki Islands-St. Petersburg)
"...Hei, Artour. I write to you to thank you for a very successful tour with The Transibirian railway. Everything went O.K......"
Rohde Family (Moscow - Beijing)
"...we are back from russia. thanks for all your assistance. we liked the B & B's you picked. we felt very russian. the drivers were always there and the train was fun."
William and Adele Golden (Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kamchatka)
"Your colleague Vladimir Moroxov in Suzdal was an excellent guide and very friendly and helpful, as was our English-speaking guide Irina Tsaryov. Vladimir's B&B was clean and comfortable. Altogether, we had an excellent trip."
John and Anne Booth (Moscow, Suzdal, Golden Ring towns)
"...Ulan-Ude - A very thorough and knowledgeable guide made our tours to the Ethnographic Museum, Ivolginsky Datsan, and Old Believers a memorable time. Sophia was excellent and very well prepared. Disregarding some of the inconveniences encountered on our trip, we still would rate it a B+ . Thank you for your help..."
Bandurco Family and Anna Plavnicky (Moscow, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, Chita cities)
"...Finally, l get the chance to say a 'Big' thank you to you for all of your help. Last year l had the most amazing trip from Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, China, Mongolia, Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Germany, Holland and back to the UK. It was a superb 3 months and l had so, so much fun. The greatest part of the journey was the train from Beijing to Moscow, thanks to you, all of my homestays were brilliant, l was very well looked after by everyone. Thus all the UK companies said 'NO' and thankfull you said 'YES'...everyone was so negative last year when l was trying to book over 2 months. As you may remember l chose to fly to Malaysia and book the trip 'by the seat of my pants'...hahaha. Sorry for making it all so difficult..."
Daniel Morris (Beijing, Ulaanbaatar, Lake Baikal, Moscow, St. Petersburg)
"...Thanks so much for your work in arranging my trip through Russia. Thanks also for taking my call from Moscow on the visa issue. I was stunned by the problem, and it was a tremendous relief just to hear someone else confirming that the hotel was being unreasonable. I will certainly recommend Sokol for any other of my friends in Japan or America who want to try this kind of trip. I want to send special thanks for the services of the Sokol partner agency in Irkutsk, particularly my guide Lena. She was kind, delightful and generally a lot of fun to travel with. She definitely went above and beyond what was required and it was much appreciated..."
Mark Heiden (Vladivostok, Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg, Moscow, St. Petersburg)
"...Thank you for all the arrangements, everything was fine..."
Sari Heiskanen & Jarmo Tarvainen, Trans-Siberian-Mongolian Rail Journey
"...I just wanted to say thanks for your assistance with my trip in Irkutsk during September (2004)...I had a great time, and Ms Tatiana Klimova in Mongolia was very helpful. I have recommended your agencies on the Loney Planet Thorntree..."
Philip Livingstone, Lake Baikal-Mongolia Journey