Your honcho can organise snowy winter activities like ice skating, snowboarding, skiing and snowmobiling. Skijoring might sound crazy, maybe it is, or maybe it will be the highlight of your trip. It’s simple - just snap on a couple of skis, harness yourself to a few speedy dogs and yell out 'Davai' (Russian for "go"). Then hold on for your life as you carve across snowy Siberian fields at speeds very few have ever experienced. Sure beats a day at the office!
On the Train
Sleeping compartments are usually four-share with two upper and two lower bunks - depending on the group size you could be sharing with fellow Vodkatrainers or other travellers along the way. You’ll find clean bedding, reading lights, a big window, a small table and enough room for a rucksack or two, perfect for when you need a moment’s rest. All carriages have boiling water, attendants and washrooms, but no showers - that’s a luxury to look forward to once you disembark. If you wish to have more privacy, ask your travel advisor for an upgrade to 2-berth (1st class) compartment at an extra cost.
Off the Train
Other accommodation may include ger camps in Mongolia. These are traditional nomadic homes that are sure to become one of your journey highlights. They tend to be multi-share and mixed-sex so grab your new besties and enjoy the nomadic vibes together. Hostels, hotels and guesthouses we stay at are clean, close to transport and provide legendary hospitality. We’ll do our best to pair couples, but it can’t be guaranteed so sometimes you’ll be sharing with fellow Vodkatrainers of the same sex. If you wish to have more privacy, ask your travel advisor for an upgrade to a private room at an extra cost.
The public scheduled trains and buses are basic but comfortable and offer a window into real life. Most locals won’t be going the same distance as you, so you’ll meet a marvellous mix along the way. Don't be afraid to say hello!
In keeping with the budget-friendly policy and adding flexibility to your trip, there are no meals included in your Vodkatrain journey. Your options while on the rails include a restaurant car *, buying food from the "Babushkas" (grandmothers) on the platforms (just make sure you check the hygiene situation before handing over the cash) and self-catering. In general just follow the simple travellers' food rule - peel it, cook it or wash it, and you should be good.
* The train from Ulaanbaatar to Irkutsk (and vice versa) does not have a restaurant car. There are also few opportunities to buy food on the platforms so you will need to buy enough food for the journey before you board the train.
With you for the whole journey, your Honcho is a local legend who will help you hit the highlights and discover some hidden gems. They’ll also take care of the train tickets and make sure you’re where you need to be, when you have somewhere to be. If you prefer to do things your own way, that’s fine, too.
Honchos can show you the iconic sights and then take you behind the scenes for a real taste of local life. They’re under 35, speak excellent English and love their job because they get to meet people from all over the world. You might be comfortable dropping an "una cerveza por favour" in Spain, but do you know how to ask for directions in Russian or find the right bus in Mongolia? Your Honcho will not only help you with the logistics of travelling in a distant land but let you feel the pulse of a city through local gems not yet listed in the guidebooks.
- Honchos are with you for the entire journey (even on the train).
- They’ll help you get your bearings. Need to find an ATM, no worries. Want to try a local beer. Easy.
- They’ll take you where you want to go and places you haven’t even heard of.
- They will not take you to endless souvenir shops or their cousin’s restaurant - unless you want that.
- There’s no pressure to hang out with a Honcho if you’d rather do your own thing.
- They’re available 24/7 and can often be coerced to stay out late for a drink or two.
- When it comes time to leave, and you’re nursing a post-vodka hangover, they’ll make sure you get on the right train at the right time for stress-free travel.