Client Comments Russia and Trans Siberian


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May 2013. Playing on Stalin's Billiard Table Sochi. "Wish you were here" - texted image


Read below then click these links.
Mongolia China
Overland across Russia by car or motorbike


Some recent emails and letters from past clients.

From: Roberta
Sent: Saturday, July 30,
To: Marie Pickering
Subject: Re: Golden Ring

Hi Marie

Just a short email to say a sincere thank u for all the organisation etc: Moscow has been wonderful! Mrs Olga lovely. Hotel fantastic. Driver Alex is a wonder of patience and each and every local guide knowledgeable and a joy to be with! Humidity is terrible !!!!!! But u can't have everything! Off to Anadyr tomorrow. Again many thanks loving Moscow

Best wishes


From: Wilson
To: Helen Fuge
Subject: My Russian / China trip

Good Morning Helen

I got back into Australia yesterday after what can only be described as a most successful trip. All arrangements worked well and your help and assistance in putting it together is greatly appreciated.

A few comments on Russia may add to the general knowledge and I hope of some interest.

I assumed, that as in China, restaurant/buffet cars would be attached to all long distance trains and had read nothing to the contrary prior. This proved not to be the case and it was only thanks to my home stay host in Komsomolsk that I learnt the Komsomolsk - Tynda train (approx. 36 hours) would have no dining car and I needed to take supplies along. Similarly the Severobaikalsk - Irkutsk (approx. 38 hours) train was also an exercise in self sufficiency.

The dining cars from Vladivostok - Komsomolsk and Tynda - Severobaikalsk (on the Moscow train) served up freshly prepared, tasty and reasonably priced meals with the picture menu being in both Russian and English. The dining car on the Vostok (ex Moscow) from Irkutsk to the border was a disappointment with food being mostly microwaved and definitely overpriced: similar items to other trains were about 25% dearer and on top of that attracted a 10% service charge. I should have taken a picnic!

The homestays in Vladivostok, Komsomolsk and Irkutsk were all enjoyable. Despite Helen's earlier comment that there had been complaints about the Hotel Yunost, Tynda I found it to be clean and comfortable with helpful staff. I arrived at 06.45 on a cold, wet morning and was immediately able to check in and was back in bed soon after.....I no longer sleep well on trains. Yunost did charge a half day rate for the early check in but I'm well used to similar from my China travels and have no problems with it.

At Severobaikalsk and Port Baikal accommodation was at what I would term as both places single rooms with private facilities and in the case of Port Baikal almost luxurious. The three nights at Port Baikal were probably the trip's highlight. The village wouldn't be to everyone's taste but as I was after a few train photos in scenic surroundings it was ideal and even more so when a steam train arrived for an overnight stop.

All in all a great trip and again my thanks for your help in putting it all together.......

Best Wishes

And when something unexpectedly goes wrong we have reliable people to fix things.

Hello Brent

All is good in St Petersburg!  Tatiana was fantastic in finding us another apartment in the same area (which is a great location).  This one is clean!  No smell!  We are happy 😊

Tatiana was very embarrassed I think regarding the other place as she was assured it was clean and very good but at midnight when we arrived there’s really not much you can do.  She really did go above and beyond to ensure we were happy and we are. Thank you for sorting it for us.  It has been a fantastic trip.

Regards, Lynn and Sandi.
Sent from my iPhone

From: Jennifer
To: Helen Fuge
Subject: RE: pre departure info

Hi Helen,

Thank you for the follow up. We had a fantastic time on our trip! We really enjoyed the whole trip.

Thanks to your assistance the whole experience was very relaxed and enjoyable. It was lovely not to have to worry about the logistics and have time to just enjoy the journey.

The guides at each location were good. We usually travel independently and were pleasantly surprised how much more you can get out of a place with a good guide. The standouts amongst the guides definitely were our guide & driver in Mongolia, Tunga & Turu who were fantastic. We had such a good time with them.

It was also a nice balance between days with guides and days where we could do our own thing. All of the accommodation was nice & comfortable, only the hotel in St Petersburg was a bit disappointing. The trains were all great. Clean & comfortable and the Provodnitsas all very friendly & helpful.

Overall it was an amazing experience! Thank you very much for your assistance in making it all happen!

Kind Regards,

From: Jodi
To: Helen Fuge

Hi Helen,

Yes we are both well; already back into the daily grind. And no jet lag...haha!

Sorry, I keep meaning to write & then something else disposes my time. Russia was hypnotising, love the architecture and the vibrant history. 

Olga soon put us at ease. Our accommodation was comfortable and very convenient to the Metro & city. Our guide did her best with translating and gave a good overview of the capital. 

Love Tatyana, she was wonderful. Excellent English, very knowledgable and passionate about her homeland. We immensely enjoyed our breakfasts with her. She had loads of advice and recommendations for us. Yuri was a pleasure also. Collecting us from the train and delivering us to their home. He was pretty much outside of our carriage as it arrived. Personally we enjoyed St Petersburg much more and felt more time could have been spent there. However we did cram lots in to the time we had at both capitals. 

We definitely will re-visit Russia; it has captivated us. I have an even greater appreciation of their history, struggles, media bias and how misrepresented Russia is to westerners. It was a pleasure to navigate and commute. Their sense of pride and respect is admirable. Hopefully I can find out a little more about my great-great grandfather of whom was born in the Urals and lived in what is now Finland. The trip provided greater clarity in piecing together the family genetic heritage. So very pleased to finally visit; Russia has always been a dream.

Thank you so much from your end. Your assistance was hugely beneficial for our first time visit in what possibly could be quite overwhelming. Communication has been a pleasure and easy. 

Many thanks and hope all is well with you;
Cheers, Jodi


Hello Brent,

We are back from the trip, it was a great adventure and truly exciting to see half of the globe.
We need as long to rest now, as the trip took. Thank you for organizing it and making it possible to see so many regions in the countries we visited.

Pavlinka & Aleksandar

To: Helen Fuge
Subject: Mary and Annie's travels

Hi Helen,
This a bit overdue. Sorry. We are currently in Berlin after having the trip of a lifetime.
Thankyou so much for all your planning. Every day was a surprise. We can honestly say there was not one thing that we didn,t like about it....maybe the mares milk in Mongolia!!!.... and there was not one thing that went wrong. I would encourage more people to go to Kazan. Suzdahl and Vladamir were sensational....maybe religious overload for some...Moscow just blew us away. When we got to the Hotel Budapest we found we were sharing a double bed so asked if we could change. When the bell boy came to move us he said "what's wrong with this? too small"? It had a HUGE bedroom, lounge room, dining room and two bath rooms!!!!!! We had to give up a dining room for an enormous desk in the lounge. Could have done with a couple more days in St Petes but got to see the ballet at the Hermitage theatre which was a real treat. On our very last pickup we nearly had a heart attack as our driver to the station in St P was 20. minutes late. He arrived just as we were calling a taxi. It was a race to the station in hideous traffic but he was a young fearless driver. All our guides were great and perhaps my one negative comment would be that the 6 hr walking tours left us two fit 74 yr olds shattered. The weather was warm. We went from walking back from the Hermitage theatre on Sunday night in balmy weather to minus 2 in Helsinki on Mon and a
chill factor of minus 20. Loving Berlin after 54 years.
Thankyou Helen it was just SENSATIONAL.
Kind regards, Mary Cole.

From: leanna
To: Helen Fuge
Subject: Return TO aUST

Hi Helen,

After 3 months away I have just returned to Perth and very happy to be home after such a long trip.
I wish to thank you for your wonderful organization of Trans Siberian part of our adventure. Everything went smoothly with the tickets collection, home stays (just great people) and the tours.
I enjoyed the train immensely…the Mongolia Russia border an experience, the bogie change in the big shed!, the endless autumn leaves on trees, trees and more trees, the spectacular Lake Baikal, the compartment companions (some interesting characters to say the least and I loved every bit!) and of course Moscow and St Petersburg cities which are a must once in ones life!
Separate was our extra week in Mongolia and we got out to Khar Khorin and the Orkhorn Valley area which gave us camel riding over the desert, Yaks, Gers very rural people and spectacular scenery. Bad weather was either ahead or behind us …how lucky is that? And on our last day we witnessed the first winter snows on the mountains as we drove back to Ulaan Baatar.
Europe, UK and HK since has been a different slant on life!

Mary and Annie are home also having a terrific trip, James and Ruth are on a plane from London right now returning to the Barossa Valley so all safe and well with no lost passports!.

I hope you are traveling well. Maybe I will join one of your adventures in the future… keep me informed of your trip options please.

Thank you Helen
Best wishes


"Keith Hutchison"
Re: arrangements in Moscow and St.Petersburg

We are now at Petersburg airport about to leave Russia. We have really enjoyed our visit. People were always friendly and everything was very efficient. Your arrangements in particular we're EXCELLENT. Our hosts looked after us very well. Thank you very much. Keith & Kate Hutchison, Australia

Dear Marie,

Our trip to China and Mongolia was a great success.
I wanted to thank you for all your help in organising our air and train travel, accommodation and transfers.
Everything worked like clockwork. The transfers you recommended in Ulan Bator were fantastic. It was pouring with rain when we arrived and the driver was dutifully waiting with a soggy sign.
He then arrived promptly to take us back to the station on the morning of our departure. I didn't even realise it was return transfer so it was a welcome bonus.
The hotel you booked for us in Beijing on our return from UB was just across the road from the train station. We could see it as we came out of the terminal. It was great to be able to walk there with our bags rather than fight for a taxi.
It was always a pleasure to deal with you. Your knowledge, professionalism, and attention to detail are impressive. And your warm and generous manner on the phone made the whole process an enjoyable one.
On top of that, I really appreciated your kindness and sensitivity in helping us book flights at short notice to travel to London for a funeral. You are a great credit to your company.
I look forward to dealing with you again and will be recommending you highly to my friends, colleagues and family.
Best wishes,
Ursula Malone.

From: The Wellards
To: Helen Fuge
Subject: Russian frolic


Just a short note to say we have returned safe and sound and to thank you for your efforts in organising our itinerary. We had a wonderful time and things went very, very smoothly.

The highlight was clearly the Trans Siberian trip (or trans sib as we seasoned travellers call it). This was an absolute hoot in spite of taking 10 hrs to cross from Russia to Mongolia and almost as long to get back. We also participated in a carriage revolt against a pair of provodnitsas who refused to open one of the toilets. The just and righteous prevailed, however, and the toilet was eventually unlocked.

All the guides, with the possible exception of the young man at Kazan, were good and in many cases excellent. The home stays were excellent and I would recommend this form of accommodation to anyone. It really gets you into the real world.

Once again Helen, Alison and I both thank you and your company for your efforts.

Cheers Dick Wellard


From: Vicki Cowling
To: Paul Ryan
Subject: Feedback about travels

Hello Paul - back 3 days from trip to Canada and St. Petersburg. Thank you for arranging my flights and the travel plans, hotel and guide and program, in St. Petersburg.

All flights, transfers and baggage went without a hitch. I would not choose to fly 14 hours non stop again though ! 10 hours seems manageable. I liked Cathay Pacific - plenty of leg room and slightly wider seats which cannot be lowered backwards, but are still comfortable enough to sleep.

Our hotel in St. P, Nevsky Grand, was comfortable, with the advantage of a dining room if we chose to use it for dinner etc. I would stay there again, and recommend it to others.

Our tour guide, Pauline, and driver Vladimir were professional and very capable. I felt safe with both drivers, Viktor was at St. P. airport on arrival, and explained monuments and other landmarks on the drive into the city. Pauline is very knowledgeable, and gave the human story associated with the sights we visited, as well as factual information. Of course we saw the key sights - all very beautiful and impressive. St. P itself is a fabulous city - alive and energetic, with crazy traffic ! Through our walking and driving around, and my reading, and sightseeing I know much more about the city than I did 10 days ago.

I have copied Maria, and Pauline into this email. Thanks again Paul. My holiday was great, and the 4 and a half days in St. P. very short, but very enjoyable, and I will urge others to go, and would love to visit again myself !

Kind regards, Vicki

The following email rates as the nicest gesture considering the delay in critiquing our arrangements

A belated thank you!

In 2000, you arranged a Trans-Siberian trip from Beijing to St Petersburg, for my wife and I. At the time, we were
75 and 74 years old, we were living in Jerusalem, Israel. You arranged our trip from Beijing, China, all the way through to St Petersburg, Russia.
It was a wonderful trip, and you had arranged everything for us. We stayed in Home-Stays, except for the beginning
6 nights in Beijing. We met a number of interesting people.
One of the highlights was our travel out in the countryside near Ulan Baatar, to Gorhit Ger Camp. It was beautiful and
we even had a yak-mobile ride.
We were always met at the RR stations. At Irkurtsz, your rep actually came to our compartment, wih 2 teen-agers, took
our bags, and then to the little van for out stay at Listvyanka, where we stayed with the curator of the Lake Baaikal
Museum, and enjoyed Omul white fish.
The guides at both Moscow and St Petersburg were excellent, and the walking tours were delightful.
From being greeted at the Beijing airport (our flight from Los Angeles was 5-hours late) to being picked up at our
homestay in St Petersburg and taken to airport, everything was handled professionally.
Again, this trip you arranged was the greatest we have ever taken.
James (Jim) Scott


Hi Brent

We are at the end of our journey in Edinburgh we trained it all the way from Beijing to here except we flew from Helsinki to London. 10000 kms It was the greatest experience and a wonderful time, the two Mrs Sheridan turned out to be (Miss sisters .) and we teamed up and all looked after each other. The St Petersburg extension was well worth while as we saw Swan Lake at the Hermitage theatre and our guide Lucy was spectacular !!!
Thanks for all your help and I would recommend this trip to every one I know.
Best Regards

-----Original Message-----
From: Peter McCabe
To: Paul Ryan
Subject: Re: Welcome Home

Hi Paul,

Yes we are back safe and sound, first week back at work has just begun.

All up it was a fantastic trip, the train was surprisingly comfortable, and we are glad that we had to share the cabin as it made for a very social adventure. As a general rule they seem to bunch up the travellers in one carriage, and keep the locals in their own carts, but on the Manchurian leg foreigners were few and far between and we had some nice interaction with some Ruskies.

Our first stop. St Petersburg was fantastic, and we can't sing the praises enough to our walking tour guide, Luba. She was fantastic, spent to whole day with us and even took us to a local theatre performance featuring her husband on the night we arrived. We would like it if you could pass on this gratification to the St Petersburg company. There was some confusion as to who had our train tickets as Andrea was in Paris at the time, eventually the company got them to us before our departure day.

There seems to be some confusion regarding visa registration with our guide book telling us that we needed to obtain some kind of registration every place that we stopped. The tour company in St Petersburg seemed to think that the law had recently changed and that registration was no longer necessary as long as you don't stay in the one place for longer than a week. It all worked out ok for us, but might be worth clarifying from your end so that future clients know where they stand with it all.

Our home stay accommodation was wonderful, all the host families really looked after us and enriched our stay. Our St Petersburg family made us promise to email and send photos. Our B&B at Listvyanka next to Lake Baikal was a nice location, but the lady who runs it was extremely irritable and seemed to have a run in with every guest there.

Moscow was also fantastic, we were in the city for Russia's national holiday and the streets were alive. Also, one can spend and entire day roam the underground train system admiring the stunning and diverse architecture of all the stations, the detail is incredible, and all for a 28 Ruble ticket!

Our China itinerary was crammed full of activities, and we feel like we got great value for the short amount of time we spent there. We also managed to spend a day on the Great Wall, the day before we flew out.
Every tour that we had in china seemed to include extra stop overs in pre-arrange tourists shops pretending to be giving us cultural experiences like, the life story of the silk worm and the garments that it can produce or a traditional Chinese tea ceremony, or a tour of the factory where they make traditional terracotta warriors. Of course these were just the fronts of expensive tourist shops that obviously gave the guides and tour company kickbacks for turning up with new punters. These shops are extremely hard to leave without buying anything, and even when we refused to purchase on some occasions we where told that if we don't buy we had to stay at least half an hour before we could leave. A bit frustrating when we had such limited time as it was.

The local lunches provided on the Chinese tours were great, with plenty of variety.

Thanks for all your help with our tour and getting our visas sorted in such a short space of time, it was such a unique trip, we both loved it.

We would be happy to share any photographs for your website or brochures, just let us know if there is anything specific that you would like.

Ok Paul all the best, i hope the feedback is useful.

Kind regards
Pete and Kat

-----Original Message-----

From: Dan

Sent: Thursday
To: Helen Fuge
Subject: Belated thank you

Hi Helen

I know this is long overdue, but thank you for the great job you did with my Trans Mongolian and Russian trip in June/July, and getting my visas on short notice. All went well and ran smoothly and I got the Belarus visa in Moscow with no problems.

All your partners over there were very efficient and helpful, and I am recommending you to all my friends so you may get more business from Brisbane. In Mongolia I ran into two other satisfied customers of yours. I can't recall their names (maybe Hamish) but one was a Chinese doctor from Brisbane. They were singing your praises as well.

Thanks again

From: Terry
To: Helen Fuge
Subject: thanks helen!


Hi Helen
Just a quick note to say thanks for arranging our trans-mongolian trip.  We added a couple of weeks in China, and returned home a few days ago.
All the stopovers were good, everybody met us when they should, and Sergei (in St Petersburg)  and Anna ( in Moscow)  were really good guides. Apart from getting some baggage stolen in Ulan Baator everything went really smoothly, and we had a great trip.  We will probably come back to you in a year to try and organise the silk route and Tibet!
Thanks again to everyone concerned

This email is about the remote BAM route.
To: Helen Fuge
Subject: Back in Melbourne

Hi Helen,
I am back after the Russian trip. It went well, a bit difficult and lonely at times. Overall I renjoyed it, but I must say the organisation in Russia was veruy good. I was always picked up on time, the train was always on time and the people were friendly. No many other tourists on the BAM though, only a couple of Swiss travellers. So thank you for a well organised trip. The best accomodation and meals were in Listvyanka at the chalet. The most beautiful place was a day trip to Baikalskoe near Severobaikalsk.
As you can see I am back with hotmail
Kind regards

From: Sherryl
To: Helen Fuge
Subject: Thanks for a great trip

Hello Helen,

I want to thank you for the considerable help you gave us in organising our trip on the Trans-Siberian railway recently.  Our trip went very smoothly and we had a great time.  We loved the train trips and it was very helpful to have people met us at every station and to get us back on the train.  Our homestays were a highlight of the trip too and a great way to get to know local people.

Many thanks

Sherryl and Patricia


From: karen
Subject: Postcard from Russia

How do you respond to a marriage proposal after a few vodkas on the transiberian? Very carefully, when it is from a sizeable Russian and on the first night of a 3 day rail journey.

Although not as passionate in quite the same way as my large Siberian friend, the Muscovites and locals of St Petersburg spoke vigorously about their country, its history and its future. The Kremlin guide proud of his city's beautiful old buildings declared of Stalin's buildings that 'Russia had the stupidest communists in the world.' Although he viewed Stalin nonetheless to be a 'humble' criminal, given the simple Kremlin building he chose to reside in.

In St Petersburg our guide Sergei spoke with great emotion of his family's tragic losses from starvation during the city's siege in WW2. His grandmother dragging the body of his grandfather on a sled and burying him with her own hands, a task she was too sick to perform when her mother died soon after.

The fervent patriotism and pride of the Russians was evident too in the painstaking restoration and reconstruction of their stunning architecture. The unbelievable wonder of the Amber Room at Catherine's Palace, the landscaped gardens full of elaborate fountains and sculptures at Peter's Palace, and the soaring majesty of the Church of Our Saviour Cathedral in Moscow (a swimming pool during Stalin's time, and where I was inundated with holy water during a morning service), spoke of grandeur and wealth. A wealth which appeared, and we were told, belonged only to the very few, such as the mafia of St Petersburg in their Hummers, Mercedes and Ferraris. Obvious on the city streets not so much by their Italian suits but by the armed personal guards accompanying them.

Russian passion was also evident in their art, especially at the Fine Arts Museum in Moscow, their haunting music and their adoration of their literary greats, such as Pushkin. It is less evident in their customer service; the menu on the transiberian appeared comprehensive until you understood that most of the dishes had nyet hope of appearing on the table. The delicious still warm meat pastries bought from a Babushka on one of the many station stops, the culinary highlight of the rail trip.

The entire restaurant car full of Russians joining me in a stirring vodka toast to the Kylie Minogue and Nick Cave duet that was playing the funniest moment. The saddest moment undoubtedly was a couple of Russians predicting a revolution of some sort in the future, as the gap between the poor and wealthy widens. We were told that in some rural areas basic services such as electricity have now disappeared with kerosene lamps back in use.

From the passionate Russians, via the stylish Finns of Helsinki, now in the big exciting metropolis that is London.


Hi Colin,

Second day here in St Petersburg - really enjoyed the drive out to the palaces - sensational, especially the Amber Room in Catherine's Palace.

My ePostcards to friends have already elicited a couple of queries from people wanting to do the same tour. (ePostcards follow - please excuse the typos. I am an ex-journo but never done any travel writing so excuse the quality also).
Only dramas I've had have been with the worry about the health and safety of my uncle with some of his antics - the tour guides and homestays have been great.
Hope all well with you and have a great weekend,



Does a few glasses of Great Wall red wine help or hinder when using Chinese toilets in the middle of the night whilst the bogies are being changed on the train at the Mongolia border? The jury is out, although the second bottle was definitely better than the first shared with a couple from Perth in the restaurant car.

It was the night the bogies change went badly as it was 3 extra hours of whistle blowing, fiddling with the bogies and the train going back and forth before we finally crossed the border into Mongolia at Zamyn-Uud in the wee small hours.

We left behind the country where they talk like they're singing and write like they're painting. The Forbidden City in Beijing and the many treasures over 800 palaces held included beautiful scrolls, some as ancient as 260 AD.

Across the jam packed 12 lane road (that I talked my uncle out of an attempt at hurdling the barrier and jaywalking) where luxury European cars jostled with bicycles and the odd rickshaw, at Tiananmen Square everything was massive in scale. The surrounding buildings of Chairman Mao's Mausoleum, the Great Hall of the People, and the Monument to the People's Heroes made less of a political statement at night when lit up and filled by families strolling the warm, humid night and flying kites.

The stern faces of guards posted outside heavily secured government buildings contrasted with the smiling faces and young lovers embracing on the wide wide pavements. A dozen people astride plus the odd motorbike and car were accommodated on the pavements of the huge city blocks that took many minutes to walk.

Preparation for the Olympic Games next year were visible everywhere including signs in shops to change local behaviour (translation via a 3rd party):
"We're happy we line up"
"The colour and design go perfectly with your shape"
And a no no
"You are crazy."

The streets and the impressively clean and English signposted subway were filled with the young and the fashionable many of them able to speak English to some degree. However, when labouring up the steep path to the Great Wall at Simitai, it was a tiny, wizened 62 year old farmer who gently took my hand for the treacherous parts (that our guide had told us several tourists had plummeted off the side), and fanned me with an ornate fan - that naturally he tried to sell to me. Beijing was a beguiling mix of the new and young China with its rich cultural heritage, whilst also the showpiece of Mao. The old and bleak poor farming areas of China were visible from the train yesterday as were several kilometres of the Great Wall (but no rabbits). Today the vast, desolate plains of the Gobi Desert with the odd small group of camels, goats, sheep and ponies pass by the restaurant car window. I'm enjoying the local Mongolian Lager under a very serious bow and arrow set that decorates the wall of our restaurant car.


How do you end up on the local TV news in Siberia? Walking along Lake Baikal, a huge inland lake holding 20% of the world's fresh water supply, an ACNT TV crew stopped to ask about our impressions of the area as tourist. I hope we were translated correctly and they edited out all my laughter at our tour guide's attempts at directing us. Not 100% comfortable about participating in a media without free speech. The transMongolian train disembarking at Irkutsk involved a lot of hugging and kissing of new friends. I hope the four actresses - an Austrian, Swede, Spaniard and Pom - travelling in the compartment next to ours, do visit Australia as discussed.

The Lake Baikal area in Siberia was virtually unscathed by Soviet architecture. The Listvyanka village was filled with traditional log houses, with carved and brightly painted window frames. The gardens filled with chrysamenthems, daisies, and dalias, and the bakeries chocker with the most divine pastries - banana, chocolate, cabbage, meat and fish. But little reminders of where we were popped up occassionally ... the soldier in combat gear with an automatic rifle slung casually over his shoulder who strolled into the guesthouse restaurant at lunch. And a fellow traveller who visited the parents of one of the local guides - gobsmacked to find they lived on a nearby military base with nuclear warheads.

Then it was 3 days on the famous trans-siberian train - number 9 - and here in Moscow .......

From: Jill
To: Colin Hood
Subject: RE: your flights

Dear Colin

Many thanks for organising my flights with Asiana.
I had excellent service & comfortable seat to & from Seoul. Much superior to the internal Russian flights which included an unplanned, but thankfully short, trip in an M18 helicopter with the pilot smoking a pipe as we flew between towering snow clad mountains in quite low cloud! The whole trip was a great success as we steamed 3000miles north from Sakalinski to the Arctic, with lots of landings on the Kuril Islands, Commander Islands, Kamchatka Peninsular & Chukotska, with great sightings of wildlife and flowers in taiga & on tundra.

From: Margaret Flanagan
To: Helen Fuge
Subject: RE: Flanagan: Trip

Hi Helen,
We would just like to express our appreciation of you and your organisation's efforts in providing such excellent arrangements for our Trans Mongolian Train trip experience. It was without doubt definitely a major highlight of our extended journey. Our initial fears of not making contact with our guides at each of our stop-off points were quickly dispelled and were without foundation. The high standard of professionalism of each of our guides (with one exception) was much appreciated. We would also recommend the home-stay segment of our trip to any of your future clients - as long as these clients did not expect anything like 5 star accommodation. The positive home-stay benefits/experiences/education we gained far outweighed any minor inconveniences.  It should also be noted that your future clients should be warned that they need to have a strong bladder when making this crossing, for it took from 10.30 - 11.00am until 3.00pm for the single carriage of tourists to be processed by the Russian border officials. During all that time we were instructed to remain in our rail carriage compartments. The Russian officials nevertheless bent over backwards and took pains to put at ease and be pleasant to us and our fellow tourists entering Russia. As you would know we did experience a small hick-up with having to pay for our entry tickets to the Kremlin in Moscow. Please be advised that after the Moscow organisation clarified the situation with you, we did in fact receive a full refund.  Needless to say we would have no hesitation in recommending your organisation to any of our friends.
Thanks once again for an experience of a lifetime,
Margaret & Denis Flanagan
From: Gyaw
To: Helen Fuge
Subject: Thanks for the BAM
Dear Helen,
How right you were ,the BAM route is a extraordinarily scenic vast area of Siberia.
Acres+ acres of golden autumn trees with a backdrop of ruggard snow dusted mts.
There were so many extras which surprised us, a cruise on that wonderful body of water, Lake Baikal,
Giselle at the Hermitage Theatre, cocktails in Ivan the Great Bell Tower. etc
We were lucky enough to have many different nationalities on board which was so much fun.
The journey was perfect so a big thankyou to you for you imput and  travel expertise.
With best wishes    Marion Gyaw.

From: Anne Maree Ridley


These following comments are interesting as they address several issues, Hotels we use, Winter Travel in Russia, crime/honesty in Russia and homestays (some people can consider this type of accommodation a negative).

From: Pat & Eileen the New Zealanders!
To: Helen

Subject: St Petersburg

Hi Helen,

Have just returned from UK so thought I'd let you know that we had a great time in St Petersburg. The Hotel Oktyabrskya was excellent. It has all been re furbished recently and everything was very good. The breakfast was excellent, both in the amount and the choice. In fact we met a man who regularly goes to St. P .on business and he said he now stays at this hotel as it is now of a better standard than some of the 4 stars.I thought you may like to know it is highly recommended. It is most convenient being at the bottom of the main street and near to all the buses, trams and metro.
Many thanks and cheers,

From the Dutch and Australians
Hi Colin,

Thank you for the opportunity to provide some feedback. Inge and I had an excellent holiday with Russia being absolutely amazing. We are heading back to Holland for two weeks in October for Inge's best friend's wedding, and we are already saving for our next big trip - probably the year after next. Firstly, we were most impressed with the professionalism and organisation of yourself and your company. A lot needed to be done without the benefit of personal contact, and because of Inge's residency application, we did not give you a lot of time in which to arrange everything for us. Definitely a big thank you! Throughout the trip everything happened as it was supposed to happen, in terms of our transfers, accommodation, flights and car. At the St Petersburg end we were most impressed with our driver and our host. He was friendly and engaging and gave us a potted tour on the early morning drive from Moscow station to our homestay. He also contacted us during our stay to make sure everything was okay and to see if there was anything that he could arrange for us. Our hostess was also very nice, friendly and helpful. Overall, we loved the trip and would recommend Russia to anyone, especially in the winter time. Your efforts helped to make this possible!