Travel Advice \ Frequent Questions
- I am not clear on tour prices and how much is US dollar?
- Is your train schedule accurate?
- What is your refund policy?
- Who do I contact during travel?
- Do I really need to register my Russian visa?
- How many empty pages in my passport do I need for one visa?
- How much money do I need to take with me?
- What if my travel in Russia is longer than 1 month?
- What if I am not met at the Train Station?
- What if I am not met at the Hotel?
- What if I am not met at the Airport?
- Is it possible to make changes to pre-packaged tours?
- Do I need any other documents besides passport and visas?
- What happens if I have a medical emergency?
- I like the idea of living with the family, but what if there is a conflict?
- Why your hotel prices are higher than those listed on the Internet?
- What should I expect when crossing borders?
1. I am not clear on tour prices and how much is US dollar?
All of our tour prices are calculated as one person per tour (unless noted). Each additional person is entitled to a discount (%). To convert the discount % into a dollar amount, please follow the formula listed below (based on 2 travelers). The price for group tours with set dates is valid only if the minimal number of people required for the trip is met.
Sample: [Tour price] x 2 travelers x [Discount % for 2 people] / %100 = $ Discount.
2. Is your train schedule accurate?
In most cases yes. But because train schedule is under constant revision and changes, please always check with us prior booking. For more information on trains, classes and booking logistics please check here
3. What is your refund policy?
You can find Sokol Tours "Terms and Conditions" right here
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4. Who do I contact during travel?
Once your travel is fully booked, approximately 1-2 weeks prior your departure, we will send you a Complete Itinerary, which describes responsibilities of Sokol Representatives, their names, office addresses, telephones (work, mobile, home). You can look at the Complete Itinerary sample right here (137KB)
5. Do I really need to register my Russian visa?
Visa Registration is a process that affects all travelers in Russia. The system implemented by Soviet Union during the “cold war”, unfortunately, did not vanish with the collapse of the USSR. It remains a must law in Russia as well as several Central Asian States and is strictly enforced by the local police in each city. Although it has gone through considerable modification and is under constant revision to ease the travel prospective, it can be a cause for stress if ignored. There are usually several options how and where to registry your visa. To make sure you don’t waste valuable time by dealing with the bureaucracy upon arrival, please contact us in advance to make sure the registration is arranged and will not affect your budget and travel plans. The fees for visa registration range from $1 to $150. There are also hefty fines for not following the requirements. Please contact your Sokol Consultant for more details.
6. How many empty pages in my passport do I need for one visa?
You need a whole page (both sides must be clear) for one visa. If your passport has expired or needs additional pages, you should apply immediately. Keep in mind that standard passport processing takes 4-6 weeks.
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7. How much money do I need to take with me?
If you are staying in capitals, you can use your home ATM bank card with Visa, Master logos. Along with your bank card, bring a credit card or two, may be $200-300 in travelers checks for emergencies and $200-500 in cash (especially if you are traveling to rural destinations). For the convenience, take your cash in few $10s, $20s for taxi, tips and the rest in $50s, $100s dollar bills. Make sure the dollar bills are in good physical condition, clean, best if new and of the latest print. When traveling, you will be able to exchanged money at most banks or their departments (kiosks), which can be easily found at most public places. Avoid changing money from random individuals. The days of "black markets" are over!
8. What if my travel in Russia is longer than 1 month?
If you are interested in visiting Russia for more than 1 month (the maximum length of a tourist visa), we can arrange a business visa for you (certain restrictions apply).
9. What if I am not met at the Train Station?
Train stations in Russia and Asia are very crowded places. When you step out of the wagon, you will melt into a mob of people rushing towards the station. It is quite a task to make a smooth meeting on the platform, but try your best and first look for a person holding a sign with your name near your wagon. If you do not see one, walk towards the train station along with other people and stop at the head of the train (locomotive) or board showing the train schedule at the beginning of the platform. Wait here for about 15-20 minutes and if you still see no one, try calling the contact. If calling is problem due to a language barrier or you can't find the phone, take a taxi.
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10. What if I am not met at the Hotel?
When meeting in hotels with drivers, first look in the main lobby and than outside near the entrance door for someone holding a sign with your name. If you won’t see anyone after some time (15-20 min), ask the person at the desk if anyone was looking for you. If still not sure, wait for another 10-15 minutes and than please call the contact.
11. What if I am not met at the Airport?
Take a look around the crowd a few times. For International flights, most drivers plan to arrive to meet you approximately ½ hour after your arrival time because it never takes less than that to exit the customs areas. If your flight has arrived early, keep this in mind, as you might need to wait a bit. If you don’t see anyone for about 10-20 minutes, find the information booth and if possible, make an announcement for the person supposed to meet you. If you still do not see anyone within 30-50 min of your landing time, call the contact numbers. There are phones in business centers or communications areas of most airports.
12. Is it possible to make changes to pre-packaged tours?
It all depends on the situation. Changing departure dates, shortening or extending tours is not always possible. Yet, we will consider your request for different accommodations, daily tours or different train classes. Please contact your Sokol Consultant for more details.
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13. Do I need any other documents besides passport and visas?
Yes, it is particularly important for travelers crossing several countries. Because of the visa regime, do not loose your custom declarations. They are frequently asked to be presented when you are entering or exiting a new country. Upon arrival to Russia and when traveling through, make sure you have your visa invitation (voucher) next to your passport and visa. Also keep your used train, plane, hotel receipts when traveling through Russia. It comes very handy when you need to proof your travel route to the policeman if stopped for a visa checkup.
14. What happens if I have a medical emergency?
In the event of emergency requiring medical care, hospitalization, or surgery, to make sure the treatment is administered without delay, please be aware that regional Sokol Representatives are authorized to represent you in local hospitals to secure any necessary treatment, including the administration of an anesthetic and surgery. Your insurance provider, family will be also informed immediately. Sokol Representatives will work with the Medical / Evacuation team until the situation is resolved.
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15. I like the idea of living with the family, but what if there is a conflict?
We do support the idea of staying with the family. It is the best way to learn about culture and people. If you choose so, we will make every attempt to make a good match. In the event of dispute, conflict or dissatisfaction, Sokol Tours will do its best to relocate you to another family, but please be aware that we do require 3 weeks minimum to find another host.
16. Why your hotel prices are higher than those listed on the Internet?
Most prices listed on the Internet do not include taxes, credit card, bank wire fees and often outdated. In addition, because hotels in Mongolia, Russia, Central Asia or China still tend to loose reservations if booked directly via Internet, to make sure you receive what you paid for and have a live contact in the city, we make most of our reservations via our local partners.
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17. What should I expect when crossing borders?
With new security guidelines and language barrier, airport logistics can be a puzzle even for an experience traveler. Here are some general tips and recommendations. Once off the plane, follow the flow of passengers to the passport control. If you are in the hurry, it is not a bad idea to walk a bit faster, so that you dont end up at the end of the (often long) line. International airports have two lines, one for citizens and another one for foreign visitors. At the booth, the custom officers will take your passport for inspection. If you have less than $3,000- $10,000 in cash/travelers checks and don’t expect to bring this money out with you, go through the “Nothing to Declare” green line. If you have more, or expect to take a very large amount money back out, fill out a customs declaration and go through the red line. You can usually receive a declaration form on the plane or you can take one from the stands in the baggage claim area. The baggage claim area is next stop after the passport control. It is not generally marked which carousel your luggage is coming in on, but there are not many carousels to choose from and everyone just figures it out. Collect your bags and head toward customs (indicated by red and green signs). The customs officer will stamp this declaration; without the stamp, the form is not valid. Make sure to save the custom declaration and show it to the custom when you leave the country. Failure to comply may result in confiscation of currency or possessions, removal from the train/plane and/or a fine. If your luggage has been lost, go to the booth inside the luggage area and fill out a claim slip. You should give the address of where you want the luggage to be delivered. Also take the phone numbers of the luggage office at the airport. As you exit the customs area, you will see a "mob of people". If you have requested a transfer, look for someone holding a sign with your name. If you do not see someone right away, do not go far. There is an information booth nearby where you can request to have an announcement made and you can also ask them where the nearest telephone is to call. If your flight has arrived early, wait in that area. Drivers usually plan to arrive no earlier than 30 minutes after your flight is scheduled to land since it is impossible to exit customs faster than that. It is not a bad idea to change a bit of money ($50-100) at the airport and there is an exchange where you can exchange and an ATM where you can withdraw rubles very close to the customs exit.
If you are entering Russia by train, you will face a long process (1-3 hours) at the border where 3-4 different officials will go through each cabin checking passports, luggage, looking around for contraband, illegal immigrants, etc. The system is roughly the same as if you flew in except that you are sitting still while the officials move about. For those entering to/from China, the border delays are even longer due to the differences in the width of rail tracks. All wagons are lifted at the border to change the wheels.
Please note that in addition to the valid visa, Russia requires to present the migration card. The forms are distributed on the plane/train. Fill out both portions of the migration card – the custom officer will tear off one copy as you enter the country and you must submit the other half when leaving Russia. Both visa and the migration card will be stamped. Don’t lose it!