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Travel Advice \ Packing Tips

Packing Tips

Train platform When packing for a trip, keep two important points in mind: a) airline / train restrictions, and b) you will probably bring souvenirs back. As a rule, most Trans-Continental flights are restricted to 2 checked bags and 1 carry on bag (aside from a personal bag such as purse or laptop case). For domestic flights in former USSR and Asia, the limit is 10-30 kg of checked baggage and 5-10 kg of carry on (depends on the type of the plane). This restrictions are usually strictly enforced. You will be charged per kg over this limit. The train has a theoretical limit of 35 kg, but it really is more a question of whether it fits in the compartment. Read more about riding trains here

Make sure to leave behind every possible electronic product whose wires could alarm a security officer. Spread throughout your checked baggage any thick or heavy objects, such as books, chocolate or peanut butter, that might be difficult for X-ray machines to penetrate. This may keep your luggage from being opened. For a list of permitted and prohibited items check the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) web site: Invest in a TSA-approved lock (you'll find them labeled as such at travel stores) for your checked bag. Screeners who want to inspect checked luggage will cut open non-TSA locks. Of course, they may cut TSA-approved locks too, but the approved locks reduce the odds of this happening. If you're traveling with a friend, split your toiletries and clothes into two groups, then combine one another's stuff in two pieces of checked luggage. This way, if either bag is lost, you'll have at least half your stuff at your destination. Bring medication in its original packaging, including the label with your name on it. Make sure the name on the label matches the one on your ticket or passport. To get around the liquids-and-gels restrictions in carryons, buy solid versions of products usually sold in liquid form, such as shaving soap and crystal deodorants; buy pre-moistened towelettes containing sunscreen and insect repellent. Consider ordering toiletries ahead of time and having them delivered to your destination from companies such as To prevent leaks in checked luggage, pack liquid and gel products in re-sealable freezer bags. Use leak-proof bottles for shampoo and lotion (leave room at the top of bottles for expansion). Pack bubble wrap to cushion wine or other liquid souvenirs, like olive oil.

For proper clothes packing, start with learning about the climate, flora and fauna of the region you are planning to visit. Depending on your travel route and time of the year - be prepared for all types of weather - rain, cold and hit. While the Siberian cold and the Central Asian hit are more extreme in temperature, luckily both are dominated by dry air making it quite tolerable with proper clothing. While general availability of goods has improved dramatically, do not assume that you will be able to purchase all items (especially if you are brand-conscious) in Russia and Asia, particularly outside of big cities. Also remember that you will need an electrical converter for appliances you plan to bring. (i.e., hair dryers, razors, curling irons). All appliances should be approved for international use to avoid damage. This information is usually available on the package containing the appliance. Laptops and cell phone chargers generally already have transformers, but you still need the adapter, which in most cases is the same as continental Europe. Please note that importation and use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and other radio electronic devices are subject to special rules and regulations, particulary in Russia. In general, mapping and natural resource data collection activities associated with normal commercial and scientific collaboration may result in seizure of the associated equipment and/or arrest.

Below are some items to bring in addition to the obvious some are of course seasonal. Again, most of these things are available in most major cities, but if you know you need it and have room, dont waste valuable vacation time shopping for such things. If you think of something, and are not sure, email us for advice.

Start-up List

  • 2 or 3 photocopies of the photo page of your passport or personal ID;
  • Long underwear (can also be used as pajamas);
  • Thermal or wool socks;
  • Rain poncho and/or umbrella;
  • Comfortable walking shoes;
  • Winter boots (with good traction insulated hiking boots are fine for city use);
  • Waterproofer for leather boots (Don't check aerosol/glass bottles in your luggage);
  • Winter coat, gloves, hat, scarf;
  • Heat Treat Hand/Toe Warmers (winter travelers);
  • Notebook, pens, pencils;
  • Basic dictionary (s);
  • Paperbacks (crossword puzzle books, etc., especially for train rides);
  • Small calculator;
  • Small battery travel alarm;
  • If you wear glasses or contact lenses, bring an extra pair;
  • Extra eyeglasses (especially if you wear contact lenses);
  • Insect repellent (especially for traveling in Siberia);
  • First Aid items / Prescription medicine;
  • Ear plugs (for train travelers);
  • Binoculars;
  • Disposable bath mats and a mug (train travels);


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