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Northern Asia Topics specific to Russia, Central Asia (also known as "the 'stans"), Mongolia, Japan and Korea
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  #1  
Old 4 Jun 2013
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Help calm my slight nerves please! Enter Russia in a week.

So I'm on my trip from England through Scandinavia, into Russia and Mongolia. I'm currently in Sweden and will be crossing into Russia around 13/06/2013.

So a little bit of nerves are setting in as always people are giving horror story's...

We are driving by 4x4 Nissan and the route is from Finland, into Russia through St Petersburg, Moscow and then heading towards Mongolia, Ulaanbatar, if we have time to Magadan, before returning across Russia to Europe.

So any last minutes tips please, or any up to date information on the route?

Basicly just to hear some positives rather then the constant 'storys' from people who have never been to these places...
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  #2  
Old 4 Jun 2013
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Read the threads and response here from those that have done it for the first time, along with the experienced old hats.

I did it for the first time last year and had never ridden across borders, in fact my total experience of driving/riding in foreign countries was a Tarago minivan in New Zealand and a half day scooter hire on Santorini - hardly worth writing home about and English is the only language I speak.

I found it all quite easy in the end - just don't forget your insurance when crossing the border.
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  #3  
Old 4 Jun 2013
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Horror stories??

I reckon Russia is safer than the UK.

Been travelling in Russia for 20 years. NEVER had anything stolen. A mate travelled here last year and left his bike in the street in central Moscow without a security chain or disc lock or anything, for 3 days and 3 nights and it wasnt even touched.

You couldnt do that in London, let alone any other city in the UK.

Use basic common sense, take basic precautions, DONT treat locals as if they are to be feared or you are superior to them. I come back to Russia every summer to travel. Find it a fantastically welcoming and friendly place.

Like the UK, the bigger the city, the less people are interested in you as they have their own busy lives. The smaller the towns you travel through the more interesting you are to them, and the hospitality rapidly becomes warmer than ANYTHING you will experience int he west.

I recommend you stray from main roads, as they (the main roads) are the most boring, least friendly, least interesting (most generic) parts of the country. Again, think of the UK ... you cant drive up the M1-M6 and say you have seen England ... its the small towns and villages that are the REAL England. Russia is no different.

Its a big country and there are a MILLION different routes you can take to cross it. Dont confine yourself to thinking there is just one. If you do, then you are automatically locking yourself onto the most boring route across the country. If you do see only one route across the country, you run the risk that your potential journey of adventure and a discovery of another country and culture becomes nothing more than a Russian highway endurance test. I cannot stress that enough.

Russians themselves will fill you with horror stories - that the people in the next town, next province, next country etc are all bandits. Ignore them.
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Last edited by colebatch; 5 Jun 2013 at 12:54.
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  #4  
Old 5 Jun 2013
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Yes and everything Walter said above. And I left my bike in the streets of many Russian cities for more than one night with no issue.

Put this way I wouldn't let my wife walk in downtown Vancouver by herself at 9pm. If was any of the Russian cities we stayed in I would have told to go by herself.

In Mongolia beware of petty theft though particularly in UB ie don't leave things straped to the bike that are easily nicked. A number of people we met on bikes had stuff stolen from them.

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  #5  
Old 5 Jun 2013
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Russia

Hello Cysne,

when I entered Russia the first time in 1992 I was also a bit like you ...

Quote:
... a little bit of nerves are setting in as always people are giving horror story's...
but I found the people so welcoming and friendly that I lost all my fear within a few days.

Then I returned in 1997/1999/2000/2003 and traveled to remote corners of the biggest country on the planet. I had very little problems, but two things I want to tell you .... stay away from drunk strangers - dont drink with strangers .... park your car at night in an autostolyanca (paid parking) as the locals do.

enjoy Russia

mika
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  #6  
Old 5 Jun 2013
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Following up on what Craig Iedema said ...

Mongolia is a different country. People are less smiley and less overtly friendly than in Russia. And UB is the petty crime and pickpocket capital of the WORLD. So be more cautious in Mongolia, especially in ULAANBAATAR. In Mongolia, keep your valuables in zipped pockets.
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  #7  
Old 5 Jun 2013
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Thanks for the words, just what I wanted to here from people who have been there.

Sorry examples of the horror storys as you say;

Bandits, Armed muggings, mafia, etc from people who are never been. Gets a little wearing constantly having to tell people otherwise (for the last 6 months!) makes you start to wonder...

Really appreciate your honesty, thanks.
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  #8  
Old 5 Jun 2013
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Cysne, I'd happily try and balance my emotions with you. I'll be there in 10 days and am too excited. A bit of hesitation might relax me a bit.


Quote:
Originally Posted by colebatch View Post
Russians themselves will fill you with horror stories - that the people in the next town, next province, next country etc are all bandits. Ignore them.
It's a fact of travelling in some regions or just dealing with people. Groups of people are always warning you of the other groups who are warning you of the first group. It's always funny to learn of all the apparent bullets you dodged while too busy being treated like an old friend to notice.
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Old 5 Jun 2013
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It's great to get the reassurance from the folks that have preceeded you. I too will be following in your footsteps next year. But you have to accept problems do arise and it's all part of the adventure. If things ran absolutely smoothly then you can't bore people with jaw dropping adventures on your return. Good luck on your travels everyone.
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  #10  
Old 6 Jun 2013
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Quote:
It's a fact of travelling in some regions or just dealing with people. Groups of people are always warning you of the other groups who are warning you of the first group. It's always funny to learn of all the apparent bullets you dodged while too busy being treated like an old friend to notice.
This even happens in America (although it sometimes valid in this case).

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  #11  
Old 6 Jun 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cysne View Post
Sorry examples of the horror storys as you say;

Bandits, Armed muggings, mafia, etc from people who are never been. Gets a little wearing constantly having to tell people otherwise (for the last 6 months!) makes you start to wonder...
Ho hum...as others have said, read any number of ride reports about trips in Russia and you won't see many (any?) horror stories.

And sad to say, many Russians are the worst at spreading this kind of story. Many of my Russian colleagues apparently never expected me to return from my trip to Magadan a couple of years ago, because in their view everyone in the Far East is some kind of horrible criminal.

But of course this is not a license to shut your brain off while travelling in Russia--use common sense. For example, if you wild camp, don't do it right on the side of the road where every ne'er-do-well that drives by will see you.
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Old 6 Jun 2013
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Just to add my tupp'orth from 1996.
We were given a document that was being handed out to staff of a big UK financial consultant (big name but don't remember which), that was piling into Moscow for post-Soviet glasnost. This paper said, in black and white, avoid being in a non-company car in Moscow because the police would stop all foreign-looking people and threaten an injection with AIDS virus if substantial bribes weren't paid.
Well, luckily all 4 of us were of like mind to see this was rubbish, but one took a few Zippo lighters "just in case."

In those days (maybe it's still the same), 3 foreign motorbikes parked in a town would immediately attract a big crowd, and big crowds quickly attracted the police, who were always helpful.
In Ukraine and in Russia.

We were staying in homestays and had the addresses with us written in Cyrillic.
We'd show that to the police when they arrived and they'd escort us right to the front door.
The first time, in Kiev, after following the Landcruiser through the city, one of our number offered the copper one of the Zippo lighters.
He waved his hands in some consternation saying "No no no!"

There was a burdgeoning bikers' scene in those days that always took us under their wing, specially in St. Pete. Maybe it's still the same.

The St.Petersburg family who arranged our homestays insisted there was no way to travel by road from Kiev to Moscow. The road was controlled by mafia - they rob everyone - there's nowhere to stay overnight - no petrol - no water, no tarmac.....
Well, when we successfully arrived in Moscow and phoned them, they were gracious enough to agree "things must be changing for the better."
At the police checkpoints along the road in Ukraine approaching the Russian border, the police would say "impossible to travel beyond the border, Mafia control everything, rob everyone, turn back now."

Quote:
Originally Posted by mika View Post
but two things I want to tell you .... stay away from drunk strangers - dont drink with strangers ....
enjoy Russia

mika
Yep, I'd agree with that, but it depends a bit on your own outlook.
One of our number was a serious Scottish drinker - a real Scot. (In his 50s like me).
He handled the Russian drunks no problem, it was often very entertaining.
But I think without a doubt, if he hadn't been with us we would not have had the skills to connect socially with the heavy drinkers that we met. And we would have steered clear of them.

It was a great trip - 3 weeks.

-Someone above mentioned other countries. It always seems it's the people living in the country that mostly tell you it's dangerous. Including the U.S.
While I was cycling around small-town America people would say "On your own? Isn't that dangerous? You'll get robbed!!"
And yet, a child's football, 'stolen' overnight from a front garden, was the front-page news in the local paper.....
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Old 6 Jun 2013
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This video will dispel any worries:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhayUVsS6VA
(But don't watch any other Russian dash cam videos. It will not help your nerves.)
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  #14  
Old 7 Jun 2013
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Hello Cysne
First of all,you probably will survive.
Just drove Vladivostok to Ulan-Ude.
Now I'm in Mongolia and not looking forward to crossing Russia again,but there's no way around it.
I've heard a lot of positiv things about Russia, like the other posts did.
But I haven't seen that Russia yet.
To be clear, nothing bad happend yet, just my impression is that it's a overpriced third world country, unable to handle plumbing or anything else.
It took 4 days till I got a "pashalsta" after politely saying "spasiba" when I bought something in a shop.
I general got the feeling that I'm not welcome at a reception of a motel or a shop, like "why are you idiot bothering me,just pay a go".
Maybe it's just me,after months in SEA and last Japan, I'm used to people smiling.
Mongolia seems much friendlier.
Don't expect too much, hope you enjoy Russia.
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Old 7 Jun 2013
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Russia

Quote:
First of all,you probably will survive.
Just drove Vladivostok to Ulan-Ude.
Now I'm in Mongolia and not looking forward to crossing Russia again,but there's no way around it.
I've heard a lot of positiv things about Russia, like the other posts did.
But I haven't seen that Russia yet.
To be clear, nothing bad happend yet, just my impression is that it's a overpriced third world country, unable to handle plumbing or anything else.
It took 4 days till I got a "pashalsta" after politely saying "spasiba" when I bought something in a shop.
I general got the feeling that I'm not welcome at a reception of a motel or a shop, like "why are you idiot bothering me,just pay a go".
Maybe it's just me,after months in SEA and last Japan, I'm used to people smiling.
Mongolia seems much friendlier.
Don't expect too much, hope you enjoy Russia.
sushi

good we are not all the same and different travelers have different experiences.

I just loved Russia and the Russians and I could not get along with the Mongolian and their stupid rules and laws. Anyway I traveled more than ten years ago, and my first journey is more than twenty years ago and for sure many things have changed.

But I am thinking of going back to Russia.

Sushi, I hope you enjoy western Russia more, dont miss Sankt Petersburg.

Greetings to all from Berne Switzerland
mika
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