My train of thought changed…

by Ant Stone on April 20, 2007

in Pre-Trip Planning

I spoke too soon. I thought it was a bit weird that i was actually sticking to a plan. The day started with a grand plan to fly into Tokyo and negotiate my way to Beijing via Ulaanbaatar with, what i imagined to be a combination of steam powered airplanes. But the day ended with me deciding to fly to Moscow and jump on the Trans-Siberian Railway to Beijing, via UB. It only takes 6 days from Moscow to UB, and lets face it Moscow and Tokyo are pretty similar, right? Sake, vodka. Mafia, yakuza. tOkyO, mOscOw. Ok, so the last one was scraping the barrel somewhat but still, both are steeped in adventure.

The main reason for the change of heart is simple, i am a ‘Son of Maureen’ and that means i “watch my pennies, and the pounds look after themselves”. So now, the likely itinerary to kick off The Trail is [not-so interesting if you’re not planning on traveling!];

  • June 29th (ish): Depart (d) London flight to a Moscow (£168)
  • July 3rd: d Moscow train to a UB July 8th (£210)
  • July 17th: d UB train to a Beijing July 18th (£120)

The total cost of the above is £498, plus visas costs for Russia, Mongolia and China (£65, £40, £15 respectively) and you’re looking at £620. Worth noting the Russian visa cost includes someone writing me a “Letter of Invitation” and slinging me a “Tourist Voucher” both of which are required due to old Soviet Union hang ups.

Compare the new itinerary cost to the old one;

  • July 1st: d London flight to a Tokyo (£320)
  • July 6th: d Tokyo flight to a Beijing (£329)
  • July 7th: d Beijing train to a UB (£90)

Total cost £739 plus visas for China and Mongolia (£22.50, £40 respectively (Chinese double entry)) brings the total to £801.50. “That doesn’t sound much difference Ant?” you sigh. Well, for a start it’s £180 cheaper plus there’s a couple of other considerations to be taken into consideration and considered at length. First off, the old itinerary would leave me stranded up in Mongolia meaning I’d have another hefty cost to get me out of there, ironically most probably to Beijing whereas the new itinerary conveniently lands me there. The old itinerary only experienced 2 cities (Tokyo and UB) whereas the new one caters for 3 (Moscow, UB and Beijing) albeit in a longer period, so you could argue that. I’d win though. The last point, is the cost of living. With a week in Tokyo costing about £50 a day, compared to say Moscow etc at more than half that.

The more i thought about it, the more i figured Tokyo would be as enjoyable as a tourist as it would be a traveller so I’ll head back there one day when i have a more flexible budget. Couple of shout outs to those behind my change of plan; first off the incredibly useful Man in Seat 61 for his disturbingly brilliant advice. Second to all those people who advised me through The Thorn Tree, awesome all round. To Real Russia whom i found through “61”, for their no fuss approach and informative site. Finally to Money Saving Expert for ‘Son of Maureen’ style morals.

Worth noting, i haven’t actually committed to the above (can’t until 45 days before departure) so it can, and most probably will change!

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