frequently asked questions
soviet tours? are you commies?
As we work mainly in and around the former Soviet Union, we made the pretty obvious and straightforward choice to name our company Soviet Tours. Besides the self-evident geographical reference, the name of the company bears no political implication whatsoever. By the way: soviet (совет) is a Russian word meaning "council" or "advice" and has a neutral connotation.
so... No political agenda? only business?
Yes and no. We don't have, indeed, any political agenda whatsoever and we mainly focus on tourism while trying not to get involved in local diatribes. Nevertheless, we don’t see ourselves as just a bunch of business-only driven profiteers. Our passion and our love for the former Soviet Union, its people, and its nature are stronger than everything else. Through our company’s activities we aim to support local communities around the vast territory of the former USSR, regardless of their political beliefs, religious or non-religious faiths and - most importantly - of the post-Soviet country they now belong to. To us it doesn’t absolutely matter whether we deal with pro-European Ukrainians and Georgians or pro-Russian Abkhazians and Ossetians; no matter whether they are liberal or commies; no matter whether they dream of London or they look for a Leningrad 2.0 and - above all - no matter which religious, cultural or ethnic heritage they have, whether they are Muslim Chechens or atheistic Transnistrians. We've met tons of intelligent, respectful and open-minded people, splendid women and men from every corner of the former USSR and our mission is to keep their hopes in a better future alive, despite the hardships that most post-Soviet countries are still enduring. If you share with us the same unaligned and unconditional love for the former USSR, then have a look at our volunteer programs: you might find your own way to help firsthand the post-Soviet communities.
is it ethically acceptable to visit places such as syria, ABKHAZIA, Donbass or Chechnya?
This is a long standing question, which has already been discussed in the past in relation to the act of visiting countries such as North Korea or Myanmar. Honestly we find this to be a very sanctimonious and shallow form of criticism, to which we have both a short and a long answer. Short answer. No, there is nothing unethical in visiting the aforementioned countries and regions in a respectful and responsible manner. There are, indeed, several forms of unethical tourism - such as loud booze holidays in Mallorca, disgusting sex tours to Southeast Asia, and appalling human safaris in Ethiopia - but none of them fall within our rather conservative spectrum of values, practices and principles. Long answer. We are fully aware that some of the states and regions we travel to are ruled by authoritarian regimes, which have often been internationally criticised for their allegedly systematic disregard for human rights; while some others are currently ravaged by bloody conflicts, that have brought horror and despair to the civilian population. We strictly adhere to two golden rules: 1) we'll never ever do war tourism, as it is a distasteful voyeuristic way of snooping around the tragedies of others and 2) we'll never ever get involved in any political discussion, as we strongly believe that down-to-earth human relationships are way more important than loud talks about politics and morality. In this regard we are convinced that responsible tourism represents a powerful tool to establish an unbiased cultural exchange between local people and foreign visitors. For most women, men and children living in a conflict zone or under the yoke of an authoritarian regime the odd encounter with a foreign visitor represents a unique chance to meet someone from the "outside world". From the tourists’ perspective, a direct contact with the local population also constitutes a precious and rare occasion to understand a country directly from the feelings and the thoughts of its inhabitants, thus bypassing the inevitably biased coverage and the often misinformed reports of mainstream media. Moreover, responsible tourism has represented and could represent again a safe and uncontroversial source of revenue for the local population and that's especially true for countries such as Syria, where a large chunk of the population used to live out of tourism before the conflict broke out. Everywhere we travel to we exclusively work with local guides that would be left without a source of income if we'd decide to cancel our tours in the region. Boycotting the tourism industry in these areas would only lead to a further isolation of their population. At the end of the day, however, each of us decides what's acceptable and what's not according to her/his own personal ethics. A final note regarding conflict areas such as Syria, Libya, Afghanistan or Iraq: the cities and the regions listed in our itineraries are located relatively far away from the frontline, so even if you'd like to there is no way you are going to do war tourism with us.
What makes your tours so unique?
We live in a world in which the offer greatly exceeds the demand. In such a world we had to distinguish ourselves from the large number of tour operators and travel agencies out there. The most genuine and simple way to do it was to strictly adhere to our own cultural interests and travel philosophy. It’s hard to sum up our whole concept in a few sentences without becoming trivial and simplistic. On the other hand, however, this is a website and not novel. We thus wrote down a plain and simple list of the ten main reasons that make us unique. Have a read and if you are not convinced yet, just ask us anything you wish at firstname.lastname@example.org
HOW SAFE IS IT?
Despite the negative stereotypes surrounding some of our destinations we guarantee you that most of the countries and regions you'll visit with us are way safer than Western European or American cities. Street-crime level is generally very low in the former USSR and in the Middle-East and vicious acts such as mugging, kidnapping or sexual harassment against tourists are almost unheard of. Of course travelling to some of our destinations involves a certain level of personal risk and that's especially true for Libya, Donbass, Iraq and Syria. While in the region you shall strictly follow the rules your guide will brief you about on your first tour day. We reserve the right to modify the itinerary, interrupt the tour and/or cancel (and refund) your reservation if the security situation deteriorates. Until further notice, however, don't you worry and enjoy our unique adventures.
DO I NEED VACCINATIONS?
No compulsory vaccination is required for our destinations in the former USSR, Northern Afghanistan, East Africa and the Middle East. In Central and Western Africa a yellow fever certification is mandatorily required and an antimalarial prophylaxis is strongly recommended, whereas in Siberia you should be aware of the danger posed by ticks, which you can minimise just by wearing tight-fitting long clothes. Disclaimer: the information above is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have about vaccinations, allergies, health risks and medical conditions before embarking on any journey, whether it's to Switzerland or South Sudan. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
I HAVE STRICT DIETARY REQUIREMENTS. WILL THIS CAUSE ANY ISSUE DURING THE TOUR?
No, it won't. We just ask you to let us know in advance about your needs and specifics so that we can organise your meals accordingly. Vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, lactose/gluten intolerant or just a bit picky? No problem, we'll find a solution.
I AM A US/uk CITIZEN: IS THIS A PROBLEM?
Definitely not a problem. Even if we never get involved in politics we are fully aware of the uneasy relationship that the US - and to a lesser extent the UK - have with some of the countries we travel to and it's undeniable that some people over there feel quite distressed of being steadily identified as citizens of Evil Empires and Terrorist States. There is, however, absolutely no reason to worry as the hospitable locals you are going to meet are way more open-minded and easygoing than you might expect. Leave prejudices behind, don't pack fear and mistrust in your luggage: you'll be amazed.
I am a journalist: can I join your tours? Do you offer any media related service?
Yes, we do. As a journalist you are allowed to join our "normal tours" only if you are travelling as a tourist and you give us assurance you won't produce any unauthorised media material for the general public. We do offer, however, a separate service for journalists and media representatives seeking to cover issues in the countries we usually work in. Thanks to our extensive network of local contacts we are able to connect you with local fixers, translators, activists, writers, photographers and video makers and through our partners in the region we can also provide official press accreditations. Please note: no media service is offered for the Syrian Arab Republic and currently journalists are not allowed to join our tours in the country. This is a strict government directive we have to comply with.
do you cater for travellers with disabilities?
Yes, we do. Mobility, visual or hearing disabilities shall not prevent you to discover the fascinating destinations we travel to. Our team of local guides offers a 24-hour assistance service to travellers with disabilities. Most of the itineraries in our portfolio do not involve challenging routes or demanding paths and architectural barriers within the urban centres will be easily overcome thanks to our efficient and reliable staff. Please contact us to learn more.
DO YOUR GUIDES SPEAK ANY OTHER LANGUAGE BESIDEs ENGLISH AND RUSSIAN?
Yes, they surely do: our guides are, indeed, real polyglots! Expect to hear them speaking fluently more than three or four languages on the same day, switching from one to the next with such easiness you'll wonder whether you had had the wrong teacher in high-school. If you have any specific language requirement (a Swedish or Dutch-speaking guide for example) please let us know and we'll find a solution for you.
What does the tour price include?
Generally the tour prices includes: double/twin room accommodation (single supplement is usually between 18 and 35 euros per night), private transport in the region (jeep or minivan), regional flights, entrance fees for the attractions listed in the itinerary, guiding and translation service. The price usually does not include: international flights and any other flight not explicitly included in the tour price and itinerary, meals, drinks and tips, transport to and from the airport of arrival/departure, visas if required, entrance to attractions not listed in the itinerary, insurance. Please refer to the price section of each tour for more specific information.
Can you book international flights for me?
Yes we can. Just give us some more info about you and your preference and for a very small additional fee (something between 25 and 35 euros) we'll find the best and cheapest flight from your nearest international airport to the starting point of your chosen tour. You can then book and pay the connection by yourself or transfer us the needed amount and we'll reserve the flight for you.
How do I book/pay for a tour?
In the price section of each tour you'll find the relevant booking button. Press it and send us a booking request. We will get in touch with you within 24 hours from the moment we receive your request. Payments are usually done in two steps: we'll ask you a deposit to confirm the booking at least 60 days before the departure date; we'll then ask you to pay the final balance at least 30 days before the departure date. We accept both standard bank transfers and payments via PayPal. Cash and check payments are usually not accepted but exceptions are always possible.
Is my money secure?
Yes, it is. As we are a German-based company we are required to have a Reiseveranstalter-Insolvenzversicherung (insolvency insurance for tour operators) that guarantees that the money you send us is secure in the unlikely event of our insolvency. Please refer to our financial protection policy to know more about that.
I don’t want to travel in a group, do you organise individual tours?
Yes, we do. All our itineraries are customisable and can be run as individual or small-group tours. If you are travelling with friends and there are 5 or more of you, you can set your own dates and we will organise a tour just for you without charging any additional fee. If you are travelling solo or with less than 4 companions we will organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences. Please contact us for more information.
What's the difference between a tour and a short trip?
Generally speaking our tours have regular preset departure dates whereas our short trips do not have fixed departure dates and they are generally offered as add-ons to our tours. Flexibility is our motto and an exception to the rule is always possible. This means that a short trip may be also offered as a standalone tour if the demand is high enough.
My travel plans do not fit with your scheduled departure dates: can you organise an INDEPENDENT tour?
Our dates don't suit you? Don't worry: independent tours are available for each of our destinations. If you are travelling with friends and there are 5 or more of you, you can set your own dates and we will organise a tour just for you without charging any additional fee. If you are travelling solo or with less than 4 companions we will organise a slightly more expensive tailored tour according to your time schedule and specific geographical preferences. Please contact us for more information.
Are tour itineraries flexible?
Yes, they are: flexibility is our motto. Our itineraries have been carefully designed after several research trips in the region. It is, however, always possible to modify the route and its length according to the needs and the suggestions of the participants. All our itineraries are, indeed, customisable.
I would like to visit a (remote) destination that is not in your portfolio.
Thanks to our extensive knowledge of the former Soviet Union, Africa and the Middle East we are able to provide tourism and media service for destinations we do not regularly travel to: from the Arctic to Kashmir we can fulfil your wildest geographical dreams. Please see our tailored tours to learn more about the regions we occasionally travel to.
DO YOU OFFER VISA SUPPORT?
Yes, we do. Visa regulations change frequently but we have always the most up-to-date information. Upon receiving a booking request from you we'll give you all the info you need about visas and paperwork formalities. You can then decide whether you want us to get a visa(s) for you or you prefer to arrange it/them by yourself. Visas and permits for internationally unrecognised countries are our speciality and we suggest you to let us take care of that.
WHAT ABOUT INSURANCE?
As required by the German legal system we are obliged to take out a Personen-, Sach-, Vermögensschadenhaftpflichtversicherung (liability insurance) and an Insolvenzversicherung (insolvency insurance). However, we do not offer any personal travel and health insurance service and you are strongly advised to obtain sufficient travel and health insurance that, in the event of any possible risk, will provide sufficient cover for you and if applicable, any dependents you are traveling with. It is your responsibility to ensure that the insurance coverage includes, but is not limited to, medical and health cover for an injury or sudden illness while in the region, 24 hour emergency service and assistance (including repatriation if you become too ill to continue the tour), cancellation and curtailment, lost and stolen possessions cover, and personal liability cover. Any claims must be directed towards your insurers. Please note that some of the countries we travel to are considered war zones or crisis areas. Your standard travel insurance usually does not cover this kind of places and you might need to take out special insurance policies such as the ones offered by Battleface, International SOS or MedJet. Please also note that on paper internationally unrecognised countries are regarded by your insurer as integral part of the country they broke away from (i.e. Abkhazia is considered part of Georgia, Nagorno-Karabakh is seen as a region of Azerbaijan and so on); in practice your standard travel insurance might be, however, not valid anymore once you enter the aforementioned contested regions and/or disputed territories. Please contact us to learn more.
What about your cancellation & refund policy?
In order to formalise a booking for a tour you must send us a completed booking form with a deposit of 300 Euros per person. Our cancellation policy is as follows: 60 days or more prior to departure – loss of deposit only; 59-30 days before departure – 25% of tour cost; 29-15 days before departure – 75% of tour cost; less than 15 days – 100% of tour cost, but you'll get a 20% discount on the next tour you book with us! Please refer to our terms of service.
I still have some questions that need to be answered before i book a tour with you.
Sure, we'll be glad to answer them. Feel free to contact us anytime at email@example.com and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.