Monday, 30 June 2008

Details Russia - Sakhalin - Japan route

Train Khabarovsk -> Vanino

From Khabarovsk to Port Vanino, where the ferry departs for Khomlsk on Sakhalin, there is a daily train #351 (23 hrs) departing Khabarovsk at 8.30 (01.30 Moscow time) and arriving at 7.37 local time, price was 1697 RUB for kupe, if you are not up for buying tickets yourself, Dalgeo tours close to the big church by the river park, has helpfull English speaking staff that can both issue train tickets and make reservations for the ferry (700 RUB)

Ferry Vanino -> Kholmsk

Ferry is operated by SASCO, ticket sales by SANES. You buy tickets inside the train station, the ticket office is right in front of you if you enter the station from the train platform. Be prepared for a LONG wait, it seems to take an average of 20 minuttes per passenger to issue tickets, probably a good idea to run there as soon as the train halts. It took 5 hours to issue tickets for all the passengers there. After the que is emptied, a bus leaves to the ferry, from the parking lot in the nothern end of the train platform. The ferry is old and rusty, but otherwise alright. Keep your ticket, as it's required to disembark! Ferry departure time is probably around noon and it arrives next early morning, price was 2300 RUB for a 2 room deluxe with private shower and toilet, shared economy cabins are between 600-1100 RUB.

Bus Kholmsk -> Korsakov

When you exit the ferry there is a passport control (along with the ticket control). As a foreigner you'll be required to register, so the customs officer will keep your passport, they will probably lead you to the terminal building to wait once all passengers have gotten off. Once they return with your passport you'll be required to state your exit point, exit date and accomodation, might be a good idea to have someone writing these details in Russian as no English is spoken. When you get your passport back, buses and minibusses departs for Yuzhno Sakhalinsk at the parking lot right outside the the ferry terminal, rate was 200 RUB, it's a 1-1,5 hour drive to Yuzhno, where busses stop at the station/post office
Busses and minibusses departs for Korsakov, from the Vokzal (the same place you arrive from Kholmsk), ask around and they will point you to the right bus, rate was 100 RUB, and it is a half hour drive to Korsakov.

Ferry Korsakov -> Wakkanai

It seems to change fairly often where you can buy tickets, but at June 2008, you bought tickets at:
Inflot Reidovyi 2, 1. etage Korsakov, Sakhalin
Its in the first floor of the big 3 storey building next to the MORVOKZAL (Sea terminal), there is a sign above the entrance that reads UPRAVLENIE, it's by the southern pier (Yuzhno port) head left after the park if you come from Lenin square. I had a fair share of problems with the security guard, who insisted i couldn't buy tickets in there, and wouldnt let me in - it took one of the ladies from the MORVOKZAL shouting at him to let me pass. Once you get in, climb one flight of stairs and go through the door on your right hand side, in the corridor there is a door with a sign that reads INFLOT in latin letters on your left hand side.
Tickets was 6000 rubles for a one way economy class trip. The staff (Anna) there was blessfully helpfull by Russian standards, however you are required to provide a hotel/hostel name, address and phone number in Japan, before they will issue you a ticket. I also had a little bit of problems explaining that Danes don't need a visa for Japan, but it worked out allright.
There is a hotel in Korsakov called Hotel Alpha, right at the northern end of Lenin square, the owner speaks alright English, and i got a 50% discount without even asking for it, so i paid 2300 rubles per night, rooms are large and the whole Hotel was recently renovated, there is even an English menu in the hotels restaurant. It might be worth going for and see if you can get a discount too, as hotels in Yuzhno are between 5000 and 7000 for a single.
When you arrive at the port before departure, the waiting area is inside the MOZVOKZAL, the small white building adjoining where you bought your tickets. Here you also pay a 400 RUB departure tax, at the cashier window (KASSA) on your right hand side when you enter. After which you enter the customs area, the officers here seemed fairly relaxed, put your baggage through the x-ray, and you're ready for immigration. When the waiting hall is full you'll be taken to a bus to the ferry, NOTE! You part with your luggage at this point, and won't get it back before the ferry terminal in Wakkanai, so pack anything you need on the ferry in a daypack. On the ferry you'll have a culture chock, everyone is smiling, profesional and helpfull.
In Wakkanai, hurry to be first in line when you disembark, so you won't have to wait behind Russians during immigration procedures - it's not pretty! Don't worry about your luggage, it's handed out after immigration. When you've given your fingerprints, had your picture taken, and had a customs interview, you're in Japan - yukoso!
If you're looking for the youth hostel, head for the ANA hotel (the tallest building in town) in the opposite end of the park to the entrance to the hotel, there is a small alleyway, head up this alley, which ends in the hostels entrance. Remember in Japan only the postoffices (yubinkyoku) ATMs take foreign issued creditcards, it's 5 minuttes from the Youth Hostel, they can hand you a map.
Now you're on your own, but if you delt with Russia, Japan should be a walk in the park :-) and by the way, the Youth hostel in particular, and Rebun island in general, comes with my highest recomendations! Now you're here anyway you'd really miss out not going there!!

- Stefan

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