Planning for a Trans-Siberian railway trip?

“Have you ever made the Trans-Siberian railway trip?” It’s the journey nearly every keen travel wants to do. May be there is a reason, it’s commonly said to be the longest you can make on a single train. More over as an introduction to the immensity of the world’s largest country and its landscapes, the Trans-Siberian rail journey is surely to be added to anyone’s bucket list. This is one of the epic railway adventure that spans three countries. Passengers are offered with some of the most remote parts of Russia, Mongolia and China right to the window of their amazing train cabin.

It’s the best-known train journey in the world. Only a few other railway adventures can match what the Trans-Siberian can offer. Here we are approaching with a complete guideline from outdoor adventure across the seasons to surprising culinary delights, common route ideas, costs, tickets and other necessary issues related to the trans-Siberian railway trip.

What is the Trans-Siberian Railway trip?

The Trans-Siberian Railway is just one part of the massive Russian railway network. To be straight to say, this is the train journey between Moscow and far east across Asia. Mainly it connects the European rail network at one end with either Vladivostok or the Chinese rail network at the other. Almost crossing one third of the globe, this Trans-Siberian Railway tour heads through the dream-lands of the Gobi Desert, Baikal lake, the Ural Mountains and the grassy steppe of Mongolia.

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Trans-Siberian railway | image credit – Pixabay/797329

Though the trip is really cheaper at winter, travelers usually pick between May and September to enjoy the longest hours of daylight and the chance of a fine weather. One can make preference of his/her own comforts by breaking the trip into sections with overnight stays in hotels. In clearings, villages that could have come from a Levitan or Shishkin painting break the spell and make one wonder what life must be like in such remote fastnesses. Both the Russian landscapes and Chinese beauty awaiting within this journey.

How long is the Trans-Siberian Railway?

As there are actually three common Trans-Siberian railway trips, first you have to choose one suitable for you. The Trans-Siberian, from Moscow to Vladivostok, the Trans-Mongolian, which hooks south at Lake Baikal, traverses Mongolia, and ends in Beijing and the Trans-Manchurian, which veers down into China via the busy border town of Harbin, and also ends in Beijing.

Moscow to Vladivostok (9,258km/6,152 miles), 6-night/7day journey. Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia (7,621 km/4,735 miles), 6-nights too, and Moscow to Beijing via Manchuria (8,986km/5,623 miles), usually takes 6nights.

An overview of the common three routes and costs:

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trans-Siberian railway station | image credit – Max Pixel/CC0

Moscow to Vladivostok: This is mainly the longest trans-Siberian railway route of them all. The “Rossiya” leaves Moscow on its 6-night journey to Vladivostok. The train has 1st class 2-berth compartments, 2nd class 4-berth compartments, open-plan bunks & a restaurant car. At summer months, it costs around 18,629 rubles ($640 or £420) for a one-way journey.

Moscow to Beijing train:

Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia:  some say, this is the most interesting Trans-Siberian train route among them all. The train leaves Moscow for Beijing every Tuesday night and crosses Siberia, cuts across Mongolia and the Gobi Desert, then enters China. It deluxe 2-berth compartments (with shared shower), 1st class 4-berth compartments & 2nd class 4-berth compartments. Budget for this exclusive rail journey should be around $805 or £555 one-way.

Moscow to Beijing via Manchuria: The weekly Trans-Manchurian leaves Moscow on Saturday nights for Beijing via Manchuria, taking just over six days to cover the 8,986km. There are 2-berth 1st class compartments and 4-berth 2nd class compartments. Pricing can be estimated similar to the above Chinese train.

Highlights of the Trans-Siberian Railway holidays:

Nature & Landscapes:

The official Trans-Siberian Railway trip takes the best part of a week and covers a vast land area of nine thousand kilometers. That’s the main attraction of this very journey as you can expect the landscape changes while moving from west to east. The Trans-Siberian railway tour will make you experience morphing from the urban landscapes around Moscow to the rolling fields of the Siberian countryside.

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Trans-Siberian tunnel | image credit – Wikimedia/InvictaHOG

No need to explain how beautiful it can be around Lake Baikal where the railway takes you right alongside this stunning color of the water, pine forests and wild flowers.

Train moves faster than 60kph. So, passengers shouldn’t worry about blurred vision. Whether or not you’re getting off the train, there’s spending scenic views over the windows to pass the full 12 hours of daytime. You will surely get the idea how big Russia really is. You can also enjoy an awful lot of concrete in very Soviet-looking cities and industrial towns.

Inside the train:

Of course, you have to spend most of your time on the train itself, but probably that’s what the Trans-Siberian railway trip is all about. Throughout centuries, train journeys has been romanticized for having time for own self. Unlike planes, you’ll see exactly where you’re traveling as you go.

Yes, you can move around and catch up on a year’s worth of reading. Maybe you can figure out what you’re actually doing with your life or may be relax for the time being. Time is definitely on your side here. There’s nothing stopping you from wandering down the train carriages, checking out what’s going on elsewhere.

People and food:

Train journey is something that leads the concept of sharing with others. Travelers from various countries around the world and locals are actually a great opportunity to meet with. With hours to spare there will be plenty of conversations with strangers. People can be friendly, highly talkative, happy or who knows keen to know what you think of their country.

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Dining | image credit – Flickr/Jim G

It’s suggested to have a vodka shot (or two) and move around delighted. It may come as a surprise to you but the food in Russia is actually rather good. Moscow is home to a number of world-class, international restaurants. And it’s surprisingly affordable.

If you’re not planning on making any stops then fear not – there’s still the odd culinary delight to be found on the station platforms.

Adventure opportunities:

Sure, you can hop on the train at Moscow and get off a week later in Vladivostok or Beijing without stepping foot outside. But are you really planning for that? If not, I can assure a lot many great places to disembark while in the Trans-Siberian railway route. Get off at Irkutsk and make your way to Lake Baikal, go cross-country skiing or snow-moiling.

You can break your journey at Ulaan Bataar and set out for the countryside if you are traveling through Mongolia. The Terelj National Park is just an hour away from the capital. You can explore the landscape on horseback and spend a night or two in a traditional Mongolian Ger. Actually, I find every city on the Trans-Siberian railway a fascinating stoppage for the passenger who here for a best train trip in the world.

Trans-Siberian Railway tickets:

First you need to obtain a Russian tourist visa. Travel agents can help or recommend a visa-support agency, but you must not expect your visa to be processed at the border. Then comes the main part, reservations are required for all trains. You can’t just decide to hop off one and catch another without the necessary ticket.

Many prefer the simplicity of booking an all-inclusive package from such travel companies like Golden Eagle Luxury Trains.

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