Pickyourtrail Blog

The complete guide to the Trans-Siberian Railway

Spanning across a length of 9,289 Km across Russia, Trans-Siberian railway is the world’s longest operating railway line in the world. The massive railway line connects Europe, Russia, China, & Korea, and helps in transporting passengers and freight at affordable prices. Not to forget the fascinating scenery that the historic ride offers to its travelers. It’s just brilliant! Intrigued by what just you heard about Trans-Siberian railway? Here’s a complete guide to ride in Trans-Siberian railway! Drop us a note, and we’ll be happy to help you get there!

Trans-Siberian railway network takes on three different routes and there is no hop-on, hop-off point as such.

Trans-Siberian Railway
Image credit – Thetranssiberiantravelcompany.com

1. Moscow to Vladivostok

Trans Siberian railway
Image credit – Flickr.com

Spanning across a length of 5,772 miles approximately, the Moscow to Vladivostok route is the longest train ride of the lot. The journey takes 6 nights and the trains (both eastbound train no:2, westbound train no:1) operate every other day. There are three different seating options to choose from and there is also a restaurant car.

Types of seating:

1st class – 2 berth compartments (Spalny Vagon) &
2nd class – 4 berth compartments (Kupé) costs &
Open-bunks (Platskartny)

Well-known stops in Trans-Siberian include Moscow, Vladimir, Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Ulan Ude, and Vladivostok.

From Vladivostok, you can change trains and ride till Beijing. Further, there is a weekly ferry that runs to South Korea and Japan. The journey takes 36 hours (2 Nights).

2. Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia

Trans Siberian railway
Image credit – Flickr.com

With its spectacularly diverse scenery, the Trans-Mongolian is the popular route amongst the three. It follows the same route as that of Trans-Siberian till it reaches Siberia. From there, it cuts across Mongolia, the Gobi desert, and then enters China. This route covers a distance of 4,735 miles and takes a little over 5 days. While westbound train no:3 leaves Beijing every Wednesday, eastbound train no:4 leaves Moscow every Tuesday night.

Types of seating: 

Deluxe 2-berth compartments &
1st class – 4 berth compartments &
2nd class – 4 berth compartments

Well-known stops in Trans-Mongolian include Moscow, Vladimir, Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Ulan Ude, Ulan-Bataar, and Beijing.

3. Moscow to Beijing via Manchuria

Trans Siberian railway
Image credit – Flickr.com

Operated every week (on Saturday nights), the Trans-Manchurian train (both eastbound and westbound) runs across a length of 5,623 miles and takes over 6 days to travel between Moscow and Beijing. The Trans-Manchurian may be the least popular route, however if taken during winters will showcase some awe inspiring scenery and also a chance to the fascinating Harbin Ice Festival.

Types of seating: 

1st class – 2 berth compartments (Spalny Vagon)
2nd class – 4 berth compartments (Kupé)

Well-known stops in Trans-Manchurian include Moscow, Vladimir, Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Ulan Ude, Chita, Harbin, and Beijing.

From Beijing, you can fly directly to Seoul and Tokyo. While the former takes 2 hrs, the latter takes 3 hrs 25 mins.

Interesting Read: An interesting itinerary for your Japan trip 

What’s inside the cabin?

Each carriage has,
– Two Western-style toilets with basins.
– Two provodnik (male) or provodnitsa (female) attendants to handle the passenger’s requests.
– A Samovar that offers piping hot water.
– Basins for a bit of splash. Just remember, you won’t have a shower but you can have a good wipe.
– A designated smoking area at the end of the carriage. Smoking inside the cabin is not encouraged.

Trans Siberian railway
Image credit – Flickr.com

Food, soft drinks, beer, and vodka are available on the train. The menus carry national cuisine but the prices are not cheap. Food prices are comparatively cheaper at the platform kiosks, you are allowed to buy food and bring it on the train. To get the same make use of the local currency, card or foreign currency payments is not possible.

Shower facilities are available only in the Russian Trains. To use them you have to pay a small fee, they don’t come with any toiletries, you have to carry your own soap and towel. Also, Deluxe class in Chinese trains come with very basic showering facility.

Safety is given utmost priority inside the Trans-Siberian and the provodnik & provodnitsa make sure you are fine all the way. Cabins can be locked from the inside by you or from the outside by the conductors on request.

Popular destinations en route

Moscow

Trans Siberian railway
Image credit – Pixabay.com

Illuminated with lights, the starting point destination of Trans-Siberian railway – Moscow, is where Russian history breathes to life. Be awed by the beauty of 600+ churches that glitter with golden domes and say ‘hello’ to the world famous monuments. The wealth of architecture in Moscow is enormous and it will definitely boggle your minds.

Related: Did you know the Moscow Metro system has more than 200 beautiful stations? Check some awesome images here!

St. Petersburg

Trans-Siberian Railway
Image credit – Flickr.com

Nicknamed the ‘Venice of the North’ for its beautiful canals, St. Petersburg is an all season city. The Russia’s imperial capital with its sheer grandeur and culture never fails to impress. Explore the exciting art collections of the Hermitage, pay a visit to the Russian Museum, and soak in the splurge of luxury at Peterhof Palace and Winter Palace.

Yekaterinburg

Trans-Siberian Railway
Image credit – Flickr.com

Set in the rolling Ural mountains in the midst of beautiful countryside, Yekaterinburg with its traditional Siberian villages is a great destination for home stays and hiking. While the city is not as glamorous and buzzing as that of Moscow and St. Petersburg, it is where you can experience the real Russian vibe. Get down at Yekaterinburg during Winter and ride on a dog sled.

Irkutsk & Lake Baikal

Trans-Siberian Railway
Image credit – Flickr.com

Highlighted by traditional wooden architecture, restored churches, and historic monuments, the prosperous city of Irkutsk is one of the most popular stops in Trans-Siberian railway and is also the gateway to the tranquil Lake Baikal. The lake is the deepest and oldest lake in the world. It’s not just a great place for a picnic, but also for winter sports like dog sledding and skiing.

Kazan

Trans-Siberian Railway
Image credit – Flickr.com

If you are interested in culture, then you must check out Kazan for sure. Why you ask? Kazan is where you can find an equal number of Russian Orthodox churches and mosques. It’s not just that, the way the city has blended the Christian and the Muslim culture together is simply astonishing. Referred to as ‘The third capital of Russia, Kazan offers a colorful look into the past and is an interesting city to stop by.

Ulan Ude

Trans-Siberian Railway
Image credit – Flickr.com

Given its proximity to Mongolia, the unique Russian city of Ulan Ude has a typical Asian flair to it. But it is not just the culture that will keep you hooked. Surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, alpine forests, and wild nature, Ulan Ude offers a plethora of opportunities that include hiking, horseback riding, fishing, and boating. The atmosphere here is incredibly friendly and it is ideal that you explore it in a relaxed way.

Mongolia

Trans-Siberian Railway
Image credit – Flickr.com

Mongolia is a striking contrast of two types of scenery – the north of the country comprises of pristine lakes and mountains and the south is adorned by strikingly beautiful Gobi desert. Overflowing with wilderness and tranquility, Mongolia is a wonderful destination to get down at to enjoy the nomadic lifestyle.

Beijing

Trans-Siberian Railway
Image credit – Pixabay.com

Hosting an array of historical sites and modern masterpieces, Beijing is an incredible mix of the old and the new. The Cultural heart of China, Bejing with its extraordinary historical panorama and ancient architecture will just floor you and keep you occupied.

When to ride?

Trans Siberian railway
Image credit – Unsplash.com

Trans-Siberian railway system operates all year-long and you can ride the train at any time of the year. The peak time is during May-September with warm weather and long hours of daylight. This is also the most popular time to ride on a Trans-Siberian Railway and the tickets are difficult to get and are on the pricey side.

Alternatively, you can also ride the train during the Winter. The scenery is beautiful with snow-covered landscapes. With the insides of the train warmly heated during the winter, it is even cozier. The ticket prices are low and are easier to get.

How to ride the Trans-Siberian?

Trans Siberian railway
Image credit – Unsplash.com

Based on your preference and proximity, you can choose between riding on an eastbound train or westbound. Both come with equally superb views and are absolutely safe to ride for solo-females, and families. Most of the people traveling from Europe, ride on a Eurostar till Moscow and from there, they get on the Trans-Siberian.

During the long journey, some of you might want to get down at a particular destination and indulge in some exploration before heading onto the next destination. As mentioned earlier, Trans-Siberian does not offer an open ticket to hop on and off. To do that, you have to get 2 tickets. For eg: If you want to get down at Novosibirsk and get back again, you have to book a ticket for Moscow to Novosibirsk and then again from Novosibirsk to Vladivostok.

You can get your tickets directly at Moscow/Beijing/Vladivostok or you can pre-book them online with the help of one of the many travel websites. The price of the tickets varies depending on the agents.

Important things to know

Visa

Trans Siberian railway
Image credit – Flickr.com

If you are planning to ride on the Trans-Siberian, it is recommended that you carry Russian Visa, Mongolian Visa, and Chinese Visa. For all these visas, it is mandatory that you have at least one blank page and that your passport is valid for a minimum of six months from the date of travel. While the process takes less than 10 days, it is essential that you apply 30-45 days in advance.

Currency

Trans Siberian railway
Image credit – Unsplash.com

The currency along the Trans-Siberian ride changes from Russian Ruble to Mongolian Tugrik to Chinese Yuan. While there are a lot of ATM’s along the way and at the stations for you to exchange, it is recommended that you carry enough local currency during your journey.

Health & Vaccinations

Trans Siberian railway
Image credit – Unsplash.com

Russia, Mongolia, and China do not require any compulsory vaccinations and the best thing to do is to carry some basic emergency medication that will help ease your travel. Further, it is advised to carry your travel insurance along.

Related: 8 things you must know about travel insurance

Language

Trans Siberian railway
Image credit – Unsplash.com

During your entire journey, you will hear little to no English and it is only ideal that you learn some basic Russian to get through with the journey. I know, it’s tough to learn a new language but you will be pleasantly glad that you did try. Some of the apps which you can use for learning include Duolingo and Memrise. For easy translation, use Google Translate.

Related: 15 must have mobile apps for the smart traveler

Other Tips

  • Beware of Russians trying to sell you Vodka. While they may mean no harm, they can get you horribly drunk and the train ride isn’t going to be fun after that!
  • Learn the stop-over timings for each stop from the conductor. You don’t want to get left behind!
  • Carry your favorite books. Some of our suggestions include The Great Railway Bazaar by Paul Theroux, Through Siberia by Accident by Dervla Murphy, The City of Heavenly Tranquility by Jasper Becker, and The Lost Country: Mongolia Revealed by Jasper Becker.
  • Be nice to your conductors. After all, you are going to be on the same train for 6 days!
  • Charging points! There is just one per cabin and you will be sharing this with other folks as well. Be armed with those power banks.

New Trans-Siberian route

Excited already? There’s one more route addition to the existing Trans-Siberian railway. Commenting on a railway extension proposal plan put forward by Japan in 2016, Russia has this week announced its interest in linking Moscow with Tokyo.

The Japanese government has always wanted to make trade easier with Russia and Europe. And now with the Russian government totally on board, the establishment of this new route is surely on the cards.

While the current route of the Trans-Siberian Railway runs from Moscow to Vladivostok, the proposed new route measure 13,518 Kms and would end in the Japanese city of Hokkaido. The line would continue to the Russian Island of Sakhalin across the bridge and from there, a second bridge would take it inside Japan.

We are seriously offering Japanese partners to consider the construction of a mixed road and railway passage from Hokkaido to southern part of Sakhalin
– Russia’s first vice-premier Igor Shuvalov.

If everything goes as planned, this will be a ‘bridge across history’ changing the landscape of travel between the two countries!

Also read: 9 Spectacular train rides in Europe


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