How to Travel on The Trans Siberian Railway

How to Travel on The Trans Siberian Railway

How to Travel on The Trans Siberian Railway

Eight Days on a Train?!

I had nothing but questions before I set off for my first trip on the Trans Siberian Railway: How do you spend 8 days on a train? Is it dangerous? What condition is the train in? Who are the other riders and what’s it like to share a train car with them? What are Siberian cities like? And on and on…

Now, several months after completing my second trip on the Trans Siberian Railway and after a combined 2 months of traveling through Russia, China, and Mongolia, many of those questions have been answered. Yet the Railway remains as intriguing a journey as ever for me because each trip is unique, from the people you’ll meet on the train cars, to the cities in which you choose to stop, to the way you handle the inevitable challenges as you make your way across Europe and Asia.

 

Khabarovsk, Russia

Khabarovsk, Russia

 

Preparation

One of the greatest challenges of the Trans Siberian Railway is planning the trip. Preparation is difficult because a trip of this scope requires planning through all of Russia and maybe China and Mongolia as well (depending on your route). There’s no single source of information covering everything you need to know. Planning ahead is key because once there you’ll find bureaucracy, language barriers, and harsh weather combine to work against the unprepared traveler.

Costs

Without doing a detailed breakdown, I spent about $3000 USD each of my trips on the Trans Siberian Railway. This included everything except airfare. You can spend a bit less than that if you stick to eating in.

Choose your route

The Trans Siberian Railway is the generic name given to the train tracks passing through Siberia. Riding on any part of these tracks even for a short distance constitutes a trip on the Trans Siberian. Travelers usually complete the entire journey in the classic sense, going from one end to the other along one of three major routes: the Trans Mongolian between Moscow and Beijing by way of Mongolia, the Trans Manchurian between Moscow and Harbin, China, or the Trans Siberian route between Moscow and Vladivostok.

Danielle

Danielle in the restaurant car of a Russian train

I’ve done both the Trans Mongolian and Trans Siberian routes, and I recommend the Trans Mongolian for first timers because you’ll travel through three countries and get to experience the culture of each. The classic Trans Siberian route is worthwhile if you want to spend all your time in Russia and don’t want to miss out on the far eastern cities of Khabarovsk and Vladivostok., while the big draw to the Trans Manchurian is the city of Harbin, China, where a beautiful ice festival takes place every winter.

It doesn’t matter if you go east or west, but most travelers tend to start in Moscow and travel east. I’ve done both directions and I preferred westbound because the time changes were easier to handle. The minimum travel time is 8 days on the train, but plan on at least a month if you want to stop off along the way. This works fairly well as Russian tourist visas are limited to 30 days (28 if your intended stay includes any part of February – Russian bureaucracy at it’s finest). A month sounds like a long time, but it’s really not. As you begin researching your stops and coordinating your train schedules, you’ll quickly find that any Trans Siberian trip is an exercise in compromise if you’re to stay within Russia’s 30 day tourist limit.

Chinese family

A Chinese family on the Trans Siberian Railway

 

Guidebooks

Lonely Planet’s Trans Siberian Railway is useful as is the Trans-Siberian Handbook by Bryn Thomas. I planned and traveled with both, but if I had to choose just one it’d be the Trans Siberian Handbook – no question about it (even though I love me some Lonely Planet). Thomas’ expertly written, well traveled advice goes deeper than the typical where to stay and what to eat of Lonely Planet’s guidebook. More than that, he provides an extremely well researched background and history of the railway in addition to kilometer markers so you can track your progress along the way. Also handy are Lonely Planet’s destination specific books including Beijing, Mongolia, and Russia.

Learn Cyrillic

You hardly need to become fluent in Russian, but it’s important that you learn Cyrillic, their written alphabet. It’s a bit odd learning how to pronounce words when you don’t understand their meaning, but believe me that it’s absolutely necessary for any Trans Siberian traveler. Russian maps and street signs are all written in Cyrillic while English language guidebooks typically use our A-Z alphabet to label the same things. It’s vital to be able to translate the two. You can learn Cyrillic for free online or buy an English-Russian translation book.

As with any country, learning basic greetings and pleasantries goes a long way too.

Cyrillic

“улица трифонова”, pronounced “Ulitza Trifonova”. Your guidebook would likely say “Trifonova Street”

Get your visas

I’m American so just I needed a Russian and Chinese Visa. Most other nationalities also need a Mongolian Visa, so once again, plan well in advance. More information on visas can be found here: Visas

Buy your train tickets

I used Real Russia for both of my Trans Siberian trips, and I found the website and service to be top notch. The ability to research individual legs and see how much the tickets cost in advance was particularly handy. Plan on between $1200-$1500 for second class train tickets along the entire route depending on how many times you want to stop. Don’t bother purchasing meals in advance; each train has a restaurant car attached, or you can bring your own food and save money.

Train Ticket

Russian Train Ticket

 

Pack for going outside

What you bring is entirely dependent on the season in which you’ll be traveling. Siberian summers are reliably warm but mosquito filled. Early fall is cool but pleasant, with temperatures plummeting rapidly as late fall is approached. By the end of October you’ll begin to experience temperatures colder than what most cities call winter, and from November through late March you can expect to travel through the coldest weather of your life. Even Canadians and Scandinavian readers who might otherwise thumb their red, frostbitten noses at such a statement should be warned that Siberia is quite literally the coldest place on our planet outside of Antarctica.

Bundled

Dressed for Tomsk, Russia in February

 

Pack for the train

Siberian weather fluctuates wildly depending on season, but temperatures on the train are another story. The trains are always kept well heated (sometimes overly so) even in cold weather. It’s a performance art on par with the Bolshoi Ballet to be able to board a crowded train compartment and change into comfortable attire when coming in from a frozen Siberian landscape outside. While I’ve never been able to make it look good, I have learned to at least be efficient about it. My best advice is keep your sandals and other necessities near the top of your luggage, and dress in layers so you can more easily change into something more comfortable.

Train attire

T-shirt and jeans – comfortable train attire regardless of season

 

Plan your photography

I photographed everything I saw in China, Russia, and Mongolia, and I never had a single issue or question raised, nor did I ever feel even remotely threatened. The worst that happened is I attracted a bit more attention as I walked through the train car with my big DSLR, and I caught a few eyes as I took pictures on the streets of some Siberian cities. This is no different from any other city in which I’ve taken pictures. In fact, I had more questions from the customs people on my connection in Amsterdam than I did on the journey itself.

Still, basic common sense applies: no military installations, no uniformed police, and use discretion when photographing things make the places look particularly bad like trash and graffiti. Perhaps these awarenesses aren’t ingrained in many western photographers’ minds, but they’re important to remember when traveling to many non western countries.

Mongolia

Mongolia. You might want to bring that heavy 70-200 zoom lens after all

So, what to bring? To be very general, China, Russia, and Mongolia have no special photographic needs beyond what you’d normally bring on any other trip. The vast majority of my travel pictures were shot at wide to medium focal lengths of less than 105mm on my full frame camera, and less than 50mm on my 1.6x crop camera. Bringing a long, heavy zoom like the 70-200mm isn’t necessary unless you plan on spending a lot of time in the countryside (Mongolia in particular is home to beautiful landscapes and wildlife.) Don’t leave without a tripod and remote shutter release cable, extra batteries, plenty of memory cards, and a neutral density filter. One of the best things about the Trans Siberian Railway is there’s no real limit to what you can bring on the train so long as you don’t mind lugging your gear around.

Vladivostok

Vladivostok Panorama shot with my 17mm lens. I got far more use out of my short to medium length lenses.

 

Traveling the Trans Siberian Railway

One of the biggest draws to the Trans Siberian is the unknown. You can plan every detail from hotels to itineraries but the experiences you’ll have are sure to be all your own. Here are some of the things I found to be true throughout each of my trips.

Church

A Church in Tyumen, Russia

The trains

Trains are in great condition, and they’re continually kept clean by the provodnitsas or train car attendants. Each car has two bathrooms (one at each end), one samovar for hot potable water, and most cars have schedules printed in Cyrillic and in Moscow time. Sleeping berths in second class have four beds and barely enough space for one person to maneuver in the center area at a time.

Because riding any train along any portion of any of the three routes constitutes a trip on the Trans Siberian Railway, there is no actual “Trans Siberian” train. The closest you’ll find is the #1 and #2 “россия” / “Rossiya” trains which travel between Moscow and Vladivostok, and can be ridden straight through.

A good rule of thumb for booking your trains is that the lower train numbers provide better, faster service, while higher train numbers are slower and older (especially those with triple digits). Named passenger trains like Rossiya and Baikal are good options when available.

Rossiya

Standing in front of the Rossiya train in Vladivostok on completion of our second Trans Siberian journey

 

The people

Don’t ever let anyone tell you Russians aren’t friendly. Big city Muscovites can be a bit rude, sure, but on the whole Russia is home to some of the friendliest and most hospitable people I’ve ever met. The key is breaking through their seemingly tough, weathered exteriors and getting to know them as individual people. This is easy to do on the train as you’ll be sharing the car with locals. Bring food and drinks for them (although they likely won’t accept), accept what is offered to you, and make whatever conversation you can. It’s likely you’ll make fast friends, and you’ll have a far more entertaining journey than if you just keep to yourself.

Eating and drinking

Chinese food is arguably the best and most varied of the three countries, but Mongolian food is quite good as well. Try the Mongolian Бууз (buuz) for a delicious meat filled dumpling treat. Russian food tends to be on the bland side with Borscht and Pelmeni (dumplings) as notable exceptions. Russian food is warm and hearty, and it provides at least a temporary reprieve from their long, harsh winters.

Russian

Homemade Russian Pelmeni enjoyed in our apartment in Tyumen

Beer in China isn’t particularly noteworthy, with Tsing Tao being their most popular. Worth trying is Baijiu, their version of Vodka. It’s only worth trying, however. The stuff tastes terrible. Mongolia beer is quite good. My favorite was жалам хар, pronounced as “Zhalam Har“. The best vodka I’ve ever had was in Mongolia. Chinggis Khan vodka is just incredible stuff, and oddly enough their regular, inexpensive variety tastes light years better than the “premium” version. Russians love vodka and they’ll drink you under the table, but I still haven’t found a Russian vodka I like. Baltika beer is quite good, best enjoyed with Omul fish on the shores of Lake Baikal. Don’t bother with Baikal vodka though; “rumor” has it the hangover is horrendous.

Omul and Baltika

Omul fish with Baltika 9 beer on the right. Baltika 9 isn’t very good; try 3 or 7 for a better tasting beer.

The places

What you see depends entirely on which of the three Trans Siberian routes you take and where you choose to stop. The most popular stops include the Great Wall of China, Terelj National Park in Mongolia, Lake Baikal in Russia, and Red Square in Moscow. For more on the many cities along the Trans Siberian, check out these other posts.

Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China

Mongolia Ger

Ger in Mongolia

 

Terelj National Park

Terelj National Park, Mongolia

Ice on Lake Baikal

Ice on a frozen Lake Baikal in early March

 

Siberian Flowers

Russians love flowers, and you’ll see these shops throughout the country.

Siberian Architecture

Ornate wooden architecture in Siberia

 

Church in Khabarovsk

Church in Russia’s Far East

The Trans Siberian Railway had been my dream trip for years and my expectations were through the roof. It didn’t disappoint – it was absolutely the trip of a lifetime. Even now that I’ve done it twice, it remains an experience I look forward to doing yet again… someday.

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Comments ( 64 )

  • Franca

    Such an informative post, a great source of information for whoever wants to travel on the Trans Siberian railway.
    We wanted to, we did a bit of research beforehand but didn’t plan that much because weren’t sure on when to go exactly. Unfortunately when we tried to apply for the Russian Visa in Kiev, they didn’t let us 🙁

    We learnt the lesson for when we will be ready to do it. 🙂

    • Ed Graham

      Yeah I got a bit long winded but how can I not with a trip so epic. You should definitely do the trip at some point, it was one of my favorite experiences of my life.

      • Karen

        Hi Ed….I am a single woman traveller….is it safe to do the Trans Siberian- through Mongolia on your own?…or at least as safe as responsible travel can be……

        • Ed Graham

          I don’t believe I am qualified to say that it is safe since my experience was entirely different from what a solo female traveler might experience. I would say that I traveled with my girlfriend and neither of us felt threatened at any time. However even as a man I stay cautious and avoid certain areas, especially at night. I do this when I am at home in the USA as well. Keep in mind that you will be sharing a train cabin with other people at all times, and I did see some female Russians traveling solo on the train.

  • Francis Cassidy

    Great post. I wish I had all this information before I did the Trans-Siberian. I recently did Moscow to Vladivlstok and I think your overall impression was quite similar too mine. I found it well worth doing. Russia really surprised me.

    • Ed Graham

      Thanks Francis. Lots of info I know, but it’s hard to find a concise guide to the railway online so I figured I’d do one. Glad you enjoyed the trip too.

  • Even Halstvedt

    can I use train to Sibirien with me elekric wheelchir 150 kg
    thanks for anwer
    Even

    • Ed Graham

      Hi Even, Russia and the Tran Siberian Railway was not particularly accessible with a wheelchair. I think some of the more modern train stations would be okay but it would require lots of advance planning.

  • Michael

    Sounds like an incredible trip!! I would love to try out the Trans Mongolian route. Just need to find 30 days to spare!

  • Rebecca

    Awesome, this is so helpful!! It seems like such a complicated process but the tips here will be a godsend when I get there. I’m currently applying for a Russian visa (going there for work, not for the railway unfortunately) so I’m getting a taste of the bureaucracy already 🙂

  • Greg

    Very cool to read, is the picture with the flower shop taken in Tomsk on Lenina Street?
    Seems that my house is 10 minutes away from there.

    • Mithal

      thank you for sharing these kool stories and the valuable information. i would like to take the trans Siberian train one day and now i got some good information from you, i guess i will like the trans Mongolian route. do you have any advises or comments for traveling for a couple “late 20’s” on the Mongolian route. thank you, your feedback will be appreciated.

  • synne

    Such a great post! I’ve been looking for info on the tans siberian rail that takes all into account, so thank you! I also just read your newest on how to create your own website and found it incredibly helpful. In fact almost every single post you do I find helpful. Some sites and blogs you are only interested in for the info, some for their captivating writing and some for the person itself and its opinions. I think you ar able to combine them and also that you deliver such great quality instead of focusing on quantity. I rarely comment but felt I had to now. So keep doing what your doing!

  • Marilynn

    Great pictures of the Chinese Wall. Where did you stop for these shots? Are you able to walk on it at this point? Thanks

  • Francisco

    Great post.

    I am doing the transmongolian this coming September. I am really excited.

    Did you buy all your train tickets at home or did you buy any at the train stations over in Russia? I am interested to know your view on this.

    Thanks

    • Ed Graham

      Hi Francisco, sorry for the late reply. I suppose it’s too late for your trip but I bought all tickets in advance. I don’t speak Russian and found this to be the easiest way.

  • Charlie

    30 days is such a short amount of time for such an expanse! That’s such a shame for travellers as it really means being strict with travel plans… Incredible photography, as always – that one of the Ger in Mongolia is beautiful.

  • Bengal Bayman

    Enlightened me with the story but for me it is very costly.Thank you writer.

  • Margot

    Great post! Do you know if pets are allowed on the train?

  • Karen

    Do you have to book accommodation in the cities beforehand as well?

    • Ed Graham

      It is not necessary to book in advance except for certain cities. The Siberian city Tyumen, for example, still adheres to the old soviet style of tourism whereby foreigners need to book accommodation at least a day in advance for all but the most expensive hotels.

  • Steffen

    Hi Ed

    Thanks for a great website! a lot of good advice and inspiration. And great pictures as well.

    I’m about to embark on a round the world trip, where I start out in Sankt Petersburg -> Moscow -> train to Beijing and so forth. Can I get your comment on my iterinary? Any advice would be much appreciated! Thanks in advance.
    My main concern is: “Is this a durable and realistic plan?”. I have plenty of time, so I have no intention of stressing through this amazing adventure.

    Since I’ll be travelling by my self, I thought that I might as well go for the cheapest tickets (3rd class). Any thoughts on that?

    I live in Copenhagen, Denmark, so I plan on going to Sankt Petersburg on august 1.st.

    1) Copenhagen –> Sankt Petersburg Aug. 1st. (stay 4 days, saturday until tuesday)

    2) Sankt Petersburg Aug. 4 –> Moscow (Take the night train on the night of tuesday, arrive in moscow on the morning of wednesday the 5th. Stay 3 days)

    3) Moscow Aug. 8th –> Krasnoyarsk (Stolby National Park) Aug. 11th (Stay 2 nights. The plan is to arrive on the 11th. Go hiking on the 12th and then departure again on the 13th.)

    4) Krasnoyarsk (Stolby National Park) Aug. 13 –> Irkutsk (Lake Baikal) Aug. 14 (Stay 3 nights, enjoy the lake and do some hiking. Perhaps meet some locals)

    5) Irkutsk (Lake Baikal) Aug. 17th –> Ulaanbaataar (Terelj National Park) Aug. 18 th. (Stay 4 nights. I’m a bit unsure how long I should stay here. The plan is to visit the national park, perhaps in a group that rides/hikes around)

    6 Ulaanbaataar (Terelj National Park) Aug. 22 –> Beijing Aug. 23 (Stay in China for roughly 3 weeks, and then the plan is open. I’m thinking going to Nepal afterwards)

    Here’s a link to a picture of my travel details as entered on realrussias website. I haven’t booked anything yet though 🙂 https://imageshack.com/i/ex81MI2Wp

    As I said – any comments what so ever are more than welcome!

    Kind regards

    Steffen

    • Ed Graham

      Hello Steffen. Sorry for the late reply but yes your trip sounds amazing. If I would change one thing it would be that you need more time on Lake Baikal. You will quickly find Baikal to be the highlight of a Trans Siberian trip, and the more time spent there the better. If you had a week on Baikal you could do the CircumBaikal Railway and see the entire lake including the spiritual Olkhon Island.

      • Steffen

        Hi Ed
        No worries. Thanks for your input. I’ve gotten that same advice on another forum, so it is somehow comforting to hear from a second person, that I should give Lake Baikal a few more days. I’ve planned to stay on Olkhon Island for a few days, just to experience the nature and relaxing atmosphere.
        Kind regards
        Steffen

  • Kate

    Thank you for an inspiring report. I’m currently in Asia and thinking of using the trans Mongolian to get back to Europe after 7months away travelling. Literally just taking the train and not stopping off on this occasion. Do you have any experience of starting in Vietnam/Laos? Also as I have no fixed address at present can I do all tickets and visas through Realrussia on line do you know? Your advice and comments would be really helpful for a late June trip. Many thanks and keep up the great posts!

    • Ed Graham

      Thanks for the comment Kate and sorry for the late reply. I don’t know anything personally about starting in Vietnam/Laos, other than it IS possible and if you do that it is the longest train journey on earth today (provided you travel all the way to London and/or Africa). There is also talk of a Vietnam – S.America train which would need to bridge the Bering Strait – this would then be the longest train journey on Earth but as of now it seems a long way off.

      Real Russia was perfect for intra Russia travel and through China/Mongolia but I don’t believe they reach any farther than that. Hope this helps and enjoy your travels Kate.

  • Ming

    Hi Ed

    Sincerely appreciate your good effort to share your Trans-Siberian journey.

    It’s very systematically arranged and the pictures are really stunning!

    I am a female from Asian country and am trying to make plan to travel to Scandinavia countries next year, and perhaps Russia, if situation permits. (Pending approval from a female companion)

    I am trilled to read about your journal and wish to check whether I could just sign up a 2 to 3 days/night trip on a Trans-Siberian? I honestly am not very good with ‘restriction’ in a train for so many days.

    Are you in any position to recommend any specific destination for short trip?

    Hope to hear from you.

    With kind regards

    Ming

    • Ed Graham

      I have enjoyed all the Russian cities which I have visited but if you are coming from Scandinavia then St. Petersburg is relatively close. It is also highly regarded by Russians as the most beautiful Russian city.

  • David Stevenson

    Hi Ed
    Good post and wonderful pictures! You have really captured an amazing journey. We are about to take the train with our family of 5 and hope we get to enjoy it as much as you did!
    Cheers
    David

  • Mia

    Hello Ed,

    Thanks a lot for sharing your experience.
    I love the pictures you took. They are great.

    Also very detailed info.
    We plan to do this next year but we are planning a group of 4-8 persons?
    What is your suggestion? We will be able to book 4 bed compartments just for us?

    Thanks,
    Maria

    • Ed Graham

      With 8 people you can book 2 rooms in 2nd class. There are 4 beds in each room. Book early to ensure you get the whole room to yourself, unless you prefer to share the space with locals. I hope you have a great time!

  • Grahame

    thanks for great post, very informative, I’m planning mine for Feb 2016 and wanted to ask your thoughts re upper & lower berths; the idea of an upper appeals so that I can always ie out if I want or doze but have heard that Russians expect you to stay in the berth you have bought and not use their lower berths during the day. What are your experiences & thoughts on this. I see upper berth us are also cheaper in 2nd class June. I’ll book thro RZD with English option or tutu.ru, slightly more expensive but again with English option and coach layout to pick your berth.

    Grahame

    • Ed Graham

      If you are traveling with someone else then you should book one upper and one lower and thus you will have access to both. If you are going solo it depends on your preference. Generally the lower bunk can become a shared area during the daytime, whereas the upper bunk will remain exclusive to whoever booked it. So if you value your privacy I would say book the upper bunk; however if you want a little more room to spread out and are okay with being a more social then go for the bottom bunk. I don’t think there is a wrong choice here, it just depends on your preference.

  • Simon

    Hi, very interesting article

    I am going in November from Moscow to Beijing with a couple of stops and a few days in the Mongolian parks. Can anybody advise is it worth buying expensive clothing for the cold that I will probably never wear again or just take layers of warm clothing with decent gloves and headwear ?

    Happy to spend the money if necessary but dont want to waste spending money if not !

    Many thanks in anticipation

    SM

    • Ed Graham

      For me layers of clothes works. Use whatever is necessary to stay warm, regardless of the cost. The last thing you want to do is be stuck inside due to the cold, and end up missing the trip of a lifetime.

  • Lou paage-et

    I plan to go to the Siberian train in second week of April 20016, any insight ?

  • Tim

    Hi Ed – great stuff, looks amazing. One question I have is if you were able to play it by ear much in terms of which stops you get off at / how long you spend in each place – or did all your train tickets & dates etc have to be decided in advance? Cheers

    • Ed Graham

      If you speak Russian it would be easy to buy tickets at the station, the only problem you might have is if the trains are full which can happen in summer. If you don’t speak Russian it would be more difficult but still possible to buy tickets. I would write down what you want to buy in Russian and show it to them. However I was not confident enough with my Russian and I wanted things to be easy so I bought all my tickets in advance.

      • Tim

        Ok cool – thanks! Follow up question – at the beginning of the blog you also talk about learning a bit of Russian – how did you get on in Mongolia / China? My guess is that Beijing would have English translations on signs etc (although maybe I’m completely wrong), but how about Mongolia?

        • Ed Graham

          Mongolia does not have English signs but Ulaanbaatar is easy to navigate and once you get out of the city you don’t really have to worry about it. If you are wanting to order at a restaurant you can maybe use Google Translate to read the menus.

          • Tim

            Ok cool cheers – one last question! In terms of cash, were there ATM’s at any of the stations along the way or did you have to bring all the cash you needed with you? How about Mongolian currency?

  • Jamie

    Hello Ed, inspiring and enjoy your writing style.

    Our journey will be Moscow – Vladivostok during March 2017, we often travel for the sake of the rail journey and what we see from a train rather than stopping at cities and sights. We have the idea to travel straight through, to remain with the same train for the entire journey and rely on meeting fellow passengers to get a taste of local culture.
    Having made this trip twice could you anticipate spending 8 days on one train or more to the point would this create a totally different experience from the ones you have had so far?
    How far ahead did you book your rail tickets or even how far ahead is it possible to book Trans Sib tickets?

    Thank you very much for sharing your experiences

    • Ed Graham

      Yes you can ride the train straight through however there is a lot to see in Russia that makes it worth getting off at the various stops. But if you know what you are getting yourself into by staying on the train for 8 days straight then you can do that. Keep in mind that most trains do not have showers but you can perhaps sponge yourself down in the bathroom compartment using the sink water. I would also recommend bringing vodka and food to have something to share with the locals. Also you should bring enough cash to afford buying at the shops on the platforms and restaurant car. I hope you enjoy your journey.

  • Jamie

    Thanks Ed

    It’s the mind’s eye image of getting on a train in Moscow and not getting off for 8 days until you arrive at that mysterious place called Vladivostok. Can it be a sane idea to do that if you didn’t have to, that’s the thought process. About 50 years ago as children both Rosie and I heard about this place Vladivostok and were in wonder of it, Moscow has always appeared different to most other places anyway. The adventure , excitement and romance of a single train journey from one to this oh so remote place is probably the draw, and what lies in-between is secondary for us. On other train journeys we have met fabulous folk along the way and for us it has always been people before places that is the draw and surely trains are the ultimate way of meeting people.

    Thanks again, just love the Baikal ice photo

  • Susana Rico

    Lots of encouragement reading your posts!! I (63 yrs old) will be traveling with a friend (70 yrs!) in July this year in the transMongolian, as the aim for me will be to get to the Nadaam festival… one of those dreams of a lifetime. Now, given our age, we like adventure with comfort… what about 1st class wagons? did you at least peak into those? I think I will book an organized tour (responsible travel seems to have it packed). Any advice on that score?

    And, if trains is your “thing”… have you done Ecuador yet?? If not, that is a sight to be seen!!

    cheers and thanks!

    • edgrahamphotography11

      I have not done Ecuador yet but I will be sure to visit there someday… I did not see first class but I imagine it is quite spacious since there are only 2 people in each room (2nd class has 4 people)

  • Barciur

    Hey! I read your blog with great pleasure. It is also my dream to do this, but I think I would probably prefer to do it with somebody else – a friend who would be interested in this. So far now, I am planning a 14 day escapade to see Moscow, Petersburg and Ekaterinburg, and then on the way back to Poland (I will be there visiting family this summer) hit up Kiev and Lviv in Ukraine. Do you think those three cities and the 28 hour ride from Moscow to Ekat is a decent introduction to Russia?

  • Eva

    Hi Ed!
    I am thrilled by the article and the mesmerizing photos! We are thinking about going next year, next May maybe, we are a group of 4 but sadly we have only 15 days to spare…We think about maybe ending up in Beijing and take the plane back from there… Any special advice how to take best advantage of the trip in this shorter period of time? Thanks a lot in advance!

  • edgrahamphotography11

    It depends on what you want to see. You have 8 days on the train which leaves 7 to spend in the cities/country. If you do Moscow-Beijing for me personally the “must sees” in such a short timeframe would be to see Moscow, Irkutsk/Lake Baikal, Mongolia, and Beijing. Alternatively you could start or end somewhere other than Moscow or Beijing, or simply fly between each place to save travel time.

  • Casey

    Great post. Few questions. While this won’t be my first time in Russia (went to Moscow and SPB in September), i never ventured further.

    I plan to go from Moscow (Feb 28) to Beijing (March 24th) to Hong Kong (April 17): with stops Vladimer, Nizhniy Novgorod (Half day due to train from Vladimer to Kazan), Kazan, Yekateringburg, Krasnoiarsk, Irkutsk/Ulan Ude, Ulan-Batoor, Beijing, Xi’an, Lhasa, Chengdu, Zhangjiajie, Hong Kong (the china leg is still under review).

    My issue is that I don’t want to bring too much stuff but I also don’t want to bring the wrong stuff. I will stay at AirBnb’s along the way so this can probably cut back on clothes as I will have an option to wash more frequently than usual I would think. I understand it will be cold. Am I to think, Snowboarding pants, wool socks, goretex gloves, big hefty scarf, huge jacket. I have a fairly nice jacket that has served me well when i went to Almaty in March; I typically have a few layers (shirt, small lightweight jacket, and the larger one). Never really had too many issues in the cold.

    Also would using an Iphone be okay for photos rather than a larger camera? I have a nicer camera but it’s kind of broken so my best bet would likely be to buy another. Maybe I can get a cheaper but not large Canon again.

    Packing for this seems difficult. I’ve traveled quite a lot but never two full months at a time across multiple countries and climate changes. I have a Osprey Farpoint 55 (52 Liters / 3173 Cubic inches). and plan to bring another larger backpack…both are changeable as a backpack so that I can bring clothes and computers/etc with. The osprey comes with a day pack which is great for short walks. Would love any thoughts on this.

    Thanks and great write up.

  • Rens

    Hey Ed,

    I am a Dutch male currently planning on doing the Trans-Mongolian early next year. I am considering booking my train tickets (Beijing-Moscow through Mongolia) with Real Russia. However they seem to have a lot of bad reviews, looking around on the web.
    They seem okay at first sight, and I’m not too bothered about the tickets being slightly more expensive, considering I could get them all in one place this way. I just want to be know if they can do as they promise.

    Cheers, Rens

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