Feeling particularly adventurous? A journey on the longest and one of the most exclusive railway lines in the world, the Trans-Siberian Railway, is as challenging as it is memorable. This network connects Western Russia to the Russian Far East and goes through hundreds of large and small cities in both European and Asian parts of the country. A Trans-Siberian Railway trip can be an overwhelming experience, but let’s take it step by step. Here are some tips on how to plan a journey of a lifetime:
# Pick a Route
Siberia stretches all the way from the Ural mountains to Pacific Ocean and is part of Russia, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan. Now, deciding where you want to go can be a bit difficult, as this journey can take you to many beautiful destinations such as Japan, China, Vietnam and many others but the routes are so well developed that you will definitely find an attractive one. Even if your main holiday destination is Russia, keep your mind open to the many possibilities of seeing the most exotic cities in the world. Here are couple of suggestions:
If you wish to experience something more exotic, the best route for that could be the Trans-Mongolian line. It is also the shortest one – only four days. It starts in Moscow, with beautiful Russian cities to see along the way and ends in Beijing. However, the most exciting part of this particular path is that it crosses Mongolia first and you are welcomed by drastically different landscapes as it cuts through the Gobi desert, filled with camels and yurts.
There is also the Trans-Manchurian line, which is a longer one – almost six days on the train. It also starts in Moscow and ends in Beijing, but this route skips travelling through the desert and goes through Manchuria, a region of Northeast China, instead. This one is great if you plan on going in winter, because it stops at the Harbin Ice & Snow Festival in China. Keep in mind to check the schedule first as the Trans-Manchurian line runs only once a week.
# Get Your Visa
Probably the most, if not the only frustrating part of planning this journey is acquiring a visa. The laws are different for every country, so be sure to check the requirements and find out whether you need it for Russia, Mongolia or China. For example, if you are an American, you will need a visa for entering Russia and China, but not Mongolia. That being said, Mongolia requires passport information from European travelers and people from other places as well. Really do your research and do not sleep on it – getting a visa is a very time-consuming process and we suggest you start applying no later than two months before your trip.
# Plan Your Budget
This journey will not be the cheapest one, but the experience is worth it. Surely, the prices vary depending on the routes, days and sleeping arrangements that you choose. For example, a ticket on the Trans-Siberian route, going from Moscow to Vladivostok, will cost you around 1.600$ in a two-person sleeping compartment. However, if you decide to sleep with more travelers in the same place, it will be almost a half cheaper, around 820$. The Trans-Mongolian and the Trans-Manchurian trains take you to more exciting locations so the prices are a bit steeper. If you wish to travel more comfortably, with less people around, be prepared to pay around 2.000$ for the ticket. Read more about booking the tickets in the next column.
# Book Your Tickets
If hopping on these trains is not an impromptu decision and you like planning ahead, we recommend booking your tickets ahead of time. They can be issued as early as 45 days in advance, so you will be more comfortable knowing that you have a definite place on the train. You can also buy the tickets at the station just before boarding the train, but if you put it off for too long there is a good chance that all seats will be sold out. It is also a possibility that none of the cashiers will speak English, so it is way more comfortable to take care of the tickets online. Be attentive – the posted schedules will be on Moscow time, not on local.
There will be three classified ways for sleeping on these trains that you will have to choose while buying the ticket: spalny vagon (1st class), kupe (2nd class) and platskartny (3rd class). The first two are for more private journeys. There are two beds in a spalny vagon and two double bunks in a kupe. Both of these types of compartments have locks on the door. Choosing a platskartny will cost you less, but there is more of a chance of sleeping next to strangers and as it has no lock on the door, it is a little less secure.
Whether you choose shorter or longer routes, the days spent on the train will not seem so long with all the beautiful cities you will be able to see through the window.
These were just some tips to help you begin your planning. If you are an experienced traveler of the Trans-Siberian Railway be sure to check in and let us know if there is anything we missed out. In the mean time, stay safe and enjoy your every step.