After more than 8000km across some of the most desolate, yet beautiful landscapes in the world, we had completed our Trans-Siberian Railway Journey.
Although we added the Trans-Mongolian Line from Beijing, rather than commencing from the traditional eastern end at Vladivostok, this alternative provided the best scenery of the entire journey.
The Mongolian trains were much newer, cleaner and more comfortable than the abundance of old Russian trains. It seems that more tourists filled these trains, whereas in Russia, locals made up the vast majority as these trains were the most convenient mode of transport to cover the vast distances. And there were much more trains to choose from too.
We booked each individual leg of our journey with Real Russia, a UK based travel service. Their service, communication and ease was excellent. Yes, you pay more than if you tried to book tickets on your own. But it took the risk out of booking something wrong with our lack of Russian and having no one to help us out. Plus, it was significantly cheaper than Vodkatrain and other similar group package companies that don’t allow the freedom to break up the long journey as you choose.
We booked private four-berth cabins for all legs which was the most comfortable for the cost. The next class down would be open six-berth cabins with no privacy and less comfort space. Whereas the next class up would be private two-berth cabins with showers, at a premium!
Each of the our train carriages had a similar configuration; berth compartments to one side, a walkway on the other, toilet at one end and boiler at the other where you could get boiling water anytime. Many cabins just kept the doors open during the day, so it was easy to socialise and catch some fresh air with the windows slid open.
Our tips for making the long journey comfortable:
- comfy clothes (for lounging around and sleeping in)
- deck of cards (for the traditional Russian game of Durak)
- a good book (it can be a looooong time between stations)
- Russian phrasebook (so you can practice with your local neighbours)
- ear plugs (for the constant rattling of the train at night)
- small bowl for instant noodles / soup (the easiest and cheapest meal around!)
- travel mug / cup, with tea bags, coffee, sugar, powdered milk, instant soup etc.
- travel adaptor and power board / extension lead (there are only a couple of power points in the walkway, none in the cabins themselves)
- cash in small denominations (so you can quickly buy some snacks or hot food at the short station stops without looking for an ATM, or realising you can’t use your debit/credit card)
Our Trans-Siberian & Trans-Mongolian Railway Journey:
Truly one of the world’s most quintessential journeys and best way to link up the hardly visited Russian cities across the Siberian hinterland. There really is no better way to cross the vast distance from Asia into Europe.
And a classic bucket list item for all travellers too!
Travelled 2nd August to 3rd September 2014.