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TRANSSIB: 120 years

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The Trans-Siberian Railway is the name given to the three rail routes that traverse Siberia from Moscow:
  • The Trans-Mongolian goes from Moscow to Beijing, China via Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

  • The Trans-Manchurian travels through Siberia and Chinese Manchuria to Beijing.

  • The Trans-Siberian proper goes from Moscow to the Pacific terminus of Vladivostok.

Also there are:

  • BAM - Baikal-Amur Mainline

  • Novosibirsk-Almaty daily train that you also can take to continue traveling in the Central Asia Repiblics!

The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway in the world. It was built between 1891 and 1916 to connect the Russian capital Moscow with the Far-East city of Vladivostok. En route it passes through the cities of Perm, Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Chita and Khabarovsk.

Transsiberian trips can be either made in groups or by individuals.Most of the Transsiberian routes are tailor made and vary in trip length and cities visited.

Below you will find several ideas for Transsiberian and useful tips!

1. Full Trans-Siberian trip from Moscow to Vladivostok. A classical tour.

2. Full Trans-Mongolian trip from Moscow to Beijing. Another one classical tour.

3. Trans-Mongolian to Beijing (Novosibirsk - Krasnoyarsk - Irkutsk - lake Baikal - Buryatia – Mongolia - China). The route from Novosibirsk to Ulan-Ude is the most interesting and fascinating part of Trans-Siberian, and during the 2 weeks of the trip you will be able to see the most intriguing and mysterious parts of our vast Siberian land, of Mongolia and of Beijing. This tour will enable you to see Siberia and Mongolia more in details rather than stopping in each city for a night only.

4. Trans-Siberian from Tyumen/Omsk/Novosibirsk to Vladivostok. This option will also give you more time to see Siberia deeper.

5. Asian Ring: Beijing-Mongolia - Siberia - Kazakhstan & Central Asian Republics.

6. Any kind of your own routes your imagination suggests you looking at the map of Siberian and Asian rail roads!

Please ask us to quote YOUR route you free of charge!

What to Expect

There are theoretical weight limits on luggage, but the real limit is if your luggage will fit in the small compartment below your bench with one other person’s. Carrying much more than one larger suitcase is discouraged – if you are only going for a weekend, take a backpack and save yourself some hassle. However, don't forget some books and things to entertain yourself!

The ticket lady will come around to inspect and collect your tickets early on. If you will be crossing a border, you will have someone inspect your passport as well. There will also be a woman that comes by with sheets and hand towels if you are on an overnight train in which "services" are not included in the ticket price – for which there is usually a charge of around 30 RUR or so.

As soon as they board, many Russians will immediately change into tracksuits or shorts and tapochki (slippers). This is more comfortable and even in winter trains are quite warm, so you don't have to worry about freezing.  

There are only two toilets per 35-40 people (second class) and for 18 people (1st class). Mornings and evenings there are lines. Especially in the morning, passengers can take a remarkable amount of time in a space you personally wouldn't want to spend more than necessary in. Carrying your own toilet paper is strongly recommended. Bringing bottled water to brush your teeth with is also a good idea.

Bring food and water. Of course you can eat in the restaurant car but expect prices to be high, 10-15$ per person per mediocre-quality meal, not including alcohol. A vendor will usually come by at least once selling drinks, chips, peanuts, etc. Tea and coffee are almost always available, just ask the provodnik (wagon attendant). On long-distance trains you will stop for 15-45 minutes at some stations and passengers will disembark to stretch and buy food from the babushki that make extra money selling pirozhki, etc there. But the quality here can be questionable at times. Lastly, your traveling companions may offer you food – it is impolite not to at least try what you are offered, and you should have something to offer in return (bringing cognac, vodka, fruit, or candy is recommended for the socialable!)

Trains are usually co-ed, and so usually the men step out while women change into sleeping stuff and then vice-versa.

Note that the provodnik will make every effort to wake people up an hour before arrival because about 15-20 minutes before arrival they will lock the toilets. Get there while you have the chance.  

Personal Suggestions from the tourist:

"My chief suggestion to the foreign traveler is: don't travel in a large group! If you aren't keen on going alone, bring a friend, but I would try to limit your company to just one other person, especially if you are riding kupe. If you are a group of 3-4 foreigners occupying one kupe compartment, it will be more difficult to get acquainted with other passengers—and getting to know your fellow passengers is half the fun of a Trans-Siberian journey.

To prevent over-packing, prepare to wear one outfit per train ride. People on the trains aren’t too particular about fresh clothes, especially since you can’t shower anyway. Even when I was on the train for three days straight, I noticed that no one (including myself) changed clothes until the day of arrival. When I returned home after three weeks, I still had a couple clean outfits in my pack! Best to pack as lightly as possible.

If you plan on using your mobile while traveling, check with your provider to make sure you will have service at the next location.

Bring an up-to-date guidebook. The main guidebook that I used throughout my trip was Trans-Siberian Railway (Lonely Planet Travel Guides), which was published in April 2006. However, as many cities throughout Russia are rapidly developing, some information in the book was already out-dated! Be prepared to not always find things where you think they will be, and don't hesitate to ask around at your hostel of hotel for directions.

Take advantage—listen to people's stories, practice your Russian, try new foods, and have fun!"

3 major activities while traveling by train:

Buy:

Coming from Beijing or Harbin, the last stop in China is Manzhouli. The food being sold there is quite expensive, but many Russians stock up on provisions (i.e. spirits and beer). Be aware that you can take a maximum of five beers (Harbin Beer, 0.3l) per person into Russia or you will have to pay a penalty (read: bakshish) to the customs. Get rid of all your Chinese Yuan here as they become virtually worthless once abroad, unless you want to take them as a souvenir. There are a couple of black market money changers in front of the station that change RMB to Roubles at rip-off rates. To get Roubles you have plenty of time on the Russian side of the border (Zhabaikalsk). Walk to the ATM located at the bank in town. Allow 30 minutes to go and come back. The train stops for several hours while the carriages are being changed, so you can do some shopping at the local food markets (bread, cheese, etc.).

Coming from Beijing via Mongolia into Russia there are still the same rip-off exchange touts, but most if not all platform vendors in Mongolia and Russia take US Dollars or Euros. However, they only take bills (or notes), so know the exchange rate and buy a lot if you are using a five Euro note. Always ask the attendant how much time is available before you rush off into a station to find a Bankomat (ATM) because the train will not wait for you. If you are not spending time in Mongolia, don't worry about acquiring Mongolian tцgrцg. They are worthless virtually everywhere else, and the export of tцgrцg is technically forbidden. Therefore, spend Dollars or Euro, but get Roubles ASAP because Russian vendors are more likely to fabricate exchange rates than Mongolian or Chinese platform vendors. Dont forget to buy a lot of vodka while in Russia!

Eat:

On the Moscow- Vladivostok route the train stops for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours. Everybody can get out of the train, and there are always people on the platform that offer a variety of fresh food (eggs, fish, cheese, bread, fruits, meat or cheese in a cake ...) and often some drinks for passengers. Prices are low; only Russian Roubles are accepted. A highlight is the smoked fish (Omul) being sold on the shore of Lake Baikal (Station: Slyudyanka - quick stop, so be ready). Some of the larger stations will have food marts with snacks and alcohol.

Many of the trains have dining cars, although if you do not speak any Russian, ordering the food will be an experience, to say the least.

Since there is a samovar (hot water dispenser) in every carriage, your best bet is to have a stack of dried noodle soups and Nescafe ready. Just bring your own cup. The carriage attendants (Provodnitsa, Provodnik if male) will often have cold drinks, snacks and even freeze-dried meals available for sale at slightly inflated prices.

Drink:

In every train car there is a pot with boiling water available for making hot drinks (bring your own tea, but the water is free). Carriage attendants also sell tea and coffee, and it's usually possible to buy soft drinks, beer and vodka in the restaurant carriage to bring back to your carriage.





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