I am planning to go on the travel on the trans-Siberian railway with a friend in August. We have the whole month. I just wanted to get some general information about the best way to get tickets, places to stop, tips and tricks.
The first thing you need to decide is which route you fancy. A lot of people presume that the Trans-Siberian is just one route dedicated to tourist trains, but in fact it's a vast network of railways connecting Moscow to the Russian Far East and Pacific coast with arms branching off through Mongolia to China. There are lots of maps showing the route, but I like this one for its simplicity (click to expand):
Which route you choose will effect where you choose to stop off. But I've got some generic suggestions and can come up with some more once you know where you're going.
Before you start
The most important thing when planning a trip to Russia is sorting our your Visa. If you're planning to get to Russia by train (definitely recommended) then you'll need a Belarussian transit visa in addition to the Russian visa. Read this post for information about visas for Russia and Belarussia. You need to apply for your visa quite far in advance so if you're planning a trip in August we'd recommend starting the process sooner rather than later.
Getting to Russia by train
Lots of the fun of catching the Trans-Siberian can be had in getting to Moscow. Lots of people rush across Europe by plane and miss the opportunity to see the places in between so we highly recommend getting to Russia by train before you start. This post explains the options for reaching Moscow by train, including the sleeper train from Cologne direct to Moscow which crosses Belarus.
There are lots of ways to do this part of the journey, and you might want to consider going to Saint Petersburg first then heading down to Moscow to begin the Trans-Siberian part of your trip.
Booking the Trans-Siberian
There are quite a few companies which offer all-inclusive toures for the Trans-Siberian. Don't be fooled, it's straightforward to organise your trip yourself without paying massive booking fees. Google will point you in the direction of a number of companies but you want to look out for companies that print and dispatch the tickets themselves so you're not paying additional fees.
Tips and tricks
Hot Water: Every train has a beloved Samovar at the end of each carriage. This will be the provider of hot water for noodles, tea, coffee, hot chocolate and all manner of other just-add-water treats which you will no doubt indulge to pass the time as you whizz though Siberia. So don't forget your cup, spoon or whatever else you think you'll need.
Food: Lots of people think they're going to starve on the train, but there is plenty of food on board if you want to eat in the restaurant car, and the train stops semi-regularly so you can hop off and buy bread, crisps and biscuits (the Trans-Siberian does nothing for your waistline). We also took boiled eggs which last for days and are great for sandwiches when you can buy fresh bread along the way.
Power: You are unlikely to have power sockets in your carriage but most trains have a power socket in the corridor and the loo at the end of the carriage. You'll need an adaptor and to keep an eye on your belongings to don't imagine leaving things plugged in over night to recharge. If you're going long haul though you've plenty of time to lean by a plug and gaze out of the window at the passing scenery.
Hope these help. Let me know your planned route and I'll definitely have some suggestions for some places to stop off.
1 year ago
Hello! Just to add to that, I used Real Russia when I got visas and tickets for the Trans-Siberian and they were really helpful and made things a lot easier. Personally I really enjoyed discovering Moscow, and I also thought the East of Russia near Lake Baikal looked stunning. I didn't get a chance to visit it myself but I really wanted to when I saw the view from the train!
9 months, 3 weeks ago
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