The Trans-Siberian is much more than a train journey. It is a unique experience. There are more than nine thousand kilometers in a journey with history. It is also one of the most impressive tourist routes in the world. Moscow, the Ural Mountains, Lake Baikal, the Siberian and Mongolian plains, Vladivostok, Ulan Bator… they are so many and so exotic that it is impossible to name them all.
It is about entering the deep and mysterious Russia. That country, as big as a continent, and as unknown as it is far away. It is also a unique occasion to get to know the Russians a little more. In short, the Trans-Siberian is, without a doubt, a vital experience that is worthwhile.
It is the longest rail route in the world. They traverse a whopping seven different time zones. This time zone seems irrelevant, but during the journey it is one of the elements that dislodges the most. You never know what time it is. To avoid confusion with train departures, regardless of station and stop, the timetable for Trans-Siberian tickets is always with Moscow time.
The Trans-Siberian routes
All the trans-Siberian routes have a common part. This common section has a whopping 5,200 kilometers. It goes from Moscow to Irkutsk, south of Lake Baikal. The first 1,777 kilometers separate Moscow from the official border between Europe and Asia. Then cross the impressive Ural Mountains to reach the city of Omsk (2,715 kilometers). From there, almost 2,500 kilometers of amazing scenery to Irkutsk. This city is on the shores of Lake Baikal. It is the largest, deepest and oldest freshwater lake in the world
The classic Trans-Siberian route is Moscow – Vladivostok. They are 9,288 kilometers from European Russia, Moscow, to the Sea of Japan near the border with North Korea, where the city of Vladivostok is.
The Trans-Mongolian is also a classic. This route, after Lake Baikal, deviates to the south. It crosses the Russian border with Mongolia, to reach Ulan Bator and from there to Beijing.
Another route, somewhat less known, is the Transmanchuriano . This train also goes to Beijing, but without going through Mongolia. Cross the border between Russia and China to the east to continue south, crossing Manchuria, to Beijing.
How to do the Trans-Siberian?
The Trans-Siberian can be a luxury trip. A classic luxury, almost like in old movies, where everything will be designed by and for the enjoyment of tourists. But, contrary to what you might imagine, the Trans-Siberian can also be an adventure and independent journey for the most daring travelers. You can even find a middle ground, an organized, simple Trans-Siberian at a more than reasonable price.
What differentiates one from the other is, mainly, the quality and comfort of the trains.
Luxury Trans-Siberian, a dream trip
If your pocket allows it, the Trans-Siberian is a journey loaded with luxury and comfort. It is usually done on special trains, the top class . The best known is the Golden Eagle. These are trains with great detail and a personal and exclusive service. Private compartments with all the comforts, luxury menus, guided excursions, stops at places of interest. Everything you can imagine and even much more.
This type of travel must be contracted through specialized agencies. These are trips of between 10 and 21 days, where everything revolves around the train, but there is much more. Prices range from € 6,000 to more than double. It all depends on the type of trip, the weather, the excursions etc.
It is a true luxury within the reach of a privileged few. Perfect for those who money is not a problem and want the pleasure of taking a mythical trip. Or for those who want to indulge themselves at least once in a lifetime. It’s worth saving time to indulge yourself.
The Middle Trans-Siberian
You can do a Trans-Siberian on the regular trains, known as Rossiya. They are fast and comfortable trains, but without the luxuries of the top class . They have first and second class. They differ by being cabins for two or four people. It is a non-stop journey. It only stops in some cities to drop off and pick up people, no more than 30 or 45 minutes.
They have many of the comforts of a modern train and are a great mid-budget option. Tickets in the first round are around € 600 and € 300 in the second round. They can be purchased directly on the website of the Russian railways, as long as you do not want to cross borders. If you want to go to Beijing, you will have to buy the ticket through a travel agency or do it directly at the ticket office.
If your budget can still be stretched a bit more, many agencies offer packages between € 1,000 and € 1,500, which include guides, meals and some strategic stops.
This is the perfect option for those who are not seasoned travelers, but cannot afford to pay for the luxury service either.
Trans-Siberian Low cost
The low-cost Trans-Siberian is not the train you imagine, full of luxuries and attentions. It is not even a modern train. Of course, it is a comfortable train, quite clean and offers you a unique opportunity to get to know the Russian people a little better. In fact, it is one of the most important lines of communication in Russia.
The first thing to know in relation to the Trans-Siberian is that it is designed for a single trip. Come on, it’s not the inter-rail style in Europe. This means that when you buy the, whichever route you choose is between 6 and 7 days of travel, you cannot get off in any city, stay for a couple of days and then continue traveling. It is designed to be pulled and only one stop is allowed for up to a maximum of two nights.
A highly recommended option if you want to do this trip on your own is to make a stop in Irkutsk. It is more or less half way. You take a little rest from the train after 3 days. It also gives you the opportunity to visit Lake Baikal.
As for the trains, they have first class with compartments for two people; second class with compartments for four people and third, without compartments. On the third floor, the seats make beds at night and have a curtain to give some privacy.
The trains have toilets but no showers, so long trips in third class …
As for the price, a full ticket to Vladivostok in third class costs around € 180, in second class around € 260 and in first class around € 500. They offer you free coffee and tea service, as well as hot water to make noodles. In the stops that are made in the cities, of half an hour, you can buy everything you need.
You can buy tickets on the official website of the Russian railways, as long as you do not want to make international journeys, in which case you will have to do it through an agency.