11 Best Tips For Traveling Trans-Siberian Railway Across Russia, Mongolia and China.

Traveling with the Trans-Siberian Railway is a dream of many. Its longest part from Moscow to Vladivostok is 9288 km long and the journey takes 7 days. Impressive, right?! It is not the most popular part though.

The most tourists embark on a 3,5 days journey to get from Moscow to Irkutsk and lake Baikal. If someone decides on going further, it usually is to Ulanbataar in Mongolia and/or Beijing in China. Whichever part of the Trans-Siberian Railway you are thinking about, you will find all practical information here 🙂

As I don’t have personal experience with Trans-Siberian Railway (I decided to take a 6 hours flight from Moscow to Irkutsk instead of 3,5 days), I asked other bloggers for help. They shared their best tips and experiences with us 🙂

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Trans-Siberian Railway – practical tips

Trans-Siberian Railway – route

The most famous railway in the world is actually divided into three parts

  • Trans-Siberian from Moscow to Vladivostok (Russia only)
  • Trans-Mongolian from Moscow through Ulanbataar in Mongolia to Beijing in China
  • Trans-Manchurian from Moscow to Beijing, skipping Mongolia

The most popular long route taken is the one passing three countries – Russia, Mongolia and China

Trans-Siberian Railway – time

Depending on which of the above routes you are going to choose, the journey can take you from 5 days (Moscow-Ulanbataar-Beijing), through 6 (Moscow-Beijing) to 7 days (Moscow-Vladivostok).

The most popular part in Russia, from Moscow to Irkutsk, takes 3,5 days.

Trans-Siberian Railway – tickets

You can get the cheapest tickets on the website of Russian railways here.

The problem is though, that you can only buy tickets for  Russian parts of the railway. You can’t buy them to Ulanbataar or Beijing. Check more information about international routes here.

If you plan to travel also outside of Russia, you can either buy tickets while being in Russia – or use a travel agency. Buying tickets on platforms in Russia is cheaper but you risk not having a place in the train you want. Using third-party travel agencies is more expensive but gives you security and certainty that your place is booked.

Top Tips From Travel Bloggers About Trans-Siberian Railway

1. Don’t do the whole journey in one go

Patrick from German Backpacker

trans-siberian railway trip

Traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway was hands down one of the best experiences I ever had! I started my journey in St. Petersburg and travelled all across Russia (with a small detour into northern Kazakhstan) and finally finished my journey in Mongolia. I also chose to travel in 3rd class and it’s been a great, local experience.

My most important trip for anyone traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway is the following: Don’t do the whole journey in one go! I’ve heard of travellers spending literally 5-6 days on the train nonstop, from Moscow to Mongolia or even Beijing. While this might be a unique experience, you won’t really see anything of the country.

My whole trip took six weeks, which gave me enough time to get off the train every now and then and to explore the cities and places on the way for a few days – such as Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, Lake Baikal, Irkutsk, Ulan Ude and even Astana (now Nur-Sultan) and Semey in Kazakhstan. Since there isn’t “one” Trans-Siberian train and rather a network of different railroads across the country, you got lots of flexibility to adapt the journey to your preferences!

2. Stop in Mongolia

Naomi from Probe around the Globe

trans-siberian railway trip

A few years ago, I embarked on this epic journey: travel overland from Europe to Tibet. I took the Trans-Siberian Railway from Moscow to Beijing. On the way I stopped in Mongolia and this is my #1 tip for people contemplating about taking this journey: stop in Mongolia.

After 5 days of birch trees in Russia, the planes opened up and the land of the nomadic horse herders lay before us. Many people do a 3-day stop in Mongolia and they visit a nomadic camp close to Ulaanbaatar, the capital city. But I took 7 days, which was even too short to take in this grand country.

I did a tour of the Gobi desert, stayed with local Mongolian people in a ger tent and rode a horse on the planes of Mongolia. This is an adventure with a capital A!

When do you ever get the chance to explore such a vast and remote and landlocked country again? If you travel on the Trans-Siberian Railway, take a different route and stop in Mongolia. Read more about my adventures in Mongolia and the Trans-Mongolian Railway.

3. Learn basic Russian phrases

Katalin from Our Life Our Travel

trans-siberian railway tips & tricks

We’ve traveled across Russia from Moscow all the way to Vladivostok by the Trans Siberian train(s), and it was crucial to learn basic Russian phrases. It made communication so much easier both at the stations and on board the trains. It’s handy and faster than looking up everything in a dictionary.  

Almost nobody speaks English (quite typical in Russia), and it helped us tremendously while buying tickets, discussing train schedule and stops, or just introducing ourselves to fellow passengers. We used different train classes on numerous trains, so we constantly met new people.
The trip was an amazing experience. Sometimes monotonous, but if you love railways as much as I do, I’m sure it’s on your bucket list already.

4. Befriend the provodnitsa

Steve from Thetripgoeson.com

trans-siberian railway

The best advice I can give for anyone travelling on the Trans-Siberian is to befriend the provodnitsa; the carriage attendant who is responsible for keeping the wagon clean, the samovar stoked and ensuring no trouble.

If you get on the right side of these wonderful Russian ladies (and sometimes men) they will help you source food, make sure you are comfortable and ensure a pleasant trip.

I travelled on the Trans-Siberian between Moscow and Irkutsk (86 hours) and back again in 2009 when I went to work in Siberia on an eco-tourism project. I have also travelled on the Trans-Manchurian line between Beijing and Ulaanbaatar in 2016, which then goes on to Moscow. On all three occasions I travelled in Kupe class (a four birth cabin) and it was very comfortable (more so for the friendly provodniki who looked after me).

Travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway is definitely one of those experiences you will never forget and I constantly urge anyone I meet to take the trip. I have only ever travelled in summer and would very much like to do the journey in winter so plan to hit the rails for a fourth time in the not too distant future.

5. Pack layers

Rosie from Flying Fluskey

trans-siberian railway tips

In the winter of 2019, my partner and I travelled from Shanghai to St Petersburg on the trans-Manchurian, one branch of the Transsiberian railway. This took about three weeks and included six stops along the way. Travelling on this trans-Siberian is undoubtedly an adventure and you learn tips and tricks very quickly. However, jumping off one train and re-joining another means you are constantly relearning these tricks. 

It was only on our 2nd to last train, a 24-hour stretch between university town Perm and Moscow, that we learnt our final lesson. No matter how cold it is outside (and at points it was -35°C) it can be VERY hot on board the Trans-Siberian railway. What lever you do, pack layers! 

My base layers of thin leggings and a strap top were still far too warm for the 25° steamy humid train carriage. The second class, coupe was like a little sauna and sharing with two strangers meant stripping down to my undies was not an option. Lesson learned! 

6. Bring food to share

Ellis from Backpack Adventures 

I travelled by train in Russia quite a bit, including part of the Transsiberian express from Moscow to Kazan. I always travel platzkart, the lowest class with open bunk beds and in my opinion the best place to meet people.

For me traveling by train in Russia and other post-Soviet countries is as much about the people you meet on your way as about the incredible landscapes. Russian people might take some time to open up, but once they do they are some of the warmest and kind people. They do not only share their stories with me, but also their food. I remember endless cups of tea, blini’s, filled breads with homemade jam and more.

Soon I learned my lesson to always bring some food with me including some things that I could share. Every wagon has a samovar so that you can make tea, hot chocolate or instant noodles. Even better is something from your own country. My bag of Dutch sweets were always well appreciated. 

7. Balance your own food and the one from platforms and the train

Rai from A Rai Of Light

trans-siberian railway tips

Figuring out what food to bring and where to eat during the Trans-Siberian journey is part of the adventure. My recommendation is to adequately balance bringing some of your own food on board with buying food from the station platforms, occasionally supplementing this with the use of the restaurant carriage on the train. 

A good idea is to stock up on basic provisions at a local supermarket before you set off. The best items would be things you can make by simply adding hot water. Think oats, soup and instant noodles. During the handful of longer stops there is sufficient time to stretch your legs and stock up on provisions from the many vendors selling local specialities, dumplings, and fresh produce. If the craving for something fishy hits while onboard, you won’t be disappointed with the smoked fish sold on a handful of stops.

This I learned during my journey from Moscow to Vladivostok via Yekaterinburg and Irkutsk which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s still up for debate whether I enjoyed this or my time in St Petersburg more.

8. Bring a few pieces of cutlery and crockery

Sinead from Map Made Memories

transsib

With our three children we traveled on the Trans-Siberian Railway across China, Mongolia and Russia. We made several stops along the route including Ulaanbaatar, Irkutsk and Moscow. We chose to travel in a four-berth, second class compartment as it gave our family privacy and security.

I loved every minute of our trip, both on and off the iconic railroad. Our top tip for travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway is to bring a few pieces of cutlery and crockery onto the train. Each carriage is equipped with a samovar – a flask of hot water that can be refilled at will. This constant supply of hot water enables you to self-cater and we saved a lot of money by not eating regularly in the dining car.

We had our own mugs, spoons, forks and bowls and brought tea, hot chocolate, porridge, soup and noodles onto the train. Not only did we save money but we ensured we were able to feed our picky children whenever we needed to!

9. Bring a plugboard with multiple sockets

Alex from Discover Aotearoa – New Zealand from N to Z

trans-siberian railway tips

I travelled on the Tsar’s Gold private train from Moscow to Beijing, which took 2 weeks. 

Private trains run on the same route as the regular trains but are more like a luxurious group tour. The great part about it is that you keep moving around but you never have to change your room, similar to a cruise ship. All ‘land excursions’ as I like to call them are included as are the meals. All you have to pay extra for is the vodka you drink along the way.

I travelled in Category II Classic, which was a small but comfy double room. As I travelled alone, I shared my room with another female guest. We became friends and stayed friends since.

The trans-Siberian train journey in Tsar’s Gold was a very special experience I’ll always remember. I struggled a little at first as I wasn’t used to group travel and not being able to explore a place by myself, but I got to enjoy it and I experienced a lot of things I wouldn’t have otherwise.

Pro Tip: There are no power sockets in the rooms, only in the walkway of your train compartment. Bring along a plugboard with multiple sockets and make everyone in your  compartment love you.

10. Trans-Siberian with a baby? Bring enough supplies!

Lotte from Phenomenal Globe

trans-siberian railway how to travel

In May 2019 I traveled on the Trans Siberian Express with my husband and 10-month old son. We traveled from St. Petersburg to Beijing (so through Mongolia) and made 3 stops along the way (Moscow, Irkutsk and Ulan Bator). 

One of the most important tips when traveling with young kids or a baby is to book your own compartment. We booked a 4-bed second class compartment for our little family. While this was more expensive as we paid for an extra bed, I felt this was very worthwhile as our son could quietly enjoy his naps during the day and I wasn’t worried he would keep a stranger awake during the night (just us;-). 

When traveling the Trans-Sib with young kids it’s important to bring enough baby food (or milk powder when your baby still drinks bottles). While baby food is available in the bigger cities there is none on the train or in the small shops on the platforms. Also bring enough diapers and baby wipes for similar reasons! 

Altogether I very much enjoyed our family Trans Siberia train adventure! The rocking of the train was very soothing for our little boy and he slept very well on board. Our fellow travelers also adored him, as did the prodovnikas. 

11. Consider local trains

Christian from Unusual Traveler

trans-siberian railway trip

The Train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar runs only twice a week during summer season June – October and once a week the rest of the year, with the price being 190usd for a hard sleeper bed.

If this doesn’t fit your schedule or budget, there is luckily a much cheaper way to get from Beijing to Mongolia.

Take the daily local train from Beijing to the border city Erlian departing Beijing Railway station at 7.27 AM and arriving at 20.18 and costing 21USD.
Once in Erlian take a jeep 4usd (you are not allowed to walk across the border) from the train station across the border to the train station in Zamyn-Uud the first border city in Mongolia.

The local train from Zamyn-Uud to Ulaanbataar costs 20usd for a hard sleeper.

So taking two locals trains and a jeep will cost you 45USD instead of the 190 USD the international train from Beijing to Ulaan Bataar. But be aware that you will have to spend a night in Erlian travelling this way. There´s also possible to take a night bus from Beijing to Erling for 25USD. This will save you a night of accommodation.

Either contact Christian or check this post to get more details about this cheapest way to get from China to Mongolia.

I hope you know now how to organize your Trans-Siberian Railway journey. Make sure to use all the above great tips 🙂 Also, take a look about the post about Lake Baikal, which is a must-see on the way!

The Most Breathtaking Things To Do By Lake Baikal in Siberia, Russia

Check also other Russia-related articles – and enjoy planning your trip! 🙂

2 Comments

  1. Bernie Franklin said:

    Hey Dorota,
    It was a gteat artical and I hope that I get a chance to use it this summer. I was wondering how you decided which blog articles would be the best to use? There are many to read. Also do you think that the summer time is the best time to book passage on the railroad and were most of the travelers going during summer to avoid the cold? What are the temperatures one should expect during summer? I have alot of other questions that I can ask later. Again thanks for a great article.

    November 4, 2019
    Reply
    • Dorota said:

      Hey Bernie, thanks for the comment 🙂
      Well, regarding the psots, I just search on Google and see what’s in top search results – and I check some blogs I know.
      Temperatures by Lake Baikal were pretty high at the beginning of July, around 25 degrees Celsius during the day or even warmer, around 15 or less during the night. As locals told me, the water temperature in lake Baikal doesn’t exceed 11 degrees Celsius all year round.
      It gets cold during winter but I was also told it is even more beautiful.

      November 5, 2019
      Reply

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