Trans-Siberian Railway: ΤΕΝ Q&As
It’s about a month since I came back from my Trans-Siberian trip and after loads of emails and Facebook messages concerning every single detail of my journey, I came to realize that there are a lot of you out there who dream and wish to take this trip but still got a lot of questions that want them answered before leaving.
So, I decided to help clear some things out for those of you that are daring enough to hop on the train and follow their dream. A series of posts with Trans-Siberian tips will follow throughout September to completely enlighten you on the subject and sort everything out. So, are you ready? Let’s go!
- Where and how do I buy my Trans-Siberian tickets?
There isn’t a single train ticket to get you to every destination of every country the Trans-Siberian crosses; there are several tickets for every train you’ll use – meaning the Trans-Siberian, the Trans-Mongolian and the Trans-Manchurian, each one of them dividing into several lines.
Keeping that in mind, the best way to book your tickets is upon your arrival at each train station. This way, you’ll not only save money but you’ll have a lot more flexible program, deciding on the spot whether you’ll spend a few more days at a place or not.
You cAn book your tickets online, but unless you speak Chinese or Russian, don’t try it – English is not an option! Alternatively, there’s a choice number 3; the online travel agency – I strongly advice you to choose this option, if you’re planning to travel during summer; it’s the busiest season of the year and ticket booking at the station is a bit of a risk – there is a chance you won’t find any bed available. It is at the same time, the most convenient choice of all, as you provide the agency with all the necessary information and they take care of everything else. You’ll have your tickets delivered or given to you upon you arrival – though it may cost more than regular booking.
2.How much does the trip cost?
As I mentioned before, you’ll have to buy several tickets for each destination you want to visit – as a result the prices may vary.
A single route may cost from 70 euros up to 900 – if you choose to make 4 stops along the way, as I did.
Of course, it depends on the class you’ll choose; 1st class tickets cost almost double than those in 3rd Class.
3.In which class should I travel?
I’ve already mentioned in another post that there are 3 classes to choose from.
1st Class is great for you if you need clean bathroom and privacy.
2nd Class is somewhere between having control of all things, having privacy but also having the chance to meet new people and make new friends.
3rd Class is for you, if you need to get in touch with the locals, don’t mind the noise and crowd and wish your trip to be a low-budget one.
I went for the 2nd class as I needed privacy and safety but didn’t mind sharing a couchette with other people. There is a lock on the door in contrary with 3rd class where the doors are simply…non-existent!
4.Should I travel alone or with company?
Truth is, I had my doubts at first whether I should travel alone or get my friends to join me. I had already decided that I would book a couchette, so it was only reasonable I would want to share it with 3 friends. (I still do think it’s a great idea, so if you and your 3 friends plan to do it, you’ll have an amazing time!)
What did I do? After 2 declines in a row from my friends, I felt like I was meant to take this trip alone. Not because I had no alternatives – simply because it was entirely MY trip to experience; it was something I wished to do in many years and I shouldn’t be waiting for anyone to join me.
It proved to be the best thing to do; I was more than available to chit-chat and make new friends while I had some “alone” time to enjoy reading a book, think or simply look outside the window. Isn’t it the perfect combination?
5.Is it a safe trip?
There wasn’t a moment when I felt somehow afraid while travelling – honestly! I may have gotten lucky and enjoyed the company of some great people while on board the train and generally on the road, who were really, really nice; Chinese, Russian, Mongolian, German, Dutch and Americans crossed my way and were all great!
No mob, no thieves or everything I may have heard from terrified relatives before leaving.
Keep your eyes open, wear a money belt to secure your money, important documents and mobile phone while sleeping and you’re good to go!
6.Do I need travel insurance?
Be it a long trip (considering you cross 1/3 of the planet travelling) I would suggest you get travel insurance even if you think you won’t be needing it.
I agree with you, nothing terrible will happen but just the thought of someone at the end of the line ready to help in your language 24/7, is – to say the least – comforting. Whether that is lost baggage, document translation, medication transfer, accident insurance or anything else. You know what they say; Better safe, than sorry.
Of course, travel insurance proof is mandatory in order to get your Russian Visa. On my pre-trip post, I mentioned the type of insurance I chose; it was Mondial Assistance’s Globy Classic, while on my next big trip I’m thinking to upgrade it to Super Globy to enjoy the perks of Cuba stress-free!
7.How many and which stops should I make during my trip?
It is a question I’ve already answered but since it’s been asked so much by many of you, I’ll give you my suggestion; assuming you begin your trip from Moscow, Russia then the stops you should make are Yekaterinburg, Irkutsk, Omsk, Ulan Bator and last but not least, Beijing. If your trip begins from Beijing, I suggest you should visit Saint Petersburg too, not just Moscow.
8.How many days does the trip last?
It depends on your time available to travel and on your budget. I had 15 days – excluding the 2 days to fly to Russia and back home – and I think I would need 7 more. A total of 3 weeks for a proper trip.
If I was to do it again, I would probably make sure I had one month, in order to travel a lot more and spend a few days more at certain places.
As I’ve said; It really depends on your time, route and of course, your appetite to travel!
9.What about the on board meals?
Are you for real? Noodles. Noodles. Oh, and noodles. And imagine that I’m not even a fan.
The trick is to shop from a local supermarket while you’re at Beijing or Moscow, as it will be far more economical than shopping from the markets of each train station.
Cookies, bread, Nutella, jam, pre-cooked noodles, lots of bottled water, chips etc. are some of the essentials. Add tea and instant coffee, as boiled water is free on the train and you should take advantage of it!
There’s of course the on board restaurant solution but I wouldn’t really recommend it, not only due to the high prices but because of the Chinese/Russian menu which is simply impossible to read!
10.Which is the best season to travel?
If you are the type of traveler who prefers to travel without a bunch of other tourists and noise, then choose spring – April is perfect since the temperature is ideal for this trip.
If, on the other hand, you travel to meet new people and make some new friends, the I would definitely recommend summer, since it’s the peak of the season. Do note that the temperature rises up to 40 degrees Celsius even in Siberia during the summer – so, it will be hot. If you have no other choice but to go during summer season, then choose July – Naadam Festival takes place in Mongolia at that time and would be great to join.
If you dream to see Lake Baikal frozen then January is the best time for that. Prepare for the really, really freezing (-40 degrees) cold you’ll experience though! I wouldn’t recommend it.
If, after the above, you’re not convinced yet, then maybe this trip is not for you. Take your time to think about it and on the meantime, send this link to someone who you know is over heels crazy for taking a trip with the Trans-Siberian.
All I have to add for now is that I enjoyed every single minute of this trip. I crossed nearly 1/3 of the planet, watched sceneries changing rapidly as images ran before my eyes, visited 3 different countries, took a dip into the deepest lake on the planet, I met new people, read, sang, helped myself to sleep with the sounds of the train and finally came back full of new images, happy and proud for making the decision to take this trip. I even took photos to pass through generations – I’ll definitely be showing them to my grandchildren!
For more ideas about which route to pick, click here
To check a list of what documentation you’ll need, click here
To check the list of essentials for the trip, click here
Translation from Greek to English: Elena Ageorgiti