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“Practical information”

Trans-Siberian Railway - Day Trips
Ranked #3 of 104 Tours in Siberian District
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: The longest train journey in the world - spanning 7 time zones and 9071 kms. This inconic journey still provides an experience that is unsurpassed. Pack your spirit of adventure and climb aboard.
Reviewed 25 September 2017

We took the Trans-Mongolian from Moscow to Beijing. Hopefully some of this practical detail will help anyone thinking of taking the plunge.

Overall the journey is a bit like attending a music festival without the music. If you've ever been to festivals or done lots of camping you will be fine. Do not expect luxury. We weren’t bored for a single moment. Watching the world go by and chatting to family & fellow travellers was endlessly interesting.

Buffet cars are not 24hr, and are often expensive. Food/drink on platforms is very cheap. We found it difficult to buy alcohol from platform sellers, it maybe illegal for them to sell it. Some larger stations stock beer.

We took our 10yr old son. He struggled a bit but like us he settled into the dreamy train life after a day or so. There were quite a few other children travelling and provided they have entertainment with them there should be no problem. We took a tablet, pens/paper, playing cards, books, and a travel journal for him to record his experiences.

The time zones freaked us out a little. It wasn't until we were fairly close to Irkutsk that we realised we'd been living on Moscow time for four days and needed to adjust.


Moscow - Irkutsk
We didn't get tickets for the best train (#002) despite booking with a tour company many months ahead. Train #070 turned out to be ok but got hot and smelly when at a standstill. Staff were professional, restaurant food very average. Wine/beer was good but expensive. Our second class carriage had two working power points. We bought Russian SIM cards from the phone shop in Domodedovo Airport (departures, second floor). Very helpful staff here who recommended Yota SIMs that worked all the way to Mongolia. There is 3G coverage near towns & cities only.

Irkutsk – Ulan Bataar
Train #362. Still basic but a step up since it didn’t stink. There was no power in second class cabins so several sockets in the corridor were in high demand. Sadly the provodnista on this train treated her passengers like vermin: we were shouted at, forcibly pushed in the corridors and made to feel like barriers to her obsessive cleaning schedule. Excellent restaurant car – people having fun, pleasant staff. We did not eat but the food looked good.

Ulan Bataar – Beijing
Train #024. Second class carriages were plush, staff were fantastic. One power socket in cabin. Separate sinks at the end of the carriage for cleaning cups/bowls and for cleaning human bodies - very civilised! Restaurant car was dirty and sad, the menu was hand written on a notepad. We stuck with our own food supplies.


Essentials for the journey: food, local currency, anti-bacterial gel, toilet paper, wet wipes, kitchen roll, penknife, sandals/slippers, USB power pack.

13  Thank stickmonster
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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11 - 15 of 283 reviews

Reviewed 22 September 2017 via mobile

Just completed the trip from Moscow to Irkutsk. Three days/four sleepless nights. We purchased first class tickets. What a disappointment. The compartments are small with no air conditioning and you are unable to open a window. The food in the restaurant is very average and the service in the restaurant and from the carriage staff was below poor. The scenery is stark but stunning. Not a trip I would recommend to most travellers.

8  Thank KerryL2803
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 21 September 2017

We arrived in Beijing on August 28 2017 for the start of our 15 day Trans-Siberian adventure. We had a couple of days in Beijing with organised tours & also some free time. We hadn't been before so it was all new to us. The Great Wall was a must see & Tian Anmen Square.

The train from Beijing is very basic make sure that you have plenty of bottled water with you to start your journey as we sat in our carriage for a long time & we gave some of our water away to those in need.

Ulan-Bataar is beautiful & the night in the Ger was a great experience. I can not fault any of the tours.

The Imperial Russia train was fantastic. Our friends had a VIP carriage & we had the next level down from that. They had an ensuite & a larger bottom bunk. We had 1 set of bunks & shared a shower with the cabin beside us. There was a toilet at each end of the carriage. The food was the same for all passengers & plenty of it.

If you are travelling with a partner or friend someone has to sleep on the top bunk. It was a huge challenge for a lot of the older people. I would suggest either the VIP cabin or a separate cabin if you can't climb.

In all we had the most amazing holiday & I only wish we had more time in Moscow.

7  Thank pitman2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 12 September 2017

We took 18 days travelling from Beijing to Moscow, including stops in Ulaanbaatar and Irkutsk. In total we had 6 days and 6 nights on the train. We started our journey on train 23, which is either a Chinese or Mongolian train depending on the day of departure. Our Monday train was a Mongolian, which was almost empty as the Chinese tend to book on the Chinese train. We had booked a hard class cabin with four berths for the three of us (2 adults and a 13 year old) but found ours was the only occupied cabin in the carriage. The Mongolian carriage attendant kept the toilets spotless for the duration of the trip. We met up with a handful of fellow travellers in the Chinese dining car and whilst the food wasn’t great, the beer was cold and we had a very enjoyable evening. Leg two of our journey was from UB to Irkutsk on train 263. This really isn’t the best train to catch as it takes two nights and a day, and you travel around Lake Baikal overnight, which is a great shame. The only advantage of the 263 is that you can book it in advance, whereas berths on train 5 (which goes around the lake in the daytime) can only be booked once the train has already left UB if you want to stop at Irkutsk. If you are going all the way through to Moscow then this isn’t a problem. If you are pushed for time and don’t want to risk not getting a cabin, then you might have to opt for the 263 and of course if you are stopping in Irkutsk then you get to visit the lake anyway. Our train left UB at 20.40 in the evening. The border crossing on this stretch was very slow. Our solo carriage arrived at Sukhbaator on the Mongolian border at about 5.30 am but passport checking didn’t start until about 8am, so we didn’t need to get up straight away. Toilets are locked for this period, but they were available at the station. You do need to pay, so make sure you keep hold of a few togrog. Actually, the platform loos were clean, so it is worth taking the opportunity for a wash as there is plenty of time. We were shunted over to the Russian side after about 4 hours at the border, where there were further checks and searches. Again, it was possible to get off the train (it’s 16 Rubles for the toilets here). Also, just outside the station was a little shop for water and other supplies. We bought some savoury pastries from a couple of women outside the shop, which were tasty and appeared to be freshly made. We were finally on our way again after about 10 hours at the border. The third leg of our trip was from Irkutsk to Moscow on train 5. We left at 16.05 local time on Wednesday and arrived 13.58 Moscow time on Saturday. We had a comfortable 4 person second class cabin between the three of us. The Provodnitsa in charge of the carriage was reasonably friendly and kept everything clean, including vacuuming each day. There were power sockets in the corridor, although a number of Russian travellers had extension flexes to connect them to their own cabins. We had one meal in the Russian dining car, which looked fabulous but was expensive for rather bland food. It is definitely worthwhile bringing food with you – the supermarkets in UB and Irkutsk were really good and there is plenty of hot water for instant noodles and drinks. We booked our train tickets in the UK before departure through Real Russia. Paper tickets for the first two legs were delivered to our hotels (booked through booking.com). For the final leg we had e-tickets, which were emailed to us before we left home. We’ve talked about doing this trip for years and we are so glad that we have finally done it. Fantastic experience!

11  Thank HappyFamily0f3
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 16 August 2017

I did a 17 day trip from Moscow to Beijing via Irkutsk on the Trans-Mongolian Line involving 7 of those night on board the train.
Before I review the actual trip I will cut to the chase with information I would have wanted before my trip!
The carriages are very clean and comfortable. Thete is plenty of room in each compartment for 4 people with ample storage for 4 people's luggage under the seats and above the door. There's a small table by the window.
There is air conditioning, mercifully. On the Moscow to Irkutsk leg it is pretty good, Irkutsk to Ulaan Baatar it's okay and from Ulaan Baatar to Beijing it is positively chilly so pack a sweater! The only time things get unbearable is at Erlian on the Chinese border when the train is stopped with everyone on it, hoisted into the air and the bogies changed to the different gauge wheels. The aircon is off for the 6ish hours and that's not pleasantly in the Gobi desert in summer!
The restauant car is a good place to relax and have a cold beer and chat to fellow passengers. On the Moscow to Irkutsk leg the food was okay without being anything special. You can call in whenever. The Irkutsk to UB leg has a fantastically decorative restaurant car but dinner is booked in advance. There is no dining car between UB and Beijing.
The trains are very punctual and pull out exactly on time. If you have a stop in a station it will leave without you. If time is lost it is made up but if you are told to the minute what time to reboatd be there 5 minutes before!
Nearly every platform has kiosks selling sweets, fruit, non perishable and ice cream. The stops are great to get fresh air and stretch the legs but don't count on hot meals! Very basic foodstuff only so bring plenty of food with you before your initial boarding.
The toilets are grim enough to be honest. They are not awful or anything but don't count on any comfort! Thete are no showers, none whatsoever so bring baby wipes.
The linen provided is excellent except from UB to Beijing when it was absolutely filthy. "The linen belongs to the bed not the petson" is the mantra we were quoted! Meaning it's recycled. Absokuteky hortiblecabd so out of kerpingvwith the Chinese train which was the most modern and clean of the whole journey. So bring a sleeping bag liner.
Bring a headlight too if you mean to read. The lighting is perfectly adequate but a bit weak if you are reading for any length of time.
And now to the trip, Such an adventure in the truest sense of the word.
Lonely rural stations with babushka on the platforms selling fruit, dried fish and sausages, endless silver birch that look aflame in the setting sun, red sunsets, grassy steppe, charming dachias, soviet era tractors and reapers, lines and lines of soldiers standing in rank and file on the platforms catching the train to wild and isolated bases, friendly locals, cheap vodka, functional dining car meals, Lenin statues, communist murals hanging on for desr life against time and progress, little children on platforms practising their English snd squealing in delight when you reply, horrendous kitch Russian music, Siberian Crown beer, platform kiosks, rocking to sleep in tiny cabins as the train trundles by ever eastward...
Through Yaroslavl at 282km on the Volga, a city which lost its entire ice hockey squad to a plane crash in 2011
To Perm at 1429km and it's searingly sad Perm 36 Gulag Camp...
To the magnificent Yekaterinburg at 1818km, capital of The Urals and where Tzar Nicholas II and his entire family of Romanovs were executed in a basement in 1918, birthplace of Boris Yelsin...
To Omsk at 2712km, where Dostoevsky was imprisoned, where the Bolsheviks intended their capital to be had they held out, closed to foreigners until 1990 due to airline/space research...
To the gargantuan industrial powerhouse of Novosibirsk at 3335km, capital of Siberia with a defiant elegance and staunchly proud identity....
To the surprisingly enchanting and beguiling Krasnoyarsk at 4098km, once upon a time the centre of the Siberian Gulag system...
To Irkutsk at 5185km, the most popular stop on the line as it is where the Trans Mongolian and Trabsiberian lines junction, a city of students, idyllic wooden houses and eastern promise...
To Listvyanka by the shore of the world's deepest lake. ..Baikal.
Then Trans-Mongolian trundles on, South from the charming Siberian city of Irkutsk...
To Ulan Ude at 5641km, the last big Russsian town we will hit, it's name translates as 'Red Gate and it's famous for the world's biggest Lenin head standing in its main square, 25ft high and 70 tonnes in weight...
To the point of no return at 5622km when we cross the Selrenga River and the line junctions. It's either straight on to Vladivostock or branch South to Mongolia...
At 5902km we arrive at the border town of Naushki. Passports are checked by the Russians, bags are scoured by sniffer dogs, morale is sapped in 30 degree heat as we are all forced off the train to wait for nearly 5 hours before the guards come back and do the passports again. Irish passports seem to cause a stir, radios are used, eyebrows are raised, stern voices and joyless faces- our first in Russia- eventually pass me through with a begruding grunt. Naushki is a hovel but then again most border towns are. The last of the Russian vodka flows, beers are poured and we cross the 21km no man's land between Nauschki and the Mongolian border town of Sukhbatar.
Copious fields of guard towers and barbed wire slip by and we roll into Mongolia. My border guard is a ringer for Fatima Whitbread but hairier but in fairness she stamps the passport, makes a grim smile and waves me on with a suitably masculine grunt.
A walk in Sukbatar feels like a walk at Limerick junction. Something you know you have no business doing but you do for want of anything better to detain you. It's a hovel but it's not it's fault. Mongolia is immediately noticeably poorer and the people make the best of what they have.
Horses go by pulling carts, kids play in forlorn ill equipped playgrounds, old men sit and ferment in the sun with vodka bottles in front of them. The dust blow up the streets like it's dying to get away but through it all are smiles. An old woman gives us mutton dumplings, little girls in fsntastic colured dresses come up on the platform to practice their English and their smiles. Mongolia we soon learn has over 99% literacy, second only to Japan. The kids rattle of the phrases and love our attempts to reciprocate in Mongolian.
At last we move on on a gloriously venerable old Mongolian train that has neither dining car nor air con. It rolls and lists across the steppe, breaks down once of twice, groans, grinds and limps it's way through the night until at last, in the gloaming of the dawn we approach the capital, Ulaan Baatar....
6307km and Ulaan Baatar is a cracking town. It is heaving at the moment for Nadaam, the national festival. There are parades of people in tribal costume, flag and banner displays, military parades in Chinngis Khan square under the watchful eye of the 12th century warrior himself as he gazes down in bronze from the parliament building.
Nadaam has games, horse racing, archery and wrestling and the town is captivated by it. Of course we go to the national stadium, and such a sight to see with a cornucopia of characters and a kaleidoscope of colours. It's 12000 Tugriks in (about €5) and the place erupts when various wrestlers- local favourites and dastardly highlanders are dumped on their backs, the only requirement for victory. The locals howl with derision, cheer with unadulterated pride, gasp in anguish and flush with pride.
We deviate from the train line for a couple of days in the incredible Gorky- Terelj National Park and stay in a traditional Ger Camo, cosy little tents with fireplace, animal skin walls and ornate woodem beds. Mongolian vodka flows under the twinkling stars, horses are ridden, camels too, arrows are shot with traditional bows and arrows and we hike through the hills through forests and grasslands.
The last of Mongolia for us was a morning spent out at Terelj National Park with a nomad family, true warriors of the steppe. They eke out an existence farming horses and we try a frisky mares milk and small curd stick made from same as we sit in a circle and grimace.
All around their Ger are the signs of the encroachment of the modern world- a TV with a big satellite dish, a fridge, cell phones and unbelievably, yet practically, solar panels hanging on each side of the tent bringing life giving power to its inhabitants. They are losing their way these nomads as more and more of their young stay in the city with their school days behind them, the easier life, the modern one.
As the train rolls out of Ulaan Baatar bound for China I am genuinely sad to leave this wonderful country behind, an exotic outpost sandwiched between the superpower of Mother Russia and the global economic powerhouse of modern emergent China, fighting the good fight to successfully retain an identity that is all its own.
The Chinese train is new and pristine as it rolls out onto the steppe and very quickly the scenery starts to slowly fade to desert as the Gobi approaches. The grass gets scarcer and coarser turning to the rocky scrub that characterises this great desert, only 2% is sand dunes despite the perception. We stop a lonely outposts like Choir at 6551km, bleakly beautiful but dusty and searing. Real ends of the earth stuff
At 6778km we stop at Sainshand and get out to meet the fleet of pram pushing old ladies selling our last Mongolian meal before the border at Zamyn Uud on 7015km. The sunsets are increduble acorss the endless rock and clumpy grass habging on for dear life. Time to shed the last of the tired old Tugriks, a closed currency unexchsngeable anywhere outside the Mongol nation.
At Erlian 2kms later we are in China with a predictably red stamp in the passport and a curious process begins. The Chinese rails are a different gauge you see, 4mm bigger than the Russian and Mongolian ones. Or is it narrower. I forget. So the quirky sight is there for all to see as the train is split in two, hoisted about 9 feet in the air on huge winches, with everyone still on board, and the bogies are detatached and rolled from underneath. The new ones are rolled in on a sort of conveyor belt before the train is ready to continue. All this takes the guts of 4 hours though and in the stifling heat of a Gobi night it is tough on us all without power or air con.
But eventually we roll on towards Beijing and strength sapped we collapse into our bunks.
Morning brings the greenery, lakes, mountains and hydro electric stations of China. And people. My God the amount of people. There's barely an inch left unsettled, a huge contrast to the vast emptiness of Mongolia. In China it must be pretty much impossible to be alone..
And after a gargantuan 7859km we finally glide into Beijing station and alight with a strange mix of euphoria and regret, the sense of achievement is tempered by the realisation that the great travel adventure is over. It's hot, it's busy, it teems with people, it's energy, it's neon, it's noise, it's smog. It's amazing.
What an adventure the Trans Mongolian has been. A real trip of a lifetime. And though The Great Wall, Forbidden Palce, Tiananmen Square and Temple Heaven Park follow it was the journey that was the joy.
I hope I have plenty of travel and adventure left in me yet but I also know that this was an odyssey like no other. I shall not see it's like again

42  Thank Bozeman-Dublin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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