Trans-Siberian Railway (Russia)
4 reviews from the community
Review of "Trans-Siberian Railway (Russia)"
I travelled on the Trans Siberian Railway as part of my journey home from Japan. it has always been an ambition to travel this famous railway and it didnt disappoint although there were times when I came close to going stir-crazy on the 7 day journey. We found our tour operator on the internet, Monkey Business, and they were extremely helpful, providing us with handbooks, detailed itineraries and organising homestays and accomodation in every place that we visited.My journey began in Beijing, the huge and fascinating capital of China. Of course, we had to take in the famous sights of the Palace Museum (Forbidden City) and the Summer Palace; and no trip to China could be complete with out a walk along the great wall. I found the peopl in Beijing to be friendly and helpful, in fact almost everywhere we went we found we had a little group of curious locals trailing behind, offering to help us with directions or just to enjoy the spectacle of two bewildered-looking white women. I should point out that anyone planning to visit the more remote stretches of great wall, such as Simitai, should go through a reputable tour operator. My friend and I decide to try and be intrepid, hiring a taxi only to be dropped in the middle of nowhere and fleeced of a fair portion of our cash. The destination was worth it, however and Simitai is beautiful, untouched for now by the tacky excesses of tourism.
But I want to concentrate on the train journey itself as China is another story altogether...The TranSiberian train journey itself is quite grueling. Between Beijing and Ulan Bator, the journey takes about 30 hours and is quite comfortable and the food in the restaurant car is quite palatable. From Ulan Bator to Moscow, the hard slog begins and the food on board makes a rapid decline in quality (see my opinion on Mongolia.)
We were on the train for 5 days between Ulan Bator and Moscow, sharing with two very burly Mongolian men. It can become very monotonous and unless you have a stopover there is little or no opportunity to stretch your legs off the train - in fact, I would warn you to be very careful if you decide to get off at one of the stations - the train's departure times are erratic and unpredictable and my companion nearly got left behind in Irkutsk! It is tempting, however as the tran siberian bazaar that spontaneously appears at every station, hawking anything from chandeliers to Celine Dion CDs, is fascinating.I should also point out that border checks never failed to be very long and sometimes quite intimidating, especially between china and Mongolia, where we waited 8 hours for the bogies to be changed in an isolated station with the worst toilets I have ever seen. The border guards all seem to be women, but dont expect them to be fair representatives of our gender - the Mongolian guard was huge with a shaven head, stilletto boots and a hat that could hold an entire country in its shadow: It pays to be polite! Also remember that once you pass the departure check, you have a short journey and then another equally tedious wait at the entry check. Make sure you go to the toilet as all doors are locked for the entire duration of border controls.
Of course the scenery is fascinating and stunning, miles of pine trees and Hansel and Gretel houses pass you by. lake Baikal seems to never end and stretches as far as you can see; when I was there it was an endless expanse of white.If you take the hardships in your stride and treat them as part of a unique experience you will have a wonderful and rewarding adventure. Dont feel put off by the prospect of occasional discomforts, and dont feel that this is a journey only for the most hardcore travellers (I did it!)
I will leave my comments Moscow for another opinion and will finish off with my list of essential items for the train journey:
Stock up on enough food for 5 days. We lived on dry bread and industrial strength jam for 5 days (not pleasant)
Change your dollars or yuan into roubles. It is a myth that Russians welcome the dollar, especially in Siberia, and you will go very hungry if you dont have viable currency.Bring entertainment - books, gameboy, skechpad, journal, cards.
Bring postcards or small trinkets that you can give to home stay hosts or people you meet on the train.toilet roll!!
a strong padlock for your belongings - the train is rife with opportunists. Someone attempted to break into our compartment nearly every night of the 5 day journey!camera and plenty of film - dont you dare go past the largest lake in the world without taking a photo!
If you exercise common sense and plan well, you cant fail to enjoy this epic trip spanning two continents.
Product Information : Trans-Siberian Railway (Russia)
Manufacturer's product description
Listed on Ciao since: 27/07/2000