Traveling to Lake Baikal: Railway
Irkutsk and Lake Baikal lie roughly on the half way from Moscow to Vladivostok along the Trans-Siberian Railway which is famous for being the longest railroad in the world. The railway line of 9,259 km (5,753 mi) is crossing 7 time zones. It takes 8 days to complete the non-stop journey. Though, many people prefer to stop off along the way breaking up the long train ride for sightseeing in Russian cities. Irkutsk perhaps is one of the most popular stopovers along the way.
Most of the tourist packages along the Trans-Siberian offer a program in Irkutsk for a couple of nights to visit the lake. From here one may continue his journey to Vladivostok along the classical Trans-Siberian route, or take a train to Ulan Bator (Mongolia) and Beijing (China) along the Trans-Mongolian line which heads south from Ulan-Ude city on the east shore of the lake. The third possible route called the Trans-Manchurian branches off the main railway track about 1,000 km (625 mi) east of Baikal and travels to China northern provinces from where it connects further to Beijing.
If traveling reverse way from Asia to European part of Russia, Irkutsk is a major railway station with numerous trains departing westwards to Moscow (via Krasnoyarsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg) and to St. Petersburg.
There are a lot of different trains to choose from. As a rule the greater train number is the slower it usually goes. Single digit trains like No.001 “Rossiya” express train and No. 009 “Baikal” express train are probably the fastest, surely the nicest, and yet the most expensive trains.
Russian Railways normally offer 3 classes of train carriages. 1-st class often called “lyuxe” or “SV” in Russian is a soft bed 2-berth compartment that can be found mostly in express trains. 2-nd class or “kupe” in Russian has 4-berth cabins and is the most popular among Russian as well as foreign travelers. There is also 3-rd class or so called “platzkartniy” carriage in Russian domestic trains. It is an open berth dormitory type of carriage mostly used by locals and sometimes budget travelers from abraod. 2-nd class is considered to be a standard; however, one can enjoy more space in 1-st class which is, in turn, at least twice more expensive. More about types of sleeping cars
Fares may vary significantly depending on the train number and season of traveling. The highest costs are during summer months and Russian national holidays (the first week of January and the first week of May). It is also important to know that Russian Railways Company starts selling domestic tickets only 45 days prior to train departure. International train tickets can be purchased 60 days before departure which is a little better, but still way too late for the most of our foreign guests who are used to planning their trip in advance.
For exact rates and reservations, please, contact one of our experienced operators, and we will try to find the cheapest option that fits to your itinerary well.
Please, also see schedules of Trans-Siberian departures at Irkutsk railway station and Trans-Siberian arrivals.