Planning Your Trans-Siberian Railway Trip
The Trans-Siberian railway does not require any special introduction. It is renowned for being the longest railway network in the world running from Moscow all the way of 9 289 km (~5 800 mi) to Vladivostok located at the Russia’s Pacific coast. The Trans-Siberian Railway is also a well-known tourist destination. Most of the westerners who are interested in Russia or consider traveling to Russia have probably heard about the Trans-Siberian. It has been the popular tourist brand since 1980s when Intourist − the Soviet-time tourist monopoly − started operating first train tours.
Classic Trans-Siberian Railway track runs from Moscow till Vladivostok at Russia’s Far East. Many people are keen to experience the longest train ride in the world from west to east, from Europe to Asia, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. However, this is only one out of 3 possible train routes. After crossing East Siberia a bit to the east of Lake Baikal two more lines branch off the main Trans-Siberian track. Probably, most of western travelers prefer to head for Ulan-Bator (Mongolia) and further to Beijing (China) on one of these two lines called the Trans-Mongolian railway. Even though, it is not regarded as the “Classic Trans-Siberian” many of the travelers choose this route since both Ulan-Bator and Beijing are much more important tourist destinations.
Some travelers want to cover all the way through the continent by Trans-Siberian train. But few brave people do this continuously. The majority plan to stop off along the way breaking up the long train ride for sightseeing in different Russian cities. At the same time, there are lots of tourists who do not intend to travel the whole distance and are interested only in some particular destinations. Such travelers usually take the train ride at only some segment of the Trans-Siberian line, e.g. from Moscow to Lake Baikal or from Lake Baikal to Ulan-Bator/Beijing.
In turn, there are also many people who are not really fond of the idea of living in the train for such a long period time at all. But they still do want to experience the Trans-Siberian train. For these guests we suggest to substitute the longest part of the way, e.g. from Moscow to Irkutsk, for the air flight (6 or 7 flights per day). Virtually, one can even fly between many smaller regional cities in Siberia instead of taking a train, though, some of the cities may have only occasional air connections, e.g. two or three times a week.
We still advise our guests to take a shorter, yet probably the most picturesque shoulder of the railway track which runs right along the shoreline of Lake Baikal from Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude. It takes only a day-time train ride to get an overall impression of the train travel and you can be starring out of the cabin window at Lake Baikal mirror-like surface this day.
When it comes to choosing a train for the Trans-Siberian travel there is a great number of options to consider. In our tours, we usually quote train tickets for regular Russian trains and for superior “Rossiya” express train to compare. Train 001/002 “Rossiya” is a flagship train of the Russian Railways. It is the top-quality yet the most expensive one on the Russian portion of the Trans-Siberian railway. In this train you can meet many fellow travelers from all over the globe. Besides that, there are many less fancy regular Russian trains. They are a bit more basic, travel a few hours longer due to more frequent stops, but are much more reasonably priced. These trains are often used by Russians to commute between small Siberian cities that do not have airports. Choose your train for the Trans-Siberian tour
During summer season most of the trains have both 1-st class (2-bunk cabins) and 2-nd class (4-bunk cabins). Many trains have an option to include meals (breakfasts and dinners) into train ticket fares. Meals are served right into the train cabin. Since there are so many options to choose from we do not include the train fares into the tour cost, but show it separately to allow travelers making their own choice of train based on their travel style and budget. Accommodation in train cabins
Common Places to Stop
Most Trans-Siberian travelers visit several destinations in Russia and often cover Mongolia and China on the same trip. It would be a shame to travel that far and not stop anywhere. Stopovers break up the trip and offer views of some different places.
Moscow - the capital and the biggest city in Russia - and St. Petersburg often referred as the Northern Capital are the must-see destinations especially for the first time visitors in Russia. City of Yekaterinburg located at the Ural Mountains just a day ride east of Moscow is worth a day to see the old center of the city and the new church built to commemorate the Romanov’s family that was murdered here by Bolsheviks.
Novosibirsk and Krasnoyarsk are the biggest cities further in Siberia. Both cities are relatively young. During Soviet era these two became very important scientific and economic centers of Russia's Siberia. Our guests normally do not stop there unless they would want to take a break from traveling in a limited space train cabin, to sleep in a hotel with descent-sized bed and to stretch legs walking out at the streets.
Irkutsk perhaps is the most popular stopover along the way. It is worth staying a day in the city to see old wooden architecture which did not survive in large Russian cities like Moscow. Then, one can spend from several to dozens of days exploring different locations at Lake Baikal from rough rocky shoreline at the south-west to sand beaches of the east coast and dense taiga forests in the northern portion of the lake.
Ulan-Ude city east of Lake Baikal is the center of Buddhist religion in Russia with the most important Buddhist temple − Ivolginskiy Datsan. Being located on the crossroads of cultures Ulan-Ude is also a home for the Old Believers of Buryatia who are Orthodox Russians exiled to Siberia in the XVII-th century after the church reforms carried out by patriarch Nikon. They managed to preserve their culture, traditions and the unique singing style.
For two other nights, we do not suggest to make any stops passing the endless frozen steppes of Zabaikalye until you reach Khabarovsk and Vladivostok that are two major centers competing for being called the capital of the Russia’s Far East.
Since we are located in Russia, but not at the markets where most of our clients come from, we do not have any fixed departure dates for joint group tours. All our guests travel by regular Russian trains by themselves while we take care of their program in each city where they schedule stopovers. At all destinations our tours include overwhelming program with excursions led by experienced local guides, private transport for transfers and sightseeing as well as nights in decent hotels specialized in hosting western guests. These are all individual tours with private transfers and private local English-speaking guides. Tours are easily customized: one may add or subtract days from the program or any of the particular services. Trans-Siberian tours
Russian Entry Visa
We will not be able to help processing Russian visas for our guests. Travelers need to submit their passport and a set of documents needed for visa application to any Russian consulate by themselves. However, we provide all necessary visa support for that. We will fax or email visa support documents that are requested by all Russian consulates worldwide. The package includes invitation letter, tour voucher and the letter of confirmation. These three papers are enough to have short-term tourist visa granted. We always suggest to phone the closest Russian consulate to ask about the details of the application procedure and estimate if there is time sufficient for you to have visa granted before your departure to Russia. Russian visa support