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Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian railway

Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian railway travel guide

The Trans-Siberian Railway is the ultimate train journey: ride it for wild landscapes, Russian sight-seeing and drinking vodka with new friends

The Trans-Siberian is the world’s longest single-service railway, running for around 8,000km from Moscow across the vast expanse of Siberia.

Yes, a plane would be far faster – the Trans-Siberian Railway, ridden non-stop, takes around six days – but nothing else will give you such an intimate exposure to these unique landscapes, and the people that live in them.

There are three main lines: the classic Trans-Siberian Railway runs from Moscow to the Russian port of Vladivostok, on the Sea of Japan; the Trans-Mongolian follows the same route as far as Ulan Ude where it turns south for Beijing (via Mongolia); and the Trans-Manchurian, which chugs to Beijing via the Chinese city of Harbin (best seen during the Snow and Ice Festival in January).

All three routes offer the same stark but strangely hypnotic views out over Siberia. And all offer the authentic Trans-Siberian experience – days spent chatting/hand-signalling to Russian businessmen, Mongolian traders, Chinese students and other travellers over hot tea and vodka.

Carriages are comfy if not plush: most are kupé (second-class) with four berths or SV (first class) with two. Some Western operators offer luxury compartments (sometimes tacking opulent wagons onto the regular locomotives); these are wood-panelled and atmospheric but significantly more expensive.

Do get off the train occasionally. There are plenty of fascinating stops en route. Jewel in the crown is the Lake Baikal region; here you can take a dip in the world’s deepest lake, visit hidden Buddhist monasteries and eat smoked fish on quiet beaches.

But wherever you disembark there is no better way to see this remote region, and no greener way to travel. You just need to pick your route and get planning. All aboard!

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