Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian railway


Overview

Trans-Siberian Railway travel guide, including map of Siberia, top Trans-Siberian Railway experiences, tips for Trans-Siberian Railway travel, when to ride the

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!

Further Reading

Trans-Siberian Railway Top 5

  1. Strike out from Perm, the gateway to Siberia, for hiking, skiing and rafting trips. Lying in the foothills of the Ural Mountains, and inspiration for Yuryatin in Dr Zhivago, this industrial city is a great base, with local operators able to arrange a glut of activities.
  2. Soak up the history of Yekaterinburg, where the Socialist era was ushered in following the murder of the Romanovs in 1918. Don't miss the Black Rose, the Afghanistan War monument, which commemorates the loses from the 1979-1989 war.
  3. Stop off at Lake Baikal for stunning scenery, ancient cultures and myriad activities. Known as the 'Blue Eye of Siberia', the lake is a beauty, and offers wealth of activities: take a summer cruise, trek around the shores (there are some fascinating monasteries) and even ice-dive in winter.
  4. Roam around laid-back Irkutsk, where many of the streets are lined with the cosy, log-cabin-style architecture typical of the region. Temperatures dip to -20°C in winter so wrap up warm in order to wander the streets and soak up Siberia at its most chilled out.
  5. Take the Trans-Mongolian spur of the railway via Ulaanbaatar, the relaxed capital of Mongolia. Stay in the city to wander its fossil-filled museum, and then strike out: it's a great base for further forays into the country, including trips out onto the steppe to ride horses and stay in yurts (felt tents).