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Trans-Siberian Handbook

Trans-Siberian Handbook

Route planning

Contents | Introduction | Individual itineraries or organised tours? | Route planning | What to take | Sample Route Guide: Trans-Siberian Route and map 1 | Other railway lines linked to the Trans-Siberian | Best of Trans-Siberian



Main services
The table opposite is a summary of some major Siberian train services. For timetables and other details see pp507-12, but note that timetables are subject to change. There may be occasional one-hour variations on account of differences between countries in implementing Daylight Saving Time.
    Local times are given in the table below but note that official Russian timetables use Moscow Time only.
    The trains that run across Siberia are working services used by local people, and they’re very popular. On most routes they run to capacity, especially in summer (when additional services may be laid on). Buying tickets as you go along isn’t too difficult, as some Russians usually leave it to the last minute, but booking in advance means getting the berth you want. Barring travelling in peak season, if you book a day before you want to travel, you’ll probably get what you want on the shorter sections, but you’ll need to book further in advance if you want a ticket for the whole route or for a longer section such as Irkutsk–Moscow.

Moscow to Vladivostok
There are many trains on the line between Moscow and Vladivostok, but the 001/002 Rossiya train is the top choice for speed and service, though it’s also noticeably more expensive than slower trains. There are other very good trains which cover shorter segments; these increase your options if you are making stopovers along the way.
    There are ferries from Vladivostok to Japan and Korea in the summer months (see box p352).

Moscow to Beijing: Trans-Manchurian or Trans-Mongolian?
You have two route choices between Moscow and Beijing: the Trans-Mongolian route via Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia, and the Trans-Manchurian route via Harbin in China. There are advantages and disadvantages with each.
    The Trans-Manchurian train is the 019/020 Vostok, while the Trans-Mongolian Moscow–Beijing service is the 003/004 (sometimes shown as 0033/ 0043), although there are additional, shorter-distance options including the 023/024 (Beijing–Ulaanbaatar) and 361/362 (Irkutsk–Naushki–Ulaanbaatar). Only the 003/004 offer de luxe 1st class carriages (see p114), although travellers who opt for kupé will find these carriages identical on both routes. Unless you’re American, Israeli or Indian you need a Mongolian transit visa on this route, even if you do not stop along the way. The Trans-Mongolian journey takes about 12 hours less than the Trans-Manchurian.
    Despite long-standing Trans-Siberian lore, there’s no difference between the restaurant cars on the two routes as these are supplied by the country through which you’re travelling. Both trains have weekly departures in each direction. Summer is the most difficult time to book a place on long-distance trains on either route, so make arrangements several months in advance.

Stopping off in Mongolia 

If you’re taking the Trans-Mongolian route, breaking your journey in Ulaanbaatar is highly recommended, particularly for stays with nomad families outside Ulaanbaatar, trips into the Gobi and visits to Khuvsgul Nuur, Lake Baikal’s smaller cousin in northern Mongolia. Ulaanbaatar is the headquarters of numerous tour agencies who can arrange all trips and relevant permits.


Trans-Siberian Handbook


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