The Trans-Siberian Railway, stretching almost 5,000 miles from Moscow to Beijing, is one of the world’s greatest rail journeys, as it has been beckoning great travelers and adventurers since being constructed in the early part of the 20th century.
There are three routes on the Trans-Siberian Railway, all of which lead from Moscow to the Pacific. The original route travels from Moscow to Vladivostok on Russia’s Pacific coast, bypassing China altogether. A separate route travels from Moscow to Beijing via Manchuria and the city of Harbin. Finally, the third and most popular route makes the journey from Moscow to Beijing via the country of Mongolia.
This route is the most popular for a reason, as it’s absolutely amazing! From the mountain passes outside of Beijing in Inner Mongolia to the Gobi Desert and vast steppes of Mongolia, the journey manages to pack in a heap of scenery all before even arriving in frozen and beautiful Siberia.
What To Expect
Kick back and relax as the train plods its way across the exotic, barren landscapes. It seems that train travel tends to bring out the best in people, as the travelers on the trains are incredibly friendly and more than ready to strike up conversations with their fellow passengers.
The Chinese trains that make the route from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia) are large and comfortable. They’re well staffed and the dining cars offer affordable food that is reasonably well tasting.
The Russian trains that make the journey onward from Mongolia into Russia, on the other hand, are quite a bit less luxurious and tend to pack in the travelers a bit tighter, which stresses the inadequately numbered train attendants.
Who Will Love It
Anyone who fancies themselves a great adventurer or explorer will no doubt love their time on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Whether it’s the camaraderie with the fellow passengers, enjoying the meals in the dining car or just sightseeing out the window, the trip is rarely boring.
Who Will Be Disappointed
If you’re expecting an authentic rail journey that’s free of foreign tourists and offers insights into the everyday lives of the residents along the route, you may be disappointed. This rail journey, especially the Mongolia line, is very much for foreign tourists, as the passenger fares put the trip beyond the reach of ordinary residents and most urban dwellers would choose to fly instead of trekking across Eurasia by rail.
Be prepared for long stops at the international borders of at least five hours each. While there is a duty-free shop and plenty to buy at the Chinese-Mongolian border, it’s a different story at the Russian-Mongolian border where the town is shockingly short of tourist-friendly amenities. More so, the train from Ulaanbaatar to Irkustk in Siberia does not have a dining car, so make sure to bring plenty of snacks!