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The Trans-Mongolian Railway: How to do it Yourself and Highlights

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The Trans-Mongolian train is a one-of-a-kind experience that takes you on a journey through the heart of Russia, Mongolia and China. This legendary railway offers a unique opportunity to explore some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the world, while enjoying the comfort and convenience of a train journey. Here’s a closer look at what you can expect when traveling on the Trans-Mongolian train.

The Sign on the Side of the Train.

The route

The Trans-Mongolian train starts in Moscow, Russia and travels east through the Ural Mountains, passing through Kazan and Yekaterinburg before crossing the border into Siberia. The train then travels across the vast expanses of Siberia, passing through cities such as Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude before crossing the border into Mongolia. From there, the train continues on to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, before crossing the border into China and traveling on to Beijing.

A Map of the Different Routes That You Can Take

The journey

The Trans-Mongolian train journey is a true adventure, offering a chance to explore some of the most remote and rugged landscapes in the world. As the train travels through Siberia and Mongolia, you’ll pass through dense forests, rolling grasslands and majestic mountain ranges. Along the way, you’ll also have the opportunity to experience the local culture and customs, with stops in small towns and villages where you can explore the markets, try local food and meet the friendly locals.

Don’t miss out on the captivating tales of the Thousand Camel Festival in my blog.

I also invite you to explore my captivating photo project that showcases the fascinating lives of Mongolian nomads in the enchanting landscapes of the Gobi Desert.

The accommodation

The Trans-Mongolian train offers a range of accommodation options, from budget-friendly hard sleeper berths to more comfortable soft sleeper cabins. The first-class cabins are the most comfortable, providing a private space with a comfortable bed, table, and sometimes even a private shower. The most common classes on the train are:

  • Hard Sleeper: This is the most budget-friendly option and typically consists of a compartment with six beds (upper, middle, and lower) that are separated by curtains. The beds are typically made of wood and can be a bit narrow, and there is a shared washroom at the end of the carriage (this can be a squat toilet in some trains so if your have a shorter journey try to go to the toilet before you get on).
  • Soft Sleeper: This is a step up from hard sleeper and provides more comfort and privacy. The compartment typically has four beds (upper and lower), and the beds are usually wider and more comfortable. The cabins also have a door that can be closed for privacy.
  • First-Class Sleeper: This is the most comfortable option and offers a private cabin with two beds (upper and lower). The cabins are usually larger, more luxurious and have more amenities such as air conditioning, a reading light, and power outlets. Some trains even have private bathrooms and showers.
  • Luxury trains: Some trains offer luxury cabins that are even more upscale than the first-class cabins. These cabins offer amenities such as en-suite bathrooms, private balconies, and other luxuries.

It’s important to keep in mind that the amenities and services offered in each class may vary depending on the specific train and operator. So it’s a good idea to research and check with the operator before booking your tickets.

The food

The food on the train can be a bit hit or miss, so it’s a good idea to bring your own snacks and drinks. Some trains have a dining car, but the options are limited and can be expensive. Some trains have western food but the majority are traditional Russian and Chinese food. Be open to try new food and you might find something you like. I wasn’t a big fan of the Russian food.

The Trans-Mongolian train is a journey like no other, offering a chance to explore some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the world while enjoying the comfort and convenience of a train journey. With a well-planned itinerary, you’ll be able to make the most of your time on the Trans-Mongolian train and see the destinations that interest you the most. Be prepared for an unforgettable adventure!

Best places to stop off

The Trans-Mongolian train route offers a variety of destinations to explore, each with its unique culture, history and attractions. Here are some of the best places to stop off on the Trans-Mongolian train journey:

 

  • Moscow: The capital of Russia, Moscow is a must-see destination for any traveler. Known for its rich history, stunning architecture and cultural heritage, Moscow offers a wealth of attractions, including the Kremlin, Red Square, and St. Basil’s Cathedral.
  • Kazan: The capital of Tatarstan, Kazan is a fascinating destination that offers a unique blend of Tatar and Russian cultures. Visitors can explore the city’s many temples, museums and markets, or take a trip to the nearby Kazan Kremlin, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Yekaterinburg: A major city in the Ural Mountains, Yekaterinburg is known for its rich history and industrial heritage. Visitors can explore the city’s many museums and historical sites, such as the Church on the Blood, built on the site of the execution of the last Russian Tsar.
  • Irkutsk: A major city in Siberia, Irkutsk is known for its charming wooden architecture and its proximity to Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest lake. Visitors can take a boat tour of the lake, visit the Baikal Museum, or explore the nearby village of Listvyanka.
  • Novosibirsk: The largest city in Siberia, Novosibirsk is a fascinating destination that offers a glimpse into the region’s industrial heritage. Visitors can explore the city’s many museums and historical sites, such as the Novosibirsk Opera and Ballet Theater, one of the largest in Russia.
  • Ulan Ude: The capital of the Republic of Buryatia, Ulan Ude is a fascinating destination that offers a unique blend of Russian and Mongolian cultures. Visitors can explore the city’s Buddhist temples and museums, or take a trip to the nearby Ivolginsky Datsan, an important Buddhist center.I also found the local market there to be a great place to pick up a few good deals, don’t be afraid to haggle.
  • Ulaanbaatar: The capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar is a bustling city that offers a glimpse into the country’s nomadic heritage. Visitors can explore the city’s many temples, museums and markets, or take a trip to the nearby Terelj National Park to see the famous “Turtle Rock” formation and enjoy horseback riding or hiking. I would strongly recommend stopping off here and grabbing atour to the Gobi desert. Tours are easy to find and range from a few days to a few months.
    Our personal experience was with “.” and it was nothing short of amazing. We had an incredible time exploring the wonders of the Gobi Desert.
  • Beijing: The capital of China, Beijing is a fascinating destination that offers a wealth of historical and cultural attractions, including the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Summer Palace. Visitors can also explore the city’s many hutongs (traditional alleyways) and enjoy the local street food. If you do stop off in Beijing and you are feeling adventurous then check out the Wangfujing market.

These are just a few of the many destinations that the Trans-Mongolian train route has to offer. Each stop has its own unique charm and history, and they are all worth a visit. Keep in mind that the Trans-Mongolian train route is a long one, so plan your itinerary accordingly and make the most of your time at each destination.

The Train Between Russia and Mongolia.

Making your own way

I would suggest making your own itinerary on the Trans-Mongolian, it can be a great way to customize your trip and see the destinations that interest you the most. It can also save you a lot of money. Here are some tips to help you plan your itinerary:

  1. Research your destinations: Before you plan your itinerary, research the different destinations along the Trans-Mongolian route and decide which places you want to visit. I would highley recommend Moscow, Ulaanbaatar, Irkutsk and Beijing.
  2. Plan your route: The Trans-Mongolian train route runs from Moscow to Beijing, but there are several different branches and stops along the way. Plan your route based on the destinations you want to visit and the amount of time you have.
  3. Decide on a travel style: Will you be taking the train nonstop or will you be stopping to explore destinations? If you plan on stopping, make sure to schedule enough time in each destination to see the sights and experience the local culture. Also be sure to check coach options, some people are not suited for a 20 hour train ride in 3rd.
  4. Check visa requirements: Make sure you have all the necessary visas for the countries you’ll be visiting. Some destinations may require a visa in advance, so be sure to plan ahead.
  5. Book your train tickets: Once you have your itinerary planned, book your train tickets. Keep in mind that tickets can sell out quickly, so be sure to book in advance. I recommend this website as it is the one I used.
  6. Make a packing list: Make a list of everything you’ll need to pack for your trip, including clothing, toiletries and travel documents. Keep in mind weather conditions as you travel and what you plan to do. I always leave a little extra space for souvenirs or anything I might buy during the trip.
  7. Make sure to check the train times: The train times can get a bit confusing so make sure to always check that you are on the correct time and the train will arrive at the time you expect, this almost caught me out a few times.The Trans-Mongolian trains run on Moscow time (expressed in 24-hour military time) no matter what time zone each station is in. For example, Irkutsk, Siberia, is five hours ahead of Moscow time, but the clocks on the train will show Moscow time.

With a well-planned itinerary, you’ll be able to make the most of your time on the Trans-Mongolian train and see the destinations that interest you the most. Remember that flexibility is key, be open to change if something unexpected happens.

However, if planning seems overwhelming, don’t worry! We provide planning services to ensure a seamless trip that saves you both time and money. Enquire about our services here and embark on your adventure with peace of mind. Happy travels!

Conclusion

Bugrinsky Bridge in Novosibirsk.

So to round it all off. Any variation, be it the Trans-Siberian, Trans Mongolina or the Trans – Manchurianis an unforgettable experience that offers a unique opportunity to explore some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the world. I would recommend stopping off along the way and not just taking the train directly to your destination.

When planning your trip, it’s important to research the different destinations along the route and decide which places you want to visit. There are budget options on the train and these themselves can be an adventure on their own.

If you prefer a hassle-free experience and significant cost savings, our planning services are here to assist you. Enquire about our services here and set off on your adventure with peace of mind. Wishing you unforgettable and joyful travels!

Some pictures sourced from pixabay, freepik and pexels.

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