So it is only two weeks until Rich and I depart on our big trip. Before we leave I wanted to tell you all about the first part on the Trans-Mongolian Railway.
You have probably heard of the Trans-Siberian Railway. However a lot of people do not know that there are actually three routes; the Trans-Siberian, the Trans-Mongolian and the Trans-Manchurian.
We decided to do the Trans-Mongolian route. This traditionally starts in Moscow. You then travel east across Russia to Ulan Ude where you then turn south and enter Mongolia. In Mongolia the train stops in Ulaanbaatar, the capital, and then goes into China where it finishes in Beijing.
Another common misconception about this journey is that it is a single train that you get on in Moscow and then you travel non-stop all the way through Mongolia, to China. This is possible and some people do it this way. You can however break the journey up into multiple smaller train journeys all organised and booked individually. This allows you to be able to explore each location on route rather than spending 7 days straight on a train, which I personally would find a bit intense. We will be doing the whole journey over a period of nearly two months. We get into Russia on 12th June and we will be arriving in Beijing on 8th August. Our route is plotted below on the map.
As we are visiting Russia during the summer (peak season) we have pre-planned our route and booked our accommodation and trains in advance. This allows us to maximise our time and to make sure we get cheap but good quality accommodation. Although we are not doing the journey all in one go we do get our fair share of long train journeys, our longest being from Yekaterinburg to Krasnoyarsk which is 34 hours!
For anyone thinking of doing this route there have been some really useful websites we have used to help plan the trip. The first is www.seat61.com which is an amazing hub of information on all elements of train travel written by an English gentleman called Mark Smith. He has a passion for train travel and has created this website to inspire and enable more train travel. The second is www.realrussia.co.uk which is a travel agency which offers help and advice from visas to train times to tours. You could book everything through a travel agent like Real Russia however we decided to book straight through the Russian train organisation which is my final recommendation http://pass.rzd.ru/. It’s a little hard to navigate at first but it does have an English section and you do get used it. This approach has allowed us to get the cheapest possible price for our train tickets as there were no added agency fees.
The thing that excites me most about this first part of our journey is that we are travelling so far by rail. Russia itself is the largest country in the world covering more than one-eighth of the Earth’s inhabited land area. The journey in total is 7,621 km (4,735 mile) from Moscow to Beijing. We start in Europe where the culture is recognisable, we cross the Europe/Asia border in Yekaterinburg and as we go further east the people and culture will transform as the neighbouring countries change. In addition to the diversity of Russia we also get to visit Mongolia, a nomadic country I know very little about, and China, which I briefly visited in 2012 and where I am excited to return.