This summer I will embark on the Trans Siberian Railway. The train will take me through China, Mongolia, and Russia. The entire journey will last 48 days from Beijing, China to St. Petersburg, Russia. As you can imagine, there’s been quite a bit of planning and preparation that goes into planning a trip such as this one. This is the first of a series that I will be doing on the Trans Siberian Railway. So get ready!
Taking the Trans Siberian Railway has been on my bucket list for quite some time but It wasn’t until 3 years ago that I seriously made efforts to do it. After graduating college and working for awhile, my friend and I made a pact that we would put aside money specifically for the Trans Siberian and no matter where we were in the world, we would take time off and do the trip. Fast forward 3 years later to summer of 2015 and it’s finally going to happen.
This has probably been the most intricate and complicated trip I’ve ever planned in my life. Especially since my travel partner and I live on two separate continents with a 12-14 hour difference. Needless to say, coordinating, planning, and making decisions has had its ups and downs.
My friend and I decided to time our trip so that we could be in Mongolia during Naadam, Mongolia’s National Festival, which includes games of wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Naadam happens every year in July so we planned the rest of our journey around Mongolia.
After a lot of research on both our parts, we made a list of cities of where we wanted to make stops. Keep in mind that Russian tourist visas are only good for 30 days so that really limited how many cities we could stop at while in Russia. While we could’ve stopped at more cities in Russia, that would’ve meant only spending a day or two in each city which we weren’t willing to do.
My friend and I decided we would meet up in Beijing and start our journey there. We will be in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and surrounding areas for two weeks and after that, we’ll head into Russia where we’ll make stops at: Irkutsk/Lake Baikal, Krasnoyarsk, Omsk, Perm, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. After that, we decided to take a train to Helsinki, Finland where we would spend a few days before going our separate ways to either do more traveling or head back to our real lives.
Once we decided on our stops, there was the matter of booking train tickets. While you can book train tickets through sites like Seat61, we decided to opt for a travel agent specializing in Trans Siberian rail travel. While going through a travel agent is more expensive, we decided the extra cost was worth the hassle, headaches, and complications of booking train tickets and obtaining visas rather than figuring it all out on our own. We heard good things from RealRussia but decided to go with SokolTours, who have an office in the U.S.
I’ve had no complaints so far with SokolTours. Their customer service is excellent and have done great answering the many, many, MANY questions I’ve had. The extra cost, at least for me, has been completely worth it so far. They’ve taken care of booking our train tickets as well as helping obtain our visas. I already have a Chinese visa (note: If you’re a U.S. citizen and get a Chinese visa, your visa will be valid for 10 years) so Sokol tours provided visa support for my Russian visa, which I will discuss at length in my next post. Also, look for future posts on accommodations, planning our two weeks in Mongolia, and much much more!
Anyways, I’ll end my first post on the Trans Siberian Railway but please keep a look out for more posts!