The Transsiberia Express is a railway line between Moscow and Vladivostok. The Transmongolia Express is the same line, but – as the name suggests – turns off at Mongolia. Do not buy packages from travel agencies or Russian railways. You can do it yourself.
Step 1: buy a ticket online from place to place
You can take one ride from Moscow to Vladivostok, but you probably want to get off. Then you buy a ticket from place to place. My first ticket was from Moscow to Ekaterinburg. I bought several tickets. I think there is no other way, unless you have a (too expensive) deal, but everyone I speak to has separate tickets.
I booked the tickets online at: russianrail.com or russiantrains.com. First you get an email that you get the ticket. Within 24 hours you will have it in your mailbox.
Everything is in MOSCOW time!
On the tickets you will find the times in Moscow time. The local times of departure or arrival may be different! I say this because I didn’t know this, so I sometimes had to get up in the middle of the night.
An example: you buy a ticket from Omsk to Novosibirsk. Your ticket says that you will leave at 20.00. This is Moscow time. In Omsk it is three hours later. So you get on the train at 23.00 hours in Omsk. In the station only Moscow time is indicated. Outside on the clock is 20.00 hours, but inside the clock indicates 17.00 hours. And that is on the departure signs.
Do you still understand? It takes some getting used to, but for them it is the only way to work with different time zones.
Train tickets with which you leave Russia you must have on paper
I had to collect my ticket from Russia to China on paper in Moscow. This seems complicated, but it was simple. I bought the ticket online and got an email if I wanted to pass on where I was staying. Then they brought my ticket there. Although I was in Moscow weeks earlier than I needed the ticket, it was neatly in the hostel. It said in the mail that they did not want to bring it to hostels. They can’t guarantee that it will be all right. I did do this. It was at my own risk. That went fine with me. You can also pick it up at a railway office in Moscow.
Step 2: determine which class you go for
Then there is the difference between second and third class. I have travelled with the third class myself and I like it very much. The six of you are sitting on top of each other in a U-shape. Three times a bunk bed. During the day you sit on the lower bed. There are four of you in second class. Then you have more privacy. I never did first class.
Step 3: the route
Of course you can decide where you want to go, but to give you an idea this is my route:
Kazan (I didn’t do it, but I would recommend it)
Step 4: Visa
You need the tickets to get a visa for Russia, so it is handy if you already have them in your mailbox. You don’t have to print them out. They only want to see your passport.
On the Transiberia train
Upon entry or sometimes it is already there, you get clean bedding and a small towel. Packed in plastic. Then you can make your own bed.
It is very clean in the wagons. Both second and third class. There is no shower, in case you thought so, but there is a toilet and sink in each wagon. There is also a mirror. And there is a lady – I haven’t seen gentlemen yet – who keeps it all neat and tidy. I’ve never been without toilet paper.
Get out of the train every now and then. When the train stops you can ask how long you will stand still. Sometimes it is half an hour. Then you can go outside and maybe buy some food at the station, walk and enjoy the view.
The Transsiberian Express stops, just like the Mongolian one, in Transsiberia, so Siberia. This was very different than I expected and very worthwhile.
What about food?
You can eat in the Transsiberia train. I never did this, but a meal seems to be ten euros.
You can also bring food. This is what most people do. Also handy if you are a vegetarian or vegan, like me. There is a tap with hot water. Ideal for warming up your noodles if you like it. So you have a hot meal. And you also have hot tea or chocolate milk. There is nothing else if you want to eat hot. There is no microwave oven. So think carefully what you want to eat and what you take with you. Sometimes it can take a long time before a stop comes. You can always buy some snacks or on the train itself.
You can also buy food when you stop. Then there are local people selling all kinds of things. It’s not very healthy.
Take some extra food with you. Everyone is always very loyal and you will undoubtedly get food when you’re on the train. It is as much fun as you can give some food.
What do you need (within reach) in the Transsiberia-Mongolia Express?
Nice and comfortable clothing, it is quite warm. Also in winter – they say. I was wearing shorts and a shirt, but it was summer;
possibly cutlery, plates, drinking cup for your food;
everything you need to go to sleep;
food and drinks for on the road.
Enjoy this Transsiberia or Mongolia experience!