One of the most exciting topics for those visiting Russia
Welcome to our new edition of Matryoshka’s Diary. Today we will be exploring one of the most exciting topics for those visiting Russia (if not the most actually) – the Trans-Siberian railroad. I meet so many foreign people who tell me that this trip is on their bucket list. However, I do not know any Russian natives who have done it because they were so keen on travelling across the country by train. But I do know a few people who travelled 7 days by train because a few years ago it was super expensive to fly from the Far East to the central part Russia and it was simply not affordable for them. Thus, for many people the railroad is the only way to travel from the East side of the country to the West. But thanks to some subsidies from the government things have changed now and it is more or less affordable to travel from the Far East to Central Russia for most people.
It is one of the greatest trips around Russia you can go on to
What is interesting about this trip – there is no fixed fare for a train ticket from Moscow to Vladivostok or to any other destination – it really depends on the season and a type of train. Some of them are express trains while others are not. Some of them are for locals (by this I mean they are not too fancy or anything like that) while other ones are mainly for tourists from overseas. The ticket from Vladivostok to Moscow can cost you anything starting from 12000 Rub which is about 200 USD if you are buying directly from the Russian Railroads website. And of course, if you are a visitor from overseas you can buy a full Package from travel agents which includes excursions and as you can imagine they significantly vary in price depending on what is included in the package.
Do you know that there are three trans-Siberian routes?
- Moscow to Vladivostok (which is just over 9000km long). It is the longest and least popular among western travelers apparently, taking seven nights.
- Moscow to Beijing via Harbin, Manchuria (which is also about 9000km). The older of the two routes that reach Beijing, this was completed in the 1900s and is served by one train a week taking six nights.
- Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia (is about 7500km). This is considered by many to be the most interesting of the routes, yet there is only one train a week, taking six nights. If you travel on this train, you are going to cross Mongolia via the Gobi Desert to enter China
Places to visit during your Siberian adventure
- Kazan is on the Southern Trans-Siberian route, meaning that not all the Trans-Siberian trains cross there, but it’s definitely worth a visit. You can take a fast train that’ll take about 8 hours and then onwards to Ekaterinburg. Kazan is a great place to explore for a couple of days. Kazan is the capital of Tatarstan republic and is predominantly Muslim, making it different from the rest of Russia in a very special way. It’s a friendly, clean, and safe city: there are many touristic sights. There is the only surviving Tatar fortress in Russia – the Kazan Kremlin. With its historical heritage, Kazan is a rapidly growing city, very modern and with a high standard of living.
- Ekaterinburg which is a major industrial city in the Ural Mountains is famous for its constructivist architecture and UralMash mafia gang from the 90s. Nowadays it’s much safer than it used to be, so bury all hopes of getting back into the brutal reality of the early capitalist Russia.
- Novosibirsk is a major industrial and scientific center. The adjacent Akademgorodok used to be a secret scientific centre, so it’s well worth a visit for some nostalgic trip into the Soviet past. Novosibirsk is the place to explore Altay mountains and the neighboring city of Barnaul. Altay has all kinds of activities ranging from hiking to rafting and has many comfortable tour bases as well as campsites.
- Make sure you stop at Krasnoyarsk and visit the National Park “Stolbi”. Or if you have a few days for Krasnoyarsk, you can head down to Tuva republic deep in the mountains which is famous for its shamans (of which there are not too many left). It is a very special and weird mix of traditional culture and Soviet infrastructure.
- Irkutsk is known as the “Paris of Siberia”, which has many neo-classical and wooden buildings, some of them decorated with fantastically ornate fretwork so some parts of it still look like a village. It’s the major city on Baikal lake. If you have a few days to spend there, explore Olkhon island in the middle of Baikal lake. That place provides for a much more authentic experience even though it became very popular during the past years (which also means you have more comfortable options to stay). It’s a beautiful nature reserve, a wild spot suitable for any sort of adventure: be it a touristic ride or a spiritual journey.
Feeling like exploring some of the hidden Russian gems this autumn? We have a great online Russian course on offer!