THE TRANS-SIBERIAN RAIL JOURNEY
The Trans-Siberian is one train journey which lasts nine thousand kilometres, goes through eight times zones, and is both an iconic experience and a once in a lifetime trip.
It is also a journey cloaked in misconceptions and shrouded in images of mind-numbing bureaucracy, impossible to fathom timetables and what can still be seen of the old Soviet “no” and “just because” attitude to anything vaguely tiresome or requiring effort on behalf of those in authority.
And yet, the Trans-Siberian remains a journey few others can equal. Epic in scale and vast in the expectations of those who hop on-board, it is unrivalled in the sheer spectrum of experiences to be had on route as you travel through Russia, Siberian, Mongolia and into China (or vice-versa).
There is much for the traveller to unravel in planning this journey so we asked Odette Fussey of The Russia Experience, a lady who has been sending people off on their Trans-Siberian adventure for many years, to give us the lowdown on what you need to know and, just as importantly, what you need to avoid.
Q. Why is the Trans-Siberian such an iconic journey?
For the real traveller, this is often a journey that has been on their “wish list” for some time. It is an iconic experience and many of our clients tell us they’ve been thinking about it and planning towards it for years.
Q. Who would it most appeal to?
Because we sell two types of trip – The Classic style and Rail Cruises – they can be tailored to those who like a little luxury as well as travellers looking for the “authentic” experience. We just wouldn’t recommend it for those who get bored on trains!
Q. Isn’t it just one long train trip?
Not at all. The best trips are those that have at least two stops, more if you have the time and money, as you’re not likely to be here again so maximise the experience.
Q. What can I expect on board the train?
That depends. On the Rail Cruises, which are private trains, there are different levels of on-board accommodation with restaurants and lounges. On our Classic trips, you will join local trains with pre-booked berths sharing with other tourists or locals and with the emphasis being on the experience and getting right to the heart of this famous journey.
Q. If it’s one train journey and therefore one ticket why can’t I just book it myself?
It’s not one ticket and if you stop it’s a series of pre-booked tickets making up the trip – the Trans Siberian is the name of the journey not the train. On the Classic trips when you stop for your chosen stay and activities that train will depart and you will then, when ready, join a different train for your onward journey. On the Rail Cruises, this is a pre-booked tour and each day is totally planned, either on board or off. This locomotive remains your travelling home from start to finish.
Q. What’s the most commonly held misconception about the Trans-Siberian Railway?
That you can hop-off and hop-on where and when you like. You can’t!
Q. What are people most likely to be get wrong, or misunderstand, when planning this trip?
That’s hard because people are more informed now. When we first started it was all a bit of a mystery but most people have a good idea of what to expect. What we can do however, with almost 20 years’ experience under our belts, is make sure you have all the best and latest information and that ultimately you get the most out of your experience.
Q. What sort of budget should I be looking at?
On the Classic trips, a mid-range tour with a couple of stops costs from around £2250 per person (cheaper if you’re on a budget as we also offer a No Frills option) and on the Rail Cruises a mid range cabin is from around £3500 per person (excluding flights and visas).
Q. What’s the best time of year to travel?
Personally, if I had a choice I would go May or June as the light is so good and the days not too hot, but over the last few years we have seen a large upturn in travel in the depths of winter when I suppose clients want a real Russian Experience.
Q. How far ahead should I start planning a Trans-Siberian trip?
You will need at least one visa (the Russian) but more likely three if you go to Mongolia and China and these take time. If I were you, I would plan a minimum of four months for the Classic trips. The Rail Cruises are a different beast as when they’re full that’s it – they operate on set dates and some of our 2014 departures are already selling fast.
- Read: The Trans-Siberian Railway – facts, figures and myths
Silver Travel Radio Show
• Odette Fussey of the Russia Experience gives a wonderful interview about the Trans Siberian Railway.
If the soundplayer does not display properly, please click here to listen