Journey of a Lifetime

With the Trans-Siberian Railway, one may just settle back to enjoy the dramatic changes of scenery and savour a choice of Europe’s and Asia’s most superb and splendid landscapes.

A journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s safe, comfortable and offers a magnificent view of three world’s largest countries: Russia, Mongolia, and China. The Trans-Siberian Railway itself is just one part of the massive Russian railway network, transporting passengers and freight safely at affordable prices. It connects the European rail network at one end with either Vladivostok or the Chinese rail network at the other. You can use it to travel over land in either direction between London, Paris or anywhere in Europe and China, Japan, Korea or even Southeast Asia. And yes, the Trans-Siberian is perfectly safe, for families or solo female travellers. It is the way Russian families and women travel, after all.

The Trans-Siberian Railway operates all year round, so basically you can go any time of year. But naturally, the summer months from May to September have the best weather and the longest daylight hours, so they are the most popular. In winter it is easier to get tickets, the trains are warmly heated and the Siberian landscape beautiful in the snow, but the hours of daylight will be shorter and stretching your legs at stations or visiting the cities will be chillier. There are so many possibilities of destinations while travelling on the Trans-Siberian Railway; it surely doesn’t just go to Vladivostok. Vladivostok is an interesting place for a day or two if you are passing through before catching the ferry to Japan or Korea, but probably not worth a 7-day journey from Moscow just for its own sake. Beijing is a far better choice of destination as it is an amazing city that is well worth the overland trip from Europe.

The Trans-Mongolian probably the most interesting of the three routes, there are superb views of the Gobi desert and a chance to stop off in Mongolia on the way. But why end your trip in Beijing? Shanghai or Xia are just a few hours high-speed train ride away. Or how about Japan? There are ferries from Shanghai to Japan and a ferry from Vladivostok to Japan. There is even a twice-weekly direct train from Beijing to Hanoi in Vietnam taking two nights; then you can take daily trans to Saigon, a bus to Phnom Penh and on to Bangkok, then a train to Malaysia and Singapore, continue with ferries to Indonesia.

Whatever your choice is, just remember that you can travel the Trans-Siberian Railway either eastbound or westbound, it’s up to you, although westbound tends to be a more popular route with easterners, perhaps because going out by rail from your local station and flying back is more romantic than starting your trip with a flight.

For more information visit www.transsiberianexpress.net

Text by Dennis Latief | Photos courtesy of Trans-Siberian Railway