How to book the Trans-Siberian

There is nothing quite like the romance and adventure of train travel, particularly on the longest train journey in the world – the Trans-Siberian railway. This train journey is one of the best ways to see some of the less-explored parts of Russia. It is a truly unique experience to hop on a train in sunny Moscow, travel across the country watching the seasons change before your eyes, and get off the train 5 days later in snowy Irkutsk.

In addition to seeing parts of the country that other people would miss, you also have the chance to share a carriage with local Russians – some who may be more friendly than others. This is your chance to drink vodka with a Russian (warning: they can always drink more than you).

Can I book tickets for the Trans-Siberian myself?

Trans-Siberian

Yes!

You have three main options – an organised tour, tickets booked through a booking agency, or booking tickets yourself either online or in person at the station. These three options range in both price and difficulty.

Obviously, the most difficult (but cheapest option), is to book the train tickets yourself. The challenge here is that the websites are in Russian, and if you want to buy tickets in person, you will not have the proof of travel that you need when organising your Russian visa. The tickets are also sold using a pricing policy that gives the best seats and prices during the first few hours that they come on sale. If you wait until you enter Russia to buy ticket yourself you might pay a lot more or miss out completely if the train has sold out.

An organised tour is the simplest but most expensive option. With a tour, the tickets will be purchased for you, however depending on the tour company, you will not always have any say in which stations you will stop at. They usually provide you with some form of visa assistance as well.

In my opinion, it is easy and relatively cheap to book your tickets using a booking agency like Real Russia. This was the option that we chose for our trip and I cannot fault our experience. We travelled second class from St Petersburg to Moscow, Moscow to Irkutsk, Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar, and finally from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing.

Can I do the Trans-Siberian without stopping?

Yes!

To start planning your journey, please select your departure and arrival points, as well as your date of travel, from the search engine and press ‘Search for available trains’. You will then be able to select from any of the available trains and ticket classes before entering your passenger details.

It is important to note that if you are booking within 45 days of travelling, Real Russia will issue your electronic ticket within two working days, or paper tickets within the selected time frame. If you would like to reserve your tickets outside this time frame, Real Russia will keep your request and book your tickets as soon as they are available.

What is the difference between the Trans-Siberian and the Trans-Mongolian?

Trans-Siberian route map

Easy!

If you would like to go via Mongolia, you will take the Trans-Mongolian from Moscow to Beijing via Ulaanbaatar. If you would like to travel only through Russia, starting in Moscow and ending your journey in Vladivostok, you will book the Trans-Siberian.

Did you know there is a third route? The Trans-Manchurian also travels from Moscow to Beijing, however instead of travelling via Mongolia, you pass through the Manchuria region of Northern China.

Can I get off the train? How do I book tickets for each leg?

Of course!

Your first step will be to use the journey planner below to decide at which stations you would like to get off the train. Each stop will require a separate ticket – i.e. if you buy a ticket from Moscow to Beijing, you will not be permitted to get off the train and get back on again. If you would like to stop at Irkutsk, for example, you must buy a ticket from Moscow to Irkutsk and then another ticket from Irkutsk to Beijing.

We used this scheduler to book our tickets and it couldn’t have been easier!

First, select which of these historic routes you will be travelling along; when you would like to begin; and where your departure and destination points are. You will be taken to a list of cities between those two points and then you can select which cities along the way you would like to visit, as well as your length of stay.

The Real Russia system will then suggest trains for each section of the journey based on your initial date of travel.

It is important to note that tickets for international train journeys departing from Russia will not be issued until 60 days prior to departure. If you are booking within this time frame you are able to pay immediately and your ticket will be processed. If you book outside this time frame, Real Russia will take your details and contacted you before the 60 days to confirm the price, etc.

If you decide to travel via Mongolia or China, your tickets will not be issued until 15-20 days before departure. In this instance, Real Russia will organise for your tickets to be delivered to your hotel or a partner organisation in your departure city.

What do the train numbers mean?

The train numbers signify the speed of the train and the services available. Rather than remembering all of this information, the Trans-Siberian Journey Planner (above) shows the departure and arrival times but also how long each journey will be. It will also show whether you can choose a female only carriage, which class of travel, and whether you would like food to be included in your ticket price.

In summary the faster and newer trains are more expensive than the slower, older trains.

  • Numbers 1-160: Comfortable fast trains with limited stops
  • Fast train with a name (e.g. Rossia 2, or Red Arrow): Fast trains but cleaner and with train attendants who are a bit more friendly
  • Numbers 161-169: Feeling fancy? These trains are for you! These aren’t available on all routes, but when they are you can watch the world go by in a super comfortable seat, or chill out with a DVD player.
  • Numbers 170-870: These are passenger trains that are slower and make more stops. We travelled using these trains and found they were usually comfortable and well equipped.

What are the classes of travel on the Trans-Siberian?

Trans-Siberian

There are three classes of travel on the Trans-Siberian, Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian – first class, second class and third class.

  • First class: Each (lockable) berth will have either a bunk bed and a small sofa, or two lower beds. There are showers and toilets at either end of the carriage.
  • Second class (kupe): Each (lockable) berth will have two bunk beds and there are (usually) clean toilets at either end. If you are travelling in a pair, it is a good idea to book a top and bottom bunk (bottom bunks are odd numbers, top bunks are even numbers) so you can both sit on the bottom bed during the day. If you are a solo traveller you will either have to share your seat with someone else during the day, or make friends and hope that you can sit with the person travelling in the bottom bunk. This is the class that most travellers and locals choose.
  • Third class: This is a open-plan dormitory car with 54 bunk beds and there are toilets at either end of the carriage.

Can I combine the Trans-Siberian with train travel in Europe or Asia?

Yes! 

If you are interested in booking a train journey elsewhere in Russia, or select international routes in Europe and Asia, but you are not sure on which day you would like to travel, then the ‘Train Schedule’ tool can help. First, select your month of travel and your desired departure and arrival points, and then Real Russia can tell you on what days trains will be running and at what time. From here you can then proceed to book the most convenient train with the minimal of fuss.

I need more information!!

Don’t worry, this is only the first article in my Trans-Siberian series. Follow Grassroots Nomad via email, Facebook, or Pinterest to make sure you get the latest articles!

 

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How to Book the Trans-Siberian

 

Please note that if you book through the Real Russia website within a few weeks of visiting this page, I will receive a small commission from the sale. This will not increase or alter your ticket price in any way. If you would not like this to happen, please contact me for additional information. My affiliation with Real Russia in no way has impacted my representation of the company in this article. It is only because I found them to be so amazing that I have included them on Grassroots Nomad. Thank you! 🙂

Have you booked your own tickets for the Trans-Siberian? How did you find the booking process?

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37 Comments
thebritishberliner

‘Love this post! I’m desperate to try out the TransSiberian but I just don’t seem to have the time for it right now as i would like to travel from Berlin right through to Shanghai! I love train travel you see and this journey would be incredible. That, I’m absolutely sure of lol!

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Grassroots Nomad

OOooooh! That would be amazing! I met some guys who started in Finland and were going through to Vietnam. I love that you can add even more adventure to the train journey!!

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks so much Mary! I’m glad it is helpful – maybe ‘one day’ should be this year!

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kate

I have thought of doing this but was always intimidated. Thank you for making it so clear. Are you going to do a post of what to pack for long train rides?

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks Kate! This trip was part of my longer trip so I didn’t take anything different apart from food. I have a separate packing list post for my trip overall, but one specifically for the TS is a great idea! I will add it to my to do list 🙂

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks Aimee – very true. It took months of researching to figure out how to do it all and a few times we had to ask a Russian friend to help translate! I’m glad it was helpful! Do you think you will be able to do the trip this year?

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Gallivant Girl

Oh amazing! I would love to do the Trans-Siberian and am deciding between that or Central Asia for my next trip. Happy to see it’s doable yourself – I would rather do that! Definitely bookmarked 🙂

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks Anastasia – my vote is for the Trans-Mongolian! If I were to do it again I would spend longer in Mongolia. I would have loved to learn more about the eagle hunting and see other parts of the country. Are you thinking of going this year?

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Grassroots Nomad

You sure do! Despite getting a cold on the train, it was an incredible adventure. I loved getting on the train in Moscow and watching the seasons change as I travelled across Russia – I knew Russia was big, but I didn’t realise HOW big until I travelled by train!

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Grassroots Nomad

No worries Victoria! My next post will be about how to get a visa – probably more complicated than the train tickets!

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Sarah

This is such an informative post; it needs to published somewhere others specifically looking to do this can find it! My brothers are trying to get to Russia..one needs job clearance, and hasn’t been able to obtain it yet..but I am going to share with them, if they are considering this as part of their trip

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks so much Sarah! Do you have any tips as to where I can share it? Hopefully my SEO is good enough that people are able to find it relatively easily :S I do hope your brothers are able to get to Russia soon, the visas are a nightmare just to visit so I can only imagine how hard a work permit would be! Wish them luck!

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Brenda

Thanks for this post! I have been wanting so much to do a Trans-Siberian train for long, and all this information is totally useful! I will definitely remember you when I get to book my tickets!

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Grassroots Nomad

Great, thanks Brenda!! I’ll also be posting up about how to get visas, what to pack, what to expect etc! I hope you get to do the trip soon!

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Brenda

That would be amazing! I have been working with visas lately and my opinion is that, so far, Russian visa has been the most challenging. Is always a great idea reading someone experience with it!

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Janna

Very informative post! I’ve never done long distance travel via train so this was interesting. Hope to experience it someday!

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Grassroots Nomad

It was my first long distance train trip, Janna, but it has made me want more!! I was hoping to combine it with the highest train trip in the world (in Tibet), but I was sick of dealing with all the visa issues by then! I think train travel is my new favourite mode of transport 🙂

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Stephanie Raley

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I have been thinking about taking the Trans Mongolian railway but have been so confused about how to go about researching it and booking it. This article is a great use!
I’m glad you included the scheduler too. I couldn’t handle 7 days straight on a train, I want to get out and explore.
Once again, thanks!

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Grassroots Nomad

This is the first in my series – I will also give advice about visas, where to stop, what to pack, what to expect (e.g. how to get up to the top bunk, etc) and things like that. If you have any requests, let me know and I will make sure I cover it 🙂
I’m glad it was helpful!

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Grassroots Nomad

Thanks Danielle, Hopefully it inspires more people to take the plunge and book their trip!

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Grassroots Nomad

Do it!!! It was so incredible and you won’t regret it. The only thing I regret is not stopping at more places! Thanks so much for reading 🙂

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