The Trans-Siberian train journey is one of the greatest railway journeys in the world. Stretching 9,288km between Moscow and Vladivostok, the journey takes you across Russia in six to seven days without any stops. Of course, no one likes spending a week straight on a train, so we’ll be recommending a few stops along the way. The best thing about the Trans-Siberian train is that it allows you to see Russia more than just Moscow or St Petersburg. You have full control of where you want to stop, and for how long!
The Trans-Siberian train is just one part of the massive Russian railway network. It connects to the European rail network at one end with either Vladivostok, or the Chinese rail network at the other. You can do the route in either direction, but most travellers would travel westwards from Vladivostok, especially those coming from China on the Trans-Mongolian railway. In this article, we’ll be covering the westward direction, beginning in Vladivostok, and ending our journey in Moscow.
The Rossiya is a firmeny train, which means that it is the most modern sleeper train with the best facilities, services and onboard staff. The train departs every day and has three car classes.
The platskartny (third class) is an open compartment with two lower, two upper bunk beds and two side beds. There are no doors, which makes third class more social, but less secure. Only bedding is included in the ticket price. Meals, drinks and snacks have to be purchased at the restaurant car.
Kupé (second class) is a four berth compartment with two upper and two lower bunks. Each compartment has a table, mirror, lockable doors and a large panoramic window. Second class tickets include snacks and are also available with or without meals. This is the most popular option for most foreign travellers.
The spalny vagon (first class) is the most luxurious (and expensive) of them all, with just two lower berths and also a TV. Meals are included in the ticket price, and well as hot drinks. Bedding, towels and slippers are also provided, along with a travel wash kit and daily newspapers. However, not all trains have first class, and travellers who prefer more privacy can purchase four tickets for the sole occupancy of the kupé compartment.
There are toilets and taps for boiling water at the end of the corridor. The newer Rossiya trains also feature hot showers. While there is a restaurant car serving meals, snacks and drinks, the selection may be limited. You should pack some provisions of your own for the journey!
Planning your trip
You can book your Trans-Siberian train tickets up to 45 days in advance, and they have to be booked separately for each leg of your journey. Real Russia is a great platform to use, and they can also help with obtaining a Russian visa.
If you’re really flexible you can also purchase your ticket at the train stations as you go along. But don’t be too surprised if the counter staff doesn’t speak english, or if the tickets are sold out!
You’ll travel across 15 cities on the Trans-Siberian train, so there are plenty of opportunities to stop. Here is our itinerary, which includes the main highlights along the railway. Feel free to make your own changes and tailor your journey to your liking!
Vladivostok – Ulan Ude
We begin in Vladivostok, a harbour city and military port. If you’ve flown in from other time zones, take a few days to enjoy its military attractions and rest from jetlag. The city is not particularly touristy, but still has some interesting things to see and do. Sportivnaya Harbor is a charming place to hang out before you hop on a long journey!
Once it’s time, hop on the Rossiya, where you’ll be for 63 hours until you get to Ulan Ude. The journey will be anything but boring, and you’ll most likely find yourself looking out the window for hours on end. The journey from Magdagachi to Chita is particularly scenic, with mountains, hills and valleys.
Ulan Ude – Irkutsk
Ulan Ude is the capital of the Buryat Republic, home to Russia’s largest indigenous people, the Buryats. It is also a center of Buddhism in Russia, with beautiful temples that give it its exotic Asian feel. This is also where you will find the world’s largest Lenin head!
If you’re connecting from the Trans-Mongolian, this is also where you will enter Russia from Mongolia.
Our next stop is Irkutsk, an eight-hour train ride away. It will be the jump-off point to see Lake Baikal – the deepest and oldest lake in the world. The train follows along part of the lake on this journey, and the snow-capped peaks of the mountains provide a picture-perfect backdrop.
Irkutsk – Krasnoyarsk
You can take a day trip to Lake Baikal from Irkutsk, but we suggest spending some time in the great outdoors. Better yet if you’re up for some hiking, because the lake is circled by a network of hiking paths called the Great Baikal Trail.
If you have at least three days, Olkhon is the largest island on the lake, and one of the jewels of Siberia. Its beautiful landscape and vibrant culture practically begs for a spot on your Trans-Siberian itinerary.
Next up on the itinerary is Krasnoyarsk, one of the biggest cities in Siberia. And almost definitely one of the nicest!
Krasnoyarsk – Yekaterinburg
At Krasnoyarsk, the big draw here is Stolby Nature Reserve, a beautiful forested area with volcanic rock pillars. It’s perfect for spending a day in the wilderness, although summer and winter will offer very different experiences.
Within the city itself, there aren’t many major must-sees, but the city is very likeable. It has a young, vibrant energy, with lots of people cycling, roller-blading or running and a whole host of independent coffee shops.
Over 35 hours away is Yekaterinburg, another major stop for most travellers along with Irkutsk. It is a city with rich history, best known as where the last tsar, Nicholas II, and his family were murdered in 1918. Unsurprisingly, there are some interesting museums and sites here, such as the Ganina Yama and Church on the Blood.
If you’re up for something quirky, check out the QWERTY Monument, one of Russia’s weirdest attractions. It is essentially a giant keyboard monument!
Yekaterinburg – Vladimir
At some point on this journey, the Trans-Siberian train crosses continents from Asia into Europe, marked by a white obelisk. You will definitely see the differences, as it will seem like every village now has a big Orthodox church in the middle of it.
In Vladimir, the must-see is the tranquil Golden Ring towns, including (or especially) Suzdal. With rolling green fields, a gentle river gently flowing through the town centre, sunlight reflecting off golden church domes and the sound of bells and horses clopping, you may feel like you’re in a fairytale town instead.
Vladimir – Moscow
The last leg of your journey will be the shortest one, taking just three hours. It may also be the most uninteresting train ride, but the capital of Russia will prove itself to be anything but that. Moscow is grand and breathtaking, historic and timeless all at once. You will see signs of its past life as the capital of the Soviet Union, with architectural gems standing throughout the city. There are lots of museums and religious buildings to see, and you will no doubt leave with a greater appreciation of the Russian culture.
In Moscow, your Trans-Siberian train journey officially ends. But from here, you can still continue and start a brand new train journey to St Petersburg, and even further on into Europe like Berlin, Amsterdam and London. Or, from Moscow, you can venture into Central Asia and travel along the Silk Road!