Exploring Russia on a Trans Siberian Railway is on a bucket list of a lot of people. However, it’s a big undertaking, and it’s not all that clear how to prepare such a trip. Luckily, you can always use other travelers’ experience to guide you! Today we interview Sergey, who has gone on a Trans-Siberian trip this September.
Hi, Sergey and thanks for agreeing to share your travel experience! How did you decide to cross Russia on a train?
I had lived in Russia for 28 years of my life, but I realize that I haven’t seen much of it. Now I live in Europe and people often ask me if I want to return back, but how can I decide if I don’t know anything about my own country besides one city? I wanted to see other parts of Russia and experience life in its various regions. For me it was a spontaneous decision – I got bored and I knew the trip organizers, so I decided to try it. But for many of my co-travelers, it was a dream they wanted to realize for many years.
So who organized the trip and how can one get into such a trip?
To learn more about the Trans-Siberian trips, you can check the web page called Nomad Train. The guys that run it also organize the trips. There are 3 of them, and 2 are Russian, all with a lot of expertise in trip planning. Everything is catered to digital nomads – you are provided with local sim cards and a big internet limit on them so that you can work on the road, and you don’t have to worry about meals on the train and accommodation in the cities. You just pay and arrive at the train station in time – everything else is done for you. Besides, the people that choose such a trip are a very entertaining, young multi-national band, so you’ll never be bored on the road with them. Most of our group were Europeans, for example.
How much time did you spend on a train and what was your route?
The whole trip took us 12 days, but we had a lot of stops in the cities and never spent more than 30 hours on a train. We started from Moscow, visited Yekaterinburg, Novosibirsk, and Irkutsk, and finished in Ulan-Bator. I know that next year they plan to start in Vladivostok, to explore the easternmost part of Russia.
What was the most challenging thing on the train?
As most of us worked on the way, it was kinda problematic that there were often just 3 power outlets per the whole coach on the train. Luckily, we had power banks. Also, the mobile connection disappeared when we were far away from the cities, so we were cut off the Internet too… One train had a shower, but all the others didn’t. However, it’s not really a problem if you sleep in a hotel every second night. Food was prepaid for us at the restaurant coach, so we didn’t have to worry about it either.
We were never bored, because the company was brilliant, and we always had something to talk about. I also talked with some locals workers taking the train, and that was interesting too!
What city was most memorable to you?
Ah, difficult to tell, each one was unique! Yekaterinburg is very modern and bustling, there are a lot of cool skyscrapers. We also visited a modern art biennale, which was very inspiring. Novosibirsk has the biggest campus area in the world, and the university vibes are palpable there. I also really liked swimming in the Ob reservoir- it’s so wide! Ulan-Bator is just crazy, you can go to the steppes and ride horses and live in yurts, or you can stay in the city which is full of Japanese hybrid cars. Speak about contrasts! But I think I liked Baykal the most.
Tell us about your trip there!
We had a long stopover in Irkutsk – 3 days, so we had plenty of time to visit Baykal. You can reach it either by bus or by boat, but we were a big group, so we just rented a bus. It takes about 4 hours by bus to reach the place where the ferry leaves for Olkhon island. The ferry goes from May to October, from February to April you can drive on the ice (!!) and the rest of the time there is a small boat that connects Olkhon with the shore if the wave is not too big.
There is a big village called Chuzir on Olkhon, where you can find accommodation. If you come with a car (4×4 offroad is necessary), you can drive to different parts of the island, each with a different breathtaking view of the lake!
Organizing a trip on a Trans-Siberian railway is not as difficult as it seems, and if you don’t want to do it by yourself you can always find a group of like-minded people to go with. And as for whether this trip is worth it – the answer is a big yes!
Photo courtesy: Sergey