Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Trans Mongolian Railway FAQ

7:12 PM

Here's a few questions people have been asking since I got back about planning their own Trans Mongolian/Siberian trip:Do I need to book a ticket on the Trans Mongolian?If you're going directly with no hopping off, it's possible to book a ticket all the way from Beijing to Moscow, which will be almost a bum-numbing week of sitting on the train. It's better to hop-off and see things for a couple of days. This may mean that you get stuck in a town a day longer (which happened to us in Datong), but once you're on the Trans Siberian mailine (from Irkutsk to Moscow) trains are fairly regular.Is a tour the only way to do it?Booking a tour can be a good way to get it all sorted for you, but it's not necessary. We booked each leg as we went. This meant hopping off the train and buying the next ticket as soon as we got there. Once you're in Russia, the train runs on Moscow time so you'll need to be careful not to muddle Moscow Time and Local Time. There's a good timetable at the excellent Man from Seat 61.How did you eat?Forget the dining car. It's usually expensive and the food is pretty sub-standard. Once you get to Russia there are 20 and 30 minute stops (check the timetable before you hop off if you don't want to be stranded on a platform) which allow you to do some hunter gathering. Platform stalls and kiosks usually sell noodle cups, beer, water and snacks, but the best ones include roasted chicken, vodka, pre-prepared meals, books, CDs and DVDs. Bigger stops will even have mini-supermarkets. In China and Mongolia stops are briefer and you should pack a few snacks to tide you over.What should I pack?It's going to be cold no matter when you go, but the train itself is super-heated. This means you'll need cold-weather clothes for outdoors (I wore man-tights for the first time in my life, but also gloves and woollen hats) and a lighter set of clothes for the 30 degree temperatures in your carriage. Some Russians got on the train and changed into shorts or tracksuits to feel comfortable for most of the trip.You'll get bedding in most classes but you may also need a towel and a pocket knife will be handy for making your own meals. We also took water bottles which mean less trips back and forth to the samovar. The phrasebook was invaluable and many of our 'conversations' consisted of pointing at words in the book with chatty Russians and Mongolians.How did you shower?The grim answer is that when we were on the train, we didn't. The longest spell we had was 57 hours on the train and that was surprisingly okay (though possibly not for the people who shared the cabin with us). Mostly we used the bathrooms and our travel towels to have what the Germans refer to as a "cat's wash". In the deluxe cabin (in China only) we had a share shower which was serviceable enough.Where the hell did you go?China: Beijing to Datong toMongolia: Ulaan Bataar to Russia: Irkutsk to Lake Baikal to Tomsk (via Taiga) to Moscow (via Novosibirsk and Kazan) to St Petersburg toFinland: Helsinki (with a sidetrip in Espoo)View Our Trans Mongolian Route in a larger mapBut that's not the TRUE Trans Mongolian?No, the true Trans Mongolian runs as far as Moscow and we went a little further (to Helsinki). The stops in Datong and Tomsk were a little offbeat as well.What are the bits that can't be missed?Lake Baikal is great and in the summer it's completley different again. Ulaan Batar is a different world, but getting out into the countryside a little gave us a better insight into the country. Yunguang Caves were spectacular, but might only be for Buddha fans especially as it can mean a longer stop in China. Moscow was great, but lengthening the trip to St Petersburg put the capital in perspective.Any regrets?Would have like to have gotten to Yekaterinburg and spent longer in Mongolia, but there's always next time.
Tags: Beijing , China , Datong , Finland , food , hackpacking , Helsinki , Irkutsk , Kazan , Lake Baikal , Mongolia , Moscow , Novosibirsk , Russia , St Petersburg , Tomsk , Trans-Mongolian Railway , Trans-Siberian Railway , vodka , Yekaterinburg
Comment on the original post at Hackpacker

0 评论:

Post a Comment