Introduction to the Trans-Siberian Railway

Author: Dimitry Paranyushkin (on 21 Aug 2009)

content: what is trans-siberian - why go there - highlights - history - facts

What is the Trans Siberian:
Trans-Siberian railway (usually called TransSib in Russia) is the world's longest and the most famous train route that goes through Russia. It crosses the whole continent, starts in Moscow, passes through the European Russia, crosses Urals mountains (which separate Europe and Asia), continues into Siberia's taiga and steppes, and finishes in Vladivostok — the Russian Far East coast on the Pacific Ocean.
Trans-Siberian map [click on the map to see it large (in a new window)]

The Trans-Siberian is an immense route: along more than 9000 kilometers of its length you will see different landscapes, meet many different people and cultures (especially, if you hop off the train at few points), experience magnificient Siberian Baikal lake, and just enjoy the trip in the train.

The original Russian name for this railway is "The Great Siberian Way", the name "Trans-Siberian" was given to this route by the West, and became very wide-spread.
This railway is the backbone of Russia. It is the only overland route going through the whole country. This unique status makes the railway still quite important for the economy and safety of the country, as it was supposed to be more than 100 years ago, when it was built.

It takes more than six days to travel along the whole Trans-Siberian, so it is recommended to make stopovers along the way — like this your trip will be much more interesting also.
After crossing Siberia (soon after Irkutsk) the Trans-Siberian route divides into three different routes:
• The Trans-Siberian Route: Moscow - Vladivostok – the original Trans-Siberian railway, which goes all along Siberia and through the Far East (to the Pacific Ocean).
• The Trans-Mongolian Route: Moscow - Ulan-Bataar - Beijing. You will see Siberian plains and forests, Mongolian steppe and even a part of Gobi desert along this route that goes through Mongolia to China.
• The Trans-Manchurian Route: Moscow - Beijing – a direct way from Russia to China that goes around the Eastern border of Mongolia, not crossing it. It can be interesting for those, who are not interested in going to Mongolia, or who can't get tickets for other trains.

Read more about the different routes in Trans-Siberian / Routes section.

The Reasons to Do the Trans-Siberian:
Ok, we would like you to keep in mind that these reasons are written by us, Russians, so it may be a bit biased :-)
(1) The Trans Siberian is the most important and the longest railway on the Earth, and it is a good thing to do if you pass it at least once in your life.
(2) This journey goes through all Russia, and then continues into Mongolia and China. You will get a real

Dealers in front of Trans-Siberian train in Vladimir
Dealers in front of Trans-Siberian train in Vladimir
© Celina Smith

feel of what these three countries and their people are like after you will have done it (especially, if you allow yourself time to get off the train a few times).
(3) You will find out finally, what Siberia is like. Whether it is true that there are bears on the streets, and drunk men with guns and fur hats.
Actually, Siberians are the warmest and most inviting people you will ever meet. And Siberia's nature is so untouched and pristine, that you will truly enjoy it.
(4) You will experience Baikal — the largest and deepest fresh water lake on the Earth. It is a truly amazing and natural place. And it worths traveling along the TransSib just for this only, believe us. (and it's not as cold as they say!)
(5) You can meet many interesting people on board the train.
(7) It is a great opportunity for relaxing and reflecting: you will have much free time for mental activities.
(8) Now, if you don't feel like thinking too much, you can also join in some Russians in the train, and have the longest ever vodka party in your life.
(9) Finally, Trans-Siberian is a reliable and inexpensive way (comparing to an air flight) to get between Europe and Asia.

If you have an idea of what other reasons there may be to do the Trans-Siberian, please, leave your comments at the end of this page, or send them to , and we'll put it on this page (with your credits)

Trans-Siberian Highlights:
There's something special about watching thousands of kilometers passing by, and observing ever-changing landscapes and views through the window of your train.
Despite all the books, games, and diaries you will have taken with you, most of the journey will be about getting back to the origins of life. You will eat and sleep all days through. You will feel the pleasure of pure biological life again. The philosophical question of what to eat first - either “pirozhki” (cakes) bought from an old lady at a station, or hard boiled eggs presented by your neighbor - will be the most important to solve for six days.
And this peculiar, magnificient, and expanding feeling of freedom when you are rushing to the platform to have a five-minute solid ground brake after the endless hours of life-on-board.
Your compartment may become your second house after two days spent in the train.

However, to really liven up your experience, we recommend you to make a few stops along the Trans-Siberian. After Moscow, we recommend you to stop in:

Ekaterinburg (about 1800 km, after 1 day):
Ekaterinburg was founded in 1797, and now it is the unofficial capital of Ural region — the most industrial (and polluted) region of Russia. However, Urals are most known as the mountains that divide Europe and Asia.
Ekaterinburg itself is a nice and real (unvarnished) industrial city of modern Russia with many interesting buildings and sights.
Novosibirsk (about 3300 km, after 2 days):
Novosibirsk The biggest city in Siberia region with 1442000 inhabitants, it was founded in 1893. Novosibirsk is the third main cultural and scientific center in Russia (after Moscow and St. Petersburg), the university of Novosibirsk is quite famous too. The city is developing quite rapidly, and is considered to be the capital of Siberia.
The area around Novosibirsk is very good for camping and trekking. Besides, Novosibirsk is a great place to start discovering Altai mountains, which are not far.
Krasnoyarsk (about 4000 km, after 2.5 days):
If you have a goal to stop at all the main Trans-Siberian stations, then you should stop in Krasnoyarsk, which is an important Siberian industrial center. But frankly, we personally find there's nothing interesting, except for Stolby National Park, which is outside of the city.
Irkutsk (about 5100 km, after 3 days):
Irkutsk Irkutsk is a nice city with unusual atmosphere and interesting architecture. Baikal lake is just 60 kilometers
away, and there are also Sayan mountain range quite close. Irkutsk is a good starting point for various outdoor activities and for exploring the western side of the lake Baikal.
Baikal Lake (60 km from Irkutsk):
Baikal lake A truly amazing and beautiful lake. There are a lot of places to enjoy pristine nature, and swim in the lake. It is worth making the Trans-Siberian just because of this lake only.
Spend a few days there and you'll feel as if you were born again. You can either go there by yourself, or join in various outdoor activities offered by tour operators.
Ulan-Ude (about 5600 km, after 3.5 days):
Ulan-Ude Overlooked by many travelers, this is a great place to stop for a few days (or even weeks - for Baikal). Ulan-Ude is the first place along the Trans-Siberian, where you feel like you're in Asia finally (after more than 2 days travel in the Asian part of Russia!). It has a feel of a calm, friendly Asian town (quite close to Mongolia, in fact), and there are a lot of interesting things to discover. Start with a local History Museum, visit a Buddhist Datsan, go to the open-air Ethnographic museum, and then go on to explore the Eastern shore of Baikal lake, which is much less touristic than the opposite Irkutsk side.
Khabarovsk (about 8000 km, after 5 days):

photo courtesy MPS (Russian Railways Ministry)
A city, which is located on Amur river, China is just on the other shore. A nice and friendly town, and an important break from the train journey as well.

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Vladivostok (about 9200 km, after 6 days):

photo courtesy MPS (Russian Railways Ministry)

Vladivostok is a small provincial town, and it wouldn't be interesting at all, if it was not one of the most important strategic centers of Russia (and, perhaps, political and social center of Far East).
For a traveler, it's hard to continue the trip from Vladivostok - there are only occasional and quite expensive flights to Tokyo - Japan , Seattle - USA, Seoul - South Korea. Few ferries to Japan are unreliable and unsteady. All those options are quite expensive too (about $500 US for a one-way flight). So be prepared to go back by train in the same direction you've arrived.


History of the Trans-Siberian:
Trans-Siberian railway was constructed during 1891-1916 to protect Russian Pacific ocean territories, Russians call these territories "Dalniy Vostok" (Far East).
The main route St.Petersburg – Vladivostok was already completed at 1903, but there were many temporary constructions, so for 13 more years the permanent bridges, tunnels and stations were added.
The construction started 19th of May 1891 and it was finished 5th of

Old Khabarovsk railway station on Trans Siberian
The old Khabarovsk Trans-Siberian station
© MPS (Russian Ministry of Railways)

October 1916, when the bridge across Amur river started to operate.
There was no steady connection between European Russia and its Asian areas. Meanwhile Japan, China and England wanted Asian territories to be out of Russian control and Russia had to make it secured. This was the main reason to construct the railway. However, ultimately, the construction of the Trans-Siberian railway let Russia to develop Siberia and Pacific shore.
Nowadays Trans-Siberian is still very important for Russia; the route is the shortest way between Europe and Asia, and Russia is making money by transporting goods from China and Japan to Europe.

TransSib Facts:

The length of the main route is 9288,2 km.
The largest bridge is above Amur river – 2612 meters (made in 1999).
The longest tunnel starts at 8140 km, and is 2 km long.
There is a unique building at the 5311 km – Sludyanka station building made from marble.
The Trans-Siberian route crosses 10 time zones
It goes through Europe (19%) and Asia (81%). The border is marked with small obelisk at 1778 km near town Pervouralsk.
The Trans-Siberian passes by 87 cities and towns on the way
The route crosses 16 big rivers: Volga, Ob, Enisey, Oka, Amur, and others.
The Trans-Siberian passes Biakal lake, 207 km of the way are going along the bank of the lake.
The Trans-Siberian passes the sea of Japan, 39 km of the way are going along the bank of sea of Japan.

Average weather along the TransSiberian:



Your Comments & Questions:
If you have something to say (or ask) and you want it to be posted on this page, please, leave your message below. We will put on this page the most interesting comments and questions.
You can also leave a message in the Trans-Siberian section of our
Talk Lounge forum.

Your message:
Post it here? Yes                No

Question (12/06/03): "If I want to travel with trans-siberian railway from Moscow to Vlodivostok, but I want to make one- or two-days stops in some places, then do I need to buy separate tickets from one place to the other, or is it possible to travel with one (Moscow-Vlodivostock) ticket? Is it necessary to buy the tickets in advance or can are there enough places on the train? "
Answer: If you buy the tickets by yourself, you will have to buy separate tickets all the time, which is not too complicated if you buy them beforehand (1-2 days before you depart) and if you don't mind getting any train there is. Another option is to get a train ticket Vladivostok-Moscow from a travel agency (or through our partner company) with stopovers along the way (but then your dates will be fixed). You can also get an open ticket, but then you'll need to confirm 1-2 days before you travel in every city you arrive.

Question (28/11/03): "Can you tell me how many time zones does the railway pass through?"
Answer: Moscow - Vladivostok (the original Trans-Siberian) goes through 7 time zones. Moscow time is GMT+3, Vladivostok time is GMT + 10.


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