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Trans-Siberian Railway
Bridge over Kama River, near Perm in 1912
Bridge over Kama River, near Perm in 1912
Trans-Siberian line in red; Baikal Amur Mainline in green
Trans-Siberian line in red; Baikal Amur Mainline in green
Line length: 9,259 km (5,753 mi)
Gauge: Broad 1,520 mm (4 ft 11+56 in)
km Station
Station on track
284 Yaroslavl
Transverse water Bridge over water Transverse water
2706 Irtysh River
Transverse water Bridge over water Transverse water
3332 Ob River
Station on track
4098 Krasnoyarsk
Station on track
4516 Taishet
Station on track
5642 Ulan Ude
Transverse water Unknown route-map component "eGRENZE+WBRÜCKE" Transverse water
8515 Amur J.A. Oblast - Khabarovsk Krai border
End station
9289 Vladivostok

The Trans-Siberian Railway or Trans-Siberian Railroad (Транссибирская магистраль, Транссиб in Russian, or Transsibirskaya magistral', Transsib) is a network of railways connecting Moscow and European Russia with the Russian Far East provinces, Mongolia, China and the Sea of Japan. Today, the railway is part of the Eurasian Land Bridge.




Route development

The plans and funding for construction of the Trans-Siberian Railway to connect the capital, Moscow, with the Pacific Ocean port of Vladivostok were approved by Tsar Alexander II in St. Petersburg. His son, Tsar Alexander III supervised the construction; the Tsar appointed Sergei Witte Director of Railway Affairs in 1889. The Imperial State Budget spent 1.455 billion rubles from 1891 to 1913 on the railway's construction, an expenditure record which was surpassed only by the military budget in World War I.

In March 1891, the future Tsar Nicholas II personally opened and blessed the construction of the Far East segment of the Trans-Siberian Railway during his stop at Vladivostok, after visiting Japan at the end of his journey around the world. Nicholas II made notes in his diary about his anticipation of travelling in the comfort of The Tsar's Train across the unspoiled wilderness of Siberia. The Tsar's Train was designed and built in St. Petersburg to serve as the main mobile office of the Tsar and his staff for travelling across Russia.

The main route of the Trans-Siberian originates in St. Petersburg at Moskovsky Vokzal, runs through Moscow, Chelyabinsk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Ulan-Ude, Chita and Khabarovsk to Vladivostok via southern Siberia and was built from 1891 to 1916 under the supervision of government ministers of Russia who were personally appointed by the Tsar Alexander III and by his son, Tsar Nicholas II. The additional Chinese Eastern Railway was constructed as the Russo-Chinese part of the Trans-Siberian Railway, connecting Russia with China and providing a shorter route to Vladivostok and it was operated by a Russian staff and administration based in Harbin.

The Trans-Siberian Railway is often associated with the main transcontinental Russian train that connects hundreds of large and small cities of the European and Asian parts of Russia. At 9,259 kilometres (5,753 miles),[1] spanning a record 7 time zones and taking eight days to complete the journey, it is the third-longest single continuous service in the world, after the Moscow–Pyongyang (10,267 km, 6,380 mi)[2] and the Kiev–Vladivostok (11,085 km, 6,888 mi)[3] services, both of which also follow the Trans-Siberian for much of their routes. The route was opened by Tsarevich Nicholas Alexandrovitch of Russia after his eastern journey ended.

A second primary route is the Trans-Manchurian, which coincides with the Trans-Siberian as far as Tarskaya (a stop 12 km east of Karymskaya, in Zabaykalsky Krai), about 1,000 km east of Lake Baikal. From Tarskaya the Trans-Manchurian heads southeast, via Harbin and Mudanjiang in China's Northeastern Provinces (from where a connection to Beijing is used by one of Moscow–Beijing trains), joining with the main route in Ussuriysk just north of Vladivostok. This is the shortest and the oldest railway route to Vladivostok. Some trains split at Shenyang, China, with a portion of the service continuing to Pyongyang, North Korea.

The third primary route is the Trans-Mongolian Railway, which coincides with the Trans-Siberian as far as Ulan Ude on Lake Baikal's eastern shore. From Ulan-Ude the Trans-Mongolian heads south to Ulaan-Baatar before making its way southeast to Beijing.

In 1991, a fourth route running further to the north was finally completed, after more than five decades of sporadic work. Known as the Baikal Amur Mainline (BAM), this recent extension departs from the Trans-Siberian line at Taishet several hundred miles west of Lake Baikal and passes the lake at its northernmost extremity. It crosses the Amur River at Komsomolsk-na-Amure (north of Khabarovsk), and reaches the Pacific at Sovetskaya Gavan.

War and revolution

After the revolution of 1917, the railway served as the vital line of communication for the Czechoslovak Legion and the Allied armies that landed troops at Vladivostok during the Siberian Intervention of the Russian Civil War. These forces supported the White Russian government of Admiral Aleksandr Kolchak, based in Omsk, and White Russian soldiers fighting the Bolsheviks on the Ural Front. The intervention was weakened, and ultimately defeated, by partisan fighters who blew up bridges and sections of track, particularly in the volatile region between Krasnoyarsk and Chita.[4]

The Trans-Siberian also played a very direct role during parts of Russia's history, with the Czechoslovak Legion using heavily armed and armoured trains to control large amounts of the railway (and of Russia itself) during the Russian Civil War at the end of World War I.[5] As one of the few organised fighting forces left in the aftermath of the Imperial collapse, and before the Red Army took control, the Czechs and Slovaks were able to use their organization and the resources of the railway to establish a temporary zone of control before eventually continuing onwards towards Vladivostok, from where they emigrated back to Czechoslovakia through Vancouver in Canada, through Canada to Europe, or the Panama Canal to Europe also through Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Port Said and Triest.

Demand and design

Kazansky train station in Moscow. Starting point to Kazan.

In the late 19th century, the development of Siberia was hampered by poor transport links within the region as well as between Siberia and the rest of the country. Aside from the Great Siberian Route, good roads suitable for wheeled transport were few and far between. For about five months of the year, rivers were the main means of transportation; during the cold half of the year, cargo and passengers travelled by horse-drawn sleds over the winter roads, many of which were the same rivers, now ice-covered.

The first steamboat on the River Ob, Nikita Myasnikov's Osnova, was launched in 1844; but the early starts were difficult, and it was not until 1857 that steamboat shipping started developing on the Ob system in a serious way. Steamboats started operating on the Yenisei in 1863, on the Lena and Amur in the 1870s.

Snow in end of april, station Nazivaevskaya (Называевская), Siberia.

While the comparably flat Western Siberia was at least fairly well served by the gigantic ObIrtyshTobolChulym river system, the mighty rivers of Eastern Siberia — the Yenisei, the upper course of the Angara River (the Angara below Bratsk was not easily navigable because of the rapids), and the Lena — were mostly navigable only in the north-south direction. An attempt to partially remedy the situation by building the Ob-Yenisei Canal was not particularly successful. Only a railway could be a real solution to the region's transportation problems.

The first railway projects in Siberia emerged after the completion of the Moscow-Saint Petersburg Railway in 1851.[6] One of the first was the IrkutskChita project, proposed by the American entrepreneur Perry Collins and supported by Transport Minister Constantine Possiet with a view toward connecting Moscow to the Amur river, and consequently, to the Pacific Ocean. Siberia's governor, Nikolay Muravyov-Amursky, was anxious to advance the colonisation of the Russian Far East, but his plans could not materialize as long as the colonists had to import grain and other food from China and Korea.[7] It was on Muravyov's initiative that surveys for a railroad in the Khabarovsk region were conducted.

Before 1880, the central government had virtually ignored these projects, because of the weakness of Siberian enterprises, a clumsy bureaucracy, and fear of financial risk. Financial minister Count Egor Kankrin wrote:

The idea of covering Russia with a railroad network not just exceeds any possibility, but even building the railway from Petersburg to Kazan must be found untimely by several centuries.[8]

By 1880, there were a large number of rejected and upcoming applications for permission to construct railways to connect Siberia with the Pacific but not eastern Russia. This worried the government and made connecting Siberia with central Russia a pressing concern. The design process lasted 10 years. Along with the route actually constructed, alternative projects were proposed:

Railwaymen fought against suggestions to save funds, for example, by installing ferryboats instead of bridges over the rivers until traffic increased. The designers insisted and secured the decision to construct an uninterrupted railway.

Unlike the rejected private projects that intended to connect the existing cities demanding transport, the Trans-Siberian did not have such a priority. Thus, to save money and avoid clashes with land owners, it was decided to lay the railway outside the existing cities. Tomsk was the largest city, and the most unfortunate, because the swampy banks of the Ob River near it were considered inappropriate for a bridge. The railway was laid 70 km to the south (instead crossing the Ob at Novosibirsk), just a blind branch line connected with Tomsk, depriving the city of the prospective transit rail traffic and trade.

The railway was instantly filled to its capacity with local traffic, mostly wheat. Together with low speed and low possible weights of trains, it upset the promised role as a transit route between Europe and East Asia. During the Russian-Japanese war, the military traffic to the East almost disrupted the flow of civil freight.


Train entering a Circum-Baikal tunnel west of Kultuk

Full-time construction on the Trans-Siberian Railway began in 1891 and was put into execution and overseen by Sergei Witte, who was then Finance Minister.

Similar to the First Transcontinental Railroad in the USA, Russian engineers started construction at both ends and worked towards the centre. From Vladivostok the railway was laid north along the right bank of the Ussuri River to Khabarovsk at the Amur River, becoming the Ussuri Railway.

In 1890, a bridge across the River Ural was built and the new railway entered Asia. The bridge across the Ob River was built in 1898 and the small city of Novonikolaevsk, founded in 1883, metamorphosed into a large Siberian centre—Novosibirsk. In 1898, the first train reached Irkutsk and the shores of Lake Baikal. The railway ran on to the east, across the Shilka and the Amur rivers and soon reached Khabarovsk. The Vladivostok-Khabarovsk branch was built a bit earlier, in 1897.

Vladivostok terminus of the Trans-Siberian Railway

Russian soldiers, as well as convict labourers from Sakhalin and other places were pressed into railway-building service. One of the largest challenges was the construction of the Circum-Baikal Railway around Lake Baikal, some 60 km (40 mi) east of Irkutsk. Lake Baikal is more than 640 km (400 mi) long and over 1,600 m (5,000 feet) deep. The line ended on each side of the lake and a special icebreaker ferryboat, the SS Baikal, as well as a smaller one, the SS Angara, were built at Newcastle upon Tyne, England, to connect the railway. In the winter sleighs were used to move passengers and cargo from one side of the lake to the other until the completion of the Lake Baikal spur along the southern edge of the lake. With the completion of the Amur River line north of the Chinese border in 1916, there was a continuous railway from Petrograd to Vladivostok that remains to this day the world's longest railway line. Electrification of the line, begun in 1929 and completed in 2002, allowed a doubling of train weights to 6,000 tonnes.


The Trans-Siberian Railway gave a great boost to Siberian agriculture, facilitating substantial exports to central Russia and Europe. It influenced the territories it connected directly, as well as those connected to it by river transport. For instance, Altai Krai exported wheat to the railway via the Ob River.

As Siberian agriculture began to export cheap grain towards the West, agriculture in Central Russia was still under economic pressure after the end of serfdom, which was formally abolished in 1861. Thus, to defend the central territory and to prevent possible social destabilisation, in 1896 the government introduced the Chelyabinsk tariff break (Челябинский тарифный перелом), a tariff barrier for grain passing through Chelyabinsk, and a similar barrier in Manchuria. This measure changed the nature of export: mills emerged to create bread from grain in Altai Krai, Novosibirsk and Tomsk, and many farms switched to butter production. From 1896 until 1913 Siberia exported on average 501,932 tonnes (30,643,000 pood) of bread (grain, flour) annually.[9]

The Trans-Siberian line remains the most important transportation link within Russia; around 30% of Russian exports travel on the line. While it attracts many foreign tourists, it gets most of its use from domestic passengers.

The Trans-Siberian is a vital link to the Russian Far East.

Today the Trans-Siberian Railway carries about 200,000 containers per year to Europe. Russian Railways intends to at least double the volume of container traffic on the Trans-Siberian and is developing a fleet of specialised cars and increasing terminal capacity at the ports by a factor of 3 to 4. By 2010, the volume of traffic between Russia and China could reach some 60 million tons, most of which will go by the Trans-Siberian.[10].

With perfect coordination of the participating countries' railway authorities, a trainload of containers can be taken from Beijing to Hamburg, via the Transmongolian and Transsiberian lines in as little as 15 days, but typical cargo travel times are usually significantly longer[11] - e.g., typical cargo travel time from Japan to major destinations in European Russia was reported as around 25 days.[12]

Passenger fares

Return tickets from Central Europe to Vladivostok and back can be as cheap as 250.00 with so called CityStar or Sparpreis Europa special offers. In addition a reservation supplement for long-distance trains is mandatory, the prices range between €30.00 to €60.00 each way for trains in four-berth sleeper on the Trans-Siberian Railway. Overall, buying tickets for Russian trains in Germany, the Czech Republic or Poland can be cheaper and easier (language-wise) than in Russia.[citation needed]

In addition to these services, a number of privately-chartered services are operated and one tour operator even commissioned the construction of their own train, jointly owned by themselves and Russian railways. The train, officially named Golden Eagle Trans-Siberian Express was launched on 26 April, 2007 by Prince Michael of Kent.[13]


View from the rear platform of the Simskaia railway station of the Samara-Zlatoust Railway, ca. 1910

In general, the lower the train number the fewer stops it makes and therefore the faster the journey. The train number makes no difference to the duration of border crossings.

Trans-Siberian line

Bashkir switchman near the town Ust' Katav on the Yuryuzan River between Ufa and Cheliabinsk in the Ural Mountains region, ca. 1910
The marker for kilometre 9,288, at the end of the line in Vladivostok

A commonly used main line route is as follows. Distances and travel times are from the schedule of train No.002M, Moscow-Vladivostok.[1]

Services to North Korea continue from Ussuriysk via:

  • Primorsk (9,257 km, 6 days 14h, MT+7)
  • Khasan (9,407 km, 6 days 19h, MT+7, border with North Korea)
  • Tumangang (9,412 km, 7 days 10h, MT+6, North Korean side of the border)
  • Pyongyang (10,267 km, 9 days 2h, MT+6)

There are many alternative routings between Moscow and Siberia. For example:

  • Some trains would leave Moscow from Kazansky Rail Terminal instead of Yaroslavsky Rail Terminal; this would save some 20 km off the distances, because it provides a shorter exit from Moscow onto the Nizhny Novgorod main line.
  • One can take a night train from Moscow's Kursky Rail Terminal to Nizhny Novgorod, make a stopover in the Nizhny and then transfer to a Siberia-bound train
  • From 1956 to 2001 many trains went between Moscow and Kirov via Yaroslavl instead of Nizhny Novgorod. This would add some 29 km to the distances from Moscow, making Vladivostok Kilometer 9,288.
  • Other trains get from Moscow (Kazansky Terminal) to Yekaterinburg via Kazan.
  • Between Yekaterinburg and Omsk it is possible to travel via Kurgan Petropavl (in Kazakhstan) instead of Tyumen.
  • One can bypass Yekaterinburg altogether by travelling via Samara, Ufa, Chelyabinsk, and Petropavl; this was historically the earliest configuration.

Depending on the route taken, the distances from Moscow to the same station in Siberia may differ by several tens of kilometers.

Trans-Manchurian line

The Trans-Manchurian line, as e.g. used by train No.020, Moscow-Beijing[14] follows the same route as the Trans-Siberian between Moscow and Chita, and then follows this route to China:

  • Branch off from the Trans-Siberian-line at Tarskaya (6,274 km from Moscow)
  • Zabaikalsk (6,626 km), Russian border town
  • Manzhouli (6,638 km from Moscow, 2,323 km from Beijing), Chinese border town
  • Harbin (7,573 km, 1,388 km)
  • Changchun (7,820 km from Moscow)
  • Beijing (8,961 km from Moscow)

The express train (No.020) travel time from Moscow to Beijing is just over six days.

There is no direct passenger service along the entire original Trans-Manchurian route (i.e., from Moscow—or anywhere in Russia-west-of-Manchuria—to Vladivostok via Harbin), due to the obvious administrative and technical (gauge break) inconveniences of crossing the border twice. However, assuming sufficient patience and possession of appropriate visas, it is still possible to travel all the way along the original route, with a few stopovers (e.g. in Harbin, Grodekovo, and Ussuriysk).[15][16][17] Such an itinerary would pass through the following points from Harbin east:

Trans-Mongolian line

The Trans-Mongolian line follows the same route as the Trans-Siberian between Moscow and Ulan Ude, and then follows this route to Mongolia and China:

  • Branch off from the Trans-Siberian line (5,655 km from Moscow)
  • Naushki (5,895 km, MT+5), Russian border town
  • RussianMongolian border (5,900 km, MT+5)
  • Sükhbaatar (5,921 km, MT+5), Mongolian border town
  • Ulan Bator (6,304 km, MT+5), the Mongolian capital
  • Zamyn-Üüd (7,013 km, MT+5), Mongolian border town
  • Erenhot (842 km from Beijing, MT+5), Chinese border town
  • Datong (371 km, MT+5)
  • Beijing (MT+5)

Cultural importance

Developments in shipping

Russia and Japan are working together to set up a system to safely ship goods to Europe through the Trans-Siberian. With the intensification of Somalian piracy, Russia hopes to look increasingly attractive as an alternate route for some goods as compared to sailing around the Horn of Africa and especially around the Cape of Good Hope.[citation needed]. On January 11, 2008, China, Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany agreed to collaborate on a cargo train service between Beijing and Hamburg.[18]

One of the complicating factors related to such ventures is the fact that the CIS states' broad railway gauge is incompatible with China and Western and Central Europe's standard gauge. Therefore, a train travelling from China to Western Europe would encounter gauge breaks twice — at the Chinese-Mongolian or Chinese-Russian frontier and at the Ukrainian or Belorussian border with Central European countries.

See also


  1. ^ a b CIS railway timetable, route No. 002, Moscow-Vladivostok. Archived 2009-12-03.
  2. ^ CIS railway timetable, route No. 002, Moscow-Pyongyang. Archived 2009-12-03.
  3. ^ CIS railway timetable, route No. 350, Kiev-Vladivostok. Archived 2009-12-03.
  4. ^ Benjamin Isitt, "Mutiny from Victoria to Vladivostok, December 1918," Canadian Historical Review 87, no 2 (June 2006): 223-264; Canada's Siberian Expedition Digital Archive; Siberian Expedition website
  5. ^ First World War - Willmott, H.P.; Dorling Kindersley, 2003, Page 251
  6. ^ Based on a chapter of: Problem Regions of Resource Type: Economical Integration of European North-East, Ural and Siberia. / Managing editors: V. V. Alexeev, M. K. Bandman, V. V. Kuleshov — Novosibirsk, IEIE, 2002. ISBN 5-89665-060-4.
  7. ^ G. Patrick March. Eastern Destiny: Russia in Asia and the North Pacific. Praeger/Greenwood, 1996. ISBN 0275956482. Pages 152-153.
  8. ^ Столетие железных дорог // Труды научно-технического комитета Комиссариата путей сообщения. Вып.20 — М., 1925. Century of Railways // Works of scientific and technical committee of Communications Commissariat. Issue 20 — Moscow, 1925.
  9. ^ Храмков А. А. Железнодорожные перевозки хлеба из Сибири в западном направлении в конце XIX — начале XX вв. // Предприниматели и предпринимательство в Сибири. Вып.3: Сборник научных статей. Барнаул: Изд-во АГУ, 2001.
    Khramkov A. A. Railroad Transportation of Bread from Siberia to the West in the Late 19th — Early 20th Centuries. // Entrepreneurs and Business Undertakings in Siberia. 3rd issue. Collection of scientific articles. Barnaul: Altai State University publishing house, 2001. ISBN 5-7904-0195-3.
  10. ^ Transsiberian Railway (from Russian Railways official website)
  11. ^ China-to-Germany Cargo Train Completes Trial Run in 15 Days. By Patrick Donahue., 2008-01-24
  12. ^ Mitsui talking to Russian railway operator on trans-Siberian freight service By Hiroyuki Kachi., last update: 6:41 a.m. EDT July 20, 2007
  13. ^
  14. ^ CIS railway timetable, route No. 020, Moscow-Beijing. Archived 2009-12-03.
  15. ^ Harbin-Suifenhe train schedule.
  16. ^ Grodekovo-Harbin schedule, Nov 2006 (Note that Russian train sites give incorrect kilometer distance between Chinese stations).
  17. ^ Grodekovo-Ussuriysk schedule, Nov 2006.
  18. ^ Beijing to Hamburg fast cargo rail link planned - The China Post
  • Marks, S.G. (1991). Road to Power: The Trans-Siberian Railroad and the Colonization of Asian Russia, 1850–1917. New York. ISBN 0801425336. 
  • Faulstich, Edith. M. "The Siberian Sojourn" Yonkers, N.Y. (1972-1977)
  • Thomas, Bryn (2003). The Trans-Siberian Handbook (6th ed. ed.). Trailblazer. ISBN 1-873756-70-4. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

This article is an itinerary.

Trans-Siberian train, Moscow to Vladivostok route
Trans-Siberian train, Moscow to Vladivostok route

The Trans-Siberian Railway is the name given to the three rail routes that traverse Siberia from Moscow.

The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway in the world. It was built between 1891 and 1916 to connect the Russian capital Moscow with the Far-East city of Vladivostok. En route it passes through the cities of Perm, Yekaterinburg, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Chita and Khabarovsk.

Vladivostok station
Vladivostok station

The three termini of the Trans-Siberian are Moscow, Beijing and Vladivostok. There's also a weekly connection from Moscow to Pyongyang.

Moscow can be reached by train from anywhere in Europe. Fares from London (one-way) start at around £200. Eurolines operate the European coach system, and fares from London start from around £60. Aeroflot is the principal airline operating into and out of Moscow.

Ferries run throughout the year between Vladivostok and Fushiki, Japan. The trip takes about two days. Arrangements can be made through Business Intour Service, who have offices in Tokyo and Vladivostok.

Ferries also run from Sokcho[1] and Donghae[2], South Korea to Vladivostok. Aeroflot and Vladivostok Air [3] serve Vladivostok, amongst others.

Beijing is served by numerous international airlines. It can also be reached by train from as far south as Lhasa (Tibet) or Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), but there are no rail connections to Thailand, Myanmar or India.

Visa information

Most travelers will need visas for all three countries.

China and Mongolia are fairly straightforward. The best way to obtain a visa is through your own embassy or consulate or in Hong Kong. Visas for British citizens cost £30. However, Mongolian visas can easily be obtained from the Mongolian consulate in Irkutsk (Russia), and Chinese visas in Ulaanbaatar(Note: For the moment it is not recommended to apply for Chinese visas in Mongolia, due to tightened regulations.) Americans (90 days) and Israelis (30 days) do not need Mongolian visas.

Russia is more problematic. Invitations are generally required, and they must be registered in the country within 72 hours of arrival. However, Russian transit visas issued in Beijing or Harbin last 10 days and require no invitation. This would be enough time to make the trip with no stops along the way and spend a couple of days in Moscow. The Beijing consulate is open from 9:00 to 11:00 but remember that many Chinese nationals are also trying to acquire visas with you, so show up early. The cost varies for each nationality, but Americans can expect to pay $250 for same-day service or $150 for the five-day service. Upon arrival in Moscow you have four nights valid on your transit visa, which allows for one or two nights in Moscow, an overnight train and one or two nights in St. Petersburg respectively, but you must be across the border before midnight on the final day of your visa. There are many exits from St. Petersburg, including buses to Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Kiev and various other places in Europe, but be wary that nearly all nationalities need a transit visa (or tourist visa) for Belarus (see here if unsure) so be sure to be prepared with a visa if your plans take you through Belarus. It is generally assumed that border police stationed at bus routes that exit the country are less likely to make a fuss versus the police on trains. A Russian transit visa cannot be extended under any circumstances. If you arrive from Beijing you can register your visa after arriving in Moscow. If you have a 10 day Transit Visa and do not stay in one place (i.e. go to Saint Petersburg) you do not have to register your visa. Unfortunately, if you encounter police officers they might not have the same opinion and you could be faced with a "fine." Have your ticket ready as proof that you've been unable to register sooner and keep all receipts from hotels and/or hostels from places where you haven't registered. Israelis do not need Russian visas (90 days).

Kupe-class passenger cabin on the Trans-Siberian
Kupe-class passenger cabin on the Trans-Siberian

The Russian train system is different from European systems. The train tickets are bought for fixed dates and all the stops must be planned in advance. If you have a ticket from Moscow to Vladivostok and step off the train in Irkutsk, you can’t use your ticket for a next train going to Vladivostok. If your stop is not planned in advance and not revealed in your tickets, your ticket will be canceled and you’ll get stuck in Irkutsk. It’s somewhat similar to a plane going from New York to Moscow with a connection in Amsterdam – if you decide to go out in Amsterdam and lose your flight you can’t use your ticket for a next flight to Moscow.

The rules state that a passenger is actually allowed to make one stop on his journey (for no additional charge), but this requires a little paperwork while on the train and will be difficult to arrange with the attendant without knowledge of Russian.

There are three ways of buying tickets for the trip. You can purchase them from a travel agent in your own country (or online), a travel agent in the country from which you will start the journey or turn up and buy tickets yourself. The first option is the safest but the most expensive, the last the cheapest but riskiest. Popular trains can be sold out well in advance, particularly in peak season.

Normally it is possible to buy the tickets in any Russian station, not necessarily one on the route of the train. Russia, Ukraine and Belarus have a common ticketing network, so it is possible to buy a ticket for a Russian train in those two countries (eg. Brest), and it will probably be even cheaper than in Moscow. The difference occurs for several reasons, including whether additional insurance is present or not. All tickets include a small mandatory insurance, but cashiers will try to sell you additional insurance (150-200 RUB) by default. Selling it by default is prohibited and you always have the option to opt-in or opt-out: just say bez strakhovkee (без страховки, without the insurance) or so strakhovkoy (со страховкой, with the insurance). The ticket itself is issued on two layers of orange paper, insurance (if included) is a pink/green paper of the same size.

In some stations there are still special windows for selling tickets only for foreigners, although the price of tickets should now be the same for foreigners and local people.

Tickets are normally individual, with name and passport number written on them, so you may need to show passports for all travelers when you pay (although usually a passport photocopy is enough.) Also, if you plan to buy tickets on more than one occasion, it may be useful to keep handy a piece of paper with the travelers names written in the Cyrillic alphabet instead of transcribing them each time.

In Beijing you must buy tickets in person from a hotel travel agency nearby Beijing's main train station.

Tickets online

Tickets can be purchased online, but you have to receive a paper ticket at the station anyway. You cannot board a train with just a printed copy of your order confirmation.

Arrive to your station of departure at least 30 minutes in advance (queues may be long!) and go to the same cash desks where you would normally buy tickets. Hand over your passport and order confirmation (or just the order number). The cashier will issue you a paper ticket for no additional fee.

Besides this, railway stations in Moscow have self check-in counters where you have to enter your order number and surname, and the ticket will be printed automatically.

Buying tickets at the official Russian Railways website at is a bit cheaper than at the stations because there will be no processing fee. You can also select the railway car and your seat/place. However, not all foreign credit cards are accepted. Tickets to international trains cannot be purchased online (trains to Belarus and Ukraine are not considered international for this purpose). (Russian language only) is another popular website that will accept all credit cards after a verification process. However, a service fee of 150-250 RUB is charged for each ticket.

Station numbers

Station numbers are used internally in the Russian railway computer system, but they are usually printed on the tickets as well. Knowing them may help when making the reservation in smaller stations (you could bring this page and use it for pointing), or when buying the tickets abroad.

Train Talk

  • I would like to buy a ticket - Ya hachu kupit bilyet - Я хочу купить билет
From - iz - из
To - vf - в
  • One, two, three persons - adeen, dva, tree chelavyeka - один, два, три человека
  • Today - sevodnya - сегодня
  • Tomorrow - zaftra - завтра
  • Monday - panedyelnik - понедельник
  • Tuesday - ftornik - вторник
  • Wednesday - sreda - среда
  • Thursday - chetvyerk - четверг
  • Friday - pyatnitsa - пятница
  • Saturday - subota - суббота
  • Sunday - vaskresyene - воскресенье
  • Leaving at - vy-ezd - выезд
Morning - ootram - утром
Noon - dnyom - днем
Evening - vyecherom - вечером
  • Carriage class - vagon - вагон
Platzkart (3rd) - platskart - плацкарт
Kupe (2nd) - kupe - купе
SV (1st) - es ve - СВ
  • Could I have... - mne pozhaluista... - мне, пожалуйста...
upper berth - vyerhnyuyu polku - верхнюю полку
lower berth - nizhnyuyu polku - нижнюю полку
  • Passport number - nomer pasporta - номер паспорта


Stations are listed in order from west to east


List of major stations listed in order from west to east

2004001 St Petersburg - Glavnyi Station (Санкт-Петербург (Главный вокзал))
2004004 St Petersburg - Finliandskii Station (Санкт-Петербург (Финляндский вокзал))
  • 2000000 Moscow (Москва)
2000002 Moscow - Yaroslavskij Station (Москва (Ярославский Вокзал))
2000003 Moscow - Kazanskij Station (Москва (Казанский Вокзал))
2000006 Moscow - Bieloruskij Station (Москва (Белорусский Вокзал))
  • 2060001 Nizhny Novgorod (Нижний Новгород) - often listed as Gorki (Горький)
  • 2060500 Kazan (Казань)
  • 2030000 Ekaterinburg (Екатеринбу́рг) - often listed as Sverdlovsk (Свердловск)
  • 2044001 Novosibirsk (Новосибирск)
  • 2028170 Tomsk (Томск)
  • 2038001 Krasnoyarsk (Красноярск)
  • 2054052 Severobaikalsk (Северобайкальск)
  • 2054001 Irkutsk (Иркутск)
  • 2054785 Ulan Ude (Улан-Удэ)
  • 2034001 Khabarovsk (Хабаровск)
  • 2034130 Vladivostok (Владивосток)


Fares are widely variable, but difficult to predict exactly. Fares for Russian trains are subject to seasonal changes, with mark-up for high season being up to 40%. The prices also change with the quality of the trains. Low numbered trains (001, 008, etc) are more expensive and more comfortable. High numbered trains (032, 133, etc) are less expensive and less comfortable. Rough ideas would be:

  • Beijing - Moscow about $450 (2nd class)from China Travel Service (CITS) in Beijing
  • St Petersburg - Kazan about $150 (2nd class, one way)
  • Kazan - Ekaterinburg about $80 (2nd class, one way)
  • Ekaterinburg - Novosibirsk about $125 (2nd class, one way)
  • Novosibirsk - Irkutsk about $150 (2nd class, one way)
  • Irkutsk - Vladivostok about $260 (2nd class, one way)

Reports show that the government has raised prices recently. Prices will be cheaper if you deal directly with them instead of resale agents, but that rules out English help and visa sponsorship, so be confident in your Russian if you deal directly with the government agency.


The Trans-Siberian trains have varied schedules - some trains are daily while some go on even dates, some on odd dates and some trains depart only on a couple of days during a week. There are also passing-by trains (проходящие поезда), which are actually legs of longer train itineraries. E.g. a Ekaterinburg-Irkutsk leg of a Moscow-Vladivostok train. In this case not only schedule, but also availability is affected - such tickets become available for sale 72 hours before departure.

All trains in Russia run in Moscow time. Departure and arrival times given in the timetables or on the tickets are always Moscow time (except stations outside Russia). There are 10 times zones in Russia.

Russian Railways has all Russian train schedules [4], as well as some of the international trains departing from Russian destinations (e.g. Moscow - Beijing train). Only actual availability is shown, which is released 45 days prior to departure for all Russian trains except for the passing-by ones and 30 days for most international trains. You will need to use alternate spellings for some destinations. Beijing is called Pekin, Moscow is Moskva, Saint Petersburg is Sankt-Peterburg, Yekaterinburg is Ekaterinburg or Sverdlovsk (old name of the city), Ulan Ude is Ulan-ude, Ulaanbaatar is Ulan-Bator, and Khabarovsk is Habarovsk.

  • Russian Railways International Ticket Office (495) 266-8300 (Russian)


Coming from Beijing or Harbin, the last stop in China is Manzhouli. The food being sold there is quite expensive, but many Russians stock up on provisions (i.e. spirits and beer). Be aware that you can take a maximum of five beers (Harbin Beer, 0.3l) per person into Russia or you will have to pay a penalty (read: bakshish) to the customs. Get rid of all your Chinese Yuan here as they become virtually worthless once abroad, unless you want to take them as a souvenir. There are a couple of black market money changers in front of the station that change RMB to Roubles at rip-off rates. To get Roubles you have plenty of time on the Russian side of the border (Zhabaikalsk). Walk to the ATM located at the bank in town. Allow 30 minutes to go and come back. The train stops for several hours while the carriages are being changed, so you can do some shopping at the local food markets (bread, cheese, etc.).

Coming from Beijing via Mongolia into Russia there are still the same rip-off exchange touts, but most if not all platform vendors in Mongolia and Russia take US Dollars or Euros. However, they only take bills (or notes), so know the exchange rate and buy a lot if you are using a five Euro note. Always ask the attendant how much time is available before you rush off into a station to find a Bankomat (ATM) because the train will not wait for you. If you are not spending time in Mongolia, don't worry about acquiring Mongolian tögrög. They are worthless virtually everywhere else, and the export of tögrög is technically forbidden. Therefore, spend Dollars or Euro, but get Roubles ASAP because Russian vendors are more likely to fabricate exchange rates than Mongolian or Chinese platform vendors. Dont forget to buy a lot of vodka while in Russia!

Samovar aboard the train
Samovar aboard the train

On the Moscow- Vladivostok route) the train stops for 20-30 minutes every 3-4 hours. Everybody can get out of the train, and there are always people on the platform that offer a variety of fresh food (eggs, fish, cheese, bread, fruits, meat or cheese in a cake ...) and often some drinks for passengers. Prices are low; only Russian Roubles are accepted. A highlight is the smoked fish (Omul) being sold on the shore of Lake Baikal (Station: Slyudyanka - quick stop, so be ready). Some of the larger stations will have food marts with snacks and alcohol.

Many of the trains have dining cars (with extremely overpriced food and drinks), although if you do not speak any Russian, ordering the food will be an experience, to say the least. Food and drinks are also sold in kiosks at the platforms, but normally twice as expensive. To get a reasonable price, wait for a station with a 20-30 minutes stop, and just exit the train station, there is usually a plenty of kiosks or small shops just outside, offering a wider choice.

Since there is a samovar (hot water dispenser) in every carriage, your best bet is to have a stack of dried noodle soups and Nescafe ready. Just bring your own cup. The carriage attendants (Provodnitsa, Provodnik if male) will often have cold drinks, snacks and even freeze-dried meals available for sale at slightly inflated prices.


In every train car there is a pot with boiling water available for making hot drinks (bring your own tea, but the water is free). Carriage attendants also sell tea and coffee, and it's usually possible to buy soft drinks, beer and vodka in the restaurant carriage to bring back to your carriage.


All tickets for long journey trains are for sleeping places. Trains between Moscow and St. Petersburg have seating places. Most trains in Russia have 3 classes of cabins to choose from;

  • 1st Class (SV) Is the most comfortable, but also doubles the cost of the journey compared to a kupe. Each cabin consists of two sofas flanking each side of the compartment, which convert into beds for sleeping. On some trains - e.g. the Trans-Mongolian, the 1st class compartments has private bathrooms. Service on 1st class, actually somewhat resembles the service you would expect in Europe and North America, which is worth considering since the Russian Railways is notoriously bureaucratic, and not very service minded to say the least.
  • 2nd Class (Kupe) Somewhat compares to the standard on Western European sleeper trains, although with the Russian sense of knick-knack decoration. These carriages are compartmentalized, with each compartment holding 4 beds. One thing of note when buying tickets for 2nd class, is that you will have to share the two lower bunks during the day. There is one shared bathroom on each carriage, that is locked during stops at stations. Kupe is a good compromise between relative comfort, and the ability to meet and mingle with the Russians, in a situation where they are notably more open minded than what is usual in Russia.
  • 3rd Class (Platzkart) Bears some resemblance to the 'Hard sleeper' class on Chinese trains, many travelers find this class to be much better than its reputation. These carriages are in an open layout with two lower and two upper berths, and small, narrow corridor and another two berths that are located on the opposite side below and above the window. There is little in the way of privacy here, but women travelers might prefer this option - as the open layout means you won't get stuck with 3 men and a closed door. The provodnitizas - or carriage attendants are notorious for running the place as a boot camp. On the other hand it's a taste of real Russia, and the price is usually 40-50 percent lower than kupe.

Note that sometimes there is no shower in the train. Even in the 1st class on K19 (Trans-Manchurian). You can have an Asian-style hot shower though, if you bring along 2 jars. Fill one up at the hot water dispenser, go to the washroom and mix the water you get there in the second one.


Packing the following items is recommended for any lengthy journey on the Trans-Siberian railway

  • Pocket knife For slicing up bread and vegetables you can buy from the sellers at major stops
  • Cutlery Instant noodles, or its Russian version - instant potatoes, become essential snacks for most Westeners, since each carriage is equipped with boiling water from the Samovar, unfortunantly they often come without the usual plastic fork or spoon.
  • Perfumed wet tissues These little things can do wonders for your personal hygiene.
  • Head lamp On these long journeys (through 8 time zones), it often turns out that Einstein indeed was right - time does become relative. So bring a headlamp for reading when others want to slumber.
  • Flip-flops or other slip on footwear, for your days on the train
  • Deck of cards or other easily explained games are great for socializing with your fellow travelers, and making the long hours spent on the train immensely more enjoyable.

Bring a deck of 5 Crowns for this is a favourite in Russia.

Stay safe

The journey on the Moscow-Vladivostok route seems to be very safe, especially if you travel in groups of four (or multiples); then you will get a separate four-bed cabin. Every train car has one or two staff (provodniks/provodnitsas) that check tickets, do cleaning, take care of boiling water, etc.

Cabins can be locked from the inside with two locks. One can be opened from outside with a special key, the other cannot be opened from outside, and when locked allows the door to open no more than 5 cm (2 inches).

This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|300px|Trans-Siberian line in red; Baikal Amur Mainline in green.]] The Trans-Siberian Railway or Trans-Siberian Railroad is a set of railways that goes from Moscow and European Russia to the Russian Far East provinces, Mongolia, China and the Sea of Japan.

Because Russia is such a big country, travel from one end and the other is an important problem. In the 1890s, the Russians began building the longest railway in the world to connect Moscow to the Pacific Ocean. Before the railway was built, the trip took about a year along very rough roads. One reason for building the "Trans-Sib" was military: to transport troops to the East in order to protect the country against Japan and China. Another reason was to transport food from the farming areas of south-western Siberia to the people in the European part of Russia. Many cities and industries are built up along the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway.


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