This summer a few friends and I decided to take a different approach on vacations and change the typical beach summer holidays for a new adventure. The challenge: to cross Asia through the transsiberian railway network.
The challenge actually started quite a few months before the trip, as we organized and bought everything on our own. First, being 7 people in total for the trip, it was a tedious work to get to agreements, but with time we learned to be more efficient. Once we had agreed on the route planned and the dates, we set to buy airplane tickets, train tickets, make hostel reservations and arrange visa permits. The plan was to start in Russia, go to lake Baikal, take the trans-mongolian train to Ulaanbaatar, continue to Beijing and end in Shanghai.
Buying the airplane tickets was an easy task with Aeroflot, a russian airline with relatively good service. Buying the train tickes however proved to be a bit more complicated. We ended up buying the train tickets through local agencies, as international trains cannot be bought online. Obtaining the 3 required visas proved also to be a challenge, especially the russian which requires and invitation to the country and hence we had to do it through a travel agency (with the additional costs implied).
The trip started out by flying to St. Petersburg after an overnight flight to Moscow, where we spent a couple days to enjoy the city. We had the opportunity to visit the Peterhof palace and enjoy the russian ballet with Anna Karenina.
Afterwards we flew to Moscow, where we spent another couple of days. Here we made the typical visits to the Kremlin, to Lenin’s mausoleum, the Red square and other areas around the city. I had the great pleasure to meet an old russian friend from university, who gave us the insider tour and took us around all the city. Overall we had a great time in Moscow and it couldn’t have been better.
The transsiberian train route starts in Moscow, but because of time constraints, we decided to cheat a bit and do the first leg of the journey by air. We flew directly to Irkutsk, where we took a local (illegal) taxi to Listvyanka, next to the lake Baikal. Here we stayed for the night in a very nice cabin overseeing the lake. The next day, we began the train journey from Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia. This meant 2 nights in train including 7 hours being held up to cross the border. The train was a very interesting experience, meeting new people and even getting to know yourself a bit better ;)
Russia overall was a great country to visit, and I feel like I need to go back to Moscow and St. Petersburg sometime soon. People are not very used to tourists and the language barrier can make things difficult at times, but it was totally worth it.
It was a long trip and I don’t want to bore you, so I will continue on another post but I leave you with a few pictures I hope you will enjoy.