The 7D6N Trans-Siberia Train from Vladivostok to Moscow is one of the longest trains in the world.
Fun fact, you can start your journey from Korea. Simply take the ferry to Vladivostok and then board the train at Vladivostok to Moscow. You can also take the trans-Siberia train from Mongolia, Japan and China.
Today, we have Dutch explorer, Harm Kramer with us! He just finished his semester abroad in Seoul, Korea and looking to head back to Amsterdam. Instead of flying home, he’s taking a long route home with a train. Because why not.
About Harm Kramer
Hi, I’m Dutch, 22 year old. Taking the scenic route home from Seoul to Amsterdam via the Trans-Siberia train! I did it in two stretches (which I recommend to everybody as it’s more hygienic and you’ll see more of Russia), from Vladivostok to Irkutsk in 3 days and 4 nights, a couple days there (celebrated New Year’s with a family).
Then onwards to Moscow, another 3 days and 4 nights, which is where I am right now. My feet are sore from walking around the city.
Why is it more hygienic to do it in two stretches?
There are showers only in more luxury cars. No showers at the stations, and the stops are only 20 – 40 min in large cities.
You can count on maybe 2 to 4 of the longer stops a day (which are 15 to 30 minutes), which is barely enough time to take a fresh breath and some pictures. There’s no indication that the train is about to leave either, so I decided to stay near.
As for hygiene, carry some packaged wet tissues to be prepared for the worst, but otherwise, you should get used to the prospect of not smelling very well when you get off. Luckily, my taxi drivers in Irkutsk and Moscow that took me off the boiler were quite understanding.
Do you speak any Russian? Do you think someone who does not would enjoy the trip?
Zip, zero, nyet. Only the little words you learn whenever you are in another country for a while, like hello (privyet) and thank you (spesibah).
Not knowing Russian made it harder, of course, and if you’re into socialising with random folks on the train you’re going to have a harder time with that – though they will try regardless. I got offered food by three people at three occasions, all of whom spoke zero English. I managed just fine in the end, given that I am now here in one piece.
How did you make sure you got the right one and that you got on the right train at the right time?
I learned the Cyrillic alphabet a little bit. I can read the city names, so I got on the right train at the right time with no problem.
Funny story – I was at the Vladivostok station, and I saw my train at the screen, but there was a message behind it scrolling past. I didn’t know what it said, nobody around me spoke English, and the info desk was closed (it was past midnight).
I had google translate, with Russian downloaded, but the camera function did not work on the electronic screen, and I did not have a Russian keyboard installed to type in the message manually.
So what I did was I typed in random shit, google translated it to Russian, copied all that text to a second window, browsed that for the individual letters I needed, and copy-pasted those, letter by letter, back to the translation window until I had the complete message.
The message? “Carts numbered from front to back” when the numbers are clearly visible on the carts. Yup, good way to spend 35 minutes in terror.
How full were the trains? Was it easy to move around and for that matter, did you move around a lot?
Each car was divided into a half-dozen cabins, which held four beds each.
I was alone in my cabin for 5% of the time, with one other person for 25% of the time, with two others for 40% of the time, and the cabin was full for the remaining 10%.
The corridor outside is about 1.5 person wide so… don’t be fat. An advice many Russians seemed to have ignored.
I did not move a lot, no, as there was not much to do. Mostly from and to the toilet.
How is the food on the train?
You really should bring food for the entire trip.
There are occasionally people on the stations selling their local produce, which is brilliant when you see it, but you really cannot count on them as you’ll barely get one a day. There is also meant to be an on-board restaurant, but few people seemed to go there (so few, in fact, that I could not find it on my first trip and could not physically get there on my second because too many people were being stationary and in my way).
So, pack some instant mashed potatoes (their version of instant noodles), mandarins (easy to eat, doesn’t spoil that fast), and a big bottle of water, and supplement that with whatever you find/buy on the way.
You won’t need 9 whole meals though for three days – you’ll barely be hungry because you’re sitting on your arse all day.
Also, check out 15 tips on the Trans-Siberia Train
How much did you pay?
I used a travel agency, which amounted to 1200 euros. There are cheaper flights, but I wanted to experience this.
Note: I feel like he got ripped off by the travel agency. But it is safer as there is less hassle. There are a few ways to buy tickets.
On the website, tickets individually are
- 10247 RUB Vladivostok – Irkutsk
- 13939 RUB Irkutsk – Moscow
How do you entertain yourself?
Books and more books. There are no plugs available during the first train, so I read my books. The second train had a plug so I finished 11 movies.
Lisa’s Note: There is a book called Trans-Siberian Handbook. It is a km-by-km account of sights to lookout for when on the train! (I can’t believe they made a book for this. That’s cool.)
Did you have very much conversation/contact with others?
Well, I took it in two legs, so three days of silence at the most. I am honestly very good with alone-time, so I would have been fine with an empty cabin for the entire journey. Contact with Russians was mostly initiated by them, inviting me for food and such, or just asking me to lift up my ass so they can grab their purse from under my bed.
What was the weirdest Russian custom you came across? What did you like most about Russians?
Answer to both: tendency to share everything! I could barely exchange names with these guys yet they kept inviting me to dinner!
How was the luggage situation? What sorts of luggage did or could you bring?
What you could carry. I had a big suitcase and a sizeable backpack, and that seemed about the average load the other guests had too. You just fit whatever you bring underneath your bed.
Did you spot lots of tourists?
Zero tourists. Apparently winter is low-season, so there is no travellers.
What was the landscape like?
Nothing. It was super cold and was winter time. The most interesting thing was a tree.
Additional Trans-Siberia Information
For more details (when you are ready to book your tickets), check out this in-depth guide by Seat61: Trans-Siberia Railway.
Other useful sights for your research
- transsib.ru/Eng/ – the Trans-Siberian web encyclopaedia.
- trans-siberia.com– an independent site, based on a traveller’s experiences.
- myazcomputerguy.com/everbrite/Page9 – excellent advice from Ruth Imershein, an experienced and regular traveller to Russia.
Trevellers is my way to change the world. Through my stories, tips and lessons learnt, I truly hope to inspire you to get out of your comfort zone, see the world and see who you truly are. Travel is more than just taking a selfie at beautiful destinations. Travel is an adventure, where you can truly become who you are, give you the time to reflect and grow to become the person you’ve always dreamt of.