Traveling along the Trans-Siberian Railway was definitely the highlight of my three months in Russia. While I loved St. Petersburg, my train journey gave me the unique opportunity to see more of Russia in one month than most Russians will probably see in their lifetimes.
I outlined my itinerary before I began and now I thought I’d go back and sum up some of the highlights and fun facts about the journey.
Total distance traveled: 9150 kilometers (5685 miles)
Total hours on the train: 150 hours, 52 minutes
Number of hours “gained” as I crossed time zones: 7
Number of different people with whom I shared a compartment: 20
Longest train ride: 62 hours, 26 minutes (Vladivostok to Ulan Ude).
Shortest train ride: 8 hours, 10 minutes (Ulan Ude to Irkutsk).
Earliest arrival into a city: 4:40 a.m. to Yekaterinburg
Latest departure from a city: 11:42 p.m. from Ulan Ude
Best hostel: The Kiwi Hostel in Krasnoyarsk. Everything was brand new, it was spotlessly clean and the location was right on a main trolley bus line. Bonus points for staff who spoke English, provided me with a city map and sightseeing suggestions and helped me carry my bags to the bus stop when I left.
Worst hostel: The See You Hostel (also known as the Mix Mix Hostel) in Vladivostok. The neighborhood felt shady, the directions to the hostel were horrible, the staff barely spoke English and the metal framed bunk bed and pencil thin mattress was the least comfortable on my entire trip.
Total amount spent: $1,429.44, which breaks down as follows:
- Accommodation: $291.53
- Transportation: $509.98 (including discounted train tickets from Real Russia)
- Food: $310.14
- Activities & entertainment:$256.52
- Miscellaneous other stuff: $61.28
Favorite city: Yekaterinburg. In addition to its history with the Romanov family, it was a very pleasant and quirky city.
Favorite moments: Dipping my finger in chilly Lake Baikal and playing in the snow on Olkhon Island.
Moment I’d rather forget: Watching an ATM machine eat my card for the second time on this trip while in Krasnoyarsk.
Most memorable experience that didn’t quite merit its own post: After a day trip to the Taltsy Open Air Museum outside of Irkutsk, I was waiting for a bus or marshrutka back to the city when it started to snow. With no transportation in sight, a car pulled over and the driver offered me a ride. Against my better judgment, I jumped in, not knowing when my next chance might be to get back to Irkutsk.
To my surprise, the driver started chatting with me in Russian. He introduced himself as Vladimir and asked my name, after which he prefaced every new thought by first calling me “Katya.” He asked me about Chicago, my family and my travels and told me about his family – from his babushka who was born and raised in Irkutsk to his four children, including two sons, ages 31 and 32 (at which point I started to wonder if he might be trying to bring me home to dinner and marry me off to one of them).
As we neared Irkutsk and the snow was nearing blizzard proportions, Vladimir asked me where he should drop me off. Trying to be somewhat sensible, I told him to drop me at the bus station, even though it was about a 15 minute walk from my flat. My skeptical side was still thinking it would be good to be in a public place in case he tried to demand too much money for the ride. But at the same time, my intuition was telling me that Vladimir wasn’t going to charge me anything – that he was a nice man who simply gave me a ride out of generosity and kindness.
In the end I was right. Vladimir dutifully dropped me off on the corner outside of the bus station and cheerfully said farewell as I bundled myself back up and opened the car door into the blowing snow.
I hope you’ve enjoyed following along as I traveled on the Trans-Siberian – I know I’ve had a blast sharing it all with you. Anything else you’d like to know about the trip? Let me know below!
One final thank you to Real Russia, who provided amazing service and advice as I went through the process to obtain my Russian visa and generously assisted with train tickets for my Trans-Siberian journey. I highly recommend both their visa and travel services.