Summing Up the Trans-Siberian

Trans-Siberian Railway, Vladivostok, Russia
The monument marking the end of the Trans-Siberian Railway in Vladivostok.

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.

Beatles monument, Yekaerinburg, Russia
How can you not love a city with a Beatles monument?
Keyboard, Yekaterinburg, Russia
Funky keyboard monument in Yekaterinburg

Least favorite city: Vladivostok. I got off to a rocky start when I arrived and I just couldn’t get over the nonstop construction and congestion.

Favorite moments: Dipping my finger in chilly Lake Baikal and playing in the snow on Olkhon Island.

Lake Baikal, Russia
Slipping and sliding on the shores of Lake Baikal

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.

20 thoughts on “Summing Up the Trans-Siberian”

  1. I love that I found your site. My life long (and since I’m very old, it has been a long life) dream has been the Trans Siberian Rail…I haven’t given up. My daughter is adopted from Nizhny Novgorod; my daughter whose adoption didn’t survive the then-red tapes remains in Kimerova. I pray I will make this trip a reality….. I am so very proud that you followed your heart. Blessings, Suzan Rand/South Carolina

  2. Question for you Katie: I’m considering this trip in the fall and am wondering how the internet access is/was. Did you have it at all on the train or were you relegated to finding it in the stops along the way? Did you have a SIM? I’m wondering if that’s completely futile to try in these more remote areas due to lack of connectivity anyways.

    1. Oooh, tough question. So first of all, there’s no wifi on the trains (unless they have significantly upgraded since I went in 2011). I traveled with my Kindle w/ 3G and I could usually get 3G access whenever we were close to a town, sometimes in between but not always. I even got a 3G connection on Olkhon Island in the middle of Lake Baikal.

      As for a SIM, I had gotten one SIM in St Petersburg only to find it didn’t work in Moscow. So I had to get another one in Moscow, but that one didn’t work outside of the city. I didn’t spend long enough in one city along the Trans-Sib to try to get another one. I don’t know if I just needed to specify I wanted one that would work nationwide or if they just don’t offer them and only offer regional ones.

      All that said, every place I stayed when I stopped along the way offered free wifi.

  3. Hi Katie!

    I am starting my trans-Siberian adventure at the end of this month. Found your blog really useful! Thanks a lot!

    1. Great! Glad you found it helpful! Feel free to email me if you have any other questions.

      1. Well if it is not too much trouble, would you please tell me how to find the guide in Ulan Ude? Is there a company or something?

        1. I stayed at the Ulan Ude Traveller’s House hostel and they arranged the guide for me. It’s right in the center, so if you’re open to hostels, I recommend it.

          1. Thanks a lot! I did see this hostel online, I’ll try to see if I can make a reservation. Thanks again!

    1. Thanks Jade! Yep, I have to admit I was slightly nervous/suspicious the entire time and I was bracing myself for him to try to charge me a ton of money for the ride…and then as soon as he dropped me off with just a goodbye, I felt bad for subconsciously thinking the worst. But you’re right, most people really are good. 🙂

  4. Great Summary. I’m sure you’ve noticed that I’ve really loved following you on this trip!

    Overall would you recommend others do this trip? Any regrets from not going the other way?

  5. Lovely summary! You made me feel very nostalgic for my own Trans-Sib trip, it’s slipping back in time now (8 years ago! How did I get so old?!).

    I loved Yekaterinburg too but I’ll never forget the guy (who worked as some kind of tourist guide I think) who I was chatting to at the station at Irkutsk, before leaving for Yekaterinburg – he’d asked me where I was going next, I told him, he grimaced and said “Why would anyone want to go to Yekaterinburg?” He got me worried but he turned out to be totally ignorant!!

    1. Thanks! I feel like a lot of Russians had negative opinions of cities along the Trans-Siberian, that they likely had never been to. Everyone in Moscow told me how ugly and boring all of the cities in Siberia would be and they definitely were not!

    1. Haha, yeah, it was a lot! Although really, after the first 62 hour ride, everything seemed pretty short by comparison!

  6. What a nice round-up summary. I love the sound of the town-name Krasnoyarsk. And the cool story that didn’t make it to being a post. That is a great question too.

    Sheesh, didn’t realize you got into Yekaterinburg so freaking early. I guess the train just goes and stops when the towns come up, but eesh in the winter at that time it must be really dark and cold.

    1. Thanks Andy. Yeah, it really is kind of random with the arrival times, although for a lot of cities there are enough options that you can try to avoid really weird times. In Yekaterinburg, I couldn’t get into my hostel until 8:00 so I just hung out at the train station for a few hours.

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