Here’s a post I started and discarded…
I’ve thought about the Trans-Siberian railway since last time we were in China. We looked at it last summer but we decided to go home to Australia for a month instead. This time it’s our “last chance” so I am seriously considering it. The ticket prices if booked independently (as opposed to part of a “tour”) are reasonable. We plan to travel to Beijing, then overnight to Ullaanbaator in Mongolia, where we are super keen to stay in a Ger. I found a short stay option that looks really cool – with Stone Horse Mongolia It is 3 days with a local family. A cool blog about the stay here (also worth reading the rest of Rachel’s Trans-Sib trip). I have a friend in UB from my Rotary GSE exchange back in 2013, and it would be cool to catch up with her.
From Mongolia we would travel on to Irkutsk, where our plan is to stay on Olkhon Island (great info on this site).
Our biggest challenge is obtaining visas. As we have Chinese Temporary Residency, we are eligible to apply for our Russian and Mongolian visas in China, but we would have to do this on a weekday, in Beijing. It’s a 1.5 hour flight to Beijing or a 5 hour train journey. And we would have to travel back 5 or 6 days later to collect. I searched for agencies who could do this on our behalf, but the response was either “only for mainland Chinese” or “only for people who also book train tickets with us”.
In the end we decided that due to visa issues we would travel in China instead. We did have some success with Monkey Shrine travel agency, who were able to offer us a quote for “train tickets only” which worked out around Euro780 each (they didn’t offer child discount). This meant they would help obtain our visas. However the price tipped over our budget when they confirmed everything – 40euro per visa application per person, and a 65euro per person “late notice” supplement. I think their service was reasonable, but this was before I had even started looking at hotels, or travel from Moscow onward.
Special mention for the unfailingly useful Man in Seat 61 site I do not know how that guy does it. My “go-to” site for train travel, anywhere in the world.