Travel practicalities - Travelling along the Trans-Mongolian railway
|Climate and weather
When is the best time to do the Trans-Siberian journey?
How to get there
Visas and travel documents
What to bring on a tour
Climate and weather
For the most part of the journey you will experience continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. Average temperatures can be in the region of +15C in summer and -20C in winter. The continental climate of Siberia is harsh and some regions may experience extreme temperature differences, i.e. the annual temperature there can range from –40 C to +40 C. The air in Siberia is very dry which is easier to bear than in the central part of Russia.
Read more about climate and weather in China and climate in Mongolia. When is the best time to do the Trans-Siberian journey?
The journey can be undertaken year-round. In winter (December to April), views of the snowy Russian countryside from warm train compartments evoke movie scenes and city museums are less crowded. The spring period from May until June is a great time to travel – really the best combination of weather throughout the trip. You get the spring greenery and flowers and find the locals in an upbeat mood after the long winter. The climate is great for sightseeing and the crowds are yet to fully arrive. The summer months of July through to mid September are more conducive to those interested in outdoor activities. Autumn (mid September – November) is often a surprise. The weather can be hard to predict, as the Russian autumn weather barely exists - it’s just a quick change into winter. Russia can experience fine weather until the end of September with the summer crowds dispersing and snow starting to fall usually by mid November. How to get there
There are regular flight connections between Russia, China and major European, Asian and North American cities. Doing a Trans-Mongolian tour means that you would probably arrive in St. Petersburg / Moscow by plane and leave from Beijing (or vice versa).
You can start you rail journey from the UK and continue via France, Belgium, Germany, Poland and Belarus in order to reach Moscow. In China there are plenty of options to travel by rail, including an extension to Hong Kong. Visas and travel documents
You must possess a passport with a minimum validity of 6 months after your planned departure from the relevant country.
Most travellers require tourist visas to enter Russia and China. Mongolians have introduced visa - free regime for tourists coming from the USA and EU.
We will advise on all aspects of obtaining tourist visas for your holiday and the cost of the visa is included in the price of the trip. If you are based in the UK or US we will submit your passports to the relevant consulates. All details on how to fill-in the visa forms, required documents will be emailed to you upon your booking. All application packs are checked by our visa department before consular submission.
Please read more about: Accommodation
Your train will be your primary accommodation during the Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Siberian journey. All trains we use on our tours are clean and well looked after. Linen and towels are provided for each berth. There are toilets at the end of each carriage. Hot boiled water is always available. Unfortunately there are no shower facilities on regular trains. However these are available on luxury compartment categories on the private tourist trains. Read more about train travel.
Russia, China and Mongolia offer now a great choice of accommodation with options ranging from top luxury 5-star properties to simpler hotels. Please note that choice is limited in the regions away from the capitals.
In the Russian countryside, including Lake Baikal you can stay in a guesthouse to enjoy traditional hospitality. All B&Bs we use on our tours have en-suite facilities. You can also try local dinners or have lunches freshly cooked by your host.
Staying overnight in a traditional Mongolia ger (yurt) will definitely add to your overall travel experience. Ger camps we use on our tours are slightly modified for Western travellers, however they do offer a genuinely authentic experience and most of them are situated in picturesque areas. Toilet and shower facilities are always available and are located outside in a separate block. There is both hot and cold water available. Read more about ger camps. Food
Doing a Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Siberian tour also offers a unique chance to try authentic local dishes.
The staples of the Russian diet are root vegetables like turnips, beetroots and cabbage, along with meat and potatoes. Russia is also known for its remarkable variety of soups, for example borsch or solyanka. Classic main dishes include beef stroganoff, pelmeny (Siberian-style dumplings) and shashlyk (kebab). Fish varieties include omul (similar to salmon, sourced from Lake Baikal) and sturgeon. Tea with lemon is the traditional Russian beverage.
Traditional Mongolian food is meat based and is served with vegetables. Read more about food in Mongolia.
Authentic Chinese cuisine differs significantly from the Chinese food as we know it in western world. Be bold and don’t be afraid to try local dishes. Broadening your culinary experience is one of most enjoyable ways to learn more about local culture! Read more about Chinese cuisine.
It is not advisable to drink tap water at any destination along the railway route. You can buy bottled drinking and sparkling water at any supermarket or street kiosk in all cities and villages. Language
You will be crossing three countries where you’ll hear Russian, Mongolian and Chinese being spoken.
Basic English will be spoken in all three countries, however do not expect too much. Most staff at the hotels and local tourist attractions do speak some English and sometimes other European languages. Train attendants speak very little English but you should be able to express your basic needs with sign language.
We recommend taking a small phrase book that would be helpful for your journey. Do familiarise your self with the Cyrillic alphabet if possible. Electricity
The standard electricity voltage is 220-230 V in Russia, Mongolia and China. Take a 2-pin European adapter with you on a holiday. Money
Please remember that you will have to pay for everything in local currency. The official currency of Russia is the Russian rouble, in Mongolia it’s the tugrik, China its yuan. We advise you to take US dollars or euros and change them along the way. Alternatively you can use your card to withdraw cash from ATMs which are available in big cities. Please note, it might be more difficult to exchange British pounds.
All major credit cards including Visa, Mastercard and Amex are accepted in larger cities. What to bring
In addition to your daily clothes, you will need the following:
- comfortable shoes (slippers or flip-flops) and clothes for the train
- a book to read
- Swiss army knife
- mug and spoon
- toilet paper
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