I’m writing this post based on our personal experience on the westbound Trans Siberian trip (Beijing – Moscow) we made in Oct 2013.
The price of Trans Siberian railway tickets vary base on the train class you select and the source you get the tickets from. A simple way of looking at it would be that you pay for what you get. The comfort level of the train ride is correlated to its price.
Be clear on the budget and the comfort level you need as that would certainly help you make a decision.
1. Source of tickets
Chinese train tickets – for Westbound trains (for example, from Beijing to Moscow or Beijing to Ulan Bator or Beijing to Irkutsk)
A key point to note that making a booking online negates the tour agency fee and can contribute to huge savings. Unfortunately, based on the time of this post, it is not possible to make train bookings outside China. Hence if you could get a friend to do it for you at any major train station in China, you’re in luck.
Alternatively, you can work with a Chinese tour agency such as the China International Travel Service (CITES) to make the ticket bookings. The commission fee is much lower than compared if you were to make a booking with a Russia – based tour agency like Real Russia. This was our experience and the quote was USD79 (SGD100) more when we compared prices.
If don’t mind taking the risk, come to Beijing four days earlier prior to the date where the train departs. The train, K3 which departs every Wednesday was pretty empty when we did the booking.
Breaking up the journey into separate leagues may add to the cost too, especially if you are booking via a travel agency.
Russian train tickets – For trains within Russia, and to Europe (for example, Irkutsk to Moscow)
Russian train tickets can be bought online with an international credit card – http://pass.rzd.ru/ticket/logon/ru
There is a language option in English, although it is may not be as comprehensive as the site in Russian. Nonetheless, with Google translate as a nifty tool, you should be able to make a booking with minimal fuss.
Watch this space for my next post on how to make a booking online with the Russian Railways.
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2. Picking out Train Classes
First class – a compartment with just two berths. You might get complimentary meals too. There is also a table in the Chinese train for you to pull out a laptop and type away.
Second class – a compartment with four berths. On the Chinese train, you get complimentary meals on the Chinese league of the trip. We took this for the Beijing – Mongolia – Irkutsk league of the trip and it was very comfortable. There was enough leg room to sleep, and lots of privacy – the adjacent bunks were not filled apart from the Er Lian – Ulan Bator league of the train ride.
Third class – it’s an open concept and there is no door that divides the four berths. The berths are also smaller and there is a lot less leg room.
Tip* – If you are travelling as a couple, try to get at least one lower berth. This allows you the flexibility of resting on the seats during the day, instead of having to get cooped up on the upper berth all day long. Especially for third class berths, it can get rather restrictive.
From our experience, there is no difference in the structure of the toilets between the first, second and third classes. Only that the ones in the first class tend to be cleaner.
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Trans Siberian Tickets and Pricing
1. Beijing to Irkutsk
We made the booking Real Russia and it cost ~USD472 (SGD600) per person for a second class cabin.
We later found out that the China International Travel Service (CITES) quote was USD368 (SGD466), an overwhelming USD104 (SGD134) cheaper than Real Russia!
Therefore, our conclusion is it would be better to make a booking from the country you board the train from.
2. Irkutsk to Moscow
We made the booking over the Russian Railways online site and it cost USD124 (SGD157) for a third class cabin.
For more comprehensive information on the railway classes and travel agencies that offer Trans Siberian tickets, visit: http://www.seat61.com/Trans-Siberian.htm#.UmZrkXBkPh4
Watch this space for my upcoming post on how to book railway tickets online, on ‘Six easy steps to book Russian Railways tickets online‘.