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Trans-Mongolian trip report

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1. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 10y

I just completed a two week trip from Paris, France to Hong Kong via rail, most of the way covered on the trans-Siberian and trans-Mongolian railways. I completed the journey in 16 days, stopping in Brussels (1 day, 1 night), Moscow (2 days, 1 night), Irkutsk (1 day), Ulaan Baatar (1 day), Beijing (3 days, 2 nights) and Hong Kong (1 day, 1 night).

For my trip report, check out my blog: Trip report from Trans-Mongolian. It gives details on what I saw, what it was like and the costs involved.

Let me know if you have questions.

Greg

2. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5588 posts) 10y

Great post Greg; I've already featured it on the main blogs page.

I found the bit about the ticket prices interesting. Those prices at the bottom are the ones listed on the actual tickets I guess? Was there a bar in the train? :)

3. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 10y

Yes, the prices listed in the post are the ones that were listed on the tickets. I paid about $US 1000 for $US 311 worth of tickets. I would, of course, expect to pay more for a tour company to arrange getting the tickets, but that seems a little excesive.

The amazing thing was that was the cheapest price I could find. I found a lot of places that were charging seven or eight thousand dollars! I hope they had private carriages with showers for that price.

As for a bar, the dining car did sell booze, which you could drink there or take back to your cabin. The train attendants often had stuff to sell as well, including beer. In addition, the people on the platforms or the station stores had beer, wine and alcohol for sale as well. So, no worries about going dry.

Greg

4. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5588 posts) 10y

I was a bit surprised by that; amazing how much other companies are charging. I wonder how Gelli got his tickets...

I think for me it would depend on how much time and flexibility I would have for the trip when trying to choose whether to go it alone or actually book everything in advance. It's a big difference, but there's inherently hassles I would have to deal with and probably factor in a few extra days for problems. If you have the time, that's no biggy, but if you don't, the extra amount (in the case of your tour company) isn't the end of the world either (considering the cost of not working for 3/4 days).

Anyway, pretty interesting! Good to get an idea on that pricing. I'm still planning to do this trip although next year might not be the best time now...

5. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 10y

I wonder how Gelli got his tickets...

On the spot, in person. Normally with a writen request in Russian, and much gesturing etc, but rarely any kind of problem.

Unless you need to be on a specific train at a specific time and in high season, always get Russian ticks etc in Russia, and from the station or official rail agy, as you get them face value. Some towns have tourist agys which charge about usd 5 or 10 commission per ticket, which still isn`t too bad.

But buying outside is hugely expensive - Most people do it, because Russia etc still has that mystique about how hard it is to get along without speaking Russian, and the fear factor makes most people book in advance. And as Greg has proved, you pay a HUGE commission for it. Not surprised about the 7000+ proces either, and whilst some may be first class, even then at that price, many won`t be, and no showers at all (bar a single carriage on the 8 and 9 - i think its those numbers - on any russian train, which is unknwon to 99% of people).

However, there are also a few genuine "tourist" rains, not abvailable to the public which do have first class, showers, fully guided tours etc, no Russian people etc, which tend to be the expensive ones, but where the heck is the fun in that?????

6. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 10y

Just cause it wasn't long enough already, I added some pictures...

7. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5588 posts) 10y

Quoting Gelli

I wonder how Gelli got his tickets...

On the spot, in person. Normally with a writen request in Russian, and much gesturing etc, but rarely any kind of problem.

Did you get someone to write you one of these in advance and then use it every time or do this some other way?

Now, off to go check Gregs pics!

8. Posted by Gelli (Travel Guru 2457 posts) 10y

Will get to pics later, but in answer to sam, i had a trans=sib guide book (NOT the LP version, the great Bryn, urm somebody. Maybe Thomas?) independent one which had a list of phrases and useful words, which i cobbled together and wrote out what i needed each time myself.

No probs except a couple of things as noted in the past (that Russians take things too literally - if you ask for a train around 15.00, they will say there isn`t one, complain at you in Russian for a while and then offer you a 15.04...

If you ask for specific trains, and have back up lists in case its full, dead easy

9. Posted by Sam I Am (Admin 5588 posts) 10y

Hehe, I can just see you standing there going 'oh no, not 4 minutes later??!!'

10. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 10y

I agree with Gelli. My guidebook also had a simple language section, but it would have been enough to be able to print out the city name, class of service, date and time and train number (if known) in Cyrillic to purchase a ticket. This would be fine in both Russia and Mongolia.

China might be more of a problem, though. Upon arriving in Jining in China, I was given a ticket for a 1:30 am train instead of the expected 8:00 pm train, giving me a 7 hour layover instead of the expected 1 hour. I had the hardest time explaining to people that I wanted to change the ticket, and of course it's impossible to write chinese.

Eventually was able to communicate my desires to 3 different people, and all told me that I couldn't change the ticket, but the reasons they each gave was different.

But if you could find someone who spoke and wrote both English and Chinese, you could get them to write down the required legs for you in advance. That would work.

Greg