I'm looking to travel from Beijing to St Petersburg over the next couple of months. I've been looking on the internet and the prices seem a bit mental! Does anyone have any advice? Can I buy my ticket in Beijing? What is a normal price to pay?
Any advice is welcome
Buy a EuroDomino ticket or a Serbian Star Ticket. It will significantly cut the prices for Russia. Be aware that with these tickets you would still have to purchase platzkartny.
If you buy the tickets yourself at the train stations, expect to pay between 300-500 USD for Beijing-Europe. The price goes up the more often you stop.
If you have been looking only at English-language websites, forget the prices you have been quoted. The travel agencies take a very high premium. Also they usually will sell you only kupe and luks (2nd and 1st) class places, when you can do it cheaper on your own in 3rd class (platzkartny).
If you buy the tickets yourself at the train stations, expect to pay between 300-500 USD for Beijing-Europe.
You can do it for a fair bit less. You can buy direct oneway tickets online from 260usd, and that is 2nd class the whole way. If you buy a ticket to Ulan Bator [trans Mongolian] or Chita [Trans Manchurian] in second class, and then platskartny onwards to Moscow, it will be cheaper, and if you buy it yourself in the stations without an agency involved, it's cheaper still. You can get from Moscow to Irkutsk for about 60usd (3.5days travel).
Note that Through tickets can be hard to get, and are often all "sold" out before they even go on sale, as agencies etc get their allocations, although they are normally reasonably easy to procure. The shorter route is via Mongolia (and a bit cheaper because you can get Platskartny all the way to Ulan Bator, changing in Irkutsk, and because there are more trains over the different sections to give you more options), although if you need a Mongolian visa, the cost of that may well cancel out the savings. The Manchurian way is a bit trickier to do ad-hoc due to less frequent connections to/from Zabaikalsk, but still feasible.