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transiberian in winter

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1. Posted by mapsandmoxie (Full Member 196 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Hey guys,

I'm looking at doing the transiberian in winter, and am wondering if any of you have done it and if so, if you have any recommendations for which stops I should take and which ones can be avoided. My schedule is flexible (no specific timeline) but I'd be looking at heading out around early to mid-jan and to be in Beijing by the Chinese new year. If you have any recommendations for how I could cut costs, I'd be more than happy to hear them as well!

I'm also looking for any tips you have regarding the Mongolian/Chinese & Russian visas.

If anyone is interested in joining feel free to drop me a message as well! :) company is always appreciated.


2. Posted by VintageRider (Budding Member 23 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

I frees just when thinking of traveling across Siberia during the winter.

3. Posted by automidori (Travel Guru 17 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

January 2014 I did a very small part of Trans Siberian Railroad which included Vladivostok, Khabarovsk, and Birobidzhan. It was minus 25 something in Khabarovsk and Birobidzhan. It was cold. Freezing, yes. But it was fun. I don't see any reason that winter should be seen as an obstacle. On the contrary, some resources I read stated that winter is the best time to enjoy Siberia. July - August 2014 I continued another part of Trans Siberian which then included Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Baikal for sure, and then joined the Trans Mongolian to Ulaanbaatar, Beijing. I have to say that I can't agree more with those resources about Siberia.

However, Mongolia in winter might be more to be put into consideration than Siberia, I think. I'm no expert in climate nor geography, so I can't tell what caused it. Maybe it's the altitude. Maybe it's the wind. It was yet the beginning of August but I already felt on the brim of freezing. Unlike Siberia, so far I haven't found any resource that says the best time to visit Mongolia is in winter. I also find very few tours that operate in winter, unlike Siberia also. If you just get off the train in Ulaanbaatar, spend a few days in the city, it might be still fine. But if you want to go to the steppes, I guess you'll need more spirit of adventure to take along.

About visas, it depends on your citizenship. For sure, before applying for a visa, you'll need to obtain a visa support for both Russia and Mongolia. For China you don't need one. That visa support can be obtained through authorized agencies which you can fine through the internet. Some hotels/hostels in Russia and Mongolia offer a visa support service if you book with them.

I hope that helps. Enjoy Trans Siberian and Trans Mongolian. You'll never regret it -- especially in winter!! ;)

4. Posted by mapsandmoxie (Full Member 196 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

As a Canadian, I'm pretty accustomed to the cold. Where I was working last winter it was -45C before the windchill... in November haha. Granted, that is not typical weather, even for where I was which was quite far north and in the plateaus. I don't actually need a visa for Mongolia (thankfully) and that's my only concern about the route - the train only departs UlanBatar (sp?) once per week from my understanding during this time, which means I could be stuck there for longer than I might like. At the same time, though, I don't really want to just rush through and not see it at all.

This is the issue I've been having with planning stops -I don't really know where the good places to stop are, and for how long, as I'd like to see as much as possible along the route, but I don't want to feel like I'm "stuck" somewhere until the next train goes through, possibly days later.

I've been told you can get a visa without visa support for Russia from friends that have done it, but the problem I've been having is that I'm likely staying with locals in Moscow, which means I'd need an invitation... which I can't get at this point as it's too close to my departure time. I could put in the hostel I would stay at in the event that I don't stay with them, but I don't know if this could pose a problem when I leave?? I'm also traveling already, so timelines are tight as I need my passport to move from place to place (currently in Ireland, plan on leaving from the UK - although this is flexible). I've heard that you can get visa support and fast-tracking through companies like real russia, but it's more expensive, and I generally prefer doing things independently.

Did you have any experiences with this? In any case, I'm loathe to give up my passport while already traveling :/

5. Posted by hasbeen (Travel Guru 1260 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Well that's a little weird - I just got through PMing you both to contact each other & here you are doing just that.

A bit Halloween maybe.


6. Posted by automidori (Travel Guru 17 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

To mapsandmoxie:

Hahaha.... first of all, please accept my apology. I was distracted by comment #2 that I was under the impression you were concerned about the cold. Canada! Okay. Fine. I'm Indonesian. LOL

For the two times I visited Russia, I got my visa support from an agency I found on the internet and caused me 25 CAD per document. I filled in the form online, made online payment, and got the document by about the next day through email. I printed the document and handed it to the Russian Embassy in Jakarta along with my visa application form. The next week my visa was ready. That's all.

What I understand so far is that if you stay in Russia for more than 7 days, you have to get registered. This registering thing is a different thing with the visa support thing. If you stay at a hotel, the hotel will and must, register you. But if you stay in a private place, you need to register on your own or ask your host to do that for you. About getting registered within 7 days I also read at the immigration office in Novosibirsk Airport.

Honestly, this is the first time I hear that you can apply for a Russian visa without submitting a visa support document.

Once you've gotten your Russian Visa support, I think you can apply for visa at the Russian Embassy where you currently are. Of course it would mean you would have to stay in that place for a couple days.

True, even in summer, the train from Russia to Beijing doesn't run everyday. But, if you are not interested to stay in Mongolia, you don't have to get off in Ulaanbaatar (that's the spelling). There's a direct train running from Moscow to Beijing. The one I got on from Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar was that train. My train had come from Moscow, I got on in Irkutsk and got off in Ulaanbaatar, and my train continued to Beijing several minutes later. That Moscow - Beijing train was a Chinese train.

7. Posted by automidori (Travel Guru 17 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

To Steve: LOL =))

8. Posted by mapsandmoxie (Full Member 196 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!


Thanks for the info! I'll keep that in mind when I make it to Indonesia :P

I'll have to double check on that, then, it is possible I misunderstood friends' explanations. As far as the registration goes, I'm thinking it might be easiest to just book a hostel for the first night and stay with locals afterwards - that way I know that I have been registered and don't have to worry about it. It would mean moving locations, but it could be worse. lol

You make the process seem so much easier than most I've heard, I might just try for it in Dublin while I travel around the rest of Ireland, and pick it up on the way out. Just worried that if it isn't done, I might get held up, as I've heard that it can take weeks to complete the process. The Chinese one seems to be much, much easier, but I can't apply yet as they have a 3 month waiting rule.

If I'm there, I might as well see the place! :) I'm not one to rush through traveling, and I don't think Mongolia is the most expensive place in the world, so it could be worse.

Steve - LOL

9. Posted by automidori (Travel Guru 17 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

Once again, I think it depends on nationality. My American cabin-mate said that he couldn't just walk to the Russian Embassy and apply for a visa, like I did. He had to get the visa done through an agent. His visa fee was also cost more than mine. I guess it's same as like you don't need a visa for Mongolia, but I do.

If you wish to apply for your Russian visa in Dublin, I suggest you call the Russian Embassy in Dublin in advance to make sure how long the process will take. There are some cases -- depending on country location or nationality again -- where Russian visa application can take weeks. My Russian friend was also concerned about time when in September last year I told him I was planning for Russia in December. So probably he knows some cases where it can take like months.

10. Posted by automidori (Travel Guru 17 posts) 3y Star this if you like it!

In case this might help:

Hopefully this post won't be deleted because it contains a link.