My Trans-Siberian Journal

During October & November 2007, I took a tour on the Trans-Siberian Railway. I kept a journal which I am publishing here (work is in progress at the moment), but it's a bit long winded, so i hope that doesn't deter you from having a look.

Planning the Trip | Moscow | The Train | Ulaan Baatar | Back on the Train | Beijing

The original plan was for Kim & I to take a trip on the Trans-Siberian railway in late September/early October, but in 2007 that wasn't possible because of our vacations plans to go home for my father's birthday. I mentioned wanting to take the trip to a friend of mine, Emeli, and the next thing you know, she and her friend Matilda were planning the trip at the end of October, and then so were we.

Em & M booked their trip through Iventus, a Swedish travel agency, which in the end, no one we met that booked through them was happy with them. They hashed out our schedule, leave Moscow on the Trans-Mongolian train on Tuesday, October 30th, arrive in Ulaan Baatar (UB) on Sunday, November 4th, depart UB on Thursday, November 8th, and arrive in Beijing on Friday November 9th. We would fly to Moscow and back from Beijing. Kim and I planned to fly to Moscow on Sunday, October 28th, and return from Beijing on Monday, November 12th (which got pushed to November 13th due to flight availability). We chose to fly on SAS, but could have flown on Aeroflot for slightly less. I booked through a Danish travel agent, STA Travel, which turned out to be a nightmare. See more about my experience with STA here. The end result is that you book the tickets through your travel agent, who books them through a Russian travel agent, and they either need to be picked up in Moscow, or you will get a contact in Moscow and they will meet you at your hotel and deliver the tickets to you personally. If you get off in UB (and most likely other destinations as well), you will have another contact to get the next set of tickets. If staying in Moscow, you may be required to book your hotel through the travel agency that books your tickets. This is to ease the Russian visa process, but there are other ways to take care of this, as well.

Once our plane tickets arrived, we had less than a month to get visas for the three countries. We started with our Chinese visa, but that cost us a day, and an extra trip to the Chinese Embassy because I didn't notice that the Embassy was closed on October 1st & 2nd, and we tried on October 2nd. We returned on October 3rd, and I waited in line for about 1.5 hours (seems there were a lot of people that wanted to apply for visas that week), making me quite late for work, hurray for flex time. The visa process was a breeze since we downloaded the applications from the Internet and our visas were to be ready on October 9th. Pickup of the visa was much quicker, we only waited about 15 minutes. We paid for the visas when we picked up the passports; 200kr for Kim and 600kr for me.

Americans don't need a visa for Mongolia but most other nationalities do, so Kim took his passport and mailed it to the Mongolian Consulate (which doesn't have opening hours); 485kr + postage for Kim. We expected this to take 8 days, and it did. Kim got his passport back on October 17th.

I headed straight for the Russian Embassy in Copenhagen, which was quite an experience, but the experience didn't start there. It started with the paperwork for a Russian visa. What we needed for our Russian tourist visa was the following:

You may also need to have proof of travel insurance that is valid in Russia. We didn't need it, but through 2007 the Danish medical coverage was valid in Russia so that's why they might not have asked us for it.

At the embassy in Copenhagen, there are some unwritten rules that everyone should know (but no one does, except maybe after they've been there):

We paid for the visas when applying; 600kr for Kim for 3 business day processing and 400kr for me for 10 business day processing. I picked up both visas on October 23rd, with almost no waiting, but since I arrived right at 9 when the consular services opened, there was actually a short line.

Five days 'til departure and we were officially ready!

All pictures from Russia | All pictures from Mongolia | All pictures from China

Copyright ©2007 Lisa G. Hansen
Last Modified: Apr. 27, 2008