May 262015

Russia was never in my priority list. In fact, I never thought to visit it too early. Trans-Siberian was a dream somewhere in my deep heart, but time and money required to complete that journey never inspired me to go there very soon. But, its written in The Alchemist,
“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.”

One day, at my workplace, I saw a Transaero flight landing in Delhi as a scheduled flight. It was flying over Indian airspace to Thailand from many years, but never landed in Delhi as a scheduled flight. Something clicked in my mind and I instantly switched to Wikipedia and Skyscanner to know if Transaero just started their operation to New Delhi. Then,on Skyscanner, I found unbelievable return fair to Saint Petersburg in approximately INR 15000. As I mentioned in my post How to Book a Cheap Flight? that always check if any new flight is inaugurating to your nearest airport. They often offer very cheap promotional fare in the beginning. Wikipedia’s Airport Pages are the best resources to check it.

A Transaero Flight at Vnukovo Airport, Moscow

A Transaero Flight at Vnukovo Airport, Moscow

Within 2-3 days, I booked that ticket and my quest to Russia was started with that booking. I was still not sure that where to go and what to see in Russia. Later on, I realized that Russia was not the cakewalk for a solo traveller, specially for an Indian Backpacker and there were lot of hassle involved from visa invitation to trip planning. I had two months to arrange the visa and to plan the trip accordingly. Two months were good enough, so I was in no hurry and one by one planned everything.

After booking the flight, the next step was to arrange a Russian visa for my journey. I read a lot and found that getting a Russian visa was a bit complicated process, because it required an original visa invitation from a travel agency registered with Russian Ministry of External Affairs. There are some agencies in India that can arrange Russian visa but there prices are too high. After lot of research on the web, I arranged an invitation in original and later, got a 16-days Russian visa for the duration of my trip. I will write a separate post in detail on entire visa application process for Russia.

Victory Day Parade in Moscow

Victory Day Parade in Moscow

Before applying for Russian visa or even before arranging the original invitation from an agency in Russia, we are supposed to plan our entire trip, because they need the details of every city you planned to visit as well as every hotel you planned to stay. For that purpose, I had very less time. But, somehow after oscillating between several Russian cities like Saint Petersburg, Moscow, Sochi, Volgograd, Ekaterinburg, Kazan,Nizhny Novgorod and Irkutsk, I decided to visit only four cities Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan. I wanted to include Irkutsk for Lake Baikal and at least one scuba diving destination, but Russia is so vast and 16- days wasn’t good enough for all these purposes. So, I applied for visa invitation on the basis of only those four cities and booked hostels in every city accordingly and received the original invitation within 10 days.

Lake Baikal

Lake Baikal

But, whenever I looked at the planned itinerary, I never felt excited. I wanted to add some adventures in my journey, instead of only sightseeing in some cities. I applied for the visa also, and 20-days prior to departure, it was in my hand. Visa for a particular normally remains valid to visit the entire country , not for some particular destinations, only excluding some restricted areas (Some countries like Pakistan have specific restrictions for Indian visitors). So, my Russian visa was also valid for entire Russia, not restricted to only four cities, mentioned in visa invitation.

Then, one day, I thought seriously about Trans-Siberian. It was a long cherished dream somewhere in deep heart and the reason was strong enough for a complete adventure package. I re-planned everything and included Trans-Siberian journey in my trip, even it indicated that there would be very less sightseeing and more time inside the train. But I was happy and excited with the revised itinerary.

9288 Kms Marker at Vladivostok Railway Station

A Trans-Siberian Train In Siberia

The next question was the direction of Trans-Siberian journey, Moscow-Vladivostok or Vladivostok-Moscow? I wanted to watch the Victory Day Parade in Moscow and then, my return flight was from Saint Petersburg, so I decided to start the trip from Vladivostok and end in Leningrad (modern Saint Petersburg). Now a days, many believe that Trans-Siberian Railways includes Moscow-Vladivostok section of Russian railway network, but if we recall our old childhood history and general studies books, then we always learnt that Trans-Siberian runs from Leningrad to Vladivostok. I also decided to complete the entire route of Trans-Siberian from Vladivostok to Leningrad.

9288 Kms Marker at Vladivostok Railway Station

9288 Kms Marker at Vladivostok Railway Station

I booked a flight ticket from Moscow to Vladivostok and three train tickets Vladivostok-Ulan Ude, Ulan Ude-Moscow and Moscow-Saint Petersburg to complete the whole journey in three parts by three different trains. No single train is available from Vladivostok to Leningrad or vice versa directly, but there are few brave hearts who complete entire Vladivostok-Moscow journey on a single train. I booked hostels in Vladivostok and Ulan Ude and planned other essential things. Finally, my Trans-Siberian Adventure got its final shape.

  32 Responses to “How Did My Trans-Siberian Adventure Get Shape?”

  1. This is very useful info. I am planning to do this end July (any fellow traveller who may be going, St-Petersburg to Vladivostok with stops in Irkutsk and Ulan-Ube?). How did you reserved your tickets? I live in the US and it’s difficult. Which class did you travel in (I am thinking about 3rd, feel more secure when there is more people)?

    • Hi,

      I used to book my tickets. The website is in Russian, but the booking section works well with translate option. The accept payment through paypal with approx 10% mark up, so there is no use to credit card and it’s cost effective also.

      • Would you recommend 3rd class open-plan bunks called platskartny?

        How did you get the actual tickets?

        Thanks for your help

        • Yes. I travelled in that class only. I exchanged my e-tickets with the actual tickets on the ticket window at Vladivostok Railway Terminal one day prior to the departure.

          • Thanks so much. Hopefully we will cross path with our solo travel someday.

          • I just completed my train journey from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok. Purchasing the train tickets was a major concern. Just before starting I find an iOS app (Rail Russia) where I can purchase the tickets and do electronic registration at the same time. The prices were full ticket + 10% commission. I just showed my passport when boarding the trains. No need to print paper tickets either. This worked out great.

  2. Excellent comprehensive advice. Well done.

  3. This is a fabulous post. Thanks for sharing a very candid account of your plan and journey and how it came into being :))

  4. Hi, Travelling Trans-Siberian on Dec16. Flight already done. Can anyone have contact/ information reliable Agency for Visa Invitation .

  5. Thanks for writing about your experience. I am planning to ride the train coming January, and would like to know if the hostel culture good enough through the Trans-Siberian cities? If so, are there some sources that you’ll recommend over the others to find and book these or just general Google research would suffice? Do you have any experience with Airbnb or couchsurfing in Russia?

    • Hi, The hostel culture is very good at all the places on Trans-Siberian Network. I tried in Vladivostok, Ulan Ude, a small town near Baikal and Moscow. They all are decent and comfortable. The only problem with the hostels in Russia, that majority of Russian who travel to long distance for some work also use these hostels for stay. So, it is not exactly a travellers community living in the hostels always. I found such hostels in Moscow and Vladivostok. Ulan Ude is very nice from a traveller’s point of view.
      I didn’t use Airbnb, but tried to get some hosts on Couchsurfing in Saint Petersburg and Moscow. I got positive responses, and CS community in Russia is very active. I did not stay with CS members, because I thought that being alone, hostels were better choices. But, I did some walk with them and just met some people through CS.
      Have a great adventure on the Trans-Siberian. Are you doing China-Mongolia-Russia or Vladivostok-Moscow?

  6. If i have made my plans close to my visa dates and say i am flying out of Russia on the last day of my visa. Then, if the flight gets delayed or due to natural reasons(say heavy snowfall) flights get cancelled and i am stuck there the next day and now my visa has expired. What do i do then? Say i don’t have a ticket now because the flight got cancelled and my visa is expired or the flight is delayed due to natural causes or the carrier’s faults. What do i do? I am inside the airport premises. Will that be a problem? Or are these circumstances excused?

    • Hi, In that case you will not be at fault. I asked the same question to the visa service executive and he told in that case the airlines must have some plan. No need to worry about that case. By the way, once you stamped as exited from Russia, you can remain in the no men’s land of transit area for many days. πŸ™‚

  7. So is it better to get the visa and hostel bookings done before the flight booking or the other way round?

  8. thank you for the information, my wife and i would like to do moscow to Vladivostok on a motorcycle any suggestions would be welcome regarding
    visa – i guess multiple entry to cover the number of days
    Weather – being on a motorbike makes us more vulnerable to the elements
    cost – covering cheap to midrange hotels
    carnet de passage for bike if you could help
    thanks and regards

    • That will be absolutely awesome. It’s about 9000 kms one way. Calculate the required number of days, and if it is more than 30 days (and it should be), then you need a multiple entry visa. The good thing is that you don’t need to break your journey to get another 30 days entry. Just take a little detour to Mongolia and again, enter in Russia to continue your journey. Even for another 30 days, you can again take a detour to China, while continue moving towards Vladivostok. However, in this case, you have to arrange a visa for China as well as Mongolia. Hotels are not a problem. Russian Ruble is almost equal to Indian Rupees. I don’t have any idea about the bike passages in all three countries. But the people, who travels from India to Europe by own car, actually travel via China an Russia.So, there must be a good system to help you on this. And, if you ever make this happen, let us know also. Have a nice trip πŸ™‚

      • thanks solo appreciate the response.
        hope we can do this either this year or definately the next.
        what would be the ideal time as in months to do this (avoid rains and snow)

        Plan on 30 days to get through this
        how difficult is a multiple entry visa?

        got a tentative route on the net from a tour operator

        Day 1. Moscow arrival
        Day 2. Moscow, motorcycle pick up
        Day 3. Moscow – Nizhniy Novgorod – Kazan, 820 km
        Day 4. Kazan
        Rest day
        Day 5. Kasan – Ufa – Miass (Lake Turgoyak), 800 km
        Day 6. Miass
        Day 7. Miass – Ekaterinburg – Tyumem, 550 km
        Day 8. Tyumen – Omsk, 630 km
        Day 9. Omsk – Novosibirsk – Tomsk, 950 km
        Day 10. Tomsk
        Rest day
        Day 11. Tomsk – Krasnoyarsk, 600 km
        Day 12. Krasnoyarsk – Toulun, 680 km
        Day 13. Toulun – Baykal lake , 390 km
        Day 14. Baykal Lake
        Rest day on a lake bank
        Day 15. Irkutsk – Ulan-Ude, 450 km
        Day 16. Ulan–Ude – Chita, 660 km
        Day 17. Chita – Erofey Pavlovich, 760 km
        Day 18. Erofey Pavlovich -Blagoveshenck , 860 km
        Day 19. Blagoveshenck – Khabarovsk, 660 km
        Day 20. Khabarovsk
        Rest day
        Day 21. Khabarovsk – Vladivostok, 770 km
        Day 22. Vladivostok
        Day 23. Vladivostok – Moscow – departure.

        the below is my calculations with various speeds and ride hours with some rest days and total time required from moscow to Vladivostok have not factored in any breakdowns or road closed conditions here though

        Moscow to Vladivostok
        KM Speed Daily km riding hours KM Rest Days Total Total days on road

        9156 90 720 5 3600 2 7
        9156 60 480 6 2880 2 8
        9156 45 360 7 2520 2 9 24
        9156 80 480 8 3840 2 8
        9156 60 360 8 2880 2 10
        9156 45 270 9 2430 3 12 30
        9156 80 416 9 3744 1 10
        9156 60 281 10 2811 2 17
        9156 45 225 11 2475 2 18 45

        hope its doable for us am contemplating a royal enfield under CDP but if that is going to be a problem maybe just hire or buy a bike there

        • Hi, No idea on CDP. Maximum, I covered approx 500 kms on a single day while travelling in the Rajasthan. Everyday ride of 800-900 kms seems very hectic to me. It may be your way of ride, but I never wish to move so fast. I think, you should spend some more days to visit the places and to take some rests. And if time doesn’t permit, why not to do it in two parts? πŸ™‚

  9. Wow , i should thank you for writing such a detailed article on russia, especially the visa part for indians and the trans-siberian journey, nobody writes in such details without withholding anything.This is most helpful post Ive read.Please continue writing such blogs which inspires us to travel.

  10. will wait for publishing visa process story, i started to research and waiting for friends to confirm the findings.

  11. Waiting for your article on Rusian Visa

  12. superb… your trip experience will be a valuable tool for venturing into a country less explored

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