Real Russia Blog

How much do you know about the Trans-Siberian?
18
February
2019

How much do you know about the Trans-Siberian?

We like to think of ourselves as the Trans-Siberian experts – we’ve taken the Trans-Siberian and every year we help thousands of others take it too but… Well, with countries as fascinating as Russia, China and Mongolia there’s always more to learn.

We've put together a few of our favourite facts we've learnt over the last few months as well as a few of the favourites that got us interested in the Trans-Siberian too.

A legendary lost city

Located just beyond Nizhny Novgorod, which gained recent exposure because of its role as a 2018 host city during the World Cup, is Svetloyar Lake. Some Russians believe that Svetloyar Lake holds a secret, and somewhere in its waters is Kitezh, a mysterious, sunken city. The city is said to have become invisible when it was attacked by Tatars, and there is even an opera partially based on its legend, Сказание о невидимом граде Китеже и деве Февронии, or The Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and the Maiden Fevroniya.

Svetloyar Lake

Stuck in the middle with Tayshet

The railway station of Tayshet, when you hit 4644.5km from Moscow, is the half-way point between Moscow and Vladivostok, which is 9,289km from Moscow. If you stop in Tayshet station, make sure to take a moment with a drink and admire just how far you've come, and just how far there is left to go! Think back to how many people have passed through this hallway point on one of the grandest journeys there is.

The Trans-Siberian wasn't always accessible to travellers

Vladivostok, the final stop of the original Trans-Siberian was off limits to foreigners until 1990, even Soviet Citizens needed a permit giving them permission to enter. There are, of course, exceptions to every rule and in 1974 the USA's President Ford was given permission to visit for an arms summit with Leonid Brezhnev.

There are also, urban legends that David Bowie spent time in Vladivostok taking a ferry from Japan at the end of his 1973 Japanese tour. He's said to have taken the train through Russia due to his dislike of flying.

Vladivostok, Russky bridge

A station of marble

Slydyanka station is the only railway station in the world to be built entirely of marble. The station is famously close to the beautiful Lake Baikal, a highlight for many taking the Trans-Siberian. There is an old story that when the train stopped for 15 minutes, travellers would dash down to the water to dip in a hand for good luck. It wasn't unusual for these travellers to not make it back to the train in time, but what a picturesque place to be left behind!

Nowadays, the train only stops for 2 minutes and many travellers will simply choose to book a later train so they have time to enjoy Lake Baikal.

Slydyanka station

Home of Dance

Famous Russian male ballerina Rudolf Nureyev was actually born onboard the Trans-Siberian, near Irkutsk. His mother was travelling to see Rudolf's father in Vladivostok where he was stationed as a commissar.

It's not a one-track experience

Russian and Mongolian railways use the same size gauge which makes travelling between countries very easy, the train only needs to stop for custom and border checks. Chinese railways, however, use a different size gauge for their wheels so when you cross from Mongolia to China, the bogies need to be changed on every single carriage, so it'll fit on Chinese rails!

Chinese train

Baikal-Amur Mainline

The Trans-Siberian was originally planned as Moscow-Vladivostok, however, over time, that has evolved with the Trans-Mongolian which travels through Ulan Bator to Beijing and the Trans-Manchurian which travels through the Manchurian region to Beijing. This evolution has continued with the newest addition of the Baikal-Amur Mainline which runs parallel and northern to the Trans-Siberian railway route. It begins in Tayshet, the Trans-Siberian's midway point, and ends at Sovetskaya Gavan. It offers an alternative to the Trans-Siberian, showing off towns and cities that perhaps wouldn't be seen otherwise.

Leonid Brezhnev described the BAM route as the ‘construction project of the century’ as much of it was built over permafrost.

Real Russia Blog

Upcoming consulates closures
31
January
2013

Upcoming consulates closures

It has been announced that, during February, the following visa application centres and consulates will be closed on some days due to national holidays:

Chinese Visa Application Centre
– Monday 11th February 2013 until Wednesday 13th February 2013

Mongolian Consulate
– Monday 11th February 2013 until Tuesday 12th February 2013

Vietnamese Consulate
– Monday 11th February 2013 until Friday 15th February 2013

These closures could have an effect on visa processing times so please be aware of this if you are planning on using these services.

Real Russia Blog

Closure of bookings for Russia - Helsinki trains
23
January
2013

Closure of bookings for Russia – Helsinki trains

From January 23rd 2013 Russian Railways (RZD) has announced the closure of bookings for the Lev Tolstoi train, an overnight train from Moscow to Helsinki.
In addition, from February 1st 2013 RZD have announced the closure of bookings for Allegro, high speed trains between St Petersburg and Helsinki.

There has been no further information at the current time to confirm when they will be made available again. We will update our blogs when we have any further news.

If you have any questions or require any further information please contact our travel team who will be happy to assist you. Alternatively access our train schedules page to book train tickets.

Update: RZD have confirmed that they are now taking bookings for the above trains and the planned closures are not now taking place.

Real Russia Blog

Russian Railways change Trans-Siberian tariffs
3
January
2013

Russian Railways change Trans-Siberian tariffs

From January 2013 Russian Railways (RZD) will replace the international tariff for selected trains on the Trans-Siberian route with the domestic tariff.

Not only are domestic tariff prices generally more expensive but, unlike the international tariff, may increase or decrease depending upon the travelling date. The change in tariff will only apply to the segments of a journey that are wholly within Russia and segments that start or end outside of Russia will remain on the international tariff.

There has been no official announcement from RZD but we understand that the popular trains that are most likely to be affected will be:

#002 Moscow – Vladivostok (Москва-Владивосток)
#008 Novosibirsk – Vladivostok (Новосибирск-Владивосток)
#010 St. Petersburg – Irkutsk (Санкт-Петербург-Иркутск)
#016 Moscow – Yekaterinburg (Москва-Екатеринбург)
#056 Moscow – Krasnoyarsk (Москва-Красноярск)
#087 Novosibirsk – Omsk (Новосибирск-Омск)
#102 Moscow – Adler (Москва-Адлер)

These changes were announced less than a month after confirmation that Trans-Siberian Train #9 was changing its schedule and route from the end of May 2013.

The latest prices for our 2013 Trans-Siberian tours are now available, and the Trans-Siberian Planner for independent travellers. Of course, our Trans-Siberian specialists are available by contacting our travel team who will be happy to help.

Real Russia Blog

Trans-Siberian Train 9 Baikal changes route and schedule
6
November
2012

Trans-Siberian Train 9 Baikal changes route and schedule

Train #9 / #10, the famous “Baikal Express”, which currently makes the 5,465 km journey between St Petersburg located on Russia’s Baltic coast and Irkutsk located deep in Siberia on odd numbered days is to change its schedule and route from the end of May 2013.
While the schedule change has not been finally confirmed, sources in the East-Siberian Federal Company which operates the train cited falling demand for the route and said that “Baikal will be changed to travel between Irkutsk and Novosibirsk five times a week during summer period and only two / three times a week during winter season”.

The Baikal, a high quality Firmini train has been a regular fixture on the Trans-Siberian route for decades and this famous train will certainly be missed, Mark Smith of seat61.com on hearing the news commented “So the Trans-Sib loses one of its best trains…”

The proposed schedule change will not affect any tours operated by Real Russia, though it is expected to put pressure on the other trains operating the route, especially during the peak summer season when the Baikal was a popular choice for many travellers and as such we would advise people planning this route to regularly review our live online schedule tool, to book early and discuss their options with our travel team.

Real Russia Blog

TripAdvisor names 2 Russian Cities as top destination on the rise
6
November
2012

TripAdvisor names 2 Russian Cities as top destination on the rise

We’re proud to announce the winners of our Survey Competition where £200 worth of Lonely Planet vouchers were up for grabs:

1st prize goes to S. Weir who receives a £100 voucher.

2nd prize goes to F. Alexandre and I. Wright who each receive a £50 voucher.

The winners of the Survey Competition were decided at random, choosing from those who completed our online survey. Thank you to everyone who entered.

Real Russia Blog

easyJet wins Moscow Domodedovo airport slots
1
November
2012

easyJet wins Moscow Domodedovo airport slots

Cheaper flights to Russia from London after easyjet win Moscow Domodedovo airport slots.

easyJet have won slots at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport after a successful proposal to the Civil Aviation Authority. The win comes after British Airway’s purchase of BMI from Lufthansa, leaving BA in sole possession of all Moscow slots to and from London.

After a hearing, a CAA board announced they would allow BA to continue operating the services it runs from Heathrow to Domodedovo, and to grant easyJet the right to fly to and from Domodedovo from Gatwick.
Carolyn McCall, chief executive of easyJet, said: “We believe that our flights will be popular with both business and leisure travellers alike. easyJet has proven again and again that when we enter a new market we open it up – bringing in competition and lower fares and enabling more people to travel on the route.” easyJet’s lower fares are reported to be priced from £125.

Iain Osborne, director of the CAA’s regulatory policy, concluded that “easyJet’s proposal would introduce a distinctly different product as well as satisfying and stimulating consumer demand that is currently undeserved, in particular for people who prefer or are content to use Gatwick”.

The CAA’s decision received criticism from Virgin, who hoped to receive the Moscow slots received by easyJet. A spokesman for Virgin criticised the move towards introducing economy flights from London to Moscow claiming that the “shortage of capacity for UK business travellers seeking to trade with one of the world’s fastest growing economies” would be detrimental to “consumer wants and economy demands”.

easyJet will operate a 180-seat Airbus A320 on two services a day and expects to fly more than 230,000 passengers in its first year of operations.

Real Russia Blog

Extended National Holidays Beginning Dec 2012
26
October
2012

Extended National Holidays Beginning Dec 2012

Public holidays across Russia will be altered in 2013 after new decree.

Last week Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree applying changes to the country’s public holidays in 2013, shifting New Year’s to 10 days, ‘Spring and Labour Day’ to five days, and Victory Day to four days.

These changes come in to action beginning with the New Year holidays on December 30th 2012 running through January 8th 2013, which is three days less than normal. The days taken from the New Year’s holiday have been allocated to ‘Spring and Labour Day’ (May 1st- May 5th, Wednesday through Sunday) and Victory Day (May 9th- May 12th, Thursday through Sunday).

These alterations are expected to be well received by the Russian people, who responded to a survey conducted in 2010 by Superjob.ru saying that they would prefer longer spring holidays.

Real Russia Blog

Russia may simplify visa regulations for 2018 World Cup
24
October
2012

Russia may simplify visa regulations for 2018 World Cup

Russia may simplify visa regulations for the upcoming World Cup in 2018.

A bill has been proposed to the Federal Assembly of Russia concerning the lifting of visa requirements for foreign travellers during the 2018 World Cup. These plans would affect those foreigners involved with the organisation and operation of the 2018 World Cup, as well as the 2017 Confederations’ Cup, who would be expected to skip consular procedures and fees.

The bill also proposed that a ticket to a World Cup game would be considered an official travel document, giving foreigners the right to free travel between Russian host cities during the competition. The intended change aims to boost tourism in Russia during the World Cup by making it easier for tourists to enter the country.

The host cities for the 2018 Russian World Cup were recently announced.

Real Russia Blog

Moscow to Sochi torch route announced
15
October
2012

Moscow to Sochi torch route announced

In exciting news that has captured the imaginations of many Russians, Dimitry Chernyshenko, President of the ‘Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee’, announced details last week regarding the Olympic torch route. Taking place on the 7th of October 2013, 123 days before the opening ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Games, the Olympic torch relay is set to be the longest in history, spanning 40390 miles by foot, car, rail, plane, and troika.

Amongst the talk about the route was the possibility of the Olympic torch’s first visit in to orbit, stopping off at the International Space Station, before parachuting back down to Earth. The torch is also scheduled to visit the Avachinsky volcanoes on the easternmost tip of Russia, the Curonian Spit on the Baltic Sea, and the very foot of the world’s largest freshwater reserve, Lake Baikal.

Travelling across all 83 regions of Russia, the torch’s route is designed to be received by over 90% of Russia’s population as it passes through more than 2,900 towns. The 14,000 torchbearers from all over the country will be contributing along with the regions to this celebration of Russia’s diverse and colourful background.