Let’s get one thing straight from the start, you’ve got to at least be able to tolerate trains. Preferably, you’ll have a kind of quiet delight for the idea of being gently rocked to sleep while travelling at (slow) speed through the Mongolian steppe. At the thought of having up to 5 days in front of you with nothing to do but read, watch half the world go by out of the window, walk to the dining car, walk back, and repeat.
But, aside from the time on the train, you should also be ready to experience travelling in a whole new way. To take the slow route and have a better trip because of it. Here are just a few reasons we think you should hop on board the Trans-Mongolian railway.
Just one of the routes available for the Trans-Mongolian
Moscow is pretty cool
Other than the obvious draws of St Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square, Lenin’s Mausoleum, the Kremlin, Gorky Park, The Bolshoi Theatre, seeing a ballet, the awesome Museum of Cosmonautics, the international food scene, hidden bars, street art, cute cafés…hang on we had a point here. Oh yeah, Moscow is awesome.
Russian Saunas are the best
Not only are saunas in general great fun, in a Russian sauna you have the added advantage of being hit by a bundle of birch twigs dipped in cold water. What? It’s good for you. Probably.
Mongolia is stunning
And you get to stay in an ger which is awesome.
In winter anyway.
Dining Cars on trains are cool
When the only real thing you have to do for the day is walk between carriages and cabins, a trip to the dining car is a a real highlight. Enjoy your 1st cold beer in hours as well as the delights of “unidentified meat with rice” and a very slightly different view. Doesn’t sound brilliant? Spent 4 days straight on a train and then say that.
Beijing is fascinating
Whether it’s taking a trip out to the Great Wall (there’s a section where you can take the cable car up and toboggan down – we kid you not!), exploring the vast Forbidden City, tasting crispy duck skin with sugar for the first time or just wandering around wide eyed at the beauty of the Hutongs, it takes a long time to get bored here.
What to take – Top Tips!
Thermos mug & plastic cutlery
There’s a samovar (hot water urn) at the end of every carriage on the train, perfect for coffee and tea as well as instant noodles, mash, stews and anything else you can think of!
Triangular “meter box” key
Yes this sounds bizarre, but all the cabin doors and windows are locked with this low-tech device so it’s great to keep your belongings secure when you head out onto the platforms mid-journey.
Books too of course, but one of the problems with staring down at the page is that you can’t stair out of the window at the world going by! Listening to an audio book (or ten) solves this problem.
You’ll be stocking up on food before the long stretched, but among the dried goods, beer and chocolate, don’t forget some fresh food too. Your body will thank you on day 4.
For the loos. Nuff said.
For the loos. Nuff said.
Blow up pillow
The beds aren’t the most comfortable of platforms but they really aren’t bad. The pillows on the other hand are wisps of fluff not suitable for a child – bring your own or prepare to stuff your jumpers in a pillow case.
It’s great to track your progress across the world as you travel through stations in the middle of the Russian wilderness. Go old style and mark them on the map.