Lake Baikal, Siberia. Kids take time off the train for some UV.
Vladivostok Station at the far east end of the trans-Siberian journey.
Trans Siberian train downsides:
Out in the sticks as you thunder across the tundra on the Trans-Siberian train, life seems unchanging and a million miles from manic Moscow or sophisticated St Petersburg. Actually, Siberia is a million miles away.
Train Siberian train upsides:
Time off the train for good behaviour permits a quick walk around the local metropolis.
email on his Trans Siberian experience from RyGuy7 of Calgary, Canada:
Myself and 3 friends did the Trans-Mongolian line of the railway at the end of August. While I could probably write a short novel on the experience, I will do my best to summarize it for you in a few lengthy paragraphs.
First of all - and most important - the trains. Since we did Moscow-Irkutsk, then IRK-Ulaanbaatar and finally UB - Beijing, each train was different. I enjoyed the fact that we got to experience trains for all three countries.
The Russian train was the nicest and appeared to be new. The most surprising feature of the train was the small LCD television in the compartment that ran movies, although usually in Russian. Every once and awhile it would switch to English for about 20 minutes and go back - we never understood why. Our compartment also included many small storage spots and an electrical outlet. The beds were all fold-down and I will be honest, I never got used to sleeping on the train. We also found the heating/AC to be intermittent so we asked our carriage attendant to unlock our window to allow the cool air in. The restaurant car was stocked well enough and reasonably priced, and the toilets were cleaned frequently. Continued below.
Home sweet home.
The Mongolian carriage was probably the worst of the three and it wasn't even that bad. It had some pretty extreme wool blankets for us to use, but the most uncomfortable bed. No storage space, and fairly basic washrooms. I enjoyed the dining car's retro look and cheap beer prices.
The Chinese train was fairly comfortable. The one plus was free food in the restaurant, although it wasn't of excellent quality. Continued below...
The local church, revived.
In regards to ALL trains - they stayed right on schedule except for our departure out of UB. Remember to bring toilet paper - there was seldom any stocked in the toilets.
There is always an abundance of food for purchase at any of the stops - we enjoyed such niceties as chicken, dumplings and beverages. Just keep track of the time so you don't miss your train. There was always a schedule posted that was fairly easy to follow. We also brought our own snacks and 'Add Hot Water' food since there was always a hot water tank available. If you are only a group of 2, I would consider paying the extra for First Class. I personally would have found it very awkward to be in a cramped cabin with 2 people I didn't know (or trust). It really is a small space. Continued below.
Lake Baikal's massive expanse suddenly visible.
The scenery on the whole trip was very contrasting. Russia was like Canada - fairly covered in trees, tundra..it really did remind me of home. Heading into Mongolia brought small hills, and then once we left UB, the Gobi Desert which covered everything in dust. China brought mountains and tunnels. Amazing to look at.
Lonely Planet had us believing we would meet all sorts of people on the train. We did not. In fact - the entire trip to IRK was basically Russians who spoke no English. We had a lovely afternoon on our last day trying to communicate with a Russian couple who were very hospitable to us in their cabin. The Mongolian and Chinese trains had a few more backpackers on them but for the most part, we didn't find many people to talk to.