The Trans-Siberian railroad, spanning thousands of miles through the middle of Russia and crossing two continents is easily one of the most epic train journeys in the world. There is simply no better way to see Russia. You will find yourself passing through breathtaking Siberian landscapes, meeting friendly and interesting Russians, and exploring a region of the world very few people ever visit.
Seven Days Across Russia
If you were to take the whole of the Trans-Siberian railroad without stopping, the journey would take approximately seven days, though most people stop along the way, spreading out the journey to 14-30 days. You can start at either end, Moscow in the West or Vladivostok in the East. Alternatively, many people switch trains to the Trans-Mongolian line and head down into Mongolia and/or China to the train’s final destination in Beijing.
Although there is very little information on tourists doing the journey as a family, the train is usually filled with local Russian families traveling with their children so the journey is definitely a great family option.
How to Buy Tickets
Before heading to Russia, you will definitely need to plan out your journey on the Trans-Siberian. Russian visas require you to not only give dates of when you will arrive and depart the country, but also a layout of your set itinerary with specific dates. This means you will need to plan out your train journey, including buying your tickets and deciding on which cities and towns you will stop in along the way.
The best ticket option for families would be to purchase a seat in a Kupe, or second class, compartment. These 4-berth compartments consist of two upper and two lower bunks with a locking compartment door. Children under 4 are free on the train, if they will be sharing a parent’s bunk and kids 4-12 can purchase a less expensive children’s ticket.
Tips for the Train
Once you are on the train, there are a few tips that will help you enjoy the journey as a family. First, plan ahead and bring lots of fresh fruits, snacks, and meals you can easily make on the train like sandwiches and instant soup. At the end of each car there is access to hot water, great for instant ramen noodles or tea. You can also purchase food in the dining car, though it is a bit overpriced, and from vendors selling snacks at the various stations when you stop. The food can definitely get monotonous after a while though and if your children are picky eaters or you need a specific type of formula/baby food, you should definitely stock up before grabbing the train.
Safety is usually not too much of a concern on the trains and older children might want to explore a bit during the longer sections of the train journey. Hanging out in the dining car is a good way to meet other families traveling on the train and for your kids to interact with Russian children. At night, make sure you keep your compartment locked and you shouldn’t have any issues.
Where to Stop
Doing the Trans-Siberian railroad without any stops would be pretty miserable for anyone and I can’t imagine the trip being anything but torture for active kids. Stopping along the way is an important part of the journey and can give you a break from endless days on the train. Thankfully, there are a number of real great family-friendly stops along the journey.
If your kids are interested at all in history or a fan of the cartoon movie Anastasia, Ekaterinburg, where Russia’s last Tsar and his family were killed might make for an interesting stop. Another great detour off the train route is to stop and visit Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake. Closer to Mongolia, Ulan Ude is a fascinating city, home to Russia’s largest indigenous group the Buryats, and the Buddhist capital of the country.