Project Area

Getting Started

The project I will be planning in this section is about a journey on and off the mother of all railways: the Trans-Siberian Railway. I will be traveling from Moscow to Beijing, via Mongolia, and back, returnig via Manchuria (China) along the Beijing loop, for a total of 19198 km (!!) (7865 Trans-Siberian+6148 Trans-Manchurian+5185 Trans-Siberian westward) in about 45 days.

Trans-Siberian Railway Stunt

Why in the world did I chose this title for this paragraph, and for the portfolio?

It's very simple and if you like, a bit sad. One could never have enough days off, to stretch a journey to its fullest, without having to painfully skip some views or attractions. One should be able to travel without limits. Unfortunately this is pure utopia for me, at least at this point in my life. Thus the reason for the title. It's a stunt. Yes, because in 45 days, I will have to plan my route very carefully, play this domino with discipline and light hand, in order to make the most of it, avoiding the falling of the pieces one by one. I will be going alone, and altough it might seem a nutty approach, I have plenty of reasons to do so, and not because I'm a loner or an antisocial person. There is a section of the Project in which I explain why I travel alone. Check it here or on the links in right column.

SInce 1992, when I completed my first Inter-Rail journey (Roma, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin, Frankfurt, Roma in 15 days), I tasted the charm of the railways. I remember that when looking down at the Inter-Rail map, I would follow the longest routes, from Nordkapp to Morocco or Istanbul. There was a dim part on those maps, although you could see the railways. That was the former Soviet block, and the railway that fascinated me was the Trans-Siberian. I was playing again my favorite game as a kid, that is take the Atlas and read the name of every little town or trying to imagine the morphology of the place by looking at the altitude lines. The funniest names were by far grouped in North America; Russia, China and Mongolia were interesting but far away, remote, inaccessible, almost unknown. Luckily nowadays you can go there to visit withouth the KGB questioning you or having to stick to the plan in detail.

When to go

I will be going from late september to early november, for 45 days. I will be experiencing the autumn colors and the first snows in late october.

Train bookings

  • Moscow to Ulaanbaatar & Beijing
    It takes one week, but it can be stretched to a month. I will be going straight to Ulaanbaatar, where I'll take three days to visit, then stop in Beijing. This branch is 7865 km long. I will most probably buy the tickets in Italy, although I might try to ask a friend in Moscow to arrange the trip in a local agency. The problem for the Trans-Siberian is that there isn't a pass like the Inter-rail, and if you buy a Moscow-Beijing you won't be able to hop on-and-off the train. This means that you will have to split the tickets and the bookings into each leg of the journey.

  • The Beijing Loop
    Again, if you go nonstop you can clear the 6148 km in a week. I will be staying in Beijing for 6 days, then I'll head north to Harbin. At Ulan-ude I'll quit the Beijing Loop, to get back on the classic Trans-Siberian route.

  • Baikal to Moscow
    This is the hop on-and-off 5185km extravaganza, at the end of which I'll visit Moscow before returning to Italy.

  • Train ticket costs
    Since I'll take with me a laptop, a digital camera and a videocamera, I will have to go for the first class. This is not my usual choice, but in the countries I will be visiting, it's better to have more privacy and in this case a vital plug to recharge the batteries. There is a price to pay, of course , but it's still affordable. The change will most likely be similat to this in a couple of months time:

    1.00 EUR = 34.0485 RUB, in Russia
    1.00 EUR = 10.0947 CNY, in China
    1.00 EUR = 1,476.01 MNT, in Mongolia
    Source the XE universal currency converter

    The first class train ticket from Moscow to Beijing costs 12800 RUB = 376 EUR for example.

  • Costs and money

    Taken the above list as quick reference, consider that in Russia you can live with about 70 EUR per day, in China and Mongolia with about 40 EUR per day, which makes us about 2400 EUR (70*20+40*25). This will be my tentative budget.