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Getting there & away

Blagoveshchensk is 110km off the trans-Siberian, on a branch line from Belogorsk (where taxi vans also meet oncoming trains for the two-hour ride; R150).

From the Blagoveshchensk train station, daily trains 185/186 lead to/from Vladivostok, passing through Khabarovsk (R1090, 16 hours). On odd-numbered days, trains 249/250 connect Blagoveshchensk with Moscow, stopping in Irkutsk (R2500, 53 hours); and trains 81/82 go to/from Tynda (R1260, 20 hours).

The wild Passazhirskoe Port Amurasso (440 703, 555 754; ul Chaykovskogo 1), about 500m east of the Druzhba, sends teams of bag-toting Chinese and Russians on four daily boats to Heihe, China (R600, 15 minutes); five boats make the return trip. You'll need a Chinese visa and a multientry Russian one if you plan on coming back. The nearest consulate is in Khabarovsk(4212-302 519; fax 328 390; Lenin Stadium 1); visa applications are taken from 10.30am to 1pm Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A visa can be arranged in a day for about R4200 or in a week for R2400. We hear it's quite hectic on the Chinese side. Be sure to fill out a yellow form for entry, or a blue one for exit. If you're coming back to Russia, you may have to insist on a migration card.