Replacing some trains with flights along my Trans-Siberian trip?
Replies: 8 - Last Post: Sep 5, 2012 7:57 PM Last Post By: tearoadtiger
Sep 1, 2012 6:54 AM
Replacing some trains with flights along my Trans-Siberian trip?I am leaving for a Trans-Siberian trip in less than 2 weeks and am just about to make the train/flight bookings. After a quick trip through Denmark, Sweden & Finland, I plan to follow the Trans-Mongolian route - St Petersburg for a few days, then train to Moscow, a few days in Moscow, than train to Irkutsk (4 days on train), then stop there & visit Lake Baikal, then train to Ulaanbaatar (2 nights on train), then time in a Ger camp near Ulaanbaatar, then train to Beijing (2 nights), then 3 weeks in China, 2 weeks through Laos & Cambodia, then 3 weeks in India and then home (London) in time for Xmas.
Just to put this in context I’m a single 27 year old male who will be traveling alone and I enjoy independent budget traveling, where I get to meet as many like-minded people as possible, and enjoy a blend of partying, sightseeing (I enjoy elements of history, politics and architecture, but not endless days of walking around churches and museums), active outdoor pursuits (climbing, mountain biking, tough hiking) and photography. I always like to stay in lively & socialable hostels, in shared dorm rooms, and I am happy to stay/travel in basic conditions.
My major doubts I'm having right now is:
1. Do I really want to spend 4 days on the train from Moscow to Irkutsk when I can fly in 5 hours for only £100 more (flight is £210, train is £110 in 2nd class/4 berth)? The time flying would save me would also give me more vital time in China or India. I have heard the train is a great experience but if I don’t meet likeminded young, English-speaking backpackers, I’d worry I’d not enjoy 4 straight days.
2. Also, the flight from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing is actually £50 cheaper than the train! Flight is £154 (2hrs) & train is £197 (30 hours/1 night). Is the train worth paying MORE? I have heard this section of the train is really interesting though?
3. Some forums have suggested that Ulan-ude is actually a better place to stop to visit Lake Baikal than Irkutsk?
If anyone has time, could you please respond to this ASAP as I need to get stuff booked!
Sep 1, 2012 11:36 AM
You know, you make such good valid points here, referring to train - v - flight(s).
However, it's really what you wanna see also - isn't It?
I've done some very gruelling train journeys that have lasted many days too.
There have been times when I'm on about day 4, that I've past an airport and thought.... "What if".
I get to my next change and check flights onward - and I've done them. It cuts, as you say, so much time off.
However, looking back at everything I saw on the train - once home, I've not regretted staying on board.
If it's a time issue, then that's a different matter.
Do I want to stare out the window at sights I'll never see again, for days - or should I just get there asap?
It's a bit catch22, I certainly agree.
I tend to change travel modes if the train/s is/are really getting me down. That happens, but not often.
Money wise, for me that wouldn't really come into it.
I'm sure others will be along soon with alternative ideas to mine - that are their different preferences.
This is just my angle of it.
Hope you have a great time.
Sep 1, 2012 7:07 PM
2One of the main reasons why I did the Trans-Siberian Train journey (multiple times) was the purpose of taking the train all the way. I know, 4 days can be long, but only this will give you a sense on how big Russia really is. I love trains and I love overland travel, so I would never swap the train for a plane on a journey like this.
Having said this, I am going to go to India soon, but I only have a limited amount of time. In this case I am actually taking some internal flights as this will save me a considerable amount of time. But then again, travelling in India is not an overland journey of epic proportions like the Trans-Siberian train ride is.
Sep 1, 2012 11:07 PM
3These are very much personal preferences. However, for most people it is a no brainier, the experience of the train, the opportunity to meet people, locals not only other travelers, the cost of the visa and their lack of plans to revisit Russia all combine to make the train a more interesting option.
For how long are you traveling? Do you intend to be voting Russia, Mongolia, China or India again?
Sep 1, 2012 11:09 PM
Sep 2, 2012 1:59 AM
5I would fly and use the extra time to visit one or two other places in Siberia. S7 has very cheap red-eye tickets from DME to Irkutsk which means you save a night's accommodation too. You may still be able to get a promo fare which could be cheaper than kupe especially if you are using an agent to buy your train tickets. If you want the real train experience then you should probably go in platskart but I think the novelty of that would wear off after 24 hours and you almost assuredly would not meet any English speakers.
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Sep 2, 2012 2:05 AM
6I just reread your post and I would also suggest spending more time in Russia since obtaining the visa is such a hassle compared to the other countries you are visiting. Plus, Laos and Cambodia and parts of China are going to be screaming hot and humid while Siberia's weather should be pleasant. And I found Russia much more interesting than China but I can speak basic Russian and I think that makes a huge difference.
Just another 2 cents...
Sep 2, 2012 2:31 AM
Sep 5, 2012 7:57 PM
8It is easier to get to Baikal from Irkutsk. It takes about 45 minutes or so. Listvianka is nice if touristy. It is a good bet when you have just 2 to 4 hours to spend. You must try omul, the local fish which is fabulous. But, I always have beer, or 1 good shot of vodka on the off chance you get bad fish. It happens once in awhile, I have several friends who have gotten sick, including one who nearly died. My policy has kept me safe thus far.
The Ulan-Ude side is more scenic, with beaches and great vistas. It takes longer to get to, but if you have the time, is worth it. Plus you get more of the Buryat influence, (the Buryats are cousins to the Mongols) meaning it feels more like what it is, the middle of Asia. Goryachinsk is a good option on the east side.
I vote with everyone else, take the train, then you will get a feel for Russia. I would also say, take more time in Russia and Mongolia, skip Cambodia and Laos, hit them another time. Have a great time. Oh, and you can find out more about Ulan-Ude, Irkutsk and the local culture at my blog: transformsiberia.wordpress.com
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