Trans-siberian Beijing to Irkutsk - data overload!
Replies: 7 - Last Post: Jul 10, 2013 2:19 PM Last Post By: Willsk22
Mar 29, 2013 11:44 AM
Trans-siberian Beijing to Irkutsk - data overload!I am in Korea for a wedding of a former student. (I’m a retired, part-time university instructor.) I arrive in Seoul on 22 May and leave on 25 June.
I have read and researched a lot about the trans-sib RR (the Trans-Sib Handbook by Thomas, LP's guide, Colin Thubron's excellent travelogues, other books, many websites). I've even completed the application from hell, the one for the Russian visa. I've gotten three quotations from agencies that seat61.com recommended. Prices varied by as much as 80% for the train travel alone. Hotels, not being identical, were difficult to compare. Every agency seat61 suggested replied promptly and made an impressive, credible professional sales pitch. Call me cheap. That's probably best. I know I’ll pay more for an agent. It's just that I do not want to overpay.
Agencies add value. They have their time and place. I'm not here to knock them; but with the Internet and Skype there's a lot i can do, and it's enjoyable doing it. And of course, with an agent everything is booked, signed, sealed and delivered. Little left in the way of flexibility. And you can forget about processing refunds for missed services on a trip like this. It's not like you're calling an 800 number to book HoJo's the next town over.
I have read several threads in TT. All this information has helped, but, honestly speaking, things are still a bit foggy. I am still trying to figure out a decent itinerary, one that is flexible. Maybe I’m suffering from data overload.
Here is my thinking:
May 26 - Boat or plane from Busan, Korea to Japan (visit Kyoto and old friends).
3 nights in Japan, then to Shanghai via air (visit former student).
3 nights in Shanghai, then to Beijing - fast train.
3 nights in Beijing, then via bus or RR from Beijing to U. Bataar.
3 nights in UB, then UB to U Ude via bus or train. 2 nights in UU.
UU to Irkutsk via RR. Explore Lake Baikal - 6 nights in Irkutsk - Lake Baikal area
Fly from Irkutsk to Seoul. 1 night in Seoul. Fly from Seoul to Asheville, NC.
Any comments or suggestions on the itinerary are most welcomed. What absolutely, positively must be reserved in advance? This plan leaves a few days and nights open in case I want to stay longer in any one place. I would like to at least have a cup of tea in a yurt in UB, not ruling out spending the night, if possible. Can I do this in the time allotted?
Several threads on TT say U. Ude is not worth the time? Any thoughts on this?
A cruise or sailing on Lake Baikal - any recommendation? Colin Thubron in his book, In Siberia, said fierce, hurricane-force winds can appear suddenly, unpredictably out of the west. He called them sarma. Anyone experienced one of these blows? Basically, is sailing or hydrofoiling on Lake Baikal safe?
Although I am well-traveled (about 85 countries), I am a senior (66). Safety is a concern. Everything works; thanks, God; but nothing works as well as it used to, and that includes my powers of observation. Any problem taking long distance buses, as for safety? Comfort, I know, is another thing. If I arrive at a station at night, I want to have a "meet and assist," that is, someone to greet me as i disembark and accompany me to the taxi or car, which i would have already booked. I've used this type of service before. It gives a sense of comfort and security. Anybody have any suggestions, please, for example, English-speaking contacts at local car or taxi companies?
Can i buy RR tickets locally in Russia and Mongolia? How about China? From what i have read on TT, the answer is no, not for the RR trip from Beijing to UB, correct?
I've read postings on TT about the rzd.ru website. They have a site in English (eng.rzd.ru). Does anyone have any experience buying tickets from this web? Are they the same price as at the RR station? I have yet to explore this site in depth.
Any suggestions appreciated, most appreciated.
Mar 29, 2013 2:54 PM
11. Next time number your questions so that people can answer them more easily.
2. The only options from Beijing to UB are train or plane. If you take the direct train, you must by the tickets through an agency. If you decide to go the cheaper route, then it's either plane, train or bus to Erlian, cross the border and then train to UB from the Mongolian side.
3. Visiting a yurt in UB is possible. It will be a tourist yurt because it will be close to the city. Try any of the guest houses as they should be able to arrange this.
4. It's unlikely that you will need two nights in UU. I often suggest the bus from UB to UU as the travel time is less and cost is the same or less. You can buy tickets yourself for either the train or the bus. Bus tickets need to be purchased day before at the latest. Train tickets will depend upon availability and may or may not be available for next day.
5. In UU bus usually arrives at about 7 pm. I've posted possible contacts in UU before. Try Denis at the UU hostel or Natalia Myasnikova whose email is email@example.com
6. Lake Baikal has fewer storms in the summer than in the spring and fall. That's why lots of boat travel doesn't occur except from mid June to late August.
7. Possible itinerary suggestions are easier if you give some indication of your interests - history, nature, architecture, art, etc
8. Tickets purchased on the rzd,ru website are the same price as at the train station. Note that the English speaking section of the website does not include ticket purchasing and tickets cannot be purchased online for international travel between Mongolia and Russia.
9. International train from Beijing to UB only operates twice a week so take that into account when planning. All other segments have daily options.
Mar 29, 2013 3:39 PM
2I don't think you will want to spend 3 nights in UB. The city is unattractive to say the least, and one day in the city itself is (in my opinion) enough. The interesting points are: Gandan monastery (if you haven't been to Tibetan temples before), couple of ethnographic (read Tibetan art) and nature (read dinosaurs) museums, old palace south of Sukhbaatar square (to see what the 19th century Urga looked like). A hill (ovoo) just east of Gandan gives a good view of the city incl. the ger district to the north.
One nice area not far from UB is Terelz national park (one or two hours drive from UB) - valleys, hills, cattle, yurts, couple of tiny temples. Rent a car with a driver (normal car is OK) and stay overnight in some yurt.
One small comment: the "application from hell" is a mirror image of what a foreigner fills in when applying for US visa. If you don't like it, write your congressman.
Mar 30, 2013 12:45 AM
3A few years ago I did a cruise (actually a combination of two itineraries) on Baïkal with this company. .
Definitely not cheap, but I found it well worth the money.
All the "cruise" boats on Baïkal are more or less the same, small and narrow and a bit cramped, with up to 10 passengers (rarely that many). Most access to shore, when there is no pier is via a steep and narrow "board".
The one I sailed on was nice and well equipped (even a sauna!), there is at last one crew member or guide fluent in english, and food was excellent (russian food). There may be an all-russian passengers population, wich was the case on one of my trips, except myself.
There was a combination of visits to museums or hot springs, local villages, nature reserves, hiking, plus beach time even if the water is not exacly "inviting".
And we had one of these storms right in the middle, which was quite impressive...
Mar 30, 2013 8:43 PM
Mar 30, 2013 8:45 PM
Mar 30, 2013 8:59 PM
Jul 10, 2013 2:19 PM
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