Know Before You Go: the Trans-Mongolian Railroad

August 19, 2015

1. Know your (railroad) lines. The Trans-Siberian railroad actually has three main routes. They all follow the same course for the first 2050 miles outside of Moscow, but then they split: the Trans-Siberian continues east to Vladivostok, the Trans-Manchurian veers south-east to Harbin and Beijing, and the Trans-Mongolian darts south via Ulaanbataar to Beijing. The whole network was built at great cost in blood and treasure at the turn of the 19th century in order to connect Moscow with the port of Vladivistok on the Sea of Japan, boosting business and trade. In Russia and Mongolia, where plane travel can be prohibitively expensive and the distances are enormous, the rail network quickly became a popular way for the middle and lower classes to travel. It remains that way today.

2. One is the highest number. Many kinds of trains ply these rails, and a train’s number tells you its relative speed and modernity: the lower the number, the higher the speed and price. In this case, you’ll want to aim high. There’s a time and place for luxury, but this isn’t it. Even the older, higher-numbered trains feature facilities that are clean and comfortable—if basic—at far lower prices. And most winningly, high-number trains feature a lower and more appealing ratio of drunk Australian tourists to engaging Kazakh musicians.

Read adventurer Alissa Greenburg’s full story with photos at Roads and by clicking here.

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