Warning to Visitors

Some of the information below may be out of date as a result of changing timetables and services. Please double check the accuracy of all information before travelling.

The booking forms should be up to date however, so if tickets for a particular service are available, then the service should be operational.

Moscow - Ulan-Bator - Beijing (Trans-Mongolian Railway)

Rail

The Journey

Often considered to be the most interesting of the Trans-Siberian rail journeys, the Trans-Mongolian route is made onboard Train 4, and takes six days to travel between the cities, across Mongolia via Ulan-Bator and the Gobi Desert.

Places to Stop:

There are plenty of good places to stop en route, in order to break the long journey up a bit. The best spots include:

  • Yekaterinburg
  • Yunguang Caves
  • Ulan Bator; and
  • Lake Baikal

Of course, you get to see plenty from the window of your train too, including the Gobi Desert and Lake Baikal.

For a good choice of hotels with discount prices, visit Hotels in Moscow for more information.

What to Bring:

There are a few items that you would be well-advised to take with you on your Trans-Mongolian trip, including:

  • Pocket knife (useful for cooking/food);
  • Phrase book;
  • Cutlery (saves using your hands!!);
  • Travel towel (space saver, and not provided);
  • and Baby-wipes (for on-the-move washing).

Trans-Mongolian Railway

The Trans-Mongolian Railway connects Russia with China via Mongolia. The railway operates clean and comfortable Chinese trains,with a range of accommodation options.

There is a buffet car onboard, and each train has its own security patrol to make sure everyone is safe and secure. The trains are generally kept pretty warm, so you will need to bring clothing suitable for the cold outdoors, as well as the toasty interior. Plug sockets (220V - European-style) are sometimes available in the corridors, but you will have to compete with other passengers to use them. Sometimes the power doesn't work. Occasionally, conductors will offer to charge your devices for you in their own compartments (for a price!).

On the direct service between Moscow and Beijing, there are four accommodation options; Deluxe 2-berth Compartments, First Class 4-berth Compartments, Second Class 4-berth Compartments. Kupe compartments have fold up upper bunks, which are stowed during the day. Passengers sit on the lower bunks which are used as standard seats.

First Class (Deluxe):

On Train 4 (direct service between Moscow and Beijing), First Class passengers can travel in Deluxe 2-berth cabins. In these carriages, passengers benefit from shared use of a shower (one between each two compartments). Shared toilets and wash-basins are still found at either end of the carriage. Meals are not included within the price of a ticket.

First Class (Kupe):

A middle-ground option is the First Class Kupe, which is essentially the same layout as Second Class, but a little bit more modern. Each compartment has four berths in a bunk-bed arrangement. The compartment is shared with other travellers (unless you are travelling in a party of four). Passengers share bathrooms and wash-basins with everyone else in the carriage; they can be found at either end of the carriage. Passengers receive beeding and a blanket. Passengers also have free use of a hot water boiler at the end of the carriage (useful for making food, hot drinks etc).

Second Class (Kupe):

Each Second Class compartment has four berths in a bunk-bed arrangement. The compartment is shared with other travellers (unless you are travelling in a party of four). Second Class passengers share bathrooms and wash-basins with everyone else in the carriage; they can be found at either end of the carriage. Passengers receive beeding and a blanket. Passengers also have free use of a hot water boiler at the end of the carriage (useful for making food, hot drinks etc). Second Class passengers are generally very sociable, with compartment doors left open during the day.

Travel Tip: If you are travelling in Second Class, choose a bottom bunk, as you get additional secure storage space underneath your bed.

Luggage is stored underneath the bottom bunks or by the door. As space is limited, don't bring too much with you. Bicycles may be brought with you, but they need to be disassembled, put in an appropriate bag, and transported in your own cabin.

Food & Drink:

Travelling from Moscow, a Russian buffet car is present for the first four days. After crossing the border, a Mongolian buffet car is available for the penultimate day, replaced by a Chinese car on the final day. Food and drink onboard is generally moderately, and not of the highest quality. Depending on whereabouts you are, US Dollars or Roubles are accepted. 

At each station, the train generally stops for around 15mins (in Russia, in Mongolia and China, stops are quicker), which gives you the opportunity to head out into the station to stock up. Make sure you check the timetable before you do this however, as the trains try to stick to their timetables quite closely (whilst in Russia at least). At most stations you will be able to find small stands selling snacks and noodles, with some even offering pre-prepared meals, meat and alcohol. Major stations en route have small supermarkets.

Entertainment

If you are going to be spending several days and nights on-board this service, make sure you bring some of your own entertainment. If you are going to be sharing a cabin with other travellers, bring a sociable games, a pack of cards or similar. There are no high-tech gadgets on-board, so you will have to entertain yourself the old fashioned way!

Timetable

This epic journey takes six days to complete, although you are well advised to stop off en route to make the most of your journey. If you do decided to stop off on the way, there are plenty of more frequent, local trains that run between Moscow and Irkutsk, and Irkutsk and Ulan-Bator. Trains are a little less frequent in Mongolia, but there are still other options that you can explore. The Russian Railways website details timetables for these smaller journeys.

The timetable below is for the once-weekly service (in either direction) between Moscow and Beijing via Ulan-Bator.

StationTrainDayStationTrainDay
Moscow Yaroslavski21.35TueBeijing07.45Wed
Nizhny Novgorod03.52WedErenhot23.59Wed
Kirov09.59WedUlan-Bator13.50Thu
Perm17.50WedUlan-Ude03.09Fri
Yekaterinburg23.33WedIrkutsk11.05Fri
Omsk11.40ThurKrasnoyarsk04.14Sat
Novosibirsk19.32Thur Novosibirsk16.17Sat
Krasnoyarsk06.50FriOmsk23.44Sat
Irkutsk23.50SatYekaterinburg11.55Sun
Ulan-Ude08.04SatPerm17.41Sun
Ulan-Bator07.15SunKirov01.18Mon
Erenhot21.00SunNizhny Novgorod07.10Mon
Beijing14.04MonMoscow Yaroslavski13.58Mon

All times shown above are Moscow time, except for Ulan-Bator, Erlian and Beijing, which are local time.

The stops shown above are the major stops en route. The full station list is as follows:

Moscow, Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, Kirov, Balezino, Perm, Yekaterinburg, Tyumen, Ishim, Omsk, Barabinsk, Novosibirsk, Marrinsk, Krasnoyarsk, Ilanskaya, Nizhneudinsk, Zima, Irkutsk, Slyundyanka, Ulan-Ude, Dzhida, Naushki, Sukhe-Bator, Darkhan, Dzun-Khara, Ulan-Bator, Choyr, Sayn-Shanda, Dzamyn-Ude, Erlyan, Datun, and Beijing (Peking).

Price

Booking tickets for the Trans-Mongolian Railway can be as easy or as difficult as you choose to make it. The quickest and simplest, although not necessarily the cheapest, way to book tickets is through a travel agent like Real Russia. Tickets are also available through Russian train stations, but demand for this route is very high, and you very unlikely to be able to buy them in person; booking through a travel agent is definitely advised.

If you would like to break up your journey, rather than travel for six days straight, you can purchase a series of tickets that enable you to travel more flexibly. As you would expect, the more individual journeys you plan to make, the more expensive the cost of the total journey. It is worth bearing in mind however, that the cost for stopping en route isn't too bad, and after a few days of solid train travelling, you may start to see the benefits of taking a break!

Real Russia have a very good journey planner tool that enables you to select the destinations en route that you would like to stop at, and then suggests the individual trains that could be used to make up the journey. 

The prices below are for Trans-Mongolian Railway journeys booked through Real Russia (a good value travel agent). The indirect fares shown below generally involve local trains, rather than the direct train (timetable shown above). Where a station other than Moscow or Beijing is written below, the price quoted is to break your journey at that point.

Route2nd Class1st Class
Moscow - Beijing (direct)£380 - £420£550 - £570
Moscow - Irkutsk - Beijing£440 - £460£680 - £720
Moscow - Ulan-Bator - Beijing£380 - £420£520 - £550
Moscow - Irkutsk - Ulan-Bator - Beijing£480 - £520£600 - £720
Moscow - Yekaterinburg - Irkutsk - Ulan-Ude - Ulan-Bator - Beijing£560 - £620£680 - £720

Tickets can only be booked 45 days in advance, but if you go through a travel agent like Real Russia, they will be able to 'reserve' you a ticket, as they know they will be able to buy a load of tickets directly from the national rail operator as soon as they become available (as tickets are sold to tour operators first, before being released to the public).

Book Trans-Siberian Railway Tickets

Tips, Questions & Comments