A friend of mine and I are planning a trip in June from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar via the Trans-Siberian Railway. We plan to fly from Washington DC to Moscow, spend 3-4 days in Moscow, then board the train and spend 2-3 days in UB before flying home. We're wiling to spend the money for a first class (2-person) berth on the train for safety reasons. Any suggestions about stops along the way between Moscow and UB and about what to pack and what to expect would be helpful. We want to spend a day or 2 in Irkutsk but haven't planned any other stops.
I speak enough Russian to ask for food and directions but that's about it...how hard is it to find English speakers? Also, my friend is black...how can non-white travellers expect to be treated in Russia?
first of all very cool idea to make this trip!
I've done this route already 4 times and it's been always amazing. I was travelling two times in the 3rd class and two times in the 2nd. I have to admit that in the 3rd class was much more fun, no worries about your staff. The only think which might be a bit uncomfortable, is the noise of the people passing by the corridor every time.
The second class is also very good, but you won't meet so many people like in the 3rd one. You need to know, that the conductors in this trains are very responsible, on every station they close the doors between wagons to avoid that someone would come to yours and still something. All the passengers have to be verified with the passports, so generally it's very safety to travel by train in Russia.
If you take the 1st class, you will miss the magic of that kind of trip, but well, it's your choice.
In the train you will find restaurant, where you can easily order some food. On the stations you can buy home food from locals - they sell just on the platform.
When you pass by Irkutsk you defiantly have to visit Lake Baikal (it's worlds oldest deepest and largest lake.) There I recommend to stay at least 4 days.
Just don't go to touristic places like Listvyanka, Slyudyanka or Khuzhir. All the tourists go there, the natural environment is destroyed by local "aggressive marketing". I've been to all of that places and found one, very lovely and very authentic in the village called Bougouldeïka .
Have a good trip!
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