And so Trans-Mongolian Railway went; train Moscow – Ulaanbaatar – Beijing; 3 countries, 35 cities, 7600km, 5 days, 6 time zones, one desert, steppe, flatland, taiga, taiga, taiga.


Day one: Vladimir, Nizhny Novgorod, Kirov, Glazov, Balezino, Perm.

Trans-Mongolian Railway train is like a time machine to the ’90s.

I was quite lucky to be on the new train from Tallinn to Moscow with soft mattresses, packaged packaged bed sheets, 220V plugs, shelves, TV. The toilets are bio-vacuum toilets, shelves for infants are fitted fitted with a baby changing table. The last cabin has been replaced with a spacious disabled toilet. After all those pleasures I was keeping my fingers crossed that my train from Moscow to Beijing had at least 220V plugs.

One of twenty cars.

My dreams were dispelled when the train turned out to be Chinese; no plugs, no tea cup holders, not even tea. Bed liners weren’t packaged up, hopefully they were clean, or maybe not. The toilets were leaking, the carpets were stained. Mug, fork, towel, soap and toilet paper were my own.


Noodles is for the main dish.


The train for Trans-Mongolian Railway is Chinese, conductors are Chinese, everybody and everything is Chinese, zero Russian or English; you tell him ‘tea’ he’ll give you a ‘cigarette’. Our conductor was more or less a decent man, all the others are a little bit rude. On the first day, when I walked out of my cabin for some time and I came back the door was locked. So I asked for help from the conductor in the other car, he showed me where to turn and where to go, with his fingers and slammed the door behind me.

When the toilets in our car were shut down for a half day, it was explained to me very loudly that entry to other cars is prohibited. Any attempts to talk led to the finger direction game, when they point at the door followed by slamming it.


Typical tourist with the typical camera.
Typical tourist with the typical camera.

The train is divided into three parts, Chinese, tourist and wealthy tourist. Restaurant car is attached to the tourist cars, most likely for two reasons; 1. Chinese do not eat that stuff. 2. Tourists are more likely to afford the food and do not need to go far.


Noodles and hot baked goods are sold on platforms.
Noodles and hot baked goods are sold on platforms.


In Moscow there are no stray dogs, but at the first stop in Nizhny Novgorod, the smell of Belyashi is attracting the crowds.

Dog on the platform.
Short stop in Nizhniy Novgorod.
Perm platform at night.

In general, the first day was surprisingly boring, but the inconvenience was eventually dispelled, thanks to an empty cabin.



Day Two: Yekaterinburg, Tyumen, Ishim, Omsk, Barabinsk, Novosibirsk.

I was told that the Trans-Mongolian Railway train from Moscow to Beijing is a fast train. But it is not fast, because it runs at 300km/h, but because it stops at the stations for 5–10 minutes. You won’t see a lot.

Endless yellow fields.
Endless fields of the birch trees.
Endless fields of the birch trees.


Coal is being loaded by workers, noticing that they are being photographed they started shouting “No picture”. Taking pictures of the station staff is prohibited apparently.

Life of locals just outside the station.

At breakfast and lunch I eat my own food, dinner is affordable in the restaurant car. Some people will share this pleasure with me as eating instant noodles and cakes from the platform on a daily basis is pretty tiring.


Russian platforms at night.
Russian platforms at night.
Men loading the train with coal.

Coal is loaded pretty often, and the conductors use it to keep the car warm, not forgetting to make themselves rice porridge too.

Fire place.



Day Three: Taiga, Mariinsk, Krasnoyarsk, Ilansky, Nizhneudinsk, Zima.

If I take part in a quiz about how many Russian cities I know, it would turn out that from 1113 cities I only know as much as I have passed in the first two days.

Krasnoyarsk station starting to show curvy landscape.
Krasnoyarsk station starting to show curvy landscape.
Train is releasing water.

The train is moving, the landscape is changing. I noticed that the wild beauty is starting to show up on day three.

Birch trees landscape.





I came out, took a picture, went in.


There are only two trains per week from Moscow to Beijing, possibly because of the off season, or possibly because of low demand. Not sure which is the reason but the train is quite empty; no screaming children, no guitar music, no drunken soldiers going back home, no snoring old people with cages full of chickens, no men insisting to drink for respect, nothing like that.

Locals on the opposite platform saying bye to their families.
Locals on the opposite platform saying bye to their families.

In the evening, the restaurant is packed with tourists… or maybe travellers.


These two are from England, they sold everything they owned and went travelling.


These guys are from New Zealand; on his wrist is one pair of watches, one showing local time, the other one showing Moscow time.


This man is from Canada. The door to his car was locked on the first night, so he ended up sleeping outside.


Irish know theirs stuff and waste no time.


Someone told me that Russians do not smile because they consider it as a sign of weakness. The owner of the restaurant told me that since the Trans-Mongolian Railway crosses 6 time zones, which is about an hour a day, the restaurant should be open to stock up at the local time. Which means every day for an hour or two earlier than on the previous day. It’s a bit uncomfortable, because the train itself runs on Moscow time and the guests are waking up and going to bed at the same time Moscow does. It works out that on the last day the restaurant is working five hours longer. So why don’t you smile and bring me another beer?

Not quite Y.M.C.A.
Not quite Y.M.C.A.
Platform at night.