Russia Transportation Tips by darthmilmo Top 5 Page for this destination
Russia Transportation: 115 reviews and 122 photos
Hydrofoil in Lake Baikal
It turns out that the Lake Baikal water level was low in 2003 so the service from Severobaikalsk to Irkutsk started late on July 2nd. I awoke early that day to catch the Hydrofoil to Irkutsk, a city on the southern shores of Lake Baikal. I waited among gangsters dressed in fine white suits and wearing white shoes. Ah, what will Russia be without its mafia?
The hydrofoil ride was amazing! It was going so fast that if you saw an object or scenery worth taking a picture of you had to almost run or it will be long gun by the time you took the photo. We passed boats left and right much like a plane would pass a flock of ducks/birds. The shores of Lake Baikal were cloudy on and as such the visibility was not perfect. However, it did improve for quite some time so I managed to see the beautiful change in flora from Taiga to grassland- like scenery, which was no doubt caused by deforestation in the southern shores. We also passed several islands with incredible rocky cliffs. The deck on the back allowed an ample water splashing view of the vessel's marks left behind on the water. As the visibility on the crystal blue lake was clear at times, you could see the trail for over a kilometer or more. What's more, the sparkling water created a beautiful colored rainbow that I couldn't quite capture with my camera. Going back indoors, one wonders how they make money since over 2/3 of the seats were empty! Perhaps that is where the mafia comes into the picture. Oh, up on the front, I would later read a large sign that proudly said that the hydrofoil was made in the USSR. In other words, it's over 12 years old! We switched into a smaller hydrofoil at Port Baikal. It took us all the way to Irkutsk. (This trip can be done in reverse, from Irkutsk to Severobaikalsk).
Moscow metro stations can be a work of art
Although their infrastructure seems to be falling apart at times, the metro never seizes to amaze me. They are built so deep in the ground that you almost feel as though you're in Jules Verne's "Journey to the Center of the World." In the old days, the Soviets came up with the crazy idea that deep underground metro stations could serve as a nuclear-bomb shelter as well so now in days the old stations lie deep underground. You have to take a very long electric stair, which often takes 3 to 5 minutes to travel all the way underground. You then find two types of stations, the traditional open lane one, and another one taken straight out of the sci-fi books. This last station is simply a long corridor with elevator like doors that open in synchrony with the metro-trains. It's an amazing experience. In lavish early-soviet style, some of the metro stations are a site in and on themselves. I never quite went around the so call metro tour in Moscow, but did manage to see quite a bit kewl stops there and in St. Pete.
The term ?Trans-Siberian? is used quite loosely among travelers. The traditional Trans-Siberian line goes from Moscow on the West to Vladivostok on the East. Imagine if you will that you hop on the train and head east. Once it reaches Novosibirsk, the traveler can head south via Barmaul and join the Turkistan-Siberian railroad to Kazakhstan and Central Asia. If you decide to continue on you will come across Taishet, which is the start of the BAM railroad (check out tip about the BAM). Continuing on the Trans-Siberian, you will cross the next cross roads at Ulan Ude, where the Trans-Mongolian branches off into Mongolia. If you decide, you can continue on the Trans-Mongolian to China and from there to Vietnam (granted, there are some changes in train involved). For those that keep on going through the Trans-Siberian, you will get another option to hop straight into China a short distance past the town of Chita, which is where the Trans-Manchurian branches off. However, if you want to cover the whole distance of the Trans-Siberian railroad, you would need to keep on going until its end in Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast.
So, is the ?Trans-Siberian? or ?Trans-Mongolian only one train? Well, the short answer is no. See, there are trains that go from Moscow to Vladivostok, or Moscow to Beijing. These cover the full extent of the railroads. However, there are dozen of short and long distance trains in between. For example, you can grab a train from St. Pete to Moscow to start your journey. From Moscow, you could head onto Kazan, then Novosibirsk, then Irkutsk, and then head south to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia onboard separate trains. Thus you would never need to use the direct train.
Do you have to buy tickets in advance? If you have flexibility I?d advice against it as buying the train ticket from overseas will turn out to be more expensive. Just buy it as you go in segments as I described above.
The easiest way to get to Russia is by plane. There are international flights from major destinations world wide. Usually, the tourists will arrive to Moscow and St. Pete. I just wanted you to know there are other options. I took a flight out of Russia from Novosibirsk to Korea (there are flights from Irkutsk and Krasnayarsk as well). For those on the west coast of North America, there are increasing number of flights between Seattle and Vladivostok so inquire your travel agent for details. This flights into and out of Siberia and the Far East is usually through Russian airlines and as such may require you to contact a Russian travel agent. Believe me it?s worth the money. Note that online search engines usually miss this other flights.
Planes are a great way to skip through long distances. Say you have a couple of weeks in Russia and want to see St. Pete, Moscow, and Lake Baikal. Well, you could see it all. Start in St. Pete, take an overnight train to Moscow, and afterwards fly to Irkutsk. Trust me, it's better then being stuck in a train for 4-5 days! It' s just not time-effective.
A road waiting to be explore in the Altai
Long distance taxis are a necessity when traveling on isolated regions of Russia such as the Altai Republic. We managed to get a taxi to drive us all the way to Tyungur, a town within 60 km from Mt. Beluka. The bus usually takes 2 days just to get to the nearby town of Ust-Koxa, which lies about 75 km from Tyungur. We opted to take the taxi. It was worth every penny (bargain as the local price is 1,500 Rubbles)! We arrived to Tyungur at around 7 PM, thus taking a mere 6.50 hours to get there! The ride took us across some wonderful terrain. We left the ugly town of Gorno-Altai and immediately started seeing the green mountains and valleys. We crossed the towns of Ust-Sema and Changa, and then we took the unpaved road all the way to the interesting town of Ust-Kan. The road are paved on and off on segments for a while en route to Ust-Koxa. It was around here were the car had a flat tire, thus adding to the price of our taxi trip. After changing the flat tire with a spare, we continued on our journey. It was at this point that I realized how dirty our bodies and stuff were. We gather so much dust in the move even my eyes and nose feel like dirt. I literally had to wipe my glasses clean every minute to be able to see what was out there :). As for the road, I can say that the farther inland you get, the less traffic you see. After a while, the road seizes to be human property as the cows, horses, and other herd animals take over the domain of the road. We spotted a cow standing in the middle of the road looking straight at us. It was as though it was standing there for a purpose. Perhaps it was blocking the road in protest as the people in Bolivia do when they want or need something. The Bolivians just create a sometimes effective blockade on the road until their demands are made. Or, perhaps the cow was just making a suicide attempt to end its miserable life. I can imagine what it was saying in Russian: "go ahead, drive through me!" Who knows? We just went around and headed towards Tyungur.
Type: Car/Motor Home
Buses are an excellent way to get around to those off-the-beaten path destinations that are not connected by railroad. Itýs also a useful means of taking day trips out of cities such as St. Petersburg and Moscow
You won't see a Platskartny wagon as clean as this
That night, we took a night train in the platskartny wagon class; which is the 3rd class night train. You basically share a bed with about 55 other folks all crammed inside this smelly dirty train car. It wasn't that bad actually. We made it safe and sound to Moscow the next morning. Among the minor incidents that evening included a loud discussion with some Babushkas that forced us to move our luggage around. Then, in the middle of the night, I was awoken and forced to move beds since the bed I had taken was already book by someone else. I thought that I was being a nice guy switching beds with a lady that had taken over my bed on top, but in the end the attendant had sold her my ticket and then kicked me out to another smaller bed in the other end of the train. Phew! What an adventure...hehehe!
Train 2nd class (Kupe)
This is the best train class in Russia. It?s neither too expensive as 1st class nor too crowded as the Platskartny 3rd class. The sleepers usually have 4 beds per compartment. Each compartment has a door you can close. Be aware that unlike Platskartny where you are sharing with 50+ people, you will be sharing with 3 other people most of the time. Therefore, some solo travelers, particularly females may prefer 3rd class as you get the added protection of being in a room full of people that can protect you. Otherwise, you may be stuck with 3 alcoholics or noisy babushkas for many hours.
Sunshine or not, the train will go on.
This is one of the most expensive way of traveling by train in Russia. When traveling on a sleeper you may get to share a bed with another passenger or you may have the whole compartment for yourself.
The BAM offers you many beautiful scenic moments
The word BAM is an acronym that stands for the Baikal-Amur Mainline, which is a railroad line cutting through the Taiga and passing through the north of Lake Baikal. This project is often regarded with pride as being among the greatest achievements of the Soviet Union. Originally started during the 1930's, the production came to a halt during WWII as the iron was needed to protect the West. Only 58 km of railroad tracks were laid out stretching east of Tayshet. It wasn't until the 1970's that work was resumed; however, they had to start almost anew. Work continued through the 1980's and into the early 1990's. The total cost for the construction of the BAM is estimated at $25 billion USD. The original trans-Siberian was built about a century earlier at a cost of $500 million. The BAM now runs the full intended length from Tayshet, which is located in the original Trans-Siberian route, to Sovietskaya Gavan in the Far East. Very few people travel through the BAM. As far as the towns in the BAM line, most of them were recently built to support the working staff of the line construction. Many of these towns have long since been abandoned and are now nothing more then Ghost towns. Of particular interest was the construction through the inhospitable terrain of Taiga, swamps, permafrost, mountains, and more. The line has eight tunnels, including the fourth largest train tunnel in the world!
Sergie had told me about the beautiful scenery on the ride and he wasn't lying! This is what one would expect to see out of the traditional Trans-Siberian railroad, which runs in the south. Since the old line has been around for about a century, the Taiga around it is long gone, being replaced by grassland and factories. The BAM is newer. Therefore, it hasn't experienced the influx of Russian migration. Thus, you can still see the vast green Taiga outside your window as the train goes through.
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