Making the Most of Your Budget on the Trans-Siberian Railway
The Trans-Siberian railway is the most scenic way to travel between Europe and Asia, and it has the added benefit of also being the most economical means of getting from one continent to the other. Those wanting to travel in style can do so in luxury carriages on board private trains, and frugal travellers can still enjoy the amazing Trans-Siberian experience without breaking the bank.
Here are some tips to get the most value for your spend – no matter your budget:
Careful route planning
This sounds like a no-brainer, but your travel itinerary will have the most impact on your trip costs. If you’re on a strict budget, consider a shorter journey with only a few stops along the way to maximize your experience in each city. You’ll have a more meaningful experience if you narrow your focus and invest in some excursions and tours in the cities of your choice, than if you stop in every city and do nothing. What’s the point, for example, of stopping over in Irkutsk if you aren’t going to see the stunning shores of Lake Baikal?
Choosing the right train
Depending on your budget and preferred level of comfort, there are three train options to choose from. Travel specialists such as The Trans-Siberian Travel Company offer public-schedule trains, The Tsars Gold private train, and Golden Eagle luxury train.
Most frugal travellers prefer to book passage on the public-schedule trains, as they provide adequate amenities at a reduced cost. The train ride itself is an important part of the Trans-Siberian experience, and public-schedule trains offer a more authentic trip; you will be travelling with fellow tourists, as well as locals who are on their way home or to visit family. What a perfect opportunity to practice your Russian!
First class cabins contain two lower berths, a small table, and a window. Second class is almost identical, except that there are upper berths as well, to accommodate four travellers. Both cabins offer enough space for luggage, are lockable, and have air-conditioning. So, is the first class privacy worth the extra cost? Only you can decide.
If you make friends on the train, you can share expenses and resources with your new mates. This comes in useful when you want to take in local sights, as you can split the cost of a taxi and potentially get a reduction on entrance fees. It’s also convenient and cost-effective to share resources among fellow travellers. For example, if one person shares their bottle of Aspirin, someone else shares their deck of cards, etc., then you don’t have to worry about buying each of these items.
Bringing Your Own Provisions
All Trans-Siberian trains have at least one dining car that offers a mix of Russian, Mongolian, and Chinese cuisine. While these meals may be convenient, they can be expensive for the frugal traveller. Each station you stop at will have food vendors lined up on the platform. These stalls sell regional delicacies at affordable prices, and give you an excellent opportunity to flex your palate and try authentic local dishes. You can also stock up on snacks such as granola bars, buns, chips, nuts, etc. for the in-between station legs of your journey. Take advantage of your train’s samovar to boil water for tea, coffee, pot noodles, and to use as drinking water to further reduce your food costs.
The Trans-Siberian railway travel experience is not one to be missed, so don’t let the size of your wallet deter you. The savvy traveller will always find ways to stretch their budget without compromising the quality of their trip!
*St. Basil’s Cathedral Photo via Flickr
**This article is published in partnership of mediabuzzer