Our Trans-Siberian trip: Traveling from Beijing to Paris, by train

August 13 2014 | offbeatbride
At the station on day one: Thousands of kilometres in front of us.
At the station on day one, with thousands of kilometres in front of us.

Travelers: Jo and Myles
Type: International train travel
Budget: ALL-OUT! ($10,000+)

Where did you go? I have wanted to do the Trans-Siberian trip for ten years, so it was well and truly time! We started in Beijing, China and did the Trans-Siberian Railway. So we travelled by train through Mongolia and Russia, then went to Finland, Denmark, Germany, and France, flying back to Australia from Paris.

We were happy to start in China and go through Mongolia, but the main part of the trip for us was always Russia. We even took Russian classes before we left, which were invaluable. Just being able to recognize the Cyrillic characters was a huge help.

Lake Baikal
Lake Baikal

After we left St. Petersburg we had two and half weeks left, in which we visited with quite a few good friends in Copenhagen, Germany, and France. Some we had seen in the last year or two, but I hadn't seen my extended German family for more than six years so that was amazing — plus I even realized I could still speak enough German to get by!

The Great Wall
The Great Wall

What did you do? We hiked at Lake Baikal (the world's deepest freshwater lake!). Climbed the Great Wall. Rode horses in Mongolia.

St. Basil's and the Red Square.
St. Basil's and the Red Square.

And lots more of the usual tourist stuff in Russia, like visiting St. Basil's cathedral in Moscow, and walking around St. Petersburg at midnight enjoying the white nights.

We had the tour organized before we left. We usually travel pretty independently so this was new for us, but we had a lot of free time, and weren't with a group. It was great to be collected from each train station and taken to our hotel instead of making our own way to our accommodation.

Hanging out in our compartment.
Hanging out in our compartment.

We also spent a lot of hours on many trains. Most were awesome but there was one 48-hour train trip with no air conditioning! We relaxed on board, read a few books, chatted with our carriage mates and enjoyed sitting still for a bit after wedding planning! We also packed a lot of tea and they always have hot water on board so we were never too far from a cup of tea.

Copenhagen beach - Lunch in the Alps - Paris at night - Macaroons - The Alps - Versailles -
Copenhagen beach – Lunch in the Alps – The Alps – Versailles – Paris at night – Macaroons

What would you have done differently? We worked hard on our Russian, but a little French wouldn't have gone astray in France as well — if we had had time I would have liked to at least listen to a language tape!

Suomenlinna Island, Finland
Suomenlinna Island, Finland

What's your best travel advice for other offbeat honeymooners? Don't get sick if you have less than 24 hours in a country — you won't enjoy an amazing country! But, if you are going to be sick on this particular trip, and your Russian isn't very good, it's not too bad to be sick in Helsinki, as the Finns speak fabulous English! I usually don't mind muddling through with language, but in a pharmacy, you just want to know things are understood!

learning the language on a train

Also, download some language learning apps!

Enough talk! Show me all the awesome vacation photos.

  1. What a wonderful trip! The Trans-Mongolian railway is definitely high on my priority list for lifetime experiences.

    I just did the France-to-Russia-and-back bit a couple of months ago, and it was already an incredible experience. Who knew there's actually a direct train from Nice to Moscow, through Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Poland and Belarus?

    The Russia/Mongolia/China bit must be truly amazing, though as a solo female traveller, it still seems a bit daunting.

  2. So awesome!!! Thanks for submitting this holiday post, Jo & Myles. This is one of my dream trips too, and your photos make it look really fun and beautiful. 🙂

    • We took six and a half weeks for the whole thing but the train from Beijing to Moscow would take about a week non stop if you didn't get off along the way. So there are lots of options!

  3. Don't get sick if you have less than 24 hours in a country–
    I've always avoided this sort of trip because of that reason. It would make me so sad to miss something because my body needed to catch up! Glad to hear it still worked out for you!
    Do you have to show your passport as you cross countries, or do they just check you when you board and send you along? I've always wondered how that works!

    • It wasn't so bad… Just one day of being really sick in the six and a half weeks, so all good! And the passport thing… Most countries you show the passport each time you cross a border but in Europe they have some agreements in place. So from Germany to France there's no passport control, for example!

  4. What a wonderful trip! Do you mind if I pick your brain on luggage? We're thinking of taking a similar train trip soon…

    How did you feel about your bags? Did you bring enough stuff, too much or too little? Were you able to wash clothes along the way, and was there anything you packed that ended up being a lifesaver?

    Also, I love your recommendation on learning a little bit of the languages of the places you're visiting. I recently visited Slovakia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic and a few phrases in Czech/Slovak (they're very similar) or Hungarian would have been very helpful. Even just so I could be polite and say "hello" and "please" and "thank you". Oh, and also the words used on street signs…those first few days of navigating were rough.

    • We were really glad to have taken packs instead of suitcases. We packed fairly light and did laundry whenever we got the opportunity. Mostly I found sandals and a dress were the most versatile but to be honest no matter how often I travel I never seem to excel at getting it just right- my bag is always heavier than I want it to be.
      I hope you get to do your trip and that you have a blast!!!

  5. We'd love to do a long train trip but my Husband is 6'6" (2m) tall and we'd be worried he wouldn't fit in the sleeper bunks. How much room did you have in the cabins?

    • Hmmm, maybe he'd be a little squashed but I think it would be okay. I'm not sure of the exact dimensions but they felt spacious. We always had our own cabin so it wasn't like we were tripping over anyone else in the day time, either.

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