Day 19: China Railway from Moscow to Beijing (Trans-Siberian Day 1)

The Trans-Siberian is arguably one of the world’s most famous rail routes, and a journey that is on many individual’s bucket list. My journey from Moscow to Beijing takes 7 days, making it one of the longest continuous rail journeys in the world as well.

As this is the longest and probably most interesting journey of my trip, the posts on the Trans-Mongolian will be made on a day by day basis to make them more comprehensive for the real RailTravel experience!

Contrary to popular belief though, there is no such thing as a single “Trans-Siberian Express” train. The Trans-Siberian is a main line connecting Moscow and Vladivostok. Trains to China can go on either the Trans-Mongolian line or the Trans-Manchurian line.

I got on train number 4 (K4次) operated by China Railways, the eastbound train from Moscow to Beijing, running through the Trans-Siberian line and thereafter branching off to the Trans-Monglian line, a shorter and slightly cheaper journey.

I arrived at Moscow Yaroslavsky railway station almost 1 hour early for my train. Too excited perhaps, but there wasn’t really anything to do at the hostel anyway, and since it’s rather late at night, I figured it might be better if I took my walk to the station earlier instead.

The departure board does not change languages, so it’s good to do a bit of research beforehand. No one around will understand you if you ask for the train to “Beijing”. If you need help to find your train, use the slightly dated name of “Peking”. It sounds similar to the Russian name of Beijing, which is Пекин (which directly converts to “Pekin”), as stated on the departure boards. Or else, just search by your train number. The number at the side of the departure time is the platform number.

Re-checking my platform number at the platform itself.

Was searching for a Chinese rake when I realised that all trains has a shunter pulling them into the platforms, making all trains look the same from the end.

My home for the next 6 nights on the Hard Sleeper (硬臥車 yìngwòchē), the cheapest and lowest class of travel on this train. Contrary to popular belief too, the trains on the Trans-Siberian are not exactly luxurious like the Orient Express and the likes. The trains running on this line are real trains for real transportation, not just relying on tourism. Which is what I would want anyway. Also, as you might already notice, I have a bench for a bed for the next 6 nights.

Fun RailTravel Station fact: When I was contemplating and budgeting for whether to take the journey from London to Singapore or the Eastern and Oriental Express, the 40-day journey from London with my twists and turns in Europe was around S$1000 cheaper than the 3-day journey to Bangkok.

I’m on the lower berth on the left. Along with me in my compartment is a guy travelling through from Moscow to Beijing as well, and directly above me, another guy travelling to Ulaanbaatar. The other berth was empty throughout.

A box is fitted under the mattress where you can store your belongings, effectively making your person become the lock to your things since no one can get them unless you physically get off your seat/berth. Quite a smart design.

The first of many locomotives to take the train from Moscow to Beijing.

The destination sticker on the side of each coach in 3 languages – Russian, Mandarin and Mongolian.

The train departed at 11.45pm sharp, marking the start of the 7-day journey east. In 15 minutes though, the clock struck midnight, marking the end to Day 1 of the journey. That wasn’t so bad.

It gets faster each day too. Stick around to find out more about each day’s happenings on my train.

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