Trans Siberian Railway trip, Seoul to Berlin by Land and Sea, 2017.

Trans Siberian trip, Seoul to Berlin by Land and Sea, 2017.

In early March 2017 for about 6 weeks Sue and Dick, 50 Somethings, travelled overland and water
from the bottom Seoul, South Korea to Berlin via Ferry from Donghae to Vladivostok, then
overland Trans Siberian Express Train to Moscow, then the Strizh Train from Moscow to Berlin.
Overland trip from Seoul to Europe via Trans Siberian Train, Vladivostok to Moscow, and Ferry.
Any questions, please Email me on susanrichardperkins1954@gmail.com
This is the tale.

 

 
Preparation for Seoul, South Korea, to Berlin, Germany by DBS Ferry, Trans Siberian Railway and Strizh Train.

Preparation

A lot of sites will give the same initial information/warning.
That it is probably easier to book most of the Russian trip through a Russian travel agent, unless you can both speak Russian and know the intricacies of Russian bureaucracy. I know neither, so I spent some money with various companies.
I travelled with my partner in March/April 2017 as part of a large trip.
We are British citizens.
1,000 Korean Won was about £0.70p or 1 US$. 100 Russian Rubles was about £1.40p. I shall leave you to work out the costs yourself.
This trip can be completed in the opposite direction, i.e. Berlin to Seoul, but you will need expert assistance for the ferry crossing, Vladivostok to Donghae as DBS Ferries don’t allow personal booking from Russia.
Prior to arranging anything I had a good read of www.seat61.com
For the part of Seoul to Donghae this can be booked independently at the railway station, see below.
 
 Real Russia
Donghae to Berlin I used Ms Irina Lazareva of Real Russia, who are based in London. https://realrussia.co.uk/
 
 
 
A Russian visa is required.
RealRussia were excellent and tailor fitted the trips as I required. I would not hesitate to use them again. In addition to the Russian visa we are going by train through Belarus as part of the Moscow to Berlin ‘Strizh’ Express train. Therefore a Belarus transit visas is required. https://realrussia.co.uk/
 

Seoul, Cheongnyangri Railway Station, to Donghae

Seoul to Donghae with overnight stop.

There is a direct train every few hours from Seoul, Cheongnyangri station, to Donghae train station. This is by far the best way to travel to take in all the diverse scenery in comfort. The ticket was first class with dedicated seating. To be fair the seat in first class was not a lot better than 2nd class. There are no ‘add ons’  i.e. free food or drink. However the ticket, booked in advance was 22,000 Won so first class seemed the way forward.
A coach will take about 2/3 hours, and the train takes about 5 hours. The train is not a ‘bullet type’ and does take a rather elongated route, heading south east, and back again. However the route is spectacular and well worth the extended couple of hours. We began in sun, and as we went further up the hills the weather changed to snow, settling back to fog and rain. So we had all the climates in one afternoon.
View from Seoul to Donghae Train

Remember to take something to eat and drink as on this train there was not any form of catering except for a rather tatty vending machine.

Once at Donghae station we transferred by taxi to the ‘Donghae Boyang Rejuvenation Hot Springs and Grand Hotel’, https://uk.hotels.com/ho370519/donghae-boyang-hot-spring-convention-hotel-donghae-south-korea/ situated at the other side of the town. Approx. 12,000 won cab fare. Make sure you have the name of the hotel written in Korean or you may have a problem.
Donghae Boyang Rejuvenation Hot Springs and Grand Hotel
What a lovely place. We took drinks in the dining hall situated on the 7th floor and was entertained by a pianist and saxophonist.
Pianist and saxophonist Donghae Grand Hotel

This was repeated over breakfast. If you do stay there walk over the footbridge towards the seafront. There are a number of restaurants and a GS25 (7/11) convenience store. I did struggle at the restaurants as everything is mystery food written in Korean. Then lifesaver, for me, was a pizza restaurant on the upper floor. However be aware that last food and drink orders was about 8.30 closure at 9.30pm.


DBS Ferry, Donghae to Vladivostok

Ferry to Vladivostok.
DBS Ferry Eastern Dream

DBS Cruise Ferries

DBS Ferry Eastern Dream at Vladivostok

 

The DBS ferry appears to go about once a week from Donghae. It does a return journey of Sakaiminato, Japan, to Donghae, Korea, to Vladivostok, Russia. It left at 2pm on a Sunday.

 

DBS Ferry return route
We got to the port around 3 hours beforehand with an ‘e ticket’. You still need to go to the ‘boarding’ desk to collect your actual ticket showing your berth. There is a 5,000 Won departure tax payment. There is a bureau de change and atm in the hall. The atm, unlike a lot of others in Korea, takes UK bank cards.

Ferry Crossing

From this point onwards until Berlin we had booked through Real Russia,  https://realrussia.co.uk/  as discussed earlier.

There are various classes of travel. Ranging from sleeping in a large room  on the floor to the Presidential suite. The highest class of travel we were able to book, due to ferry being on demand, was 1st class.

 

DBS Ferry terminal, Donghae, Korea

 

At baggage check we had our vegetable knife taken, to be given back at the end of the trip.
A number of ‘seasoned ‘travellers had brought along snacks, drinks etc for the journey. I am not sure if you can take alcohol on board as they opened and sniffed my bottles of water, but missed the whiskey in the plastic bottles in my luggage. There is alcohol available on board.

Cosy Cabin

As you can see from the photos the cabin is fairly cosy.
1st class cabin, DBS Ferries, Donghae to Vladivostok

There are 4 sleeping mats with duvets and pillows. We asked if we were sharing our supposed 1st class cabin. Nobody was sure until we left port. 4 people would have been very cosy! There is a shower, toilet and wash basin en suite. There was a TV showing 4 channels, all in ‘foreign,’ a fridge, and a 240V transformer. We found if you unplug the fridge, then our kettle that we take with us everywhere would work with the transformer.

You can charge up your mobile, if you have the wires. If not you can hire the cable in reception for 1,000 won.

Reception area, DBS Ferry, Eastern Queen

Basic Food

Don’t be fooled by the various propaganda videos on You Tube re DBS Ferries. This is a functional ferry from A to B. The food is basic. The sleeping in 1st class is uncomfortable, and the ‘Colors nightclub’ is worth a visit, if nothing else to see various drunken nationalities dancing like your dad at a wedding.
We were lucky enough to have our own cabin, as there is a lack of seating areas on board where you can chill out and watch the sea, and world, go by.
The main bar, ‘Zester bar’, has a lot of seating, which you can use as long as you don’t bring your own food and drink in. If you are thinking of having a picnic then you need to go on deck, which can be windy and cold, or seat on the limited seating on the ‘ground’ floor.

 

Zester Bar, DBS Ferry, Eastern Queen

Currencies taken

Be aware that the only money taken on board this part of the trip, was Won or US$. There are no ATMs or bureau de change.
There is a free cold and hot water fountain on board. Bottled water and beer are available from the shop which is open until midnight.
There are a number of areas which I did not access, or find, namely the Spa/sauna and the group restaurant.
The trip is approx. 22 hours. Vladivostok is 1 hour in front of Donghae.

Docking

About 2 hours prior to landing. I saw people queuing up to disembark. Not sure why, until we berthed. Once we berthed we had to wait 50 mins for the first people to disembark, and then people were let off in groups of about 20. We were lucky in that we were near the front and it took us about 2 hours to get off.   

Needless to say we forgot to collect the vegetable knife.

Azimut Hotel, Vladivostok

We stayed at Azimut Hotel, a short walk from the port of Vladivostok.

 

Vladivostok

Prior to boarding the Trans Siberian Railway
Lets get the important bit out of the way, 1,000 Rubles is about £14. I will leave you to do the maths.
No problems re passport and customs, and collected and taken to Hotel Azimut, https://en.azimuthotels.com/Russia/azimut-hotel-vladivostok/   our overnight hotel.
Hotel Azimut is situated high on the hill and over looks the estuary. Apparently if you go to the top of a certain hill on a clear day you can see Japan. You then realise just how far you are from the UK!
View from Hotel Azimut, Vladivostok

Bars etc

If you come out the hotel and turn right, walk down the hill to bars and restaurants.
Turn left out of the hotel and walk through various horrible looking estates to the port. Having said although they don’t look nice, everyone there was friendly and helpful.
The beer is good, and the scenery although good does not take too long to look around.
Beer Vladivostok
Vladivostok

Google Translate

Be aware there is not a lot of English spoken here in Vladivostok. One way to get around this is to load Google Translate on your smart phone. Ensure you have the offline version, and load also the Russian keyboard, otherwise you ask the question but they cant reply as they have no way of loading their lettering onto your phone for translation.
Google Translate in Russian.
The cars are built both RHD and LHD, although they drive on the right as in Europe, i.e. Spain. Bit confusing but it seems to work for them.
I am not too sure about some of the shops there, but, hey if it floats your boat!
Sex shop Vladivostok

 

Trans-Siberian Train ride, Vladivostok to Irkutsk.

 
Train ride, Vladivostok to Irkutsk.
Trans Siberian Express Train 007

Trans Siberian train 007. This train was finishing it’s journey in Novokuznetsk, which is a few stops further on from where we got off in Irkutsk.

Vladivostok to Irkutsk took 4 days and 3 nights.

I understand that sometimes the 007 train goes all the way from Vladivostok to Moscow, and, in this case, as a consequence the crew did not speak much English.
 
Be aware that the train times given throughout, and at the various railway stations along the way are in Moscow time, approx. 7 hours behind Vladivostok. The clocks on the station concourse are in Moscow time. A bit strange but get use to it as it gets more confusing as you go along!

 

Our train left at 7.10PM local time, 12.10PM Moscow time. We had an ‘E’ ticket and went directly to the platform. Our train was 007 and this is clearly displayed on the board. Not being the busiest station in the world the Trans Siberian was pretty easy to work out. Basically red and grey carriages with a big, shiny, red engine.

 

1st class Trans Siberian train 007

 

1st class Trans Siberian train 007

Boarding

Boarding time was 6.30pm. We were in first class accommodation. This was our own compartment opening onto a narrow passageway. There is a ‘guard’ that is charge of each carriage, and to be fair they rule the roost. I caught my lady guard, Olga, berating a passenger as they were smoking in the bit between the 2 carriages. I don’t think that person will smoke ever again!

 

1st Class corridor Trans Siberian Express 007
Having said that, we had Olga. A very nice, little lady who spoke zero English, but was happy to read my google translate, however my keyboard in Russian was not working so sign language was the answer from her. It worked.

Olga the guard

Just after we left Vladivostok she came to our ‘room’ and explained, I think!, no smoking, put any toilet paper in the bin not the toilet. How to lock the door from the inside, how to call in an emergency. Where the shower was (That was funny her trying to describe a shower), and most of all important where the restaurant was. One worry was that alcohol was not allowed in the room, however Olga saw my can of beer and pointed out my indiscretion and basically turned a blind eye to it. However I am told the police are not so nice about it so keep it hidden or the door closed.

 

 

 

1st class Trans Siberian Express 007 Toilet

No Wifi

There is NO Wi-Fi on the train.

We travelled first class, the cost was not a lot more than 2nd class and well worth the extra money. In first class there are only 2 beds, which remain set throughout the trip. We each got one free meal. There are more toilets per amount of passengers than in 2nd class. That is about all the benefits of first class.

2nd class you will find yourself in a 4-bed berth, one above the other, either side.
3rd class is basically a dormitory.
There is very little ‘living space’ on 2nd and 3rd class.

Food on board

Then the restaurant assistant came to visit us. In first class you are entitled to one free meal a day, did we want breakfast or evening meal? Again, zero English, and she shouted if we didn’t understand. We opted for the one free breakfast each, I think!

With regard to breakfast, we went to the restaurant car between 9am and 11am, sat down, but I think we should have taken breakfast as another lady came around earlier with porridge and  beef to our corridor.  Anyway, after lots of handwaving, flashing of money, people looking and both trying to help and laugh, her shouting louder, and probably a dog barking somewhere, we were given 2 plates of beef salad, water and some sort of flat coke/herbal concoction, chocolate bars, and sweets. We also had a beer and a cup of tea which we had to pay for, 260 Rubles.

Beer 1st Class Trans Siberian Express 007

 

Breakfast 1st Class Trans Siberian Express 007

 

Beer 1st Class Trans Siberian Express 007

 

On other mornings, there was a lady walking up and down with various wares to sell. I had a plate of rice one day. This came with honey. Nice enough for about 200 Rubles.

 

Breakfast rice. Trans Siberian train 007

 

Back to the first evening.

We settled in, our room is basic, but functional. Two seating benches facing back and forward, ample storage. Lots of lamps, and power sockets. There is no key to lock the door from the outside if you go out, so we took the risk. Remember of course that Herr Flick, the carriage guard is walking up and down most of the time and knows who is who and where they ‘live.’ Also armed police are on board patrolling the train. This compartment is ok for 2 people but living in a 4 berth with people you don’t know may be very ‘cosy.’
We went to the restaurant car, there were not many people there. To be fair over the 4 days we were on there I only saw the same people, most of whom were from our corridor.

No English spoken

Although not a word of English is spoken there is a menu in English. The food is basic but nice. I had a schnitzel of some description with mash potato, and a couple of bottles of .5L sized beer, the bill came to around 600 Rubles. However we later had some fruit which consisted of an orange, an apple, 4 tinned strawberries, and a spoon of tinned pineapple. That on its own cost about 750 Rubles. That is a complete rip off.

 

Dining car Trans Siberian Express Train 007

 

Dining car Trans Siberian Express Train 007

 

Like everywhere, staff are nice if you smile a lot, and give a tip. Speaking of which I saw Olga (Herr Flick in charge of my carriage) and gave her 20 US$. I have been told that this makes life a little easier on board. I did check first, via Google translate, that she was staying on the train until we got off.

Things to do on Trans Siberian

Back to the compartment, what to do? Take lots of books, or Kindle books, but remember to download first as no Wi-Fi. Load games, BBC I Player, Google movies, etc. Podcasts, but ensure the settings are notset to erase after listening as your partner may want to swop devices after a few days.
About 10pm we returned to the bar. Still the same old faces in there. Couple of beers for 150 to 200 rubles each.

 

Essentials to take on the trip.

 

Toilet paper. Charging leads and ideally a junction box for multi charging. If a vegetarian or vegan, etc., take some food. Everything appears served with ham. Lots of rubles in small notes. There is no ATM, or facility to change foreign money. Take cups, as there is a hot water urn at the end of the carriage. Good for tea bags, pot noodles etc.

 

 

Tea Urn, Hot water, Trans Siberian train 007

 

There is drinking water from a fountain, however I chose to take boiling water from the urn, decant to a water bottle and leave to cool. Bottles of water are available but I paid 240 rubles for a litre bottle on board.
Light clothing, although you are in Siberia the train is hot, I wore crocs, shorts, and a t shirt throughout the train ride.

Timetable

In the corridor outside the compartment is a list in both Russian and English showing the stops, and amount of time at each stop. It also shows the different time zones we travel through. 3 in total to Irkutsk. Olga made sure she came and told us how long the next stop was, and also kept an eye out for us ensuring we got back on time.

 

Time table, Trans Siberian Train 007

 

It is not my intention to go through each day, as it was really groundhog day. If you like Silver Birch trees and snow, then this is the place for you. Just make sure you take some entertainment with you. The 4 days and 3 nights went quickly.

 

Views of Siberia. Trans Siberian Train 007

 

Views of Siberia. Trans Siberian Train 007

 

Views of Siberia. Trans Siberian Train 007

 

Views of Siberia. Trans Siberian Train 007

 

Views of Siberia. Trans Siberian Train 007

 

Views of Siberia. Trans Siberian Train 007

 

Dealing with stops.

The board in the corridor shows clearly how long the stop is. It may be prudent not to get off on a 2 minute stop.

Food for sale, Trans Siberian Express

 

20 minute stop, Trans Siberian Train

 

If you don’t know the guard I suggest you take your ticket with you to prove whom you are.
On the longer stops there are generally stalls and shop selling all sorts of food and drink. On one stop there is a 30-minute stop with a supermarket outside. A number of people got off and went to the supermarket. To be honest I was not going to go anywhere far from the carriage. I plumbed for the local stalls set up by local ladies. They do a great trade in boiled potatoes, and also boiled eggs at most stops.

 

Station food Trans Siberian Express

Meat? Pies

In addition there are a few stops where meat patties and pies are sold. These are generally of good quality and I did not have tummy troubles as a result. If you are on a budget then the ‘platform’ food is the way forward.

Overall the 4 days and 3 nights  Vladivostok to Irkutsk went very quickly.

A weekend in Irkutsk

Having researched the trip it became apparent that being on the Trans Siberian Train for 6 nights it maybe slightly ‘Groundhog’ type day. After 3 nights we were ready for a rest. You have to book any stops prior to getting on the train. We would stay in Irkutsk for 4 nights.
We stayed at the Victory hotel in the centre of town. Something we did on the trip was to have pickups and delivery at every stop. Whilst more expensive than getting a cab it was reassuring to know you wouldn’t be ripped off. Having said that the station appeared well policed and all the locals were nice people. We did take a couple of taxis whilst in town and ensured the metre was turned on at the start, this saves any awkward moments at the end. Irkutsk Taxi Cabs are cheap, we never paid more than 200 rubles for anything up to a 15 minute journey. This is long enough to get you into town.

Hotel Victory

Hotel Victory, is a friendly hotel, with the staff keen to resolve any difficulties, we changed rooms as the first room was just a bit too cosy. Breakfast was nice. Where they did let themselves down was where we wanted to arrange a tour to Lake Baikal, and also small bits of information needed. They tried to help but just didn’t seem to have the local knowledge required. They did print off a few pages of computer text for free, and make phones calls as required to find a restaurant for us. So they are helpful, just not too knowledgeable.

Jumanji Complex

First evening we went to a traditional Russian restaurant, just around the corner from the hotel, in Karla Marksa street, next to the café bakery union shop. The restaurant is part of about 3 functions and is totally unpronounceable, but is in the same complex as ‘Jumanji.’ To find the restaurant, leave the hotel, turn right and left into Karla Marksa street. It is about 4 blocks down on the left. Dinner with drinks was about 2,000 Rubles for 2 of us.

 

Irkutsk Beer glass.

 

Sausage, potato, and Egg, proper Russian food.

 

Restaurant near Jumanji, Irkutsk



Sightseeing in Irkutsk

Irkutsk is not much of a sightseeing town, more a stop over.

 

Irkutsk architecture

 

Irkutsk architecture

 

Museum of Tea, Irkutsk.

 

A scary lion, Irkutsk

 

However the one attraction that you should see, especially in winter, is Lake Baikal, which is about a 60Kms or 1 hour drive from town. Initially we thought about getting a guided tour there but this proved problematical as all the tourist offices were closed, even the main council run office, at weekends. One company offered to take us for 11,000 Rubles, with no lunch. That seemed a bit expensive. A hostel we popped into advised us to take the bus from the main bus station. We did, and it was the best bit of advice that day. The round trip on a normal bus was about 250 rubles each.

Lake Baikal and Listvyanka

Not being any form of ‘culture buffs’ we didn’t know what we wanted to see. There are at least 2 museums there, hotels and restaurants in the nearby town of Listvyanka.
As you enter the town of Listvyanka, you go past the frozen lake. Apparently the biggest fresh water in the world and has a depth of 7Kms in places. There was a clear area marking of frozen to Non frozen Water. The minibus stops close to restaurants and a very bright coloured hotel.

 

 

irkutsk bus station
bus station irkutsk russia
Irkutsk bus station

 

Irkutsk bus

 

 

You can access the lake easily from here and have a stroll on the ice. As we got onto the lake we were approached by a man and his ‘hover craft.’

Hovercraft ride

For 500 Rubles each he took us on a 30 minute hover around the lake and we were able to walk on the lake, 100s of metres from the land, and slip and slide to our heart’s content. After a few photos and mild frostbite we got back in the hovercraft, were given tea and snacks and returned to the ‘quayside.’ Fantastic.

 

Frozen lake of Lake Baikal, with hovercraft

 

Hovercraft Lake Baikal

 

Hotel in Lake Baikal



 

There seems to be a minibus constantly waiting for passengers, but they stop coming back around 6pm so be warned. The minibus we had appeared to have a bullet hole in the front windscreen, but I suspect it was only big stone.

Indian Restaurant

Being British we wanted a traditional English meal, so looked up the local Tandoori or Indian restaurant.  First mistake was to go to the Tandoori bar, in Karla Marksa street. This was about as traditional Tandoori as my French poodle. The beer was rubbish and the staff and feel of the building had the personality of a gnat. However it was about 5pm so maybe a bit early. We then found a placed called Ganga Irkutsk Indian Restaurant. You have to get a cab from the centre of town. The cab fare was about 150 Rubles.

 

Ganga Indian Tandoori Restaurant Irkutsk Ganga Indian Restaurant
Ganga Indian Tandoori restaurant, Irkutsk russia
Ganga Indian Tandoori restaurant, Irkutsk

Wrong address

Be aware that there are a couple of addresses shown. You need the Kommunisticheskaya 65A, Irkutsk address. There seems to be a few addresses listed in Trip Advisor, etc, so I got the hotel reception to call them first to make sure we had the correct address and that they were open. Be advised that this restaurant is slightly off the main road, but at where 65 should be, and it is opposite the main entrance of a white building which looks like a hospital. Fantastic food, albeit not as spicy as in the UK. The staff speak English. Lovely place. We left there around 9pm, and went to the bar about 30 metres up the road called ‘Good Beer’ Irkutsk club and restaurant. From the outside I thought it was a brothel, but inside it has a vast array of beers, cocktails, DJ, friendly staff, and quite cheap.

Uncle Valdimir’s cabs

We ordered a cab from the staff, and we ended up with ‘Uncle Vladimir’ in his beat up old saloon car (with cracked windscreen as they all seem to have) to give us a lift home. This was arranged by the bar staff. As it is not a proper taxi we agreed the price beforehand, 200 rubles, and off we went on yet another wacky races adventure to our hotel. It was fun, he was a very nice man, with no English.

 

Good beer bar, Irkutsk

 

Which one is the toilet? Good beer bar, Irkutsk

Formula 1

If abroad, and you want to watch Formula 1, or Chelsea play football, then head for an Irish Bar. We did, and found a Irish Bar chain called Harat’s bar Irkutsk. Not sure what was Irish about it but they do good food, cheap beer, and speak limited English. Lots of sports screens, excellent! There are 3 bars in town, I shall leave you to find them.

 

Harats Bar, Irkutsk

 

 

Just opposite the ‘Jumanji’ bar we spoke about above, is an alleyway, with a sports, music diner called Rocks American Diner. Great beer, entertainment at the weekend, lovely food. More expensive than the other bars I have spoken about, but good nevertheless. Again served good wholesome meat and potato dishes, washed down by several pints of beer.

 

Rocks American Grill, Irkutsk

 

Russian food, Rocks American Diner, Irkutsk

Kwak Inn

Just down the road from the hotel, again just off Karla Markas street, is the Belgium basement bar, ‘Kwak Inn.’ There is a vast assortment of beer there, normal Belgium stuff that is either fruity, very strong, or both. I had the dark Leffe and a headache afterwards.

 

Kwak Inn Irkutsk russia
Kwak Belgium Beer bar Irkutsk russia
Kwak Inn. Irkutsk

 

Kwak Inn, Irkutsk

 

Irkutsk is a nice place but only as a 2 or 3 day stop over. It is a bit like going to Croydon or Wigan in the UK!

 

Trans Siberian Train, Irkutsk to Moscow.

Trans Siberia Train 001

We then took the Trans Siberian train 001 to Moscow, another 3 nights, and 4 days of groundhog day.
Trans Siberian Train, 001, Irkutsk to Moscow.
Trans Siberian Train, 001, Irkutsk to Moscow.
Trans Siberian Train, 001, Irkutsk to Moscow.
Trans Siberian Train, 001, Irkutsk to Moscow.
Trans Siberian Train, 001, Irkutsk to Moscow.
Seriously, if you get bored, then take the plane. Again, as before, ensure you have plenty to amuse you. It is extra important to have a 3 or 4 way charger as there was only one socket in the 1st class cabin.
1st class toilet. Trans Siberian Train, 001
The Trans-Siberian train 001 is a newer train than the 007. The toilets are more ‘friendlier.’ In the carriage. We travelled 1st class. There is a TV with 3 channels which looked like Russian TV. A US/UK film was being shown  (I recognised some of the actors) but audio only in Russian with no option for sub titles.

Cabin equipment

There are TV headphone points. 4 reading lights, but only one 2 pin (European) socket. There is the hot water urn at the end of the carriage. The train 001 is basically the same as 007.
Trans Siberian Train, 001
The restaurant car is similar to 007, but noticeably more expensive. I think I paid around 200 for a large beer and a tea was about another 100 on the last train. Here both cost 700 Rubles. Food was more expensive, and it was not a surprise the place was empty, apart from me drinking expensive beer on board.
Restaurant, Trans Siberian Train, 001

Service Charge

As on the last train there is a 10% service charge in the car and 20% if posh and have it in your room.
There does appear to be wifi but it is Russian RZD and you need a local mobile/cell phone to connect.
Something that seemed strange was that both google maps and my Sygic GPS didn’t work in the restaurant. It worked perfectly well on the rest of the train.
On this trip I fixed my Russian keyboard for Google translate on my cell phone, which did come in handy although the restaurant staff seemed to hold a fair command of English.
We were offered ice cream (Magnum lollies) whilst sitting in our cabin. These were 200 each + service charge.
Magnum lolly, Trans Siberian Train, 001

More stops and timetables

The train makes more frequent stops this end of the journey, so I was able to buy my cans of beer and food on the 20 or 30 minute stops.
Timetable Trans Siberian Train, 001
To be fair this part of the journey was not a lot different to the first part, i.e. Vladivostok to Irkutsk.
Moscow Trans Siberian Train, 001
Moscow Trans Siberian Train, 001
Moscow Trans Siberian Train, 001
The train arrived on time, and we went to a local hotel. It is not my intention to deal with the overnight stay in Moscow except that we stayed 1 night in Moscow before travelling by train to Berlin, Germany.

Moscow to Berlin express. Strizh Train.

 

First thing to be aware is that you require a Belarus transit visa for this train. It does get checked prior to boarding.
Secondly, that the Strizh train for Berlin leaves from a different station that the Trans Siberian Express stops at. The Strizh train leaves from Moscow Kurskiy. The journey time is around 20 hours, stopping every few hours for up to about 45 minutes, sometimes as short as 2 minutes.

 

Train stop timetable Strizh Train

 

Moscow Kurskiy Train station, Strizh Train

Change of time

The advertised start time for the train was shown as 13.05Hrs, however about 3 weeks before the start of the trip the time was brought forward to 11.55Hrs. Even the timetable on the train shows the 13.05Hrs start time. So be aware.
I like to think I am a seasoned traveller however it all gets a bit confusing at the station. Sometimes the Russian ‘customer service’ leaves a lot to be desired. This was the case here.
From the outside of the station there are signs on a red board depicting ‘long distance’ trains, and once inside the red boards point to downstairs. Do NOT go downstairs. At the back of the main hall I found a sign depicting Strizh Trains. The information board showed the platform as 1 and 11. There is a lack of English written at this point.
Moscow Kurskiy Train station, Strizh Train

Guess the platform

Follow the signs for platform 1 and 11.
When you get on the platform you will see a very helpful sign showing the Moscow to Berlin arrowed to the left. The Moscow to Nizhay Novgorod train to the right. IGNORE this sign. You are on the right platform. You will see you have been allocated a carriage, just wait by that carriage number sign, and the train will arrive. Platform 11 appears to be at the end of platform 1 and is a red herring. Just stay on platform 1.

 

Moscow Kurskiy Train station, Strizh Train

 

Originally we had booked a first class sleeper. This sleeps 2 people. We were then offered, a few weeks before the trip, a first class sleeper with WC and shower. This was an additional £98 in total for the 2 of us. I.E. £49 each.
First class ensuite, Strizh Train

Savings

To be honest I probably would have saved the £98 and had a cabin without the toilet, because looking at ones without the toilet there appears to be a bit more room.

 

Toilet, Strizh Train

 

There are a number of options on the Strizh train. First class, 2 person cabin with WC and shower. First class, 2 person cabin. Second class 4 person cabin, and then finally a reclining seat. All appear to have access to a TV showing movies (On payment). I couldn’t find anything else on the TV.

 

Brochure showing cabins, Strizh Train

 

Brochure showing cabins, Strizh Train

 

First class, non ensuite, Strizh Train

 

Four berth, 2nd class, Strizh Train

 

Reclining seat, Strizh Train

Good old water urn

All cabins are connected by a communal corridor with hot and cold water urn at the end of each carriage.
Hot and cold water urn, Strizh Train

 

Communal corridor, Strizh Train

 

Wifi is available at a charge. I didn’t bother with wifi and in any event if you have a European wifi package, it is free once you cross the Polish border.
There is a restaurant car with seating for 2 or 4 people at tables. There is also a bar that you can sit at, on a stool, and relax.
Restaurant car, Strizh Train

 

Bar area, Strizh Train

 

Restaurant car, Strizh Train

 

I understand the train began service in December 2016, so I had the privilege of using the Strizh  train whilst it was still quite new.
There is a fairly wide range of food on board. It is not cheap, but then you are not on it for long.

Beer but no wine

There is beer but no wine. Most 500ML cans of beer are around 400 Rubles.
I couldn’t see any food or drink being sold at the stations, unlike the Trans-Siberian Trains.

 

Menu, Strizh Train

 

Rubles is the currency of choice on board, however they will take euros. I do not know if the exchange rate is any good nor what currency the change comes in. Visa and credit cards are not accepted.
The train was fairly empty.

First Class cabin

In first class you will see 2 seats facing forward, these drop down and beds come out of the wall. It is cosy, and we spent most of the time in the bar saloon area.

 

1st class beds, Strizh Train

 

The train leaves Belarus around midnight. The guards and customs come on at the exit and the paperwork is dealt with. Dont bother to go to sleep as you cross the Polish border moments later and the whole process is repeated.

 

The views were not stunning by any means, however we had been travelling for a while beforehand.

 

View from Strizh Train

 

View from Strizh Train

 

The train arrived as expected on time at Berlin Ostbahnhof train station at 7.19AM

 

Welcome to Berlin Ostbahnhof station, Strizh Train

Conclusion

That was it, Seoul, South Korea, to Berlin, Germany, approx. 11,000 KMs by train and boat, a distance of London to Hawaii!.

 

If you have any queries please email me on susanrichardperkins1954@gmail.com

 

Happy travelling.

 

Dick
May 2017.