Reader trip: China, Mongolia and Russia by train

Kate Minkoff and Julia Foskey (mother and daughter) from Melbourne took a three-week trip from Beijing to St Petersburg via Ulaanbaatar, Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg, Perm and Moscow.

The trip

China, Mongolia and Russia by train.

The Itinerary

Three weeks from Beijing to St Petersburg via Ulaanbaatar, Irkutsk, Yekaterinburg​, Perm and Moscow.

Twenty-four hours on Train 23 from Beijing for two nights in Ulaanbaatar – Genghis Khan statue, Ger camps, theatrical and history museums, Lavazza cafe; night and day on Train 5 to Irkutsk (four nights) with wheel changes, serious border officials and large dogs; Irkutsk museums celebrating the Decembrist exiles, wooden houses, Siberian fish (omul) at Listvyanka​ on Lake Baikal, Siberian nut cake; 48 hours on Train 1 – (Rossiya) to Yekaterinburg for two nights including visit to church built over the Romanov family's execution site and the monastery commemorating their burial site, the Russian Mafia cemetery and M&S. Just five hours on Train 29H to Perm for three nights including absolute highlight visit to Perm-36 Gulag and plaque commemorating Chekhov's brief stay and Central Perk replica cafe (WT….?). Twenty-four hours from Perm to Moscow on 29H for whirlwind tour of the Red Square, the amazing Gum Department store and eating at a Soviet themed restaurant. Final train, the Sapsan bullet, took us to St Petersburg for ballet, hot chocolate at kitsch replica sailing vessel and Soviet museum of political history featuring Lenin's office and desk.

Best bits

Planning the trip. Russian history. Conversations with daughter. Eating many piroshky courtesy of the train conductor. Visiting Perm gulag with Alexander. Gazing at forests, lakes and snow along the way. Buying food in Russian and Mongolian supermarkets including dried instant potato with cheese and bacon.

Worst bit

Instant chocolate flavoured porridge from the Mongolian State Department Store. Realising we didn't have time to go to the Hermitage as well as exploring the beautiful streets of St Petersburg.

Best tip

Plan the trip yourself, but buy tickets through a tour operator. Use local tour guides for day trips to Lake Baikal, the Romanov/Cemetery tour in Yekaterinburg and in Perm to Gulag-36. Green line walking tours in each city. Stock up on supermarket train snacks.

Where to next

Machu Picchu


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