Trans Siberian Tickets

There are three main ways to buy tickets for the Trans Siberian:

• Use a Western Travel Agency
The most convenient way of buying tickets for the Trans Siberian is to deal with an established High Street travel agency such as STA Travel or Trailfinders. The (usually) knowledgeable staff will be able to advise you on your choices in a comfortable environment. Be aware, though, that you are essentially dealing with a middle-middle-man - all they'll do is contact their middle-man, their affiliated agency in Russia who'll book it for you - and so you'll be paying a premium for the convenience. If you like the ease of this route, go for it - the cheaper alternative is to deal with an established, trusted Russian travel agency yourself over the net.

• Use a Russian Travel Agency
To cut down on the price, getting an established Russian travel agency to book your tickets for you can be a good way forward. This is especially suitable if you're a Full Monty or Half Nelson traveller (see itineraries), meaning you're only booking one or two tickets. If you're a Hop-on, Hop-off kind of traveller, though, it might be a complex and limiting experience as you try to convey to them your involved itinerary. I can't give personal recommendations for trustworthy Russian travel agencies, as I didn't use this method to book my tickets, but a search on the Lonely Planet Thorntree forum should point you in the right direction.

• Book your tickets as you go in Russia
Not for the faint of heart! - but recommended for those who want ultimate freedom for their time in Russia. Hop-on, hop-off travellers will want to buy their tickets as they go along to fit with their involved and flexible itineraries.

There are various ways to do this once in Russia. Staff at your guesthouse may offer to help by accompanying you and/or purchasing tickets on your behalf (commonly for a fee). I was lucky enough to meet an Irish girl studying Russian who kindly helped me get my first batch of tickets. After that I acquired another batch in Moscow at an English-speaking travel agency (Infinity Travel, Komsomolsky Prospekt 13 Moscow). I also braved the snaking ticket queues and ordered a ticket from the stony-faced, hassled ticket window ladies by using a combination of Pigeon Russian and a piece of paper with all the relevant details written down in Cyrillic - a hair raising experience, but all part of the fun, I reckon! I bought my final ticket from the much calmer Reservations Office that you will find in most of the major stations. You pay a commission to use the Office, but it's a much, much less stressful experience - no queues, less harried staff and a comfortable, warm, even classy room to park yourself in to gather yourself before your train.

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