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Trans-Siberian Railway

transiberThe Trans-Siberian Railway is actually really composed of three rail lines:
• Trans-Siberian: Moscow to Vladivostok
• Trans-Mongolian: Moscow to Beijing via Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
• Trans-Manchurian: Moscow to Vladivostok via Beijing and Manchuria.

For my adventure, I plan to head on the Trans-Mongolian line to get to Ulaanbaatar.

The trains do not run every day.

In July 2013, there are two trains that run to Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia).
• Train #4 (Leaves on Wednesday) – Continues to Beijing
• Train #6 (Leaves on Thursday) – Ends in Ulaanbaatar

Note: Dates were slightly different when it wasn’t the summer time

There are three classes of tickets with most tourists traveling in Class 2 or Class 1 unless you really are looking to save money where you would travel in class 3. Class 1 is your own personal room for 2, Class 2 is private room shared with two other people, and third class is an open room where you are joined with 6 people in an area.

Price tickets also can vary based on the legs even if the destinations are the same. For example, train #4 costs 340 Euro compared to Train #6 that costs $387 Euro for second class cabin.

As point of reference, the cost of a 1st class cabin is ~40% more expensive (553 Euro) for Train #6.

The following companies below can help purchase tickets, check train schedules, and learn more about the process.
http://www.transsiberianexpress.net/
http://www.traintomongolia.com/
https://www.realrussia.co.uk (Saw most positive opinions about this company)
http://seat61.com/ (Actually utilizes Real Russia to book train; lots of info)

You can also supposedly book your own tickets are the following websites:
www.rzd.ru
www.poezda.ne

Stories of individual people on the railway:
www.transsiberianbackpacker.tumblr.con
http://www.monkeyshrine.com/info/faq.php
http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/how-to-travel-the-trans-siberian-railway/
http://untappedcities.com/2012/08/23/ten-tips-for-traveling-the-trans-siberian-railway/

The #4 and #6 both leave at 9:30 at night and arrive at 6:30 a.m.

This indicates train leaves at 9:30 on July 4th and arrives at 6:30 am in Mongolia.

Mongolia

GOBI DESERT

gobiOne of the best sites in Mongolia (if not the best) is the Gobi Desert.

Within the Gobi Desert, there would be considered the top sites:
• Flaming Cliffs (Bayanzag) – Location where dinosaurs bones were discovered
• Khongoriin Els (Singing Dunes) – Largest Sand Dunes in Mongolia; the main site
• Yollin Am (Vulture’s Valley) – Ice is located at the end of the canyon

Some tours will throw in Moltsog Sand Dunes instead of Khongoriin Els to save money. The Khongoriin Els sites are the primary location in the Gobi. It is often common to do a camel ride at the Khongoriin Els. Some of the tours will even spend a complete day doing a tour of the dunes.

Couple articles on Gobi Desert:
http://www.mongolia-travel-guide.com/gobi-desert.html
http://traveltips.usatoday.com/gobi-desert-tours-60828.html

Gobi Tours Hitting All of the Hot Spots
There are some Gobi Tours that will throw in an extra day in Ulaanbaatar. The most common length for a tour that hits all the hot spots is 4 days (though 5 is common with a day in UB) assuming that you fly to Dalanzadgad. You will also be adding days if you drive from UB down to the Gobi desert.

There are also many Gobi tours that spend longer than 4/5 days in Gobi going further up north.
http://www.tourradar.com/t/45444#details (Extra day in Khongoriin Els – $1560 per person if in group of 2; will send PDF upon receipt of email)
http://www.mongoliatourism.info/ (aka AR Mongol ; $1227 per person if in group of 2; trip does not include flight; saw 1 mention in TripAdvisor talking about how they are one of the better but more expensive groups)
http://www.discovermongolia.mn/tours/Short_day_tours/4_days_gobi_deset_tour.html ($1200 per person if in group of 2)
www.khongor-expedition.com ($1100 per person if in group of 2; will send PDF upon receipt of email; guest house in UB; TripAdvisor Rated)
http://www.happycamel.com/trips_to_mongolia/luxurytriptourtravelmongolia-03-f.php ($815 per person if in group of 2; TripAdvisor Rated (most reviews))
http://mongoleireisenanders.com/index.php?lang=en&pid=30 ($650 per person if in group of 2 with no guide; $855 if want guide; no information online about company) – this company should not be confused with another company called mongolreisen
http://www.travelgobimongolia.com/private-package-tours/gobi/gobi-trip.html ($620 (standard) or $510 (budget) for 4 day/3night tour; tour can be cheaper if do 3 day / 2 night tour)

Good and Bad Reviews about Travel Gobi Mongolia
1) http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293955-i9382-k4814436-Travel_Gobi_Mongolia-Mongolia.html (Bad Review)
2) http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293955-i9382-k6086531-Travel_Gobi_Mongolia-Mongolia.html (Good Review)

These were two other companies that quoted lower prices, but I never heard back from them:
http://www.gobitours.com/5-day-tour-to-gobi-desert (580 p.p. for two days; 1 person mentioned them in forum on TripAdvisor talking about how they were one of the better budget groups)
http://www.monadventure.com/en/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=246&Itemid=228 ($900 per person for group of two)
Vendors That Visit Moltsog with Shorter tours
http://www.asia-planet.com/mongolia/packagetours/south-gobi-tour.htm
http://www.sherpa-travel.com/south-gobi.php
http://www.mongoliatoursguide.com/gobi_desert_tours.html
http://www.activemongolia.com/files/itineraries/detailed_itineraries/itinerary_gobi_3days.htm
http://www.mongoliatoursguide.com/gobi_desert_tours.html

Trip Chosen
I was able to talk with Happy Camel and they are willing to do a three day tour where I will visit all of the locations.
This will cost around $600.

Overall, the tour operators seem flexible. In the end, they want your business.

TERELJ NATIONAL PARK

tereljWhen in Mongolia, you need to see the step. The Terlj National Park is located just outside of Ulaanbaatar (90 minute drive). You can do either a day trip or stay over one night.

You are also often given the opportunity to see a huge statute of Chinggis Khaan.

The reviews from TripAdvisor talk about how people rave about the location:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g293956-d580962-Reviews-Terelj_National_Park-Ulaanbaatar.html

One of the more common locations is to visit Turtle Rock.

List of Vendors:
http://www.gobitours.com/terelj-national-park ($145 per person if in group of 2)
http://www.discovermongolia.mn/tours/Short_day_tours/1_day_terelj_national_park_tour.html ($160 per person for group of 2)
http://www.lghostel.com/ct/ci/950/734/Journey%20to%20Terelj%20National%20Park ($75 per person if in group of 2)
http://www.khongor-expedition.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=89&Itemid=60 ($65 per person – Leaves at 10 o’clock)

NAADAM

naadamNaadam is the main festival in all of Mongolia. Within in Ulaanbaatar, the festival is on July 11th and 12th. There is also horse racing that occurs on 13th.

The Naadam doesn’t just happen in UB but throughout all of Mongolia. While the biggest festival occurs in UB, Darhas and Kharkorin are also known as great locations with a great festival outside of UB. You can get a lot closer if you visit a Naadam outside of the capital.

Program in 2012 to give you an idea:
http://tomongolia.blogspot.com/2012/06/naadam-2012-program-ulaanbaatar-and.html

On the 11th, the festival starts at 11 a.m.
Tour:
http://www.discovermongolia.mn/tours/festival_tours/naadam_festival_short_tour.html ($785 per person for group of 2)
http://www.mongoliatoursguide.com/mongolia_naadam_tour.html ($385 per person for group of 2)
http://www.garditours.com/index.php/tours/all-tours (150 Euro per person )

KHUSTAI NATIONAL PARK

Khustai National Park is the opportunity to visit Takhi horses.
http://www.khongor-expedition.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=89&Itemid=60 ($120 per person – Leaves at 7 a.m.)

SHOOTING RANGE

It is 2 hours outside of UB.
http://www.bolodtours.com (No. 3)
http://playfordfamilytravels.blogspot.com/2008/04/shooting-range.html
http://blog.newsok.com/dustyglobe/2010/09/29/mongolian-shooting-range/

Itinerary for Trans-Siberian Railway and Mongolia

Day 0: Leave Home
Day 1: Arrive in Moscow
Day 2: Train
Day 3: Train
Day 4: Train
Day 5: Train
Day 6: Train; Day 1 of Gobi
Day 7: Day 2 of Gobi
Day 8: Day 3 of Gobi
Day 9: Naadam
Day 10: Day 2 of Naadam or Shooting Range
Day 11: Tereljk National Park
Day 12: Go Home

YOU CAN LEARN ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE IN MONGOLIA AND ON TRANSIBERIAN RAILWAY BY CLICKING ON THE LINKS BELOW