One Hour Post–Transiberian

Combing through my posts will lead you to my YouTube channel, which will then describe my time living in China. I enjoyed every good, bad and boring moment there. Since coming back, friends have used me as a travel reference for just about every adventure they can think of. I can’t imagine a more flattering compliment. In serving as a travel reference, I have learned more about China even while home.

Today, a friend told me about his desire to trek the Trans-Siberian railroad, which I knew little about.  Referencing my YouTube channel for the second time, I traveled through part of China via railway and didn’t want it to end after 12 hours of sitting in one place. Imagining doing something like this for 7 days is enticing, but I cannot state with full certainty that I would enjoy it.

After learning about the Trans-Siberian Railroad, my mind went to planning the logistics of making the trip. Specifically, I thought about what visa a US citizen would need to complete this intercontinental train ride travel from Beijing to Eastern Russia.

In short, an American would need at least two visas.

First, China’s visa process is no walk in the park. I learned this over a grueling 5-month process before heading there with my single-entry, temporary work visa. You can read about everything that goes into obtaining a Chinese work visa, but, to my recollection, you have to obtain:

  1. an invitation letter from your Chinese employer;
  2. an authenticated copy of your college diploma (confirmation that it is real), which requires sending it to the secretary of your state and then the Chinese consulate.
  3. a US passport
  4. a certified police report
  5. previous work references
  6. a certified health evaluation, which includes a blood test, a full physical (no body cavity search), and a few other examinations

The article linked above will tell you what I have left out, but it costed about $500 and took about 5 months for me to get it all together and to receive my passport back with a Chinese visa in it. In sum, legally going to China from the USA is a pain in the ass (still worth it).

Similarly, getting a visa to travel to Russia as a US citizen requires enduring a drawn out process as well. To get a legal Russia travel visa, a US citizen has to obtain:

  1. a tourist invitation
  2. a passport
  3. passport photos
  4. a completed visa application form, which, apparently requires you to list the addresses and dates of all of your expected accommodations
  5. a document showing official results of a health evaluation, which includes an official HIV certificate

All of these are necessary to obtain a Russian TRAVELERS visa. There are different requirements to get a business or student visa from the Russian consulate, but getting any Russian visa takes a lot of effort.

With all of the above in mind, traveling from the USA to China or Russia to trek the Tran-Siberian Railroad requires a considerable investment of time and effort. Would this stop me, certainly not.

As info, the Trans-Siberian Railroad runs from Beijing through the top Northeast part of China, bisects Mongolia and then goes from one end of Russia to the major, East Russian cities, Moscow and St. Petersburg. Look at the map if this is not clear.


I am not up for the challenge of putting the thrill of taking the whole Trans-Siberian Railroad into words, but I am sure I want to find out. Technically, it includes two additional primary routes (Trans-Manchuria and the Trans-Mongolia). For purposes of this post, the Trans-Siberian Railway includes the continues path you would take by train from Moscow to Beijing.

The longest continuous railway in the world takes 8 days to cover its 5,772 mile length.  It has a non-tourism use as 30% of Russian exports moved along this line. It is, however, mostly traveled along by Russian tourists.

As in every travel adventure I’ve ever been on, the only way to really learn about traveling the Trans-Siberian Railroad is to do it yourself. There is far more that could be observed on such a trip than could be included in a blog post, but the description in this one will have to do as I am only giving myself an hour.

Given all you now know that would go into going from the USA to complete the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Russia to China, you may be wondering if a person who considers himself sane who still do it. I answer that with a resounding “HELL YES!”




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