I’ve found a couple of books really useful for preparing for the Trans-Siberian railway journey.
Trans-Siberian Adventures: Life on and off the rails from the UK to Asia, by Matthew Woodward
I originally found this book after searching Google for “Edinburgh to Hong Kong by train” and discovering Matthew Woodward’s blog describing his train journey between the two cities (travelling on a longer route to the one I’ll be taking).
This book is an account of Matthew Woodward’s first journey on the Trans-Siberian railway, travelling from Edinburgh to Shanghai in December 2012. It’s written in a really engaging way and I found it a really entertaining read as well as full of useful information about what the journey is like.
Matthew travelled in first class on the Chinese Trans Mongolian route in Train 004. I’ll be taking the same train from Irkutsk to Beijing, and travelling at the same time of year, so I found lots of the details of day-to-day life on the train really useful to help me prepare for the journey: such as how to walk between carriages on the train to get to the restaurant car, and what it’s like travelling on the Trans-Siberian in the winter.
I hadn’t considered bringing Christmas decorations to decorate my compartment on the Trans-Siberian before I read this book, but it sounds like a great idea!
I put up some sliver tinsel around the window (quite tasteful) and hang up some illuminated ice crystal stars (less tasteful), and on my table I place a flashing mini Christmas tree (not tasteful at all). Mr Chen pretends not to stare in surprise as he walks part my compartment. Mr Lee is clearly impressed by my efforts, and he wishes me a Happy New Year. I leave my door open and enjoy watching even the hardest Russian men smile when they glance in.
Find the book on Amazon UK
Trans-Siberian Handbook (10th edition) by Bryn Thomas and Daniel McCrohan
This book is described as the ‘bible’ for all Trans-Siberian travellers. “The guide to the world’s longest railway journey”, it includes 91 maps and guides.
It’s set out in a very similar way to a Rough Guide book. It has a couple of introductory chapters on planning your trip, on Russia and the history of the Trans-Siberian.
Each stop on the Trans-Siberian has its own section, with pages on the history of each place, what to see and do, practical information, local transport, where to stay, where to eat and drink, onward travel from each destination, and day trips.
Towards the end of the book is a detailed description of what you can see each kilometre out of the window of the train: the Trans-Siberian, Trans-Mongolian, and Trans-Manchurian routes are all included.
It will take up valuable space in my bag but I’m definitely taking this book with me on the journey!