Life After Moscow – The Trans-Mongolian Railway

When the Champion’s League Final comes to a close in Moscow tonight, half of the travelling English fans will want to party that little bit longer. Two of my friends are taking the Trans Mongolia from Moscow and it sounds like an amazing excursion to extend your holiday. Afterall, it seems a shame to go to Moscow just for the day. The chartered flights from each club are leaving immediately after the game, giving fans almost no chance to soak up Russia’s unique culture and atmosphere.

The Trans-Mongolian train route map showing key journey points

Trans-Mongolian Route

This is their planned route to Moscow. They’ll fly from London to Tallinn (Estonia), then catch a train from there, over the border and into St Petersburg. It’s an easy bus or train to Moscow once you’ve made it into Russia.

The interesting part is once you board the a train on the Trans-Siberian Railway, which runs all the way across Russia, splitting at Ulan Uday to offer a route through Mongolia. This is the Trans-Mongolian route:

  • • Moscow [Russia]
  • • Kirova
  • • Tyumen
  • • Omsk
  • • Novosibirsk
  • • Irkutsk
  • • Ulan Bator [Mongolia]
  • • Datong [China]
  • • Beijing

You need a visa for all three countries, so in advance you’d need to get a Russian visa, Mongolian visa and Chinese visa, which can all add up. You also have to decide in advance legs of the train journey and how long you want to spend in certain places. So for example if you want to spend a week in Mongolia before heading onto China, then you’ll need to book separate trains, rather than just being able to buy once all-inclusive ticket.

It sounds like a reasonable amount of planning, but I can imagine it being totally worth it. There’s also the case of needing three different types of currency, as onboard the train, when you cross the border into Mongolia from Russia, they stop accepting Rubels. Which means it’s worth getting Russian Rubels, Mongolian Tugrük and Chinese Renminbi in advance for use on the train. Obviously though, if you’re stopping off somewhere, it’s easy to get access to cash machines or exchangers for the local currency. The rates might not be that great if you leave it until then, though!

So, you’re essentially living in a train for a few days, but you get to see so much and the trip is definitely one of those experiences that isn’t really comparable to anything else.

Helpful Links

Fancy taking the Trans-Mongolian route for yourself? Here’s a few links to get you started:

Russian Visa
Mongolian Visa
Chinese Visa
Trans-Mongolian on Wikipedia
Trans-Siberian on Wikipedia

Getting to the Champions League Final in Moscow

This is what is all comes down to. The Champions League Final is being hosted at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia, and for the first time in history, the two participating teams are both English. Manchester United and Chelsea will duke it out for the ultimate European accolade on May 21st 2008. With it being such a historic landmark for English football, it’s an event any football fan will be desperate to attend. So exactly what will you need to get sorted before jetting off?

Champions League Final

Champions League Final Tickets

It’s highly recommended to only get final tickets through official channels. Unofficial sites, eBay listings and touts could result in you paying excessively. However you end up getting a ticket, just make sure it’s real! The last thing you want is paying huge amounts of money for a fake ticket, worse than not being able to see the match – you won’t be able to use it as a visa!

They’ll be a fans’ park with a screen close to the stadium in Moscow showing the match for anyone who didn’t manage to get in. Though it’s strongly advised not to travel if you don’t have a ticket since you’ll end up paying loads for virtually nothing. And let’s face it, if you’re going to watch it on a screen, it’s better to do it here with all the other fans that didn’t manage to go.

Russian Visa

Providing you have a match ticket, it will act as your visa. This will be valid from 17th to 25th of May 2008. Yet you still need a few other things to get into the country.

  • Your Passport (Needs to be valid for a minimum of six months. after you intend the Russian visa to expire. And it must have at least two blank pages).
  • Champions League Final Ticket (Which you need to keep hold of so that you can leave!).
  • Completed Russian Migration Card (These can be obtained from your club).

If you’re visiting without a ticket, then you’ll need to go through the standard procedure to gain a Russian tourist visa. The Russian National Tourist Office has all the information you need for obtaining one.

You have to apply before travelling, as a Russian visa cannot be obtained on arrival. When applying, you will need to post your original passport to them, so in order to give it time to arrive and be returned to you with the visa, your must get this done quickly. A run down of what you will need:

  • Your Passport (Needs to be valid for a minimum of six months. after you intend the Russian visa to expire. And it must have at least two blank pages).
  • Russian Visa booking form (Print out and fill in from the site).
  • A passport-sized photograph (Glued to the appropriate place on the booking form.
  • Completed consulate questionnaire (Must be done online, you can do that here.)
  • Application fee (Only accepted via credit/debit card or Postal Order).

Moscow Hotels

Hotels are being booked up quickly as around 70,000 fans are about to invade the city. Your best bet is to get a hotel as close to Moscow centre and to Luzhniki Stadium as possible, to save you having to travel before and after the match.

Search for Moscow hotel sites and check availability, you’ll find lots of them are full but some still have a few places and there’s always the option of staying a little bit further out. Call travel agents too, to get the most up to date information on availability. It can get expensive and some fans are considering just doing a round trip and starting the journey home after the game finishes, rather than staying the night.

Flights to Moscow

Chartered flights for each club are expected to split fans between Moscow’s two closest airports, so that the teams are separated. However, many fans are looking for alternate routes into Moscow to cut down on costs. Rather than a direct flight into Russia, fans are booking cheap airlines to nearby countries and then getting trains over the border.

Be aware that going to these measures means increasing your travelling time significantly. And you’re also much more likely to find delays and risk being late to the match. Be sure to leave plenty of time however you travel and make sure you plan your route properly.

Where is Luzhniki Stadium?

City Life

The Luzhniki Stadium is on the red line (line 1) of the MosMetro and you can get off at Sportivnaya or Vorobyevy Gory to reach the stadium. This is considered the best way to reach the final upon arrival in Moscow as taxi fares are likely to seriously escalate on the day.

There’s due to be a festival-like atmosphere around the stadium on the day, as many outdoor food and craft stores open up their doors to the thousands of incoming fans. Police are going to have a large presence, as you’d expect, so have your passport and ticket on you at all times – ready for any possible inspection.

Red Square is the main tourist area and is a great way to spend the day – it’ll have plenty of going on. Bars won’t be difficult to find at all and will all come alive during the day. Your best bet is to arrive as early as possible and spend a bit of time wandering around and learning the area. Pick up a Moscow travel guide from your local book shop to get a better idea.

Useful Links

Official Manchester United Site
Official Chelsea Site
Russian National Tourist Office
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Advice
Russian Embassy (London)