Google Maps Mobile Integrates Public Transport Timetables

The Google Mobile Blog has recently posted about Google Maps integrating public transport information for mobiles in version 2.2. The timetables mirror those Google Transit areas already available.

Google Maps Clapham

Sadly, this won’t mean a great to deal to us guys in the UK, but it is a big step in the right direction. It was only the other day that I’d got lost in Clapham and was using Google Maps to find my way home. I was cursing the little map for not showing me bus times and stumbled around town checking all the stops for directions.

Obviously, you have to be pretty stupid to get lost in Clapham, but soon maybe I’ll be able to disguise my stupidity with this feature. Instead of having to keep flipping between Google Maps and a timetable site, it will all be in one easy-to-find place. Well, it will be for Americans. It’s not clear how long we’ll have to wait for the process to start up here, but surely it can’t be too long. Google seem to be really pushing Google Maps stuff at the moment. Following the addition of photos and Wikipedia entries, this is another great move.

It’s particularly useful for travellers, though. If you’re visiting a new place, you’re obviously not going to know all the transport links. I noticed that Google had already linked in with partners to provide timetables for Euro 2008 in Austria and Switzerland which is really brilliant and exactly the kind of thing we need.

One feature that I think still might be missing from Google Maps is the ability to download a whole area. Would that be possible or is it a pipe dream? Recently I discovered you can download the entire Wikipedia and save it to read on your mobile and it’s only about 2gb in total. I wondered if the same would be possible for Google Maps. I’m not sure how much data is being transferred but it is frustrating having to wait for a new area to load. Downloading the latest build to your computer and then transferring it to your phone would make the whole process much quicker and you wouldn’t have to use the Internet when checking, saving you tons on that data plan.

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