This is my 28 days itinerary from Malaysia to Russia. It included 6 trips of train and 3 trips of bus. The whole journey covered 6 countries, namely Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Mongolia and Russia. The expense for transportation is about SGD 1100 / RM 3300 (6 trains +2 buses). The total expenses for the whole trip is within SGD 2833 / RM 8500 , including food, accommodation, transportation, visa application, some entrance tickets fee and etc.
|Day 1||Train||Padang Besar, Malaysia > Hatyai, Thailand > Bangkok, Thailand|
|Day 3||Bus||Bangkok, Thailand > Siem Reap, Cambodia|
|Day 4||Bus||Siem Reap, Cambodia > Phnom Penh, Cambodia|
|Day 5||Bus||Phnom Penh, Cambodia > Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam|
|Day 6||Train||Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam > Hanoi, Vietnam|
|Day 8||Train||Hanoi, Vietnam > Nanning, China|
|Day 10||Train||Nanning, China > Beijing, China|
|Day 17||Trans Siberian||Beijing, China > Irkutsk, Russia|
|Day 20||Trans Siberian||Irkutsk, Russia > Moscow, Russia|
|Day 28||Flight||Moscow, Russia > Balik Rumah|
Total Transportation Cost from Malaysia to Russia
|Malaysia to Thailand||36||12|
|Thailand to Cambodia||111||38|
|Cambodia to HCM, Vietnam||83 + 99||28+33|
|HCM to Hanoi, Vietnam||380||129|
|Vietnam to Nanning, China||244||82|
|Nanning to Beijing, China||340||115|
|Beijing to Irkutsk, Russia||1401||475|
|Irkutsk to Moscow, Russia||567||192|
- Visa for China = SGD 140 / RM 414
- Visa for Russia = SGD 168 / RM 497
- Flight from Moscow to Singapore = SGD 414 / RM1224
This is the 8-minute video that covers my whole journey.
I spent 28 days for the whole trip. However, it can be done as quick as 16 days. In fact, you can decide the duration, destination, and everything by your own. I completed it in one month. I didn’t spend much time on staying in countries that I have been to before, like Thailand.
In general, some schedules and duration are fixed. Train from Hatyai to Bangkok will take 18 hours. Bus from Bangkok to Siemreap takes 9 hours. Train from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi takes as long as 34 hours. Beijing to Moscow takes 7 days while Beijing to Irkutsk take 3 days. Below is the introduction to every stations and cities with some photos. I also attached the link for your reference. Most of the time I spent my night at the train. If you’re taking the Trans-Siberian, you won’t be able to visit the toilet from 7 days. Train from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi has toilet that allows you to clean your body. But remember to bring some wet tissue packs.
As a matter of fact, you don’t really need to book much of the accommodation stay. If you have to, I suggest you to book a hostel through Booking.com because you can easily cancel the booking for free if you mistakenly plan the itinerary. Throughout the journey, I stayed in the backpacker hostels (cheap ones). When in Russia, visit the Real Russia to book a hostel under their list of invitation letter. (pm me for more details)
While on the way, prepare yourself a cup, folded bowl (for instant noodles), extension cable, power banks, instant noodles. Every train has hot water service for the passengers.
The language barrier was hardly a problem from Malaysia to China, until I reached Russia. Download translator apps on your smartphone because most Russians don’t speak English. You can get a SIM card at Irkutsk. It’s extremely inexpensive and costed only 400 Rubel (= SGD 9 / RM 26) that allows you to surf internet for a whole month with cap of 20 GB.
You can get the railway ticket in Southeast Asia through online. If you are to buy them through agency, like 12go.asia, it would be more expensive.
Seat Sixty-One has some good references for your information about the railway.
Be reminded that you are required to apply for Visa when you travel to China (SGD 140) and Russia (SGD 168). You don’t need to apply for visa in other countries, but it still depends on the duration you are staying and your nationality. An invitation letter is needed to apply for Visa to Russia (pm for more details). You may check the Visa Requirement for Malaysian citizens before you start your journey.
If anyone asks whether or not it is dangerous to go alone (either male or female), I would say that I met plenty of solo female backpackers in the journey. Most of them travel around the world alone for few months. In fact there are many solo travellers out there. However, if you can find a buddy to go with you, it would be better.
This railway journey was done when I left my job and decided that I would go for it before my new job commences. I spent about 1 month to plan for the trip because it took more than 2 weeks to apply for the visa to China and Russia). I was grateful that my friend, Xuan Cheng had helped me out with the planning of the trip. Xuan Cheng spent 3 months travelling from Singapore to Europe, 13 countries in total. Impressive!
The trip after Thailand, in fact, every train has a bed for the passenger. You can even have your own theater so you can have your space. On top of that, you can move freely and talk to everybody in other theater to play some games. In the train, I knew some of the friends in the same journey so we went to the restaurant in the train every time. In short, this journey is not the kind of trip that makes your butt hurt because you won’t sit on your couch all the time.
In my trip, I could save a lot of money from Padang Besar to Bangkok. Another good option is when you travel from Irkutsk to Moscow. I bought the 3am ticket so it costed a bit more expensive. In fact the ticket is cheaper if you take the afternoon ones.
Scenic view from Train
1. Malaysia to Thailand👣
- Padang Besar, Malaysia to Bangkok Hua Lamphong (click for location)
- Train ticket @ Thailand: Thai Railway Ticket (1 ticket ,Padang Besar to Bangkok Hua Lamphong)
- Price: 290 THBT / RM36 / SGD12 (Class 3 Seat)
- Price for sleeping berth 900 TBHT / RM111 / SGD38
- Duration: 18 hour from Hatyai to Bangkok, 1 hour from Padang Besar to Hatyai
My first stop started at Padang Besar because my hometown is at Kedah. In fact you can commence the journey from Singapore. All you need to do is take the KTM from Singapore to Kedah.
Occasionally, I departed on the Songkran holiday in Thailand so all the tickets were sold out early. Therefore, I took train to Hatyai first, then transited to another train to Bangkok. Actually, the train to Bangkok has sleeping berth service yet the tickets were all sold out so I actually sat on the stiff chair for 18 hours.
You can either buy the train ticket from Padang Besar to Bangkok through ticket counter or online. In fact, if you intend to buy through ticket counter, you will need to walk past the Thailand Immigration office to buy the ticket to Thailand. It’s only few minutes of walking and Malaysian immigration officer will let you know the exact location to purchase the ticket. After buying the ticket, you will walk back to Malaysia immigration office to have your passport and belongings checked by the officer. If you purchase your ticket through online, you just need to wait for the train.
I guess most of y’all are familiar with Thailand so I will leave it here. You can visit places like Hua Hin because the train does stop there.
I stayed in a backpacker house near Chatuchat Market because the bus to Cambodia in the next morning departed here. My hostel was VR Hostel but it was terrible. No cleaning and no exchange of bed sheet and pillow sheet.
2. Thailand to Siem Reap,Cambodia (Bus)👣
- Bangkok Bus Terminal Chatuchak to Siem Reap Nattakan Bus Station (click for location)
- Website for Bus Booking: BookMeBus (1 ticket, Bangkok to Siem Reap)
- Price: USD28 / RM111 / SGD38
- Duration: 9 hours
How to enter Cambodia immigration from Thailand? The bus driver will give you a guide. When you see a lot of casinos, then you know you are about to enter the border between Thailand and Cambodia. While entering Cambodia, it’s no need to take out your belongings from bus.
Of course, you can also take train to Cambodia but it’s not recommended. This is because I was told by 2 Malays from Malaysia that the train also provides 90 degree chair and it stops very frequently because it will pass by many traffic lights. So it has a high possibilities to delay you trip.
Another route you can take is from Thailand to Laos then go to Hanoi from Laos.
3. Siem Reap to Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam (BUS)👣
- Siem Reap Giant Ibis Stn to Phnom Penh Giant Ibis Station to Vietnam Giant Ibis Station (click for location)
- Website for Bus Booking: Giant Ibis Transport (2 tickets, Siem Reap to Phnom Penh & Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh)”
- Price: USD 21 / RM 83 / SGD 33 & USD 25 / RM 99 / SGD 28
- Duration: 7.5 hour & 6 hours
From Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh, you will need to take 2 trips of bus. The first bus trip is from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and the second one is from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh. I recommend you to take the bus from Giant Ibis company because it provides bunk bed in the bus if you take overnight bus. Then, the next morning you can take the bus to Ho Chi minh right away. The Giant Ibis bus station and bus both provide WiFi.
While entering the immigration in Vietnam, the bus driver will guide you so dont’t you worry. This time you have to take your belongings down for checking. When you see casinos around you, it means you reach the border.
- Siem Reap Accommodation: Mad Monkey Siem Reap
- More about Siem Reap, Angkor Wat
4. Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi, Vietnam👣
- Saigon Railway Station to Hanoi Railway Station click for location
- Website for Train Booking: Vietnam Railways (1 ticket, HCM to Hanoi SE4)
- Price: USD 96 / RM 380 / SGD 129
- Duration: 34 hours
The train takes 34 hours to travel from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. In the train journey, it passes by some great places in Vietnam like Da Nang, Hoi An, Nha Thrang, Hue. The train I took was the SE4, H.C.M. which was an express train to Hanoi. Choose the lower bunk bed when you book the train ticket.
I think that this train is the most comfortable and cleanest one in my whole journey. Every theater has its own door in contrast to other open-space theater. Inside the theater, a power plug, lunch and dinner meal are all provided. Other than that, the train staff peddled for food, snacks and fruits every hour.
- More about Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi
5. Hanoi,Vietnam to Nanning, China👣
- Gia Lam Train Station to Nanning Railway Station(click for location)
- Website for Train Booking: Baolau (1 ticket, Hanoi Gia Lam to Nanning, China)
- Price: 1409,000 Dong / RM 244 / SGD82
- Duration: 12 hours
Basically this is considered as China train. The Baolau Agent will pass the ticket in person to you in the train station. This train has a lot of mosquitoes. You need to alight the train twice to go through the immigration of China and Vietnam. Belongings have to be checked when in China immigration. You wouldn’t be able to sleep well in this night.
When passing the Vietnam immigration, the officers will collect money from every Chinese. The officer didn’t collect from me because I’m from Malaysia. Every Chinese argued about my passport, they thought the colour of passport should be same since everyone is Chinese, BUT I am Malaysian Chinese!
- More about Nanning, China
6. Nanning to Beijing, China👣
- Nanning Railway Station to Beijing Xi Railway Station, (click for location)
- Website for Train Booking: Train China Guide (1 ticket, Nanning to Beijing West, train Z6）
- Price: USD 86 / RM 340 / SGD 115
- Duration: 24 hours
From Nanning to Beijing, there are different schedule of train. The train passes by many different places. You get off in the station you want. I took the Z6 train, it provides hard berth and takes 24 hours. In fact, you can choose the 13-hour train and select the soft berth seat instead of hard berth. You can purchase the train ticket from different agencies, but some of them have additional charges. Otherwise, you can also buy the ticket at Nanning train station. Avoid buying the train ticket on the spot during peak season because it’s sold out easily. Go to the train station and aboard early because it’s very crowded here.
Each theater accommodates 6 person so always buy the lower berth because the upper berth is rather narrow and high. I could not imagine how the elders climb up to the upper berth.
In China, G, D, C types are considered express train. Z, T, K types are the slower ones.
It’s quite noisy in this train. Hmm…
- More on China
7. Beijing to Irkutsk (Trans-Siberian)👣
- Beijing Railway Station (Main) to Irkutsk Pass (click for location)
- Website for Train Booking: Travel China Guide (1 ticket from Beijing to Irkutsk,train K3, hard sleeper, lower berth)
- Price: USD 354 / RM 1401 / SGD 475
- Duration: 3 days 3 hours
This Trans-Siberian is the highlight of the whole journey. The view here is amazing every day. Different kind of view every morning when you wake up. I personally think that this trip is the best journey to cure the depressed ones or the ones that breaks up with their partner. A week in Trans-Siberian would definitely let you forget the pain and depression. In fact, you can pick up new partner here.
K3 train departs once a week to Moscow, every Wednesday from Beijing Station. Then it will pass by Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and enter Naushki, Russia. Another train named K19 departs from Beijing station every Saturday. Instead, it passes by Harbin, Mazhouli, and enter Zabaykalsk, Russia. It does not pass by Mongolia. K4 and K20 are trains that depart from Moscow to Beijing.
In this route, you can get off in many stations. I got off at Irkutsk station, which is where the Lake Baikal, the world deepest lake is located. To reach this lake, you can also alight at Ulan-ude station, Novosibirsk or Yekaterinburg. If you would like to take the train again to other destination, you can take the Russian train. Plenty of trips of train are available. (Russia Train Website)
If you plan to depart from Beijing, please do not book the accommodation near to Beijing Railway Station. The queue to enter the subway is quite long.
Before you depart from Beijing, prepare some snacks, instant noodles, water and have Mongolian and Russian currency ready. Otherwise it would be hard to exchange your money along the way. So far as I know, the marketplace in Irkutsk has money changer. Bring wet tissue packs as well because you can’t bath for almost a week.
Remember to download the train schedule first to avoid yourself from the trouble of missing the train. This is because the train will stop as short as 2 minutes and as long as 1 hour, it is important to notice the time zone.
Many agencies sell this ticket, you can even buy it from Russian Agency. Compare the price first before you purchase. Generally, the courier charges 7 USD as delivery fee to your accommodation at Beijing. Remember to select the lower berth when you confirm the order.
The most important thing is that the ticket costs lower if you travel from separate sections. In other words, it’s more expensive if you travel from Beijing to Russia via express train. I noticed this price difference with other passengers, the train captain even shared this with us.
Other than China train, there are Russian train that send you to Moscow from Vladivostok (Russian Railways)
In the whole journey, the view in Mongolia is the best one.Phone is kept safe. Otherwise all the videos and photos lost.
View of Lake Baikal from the train (Before reaching Irkutsk)
K3 train passes by the immigration of China, Mongolia and Russia. You don’t have to get off the train to stamp the passport. However, the train reaches the immigration in the middle of the night every time.
- When leaving China to Mongolia, the China immigration officer will check everything with you, like your luggages, your phone, camera, laptop and etc. Nobody is excluded in this checking. They will scroll your phone to scan your photo gallery, unless you are foreigners as the officers do not speak English. I was told that this action is to prevent any politically sensitive photos from leaking out of China. During the inspection, I was surrounded by 5 officers and asked where I came from and where I was going. They even asked why I can speak Chinese. Meanwhile, the railway technicians were outside fixing the train wheels because the wheel tracks of China railway and Mongolia railway are of different sizes. You will be staying in the cabin, the workers will lift up the cabin for the fix. (click here for more details). It will take more than 4 hours for them to fix it so you had better not go to the toilet at that time, otherwise your passport has to be stamped when you get off.
- When entering Mongolia, there was a couple of Mongolian aunts to check my passport and the train cabin. They also checked the luggage before stamping your passport. It took about 2 hours so I almost fell asleep.
- When entering Russia, the officer will check your belongings and even bring the police dog in the train for inspection. They will have your passport stamped if there’s no problem.
- Only the China train provides lunch and dinner. After crossing the Mongolian border, the cabin will be transform into Mongolian style restaurant cabin where you will have to pay for the food. Same case after you enter Russia.
- The K3 train does not have power plug in the cabin. You can only find it along the aisle and the washroom. The power of the plug along aisle is not enough so you can only use the one in the washroom. However, the washroom is normally locked by the staff for the storage of the food and ingredients. You have to make good relationship with them in order to use the power plug.
I managed to encounter a lot of travellers from different countries. Met more than 20 Malaysians in the train. Everyone has different story to tell. Our topics are mainly about our next stop, our own countries and our routes.
Note: The toilet is locked every time when the China train is about to reach the station. It is to prevent the excreta from polluting the station as the excreta is directly discharge from the toilet to the railways.
8. Irkutsk to Moscow,Russia
- Irkutsk Passazhirskiy to Moscow Yaroslavskaya (click for location)
- Website for Train Booking: Russian Railways (1 ticket from Irkutsk Pass to Moscow，Train 099)
- Price: 8910 RUB / RM 567 / SGD 192
- Duration: 3 days 12 hours
Every train in Russia follows the time zone of Moscow. Therefore, take note of the time difference when you purchase the ticket from counter. I mistakenly got the 3.30am train so it costed a bit more expensive.
You can select your own seat and berth when buying the ticket. The toilet is not locked all the time, unlike the toilet in China train. Power plug is provided.
This railway trip passes throught 5 different time zone. The sun rises very early and gets dark late. Download the train schedule in your smartphone so that you do not miss the train.
Train 099 departs from Vladivostok to Moscow. Most passengers are Russian and do not speak English. We just used informal sign language to talk to each others. They would keep asking the questions in Russian even though I do not understand Russian language.
On the way to Moscow, the view in this season is not as nice as other season.
Such a long journey. Passing by 5 different time zones, seeing different passengers getting on and off the train, enjoying different view every morning. Reached Moscow finally!
I was in luck that I reached Russia on the 9th of May, Russian Victory Day. The nationwide was celebrating the day. Although I didn’t manage to watch the Victory Day Parade, I still get to celebrate and enjoy the fireworks. However, 9th of May 2018 is also a historical day in Malaysia, I could not manage to go back and vote in the election.
In this long journey, I met a lot of people, from different countries, heading to different destination, sharing different stories. Although backpacking travel may seem to be uncomfortable than normal vacation, I did not regret that I made the choice to travel this way.
From Moscow, you can continue the journey to the Europe. I chose to go home because I will be back next time!
The most difficult thing in this journey is the visa application to Russia because it’s quite strict. My first attempt to submit my documents was rejected because my passport size photo was not appropriate. However, once the application is done, everything is alright. You just need to take care of your belongings and passport when you reach Russia.