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Once weekly, on Tuesdays, the Trans-Mongolian train (train 4 eastbound) leaves Moscow on its six-day 7,621km ramble to Beijing.

Booked through an agency, a ticket in second class will cost you around US0.

You are in their “empire” and should a clerk for no apparent reason rudely deny you entry into the hotel or refuse to take your credit card because it is “foreign”, take a deep breath and walk away. You will undoubtedly find that, save for unpleasant officialdom and the occasional blustering apparatchik, Russians are generally a very kind, warm, and hospitable people who fiercely love their country and are happy that you are there to enjoy it.

▲ top The first thing you will need to do is to decide on the route and your final destination. Vladivostok, Ulaanbaatar, Beijing, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Tibet, even Bangkok or Singapore are all viable overland options.

Travel agents will be helpful in arranging certain bits like arranging a Russian visa (by no means a straightforward process and one that you will want to begin at least a month before you begin your travels).

Also look forward to run-ins with stony-faced, tight-lipped Russian officials manning hotel reception desks and train ticket counters.

However, these brief stops, though — quite literally — a welcome breath of fresh air, do not afford enough time for a tour of the town.While the coal-chomping, smoke-spewing iron behemoths of yore have given way to humming electric engines and a modicum of modern comfort, not all in the mind, the carriages remain packed to bursting with the usual haul of businessmen and babushkas, soldiers and fur saleswomen, artists and apparatchik all, unwittingly, keeping alive the notion that the true romance of travel is in the journey, not just the arrival.This is big sky country, a quarter of the earth held together by a ribbon of beckoning steel.For life on the world's greatest railway can often resemble a blurred suspension of reality, at once unnerving and liberating. So as you watch that impossibly large red sun dip behind the rolling hills of the Far East, the clock will still stubbornly insist it is midday. Organizing the journey independently though may prove to be far more affordable and even more fun.Send us your Feedback / Letter to the Editor Get used to the fact that you will be sleeping an obscene amount. Perhaps it is the near stifling blanket of summer warmth that constantly envelops you, or the shocking quantities of food and booze you end up consuming out of sheer boredom as the hours tick by, or the slow, steady rocking of the train (which never travels faster than a sedate 60kmh). Planning a journey of this scale in a country with a bureaucracy as cumbersome and all-pervasive as Russia’s, will entail a lot of planning and, inevitably, a smidgen of stress.

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