What is it
The Trans-Manchurian is a branch of the Trans-Siberian railway that connects Russia with China, specifically from Chita(Russia) through Manzhouli (on the border) to Harbin (China), from where one can continue on to Beijing. The line was originally built by Russia as the western branch of the Chinese Eastern Railway.
How to buy your ticket
From Chita to Harbin
Option 1) As for Mongolia, you cannot buy tickets to China online using RZD.ru (You can still use it to check the trains’ schedules and seat availability though, the website will show you all the info about the train, it just won’t allow you to purchase the ride if you continue on to the paying procedure). Hence, the easy thing to do is buy the ticket directly at the train station. It’s better to book in advance though, so you should try and book in in Moscow or in some other Russian station before you arrive in Chita, as the train may get booked up, especially in the summer. This train indeed runs once a week, you can use the RZD website to check the schedules (it should be on Wednesdays at 22:52 Moscow Time, arriving in Harbin at 12:50 Local time two days later, for a total ride of 33 hours).
Option 2) Use RealRussia.com or RussianRailways.com (a bit more expensive, but it allows you to book your tickets even if you’re not in Russia yet).
From Harbin to Beijing
Option 1) Buy your ticket directly at the the station in Harbin
Option 2) Foreigners cannot buy train tickets online in China, however you can use the Chinahighlights website. You will have to send a scanned copy of your passport as you book the train, they’ll send you a confirmation number that you’ll have to convert into a paper ticket at Harbin station. Duration of the ride around 20 hours, price about 20 EUR for the hard seat, 50 EUR for a hard sleeper. (We used this website and worked perfectly).
Getting a Chinese Visa
If for some reason you haven’t applied for a Chinese visa from your home country, you can still apply for it in Moscow at the Chinese Visa Centre, who will take care of all the procedures and have the Embassy issue your visa once you hand in all the documentations.
The address is at: 1st Kadashevsky lane, 13, build. 1, floor 2. Opening hours 9:00 AM – 7PM.
Phone: +7 800-333-31-06 (They speak English)
In terms of documents, you will need:
- Passport – valid for at least 6 months at the time of applying, and having at least two blank pages
- 1 photo – 3×4 cm
- The booking of your flights/train/bus in and out of China
- Hostel/hotel booking
- Copy of your travel insurance
- А completed application form (downloadable on the website)
- Copy if your Russian Visa + Registration & Migration Card
- A copy of previously issued visas to China (if it’s not the first time you travel there)
- If you’re a student: a copy of your student ID and a letter from your university certifying you are enrolled there
- If you’re employed: a certificate of employment (with position, salary and length of service). You may also be asked to show a financial statement proving that you have enough funds for your stay in China – check with the Moscow office directly.
I know this looks like A LOT of documents, but the good news is you just have to hand them in to the Visa Centre, and they will take care of everything. You will have to leave your passport and about 5 days later you’ll be able to pick it up with a Chinese visa on it (You can also speed up the processing time up to 1 day, if you’re really in a hurry, for an extra price).
Price for a Tourist Visa is around 2,500 Rubles (variations depending on length of visa and number of entries)