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This spring, our Japanese-language correspondent Kuzo travelled to Thailand, where, among other things, he treated himself to the largest hamburger we’ve ever seen. All that beefy goodness must have given him plenty of energy, since he’s back on the road again, this time travelling all the way from Beijing to London by train.

Ideally, Kuzo would have liked to make his whole journey, from his apartment in Japan’s capital to his hotel in the U.K.’s, by train. Unfortunately, the only ways to get from Tokyo to Beijing are by boat or plane. After that though, our reporter spent the remainder of the trip riding the rails as he passed through nine different countries.

Such a complex itinerary requires more than just a spirit of adventure though, and the first step in our reporter’s preparations was purchasing a ticket for the Trans-Siberian Railway. The easiest way to do this is to go through a Beijing-based travel agency, such as Beijing Sampo, who hooked Kuzo up with a private box seat from Beijing to Moscow for about 100,000 yen (US$990), which included the processing fee.

Luckily, Kuzo was able to get a ticket for the day he wanted, but we recommend making your reservation well ahead of time. There are only two rail departures a week from Beijing to Moscow, and during peak travel times tickets have been known to sell out.

The first leg of Kuzo’s trip would take him from Beijing to Moscow, via the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. While he wouldn’t need a special visa to enter Mongolia, Russia was a different story. So, the next thing to do was to contact Donguri Tours, a travel provider in Japan, and get our reporter set up with a Russian ground-entry visa.

Among the pieces of information travelers have to provide are their point of entry into Russia, as well as the date and time they’ll be crossing the border. It’s important to make sure you have these listed as per Russian local time, because showing up before the time designated on your visa application can cause complications getting into the country (arriving later than the indicated date, by comparison, seems to not be much of an issue).

Once Kuzo’s visa was ready, he booked his flight to Beijing and a hotel there for the first night of his trip. He also forwarded the address of where he’d be staying to Beijing Sampo, and arranged for them to meet him in the lobby to deliver his ticket.

Kuzo would be making eight transfers between Beijing and London, switching trains at Ulaanbaatar, Moscow, Kiev, Warsaw, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam, and Brussels. Each train on his route has a dining car, so he knew he wouldn’t have to worry about starving to death. Still, before leaving Beijing, he stocked up a few supplies, since he knew he’d be able to use the provided pots of hot water on the train to make instant noodles, at least.

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The dining cars don’t take credit cards, but Kuzo was able to pay in Euros, US dollars, or the currency of whatever country he happened to be in at the time. The major stations along the way also have stands where you can buy something to eat on the platforms (they generally only accept local currency). Most memorable of all, though, were the women who came up to the train during a stop near Lake Baikal in Siberia to sell food to the passengers, although Kuzo reports that some of it, particularly the fish, seemed to be going bad.

▼ Food from the Chinese dining car

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During the first leg of his trip, Kuzo made reservations for the second by taking advantage of the train’s Internet access. Using his iPad, he booked a ticket from Moscow to Kiev, following the tips he’s found online to navigate the Russian-language website. Alternatively, travelers can make arrangements in English through the website Since this is, once again, an international route, you’ll need to provide your passport information when making your reservation.

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▼ The compartment even had an outlet where he could plug in his laptop, although the power did cut out on occasion.

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At the borders between Mongolia and Russia, Russia and Ukraine, Ukraine and Poland, and Poland and Belgium, passengers have to go through immigration procedures. Some of these crossing were in the middle of the night, which was a bit of a pain for the sleepy Kuzo, but he recalls that the officials were friendly and kind, especially in Russia.

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▼ These stops are also a good chance to pick up snacks.

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▼ Have bananas and Yoshi drinks, will travel.

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▼ Kuzo’s meaty Mongolian meal

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▼ The Russian feast, his favorite of the trip

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▼ Accompanying the Russian fare was a bottle of mineral water from Lake Baikal

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▼ The newsstand in Irkutsk Station in Russia

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▼ Starbucks Russia’s matryoshka tumblers

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Tickets tend to sell out quickly for the train from Kiev to Warsaw, so Kuzo booked this passage while he was still in Japan by using an Ukrainian travel agency, then picking up his ticket after he got to Ukraine.

▼ Rich, tasty Ukrainian stew

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Once in Poland, travelers can use Eurail’s Global Pass, which should save them quite a bit of cash. Once again, Kuzo got his before he left Japan from the travel provider Rail Europa.

By the time you reach Germany, with its intricate rail network, you travel options open up considerably. Frequent departures also give you a lot more flexibility in scheduling, but even still, reserving a seat is recommended for the limited express trains, so that’s what Kuzo did after arriving in Hamburg. He did the same thing in Amsterdam, and both times the staff was happy to explain where he needed to transfer, as well as provide copies of the timetable.

▼ Sausage and potatoes? We must be in Germany!

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In Brussels, Kuzo hopped on a Eurostar train (having reserved his ticket through while still in Tokyo), and a while later, he pulled into London, having completed his marathon train journey. We’re not sure how exactly he’s getting home, but something tells us that after planning this trip, finding his way back to Japan should be a piece of cake.

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Photos: RocketNews24
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