Helsinki-Shanghai: 9,700 kilometers or 150 hours by train

September 10, 2017 — No comments

Adventure of a Swiss family! Simon, originally from Bremgarten, Canton Berne, works and lives with his family in Finnland. During the summer of 2017, he and partner Heidi travelled with their daughters Katja (12) and Rina (11) across five time zones from Scandinavia through central Russia, then southeast through Mongolia and on to China on the Trans-Siberia and Trans-Mongolia railroads. A trip of a life-time!

Helsinki to Shanghai

“Heidi instructs Russian at the university in Helsinki. Without her language skills it would have been extremely difficult to travel from Helsinki to Shanghai,” says Simon right off the bat and adds: “I wouldn’t recommend travelling in Russia without these language skills, especially not as a family.”

“In Mongolia and China, many directional signs, street names and menus are printed in English and in Beijing many Chinese speak some English. In Russia, basically everything is available in Russian only.”

Traveling for one month

“We were really surprised by the large number of tourists we met throughout our journey, however, most of them were local tourists: Russians visiting Russia and Chinese visiting China.”

To Irkutsk, the family traveled on the Trans-Siberian railroad, then switched to the Trans-Mongolian route going southward. Breaking up the route into eight segments of between eleven to 30+ hours duration each, they usually travelled on sleeper cars throughout the night, followed by a few days stay in a local hotel, exploring the region.

“The trains throughout Russia were modern and clean and the food, while meat-heavy and vegetable-short (since most everything is imported), the cultural change in terms of food in Mongolia and China was more difficult to handle, especially for our children,” adds Simon. However, yoghurt and milk products such as the Danone brand were easily available everywhere.

In Siberia, the trains were clearly the number one transportation vehicle for local people, but no Russian was travelling south to China, whereas the increasing middle class Chinese family frequently vacations in Russia, especially around lake Baikal, a pristine, beautiful region.

Adventures en route

Katja and Rina especially enjoyed the horseback riding in Mongolia, the zoo panda visit in China, the outdoor activities with the family’s homestay-family in Novosibirsk and the Mongolian yurt overnight. The two girls were very popular with the Chinese locals throughout who frequently asked to have their picture taken with these rare tourists from the West!

Together with swimming in the clear, but cold water of lake Baikal, hiking on the Chinese Wall, watching the wild horse-riding at the Naadam festival during the Mongolian national day, the world’s largest horse-and-rider statue of Dschinghis Khan and the incredibly fast Chinese train ride which took only five hours to cover 1,300 kilometers; the family experienced many unforgettable moments on this trip together from Helsinki-Shanghai.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip for the Swiss family that left many new impressions, memories and connections and also gave them a completely new sense of appreciation for the expanse of the lands and the efforts involved in living and traveling in this distant part of the world.

If you’re interested in more information about this trip, you can leave a comment for Simon and his family right here.  

About Silvia and Swiss Wanderlust


Switzerland travel enthusiast. Cat lover, bicyclist and classical music fan. I prefer walking over running and enjoy a good Swiss card game of Jass with friends.  More about Silvia and Swiss Wanderlust »

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Additional Information

The map shows the impressive family trip from Helsinki to Shanghai.

All Photos were taken by the family on the trip.

Helsinki to Shanghai
Helsinki to Shanghai


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