The Silk Road

What To Expect From The Trains On The Silk Road

The Silk Road goes through many countries, but I am surprised by how little the standard of the trains did vary across the borders. The first ones we took were Chinese trains from from Beijing to Urumqi and Urumqi to Almaty.

We were staying in soft sleeper, 4 berth compartments that had plenty of storage space, a 220v outlet, adjustable speakers and air ventilation and a tv with remote and six channels for each of the beds. The restaurant cart had a good selection of what looked like airplane meals that were readily packed with a variety of meat, rice and vegetables for around 40rmb per set. Ordering a bowl of rice on the side would just be 2rmb and a can of beer was 5rmb, the same price you would pay in a shop or cheap restaurant in Beijing.

Toilets were also quite descent where they had both an Asian squat style toilet in one side of the carriage and a more spacious Western style toilet on the other side. Both unisex and both very clean throughout our train rides.

The Khazak trains were a lot more slow and our short trip from Urumqi to Almaty took as long as our first trip across all of China (33 hours) although the last one including a four hour border crossing. The trains were also much more old, reminding a lot like the Russian trains described in the post “what you can expect from the trains on the Trans Mongolian Railway”.

The night trains stayed pretty much the same throughout all the -Stan countries, with just some changes of compartment colors and the food and style of the train restaurants. For our day trains only lasting a few hours in Uzbekistan we had seats in an open carriage for approximately fourty people who all shared the same movie screens and bathrooms. It was still quite comfortable, and during the rides people would come by handing out included food and drinks for the passengers.

The Iranian train from Mashad to Isfahan also included lots of drinks and snacks and was a major step up from what we had gotten used to in the Stan countries. The carriages felt more spacious, it was super clean and the toilets were modern with a flush button instead of just a step on pedal that would dump in all on the railroads. The joy of the luxurious Iranians trains were not everlasting and for the train from Isfahan to Teheran was with 6 berth compartments, more like the Chinese “hard sleeper” compartments.

For the Trans Asian Express from Teheran to Isfahan we went half way with the nice Iranian trains that we had used before and half with Turkish Trains that were a bit older but had a very lively restaurant for the evenings where we would drink Rake and wrestle the locals. The scenery on the Turkish side was magnificent with rivers and mountains running next to the railway. When arriving Ankara I was a bit sad that I had to get off, as it had been a such a good ride..