Our route from Irkutsk to Nur Sultan (Former Astana), the capital of Kazakhstan. Passing through Omsk on the way using more trains!
We were struggling a bit to find a easy route into Kazakhstan from Irkutsk since we wanted to continue our trip into Central Asia. Having only one condition: no flights.
Looking at the map made it seem pretty easy, Nur-Sultan is just right next to Irkutsk. Once we zoomed in we noticed it is almost 3000km if you drive by car. Eventually we found out that there is a train from Omsk that goes directly to Nur-Sultan. Also there is a straight train connection from Irkutsk to Omsk! Bingo…. when we tried booking the trains we noticed two things:
- The train from Omsk to Nur-Sultan only runs on Wednesday and Saturdays
- The border crossing from Russia is after midnight so we had to take make sure we have enough days left on our 30 day visa.
Taking the train on the Wednesday fitted our 30 day Russia itinerary perfect having only 1 day left as soon as we left Russia.
Day 1 – Sunday funday with the Vodka Ladies.
At 17:00 we got on yet another long distance train, luckily this was “only” going to take 38 hours. Read our adventure on the Transsiberian blog about how we survived a 3 day, 11 hour and 32 minutes train.
Our bunk buddies for this trip where 2, +/-40 year old women who where on a little holiday to Omsk. First few hours we didn’t really speak since they didn’t really speak any English. We though this was going to be an easy and quite train ride. Oh boy, we were wrong. When they came in they had 3 suitcases full with stuff, we later found out that they were literally filled with bottles of beer.
Following the good Russian train tradition we had to drink beer. (If a Russian woman tells you to do something, you just do it). The bottles of beer just kept coming and coming and eventually we finished the same amount you would drink at a pub. While out with your mates. Drinking a lot. Terms of almost crawling back home.
Since they never meet foreigners on this train route they wanted to celebrate. This meant going to the restaurant wagon for some partying. After this everything got a bit foggy only knowing we had waaaaay too much Vodka.
Day 2 – Hungover on a train
Waking up to probably one of the heaviest drinking nights on this trip so far, we felt pretty bad. Mix that up with being in a train that moves, bounces and rattles constantly…. well, you get the picture.
The Russian ladies wouldn’t be real Russian ladies if it was not for the fact that they already started drinking more beer at 10:00 in the morning!
We on the other hand were both pretty satisfied and spent the rest of the day surviving the bouncy train.
Day 3 – Omsk
Early morning in Omsk we found our way to the Hostel. They owner of the hostel already prepared our room and we could check in right away (07:00). After some sleep in a steady bed we made our way into the city center. We already knew there wasn’t much to see but still we spend the afternoon strolling around. We visited the different parks, the local Orthodox Church and walked around on Lenin Street (Main shopping street).
During our time in the city center we noticed we where the only foreigners. There was literally no backpacker, tourist or any other English speaking person to be found!
We went for some Coffee at a cool coffee place on Lenin Street called Sokol Coffee. They draw a portrait of you on your coffee cup!! Pretty fun, and they have good coffee too.
Day 4 – Beach in Omsk + Train
Since the weather was good we decided to walk into the city center and relax on one of the beaches around the rivers. Had a nice picknick and wandered back to the Hostel. Since outside the little beaches, church and Lenin Street there is nothing else to do.
Unfortunately our hostel host kicked us out of the hostel since his mom needed to clean the hostel. (weirdess thing ever in a hostel, not a nice sign of hospitality) we went to the local KFC had dinner and made this nice little blog:
Until it was time to board the train to Kazakhstan – Nur-Sultan. The train attendees are really friendly and seemed very excited having an Icelandic and a Dutch person on their train. At around 01:00 the train stopped at Russian border an the Russian customs officers boarded the train. For some reason the customs officers always look intimidating and very unfriendly. Took them quiet a while analyzing our passports but finally we got the stamp! We where allowed to leave Russia.
But 5 minutes later one of the officers came back asking for our passports again. We both got this Oh-Oh feeling…… only to find out this very friendly officer was just curious and wanted to practice his English, and see an Icelandic passport up close.
After this very nice chat about our stay in Russia he seemed very delighted and send us off on a good trip to Kazakhstan. About an hour later we stopped at the border of Kazakhstan where another not smiling custom officer handled our passport. This whole process literally took only 10 minutes and answering the question of our travel purpose with tourism he seemed happy enough to give us a new stamp!
YESSS we are in a new country! Time to get some sleep.
Looking back at the whole trip from Irkutsk to Nur-Sultan we had fun, but it probably would have been nicer to take a budget flight to Nur-Sultan. Saving both money and time. But on the other hand it was really fun to travel to a city without any other travelers. Also during the train rides all the fellow (local) travelers and customs officers really took an interest in us, since they hardly see any foreigners around here!
So if you have time during your travels and like a bit of an unbeaten path this is definitely a recommendation!
Our next blog will come out soon and will feature the weird and fun capital of Kazakhstan: Nur-Sultan.
Check out our route page to see our current position on the map!