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Russian Logistics

by Tyler

A few months ago, Tara's brother Lian jokingly mentioned we should drive across Russia. His idea was in response to a logistical problem we've known about for some time: we don't have the six months it would likely take us to cross Siberia on our bikes. We want to cycle Southeast Asia late this year, hopefully arriving at our final destination of Kuala Lumpur in the first month or two of 2011.

Because we'd prefer to avoid lugging our bicycles in and out of the Trans Siberian Railway's trains, and because we like to travel at our own pace, the idea of driving struck a chord with both of us that is still ringing.

I spent the entire morning, afternoon, and evening alternating between working on programming projects for my clients and trying to figure out how the heck we're going to make it happen. We've dealt with some pretty impressive bureaucracy on this trip, but everyone we've spoken with in the last few months has warned us that buying a car in Russia will easily dwarf everything we've seen yet.

I'd all but given up hope on the idea until Evgeniy, a Moscow native who we just connected with thanks to a friend of mine back home (thanks Tony!), suggested buying a car in an EU country and driving it into Russia. According to Evgeniy, smart Russians buy their cars in Germany.

It is a little convoluted, and may well prove to be financially infeasible, but we're seriously considering it. The rough idea is that we continue riding towards Russia, taking a train at some point to Berlin where we're told it would be very easy to buy a vehicle. Once there, my friend Tony (thanks again, Tony!) has friends and family, one of whom is a car nut who could help us out.

Then, we'd hit the road for Russia! Assuming we can make this work, we'll spend two months going slowly over Russia's terrible roads, fighting break-downs, corrupt police, and giant, bear-eating mosquitoes. Sounds like fun!

Here are some possible vehicle candidates at the moment:

Lada Niva

Lada Niva

Toyota HiLux

Toyota HiLux

Fiat Panda 4x4

Fiat Panda 4x4

A few feet away, Tara has been journaling up a storm and researching Plan B, cycling portions of Siberia with a few legs on the Trans Siberian Railway to make up time. No matter what we decide to do, we have a challenging adventure before us.


We've just received word from Rob over at The Mongol Rally that the drive from Moscow to Ulaan Baatar is well paved and maintained to a good level. It looks like we could make the crossing in a little econobox if we wanted to.

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I must say option 1 looks like the most adventurous choice- I especially like the sporty pictures of it climbing up on a stump!

I know whatever you end up doing will be an amazing adventure!
Posted by Liz Kelley on May 6th, 2010 at 10:04 AM
I would prefer to ride on my bike and get the Trans-Siberian train to make some legs, because you can take it during the night, where you can sleep in quite confortable beds... And the trains are quite cheap in Russia. The bike cannot go with you, but in the luggage wagon. Try to get some infos.
Posted by Nuno Pragana on May 6th, 2010 at 10:40 AM

We have a few weeks to mull on the idea as we ride north. Also, we just received some great news from the guys over at The Mongol Rally about the road we're intending to take:

The drive from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar is regularly done in less than 9 days. It is well tarmaced and maintained to a good level.

These guys do the drive in little econoboxes every year! Cool.


We're up to speed on the Trans-Siberian railway and the ins-and-outs of taking it with bicycles, but we really don't want to use it! We want to see the countryside at our own pace :)
Posted by Tyler on May 6th, 2010 at 11:05 AM
People all over Europe go to Germany to buy used cars. I spent 6 months as a graduate student in Germany (and I bought a car while there without too much trouble). A fellow graduate student from Serbia told me Serbs go to Germany all the time to buy cars. I subsequently met Swedes who told me they would plan vacations to Germany when they were in the market for a used car. My guess as to the reason for this is that Germans like newer cars, so cars depreciate faster there than in other countries, making them a good buy.
Posted by Quentin on May 6th, 2010 at 8:15 PM
I think, you should buy a russian car. It will be easy to repair it in some distant village, and repair will be cheaper. Really. I am from Russia, i know it ..)
Posted by Anonymous on May 12th, 2010 at 9:58 AM