Money to Take on the Trans-Siberian
In general we would recommend taking some cash (US$, Euro or £ Sterling) whilst also using ATMs to obtain local currency which is easily done in Moscow, St Petersburg and Beijing. It is also getting increasingly easy to find ATMs in the smaller Russian cities as well as Ulaanbaatar. Cash can be changed in hotels or at foreign exchange booths in Russian cities. Usually we would not recommend trying to obtain any other than minimal amounts of local currency in advance of your arrival in each country as rates will be better once there. Travellers Cheques can be difficult and time consuming to exchange.
Russia’s currency is called the Ruble which comes in 5000, 1000, 500, 100, 50 and 10 notes. An individual Ruble is divided into 100 Kopeks. There are plentiful ATMs in Russia’s main cities and most Russian towns and cities have exchange booths where you can change cash notes of most major currencies to Rubles. Note that cash notes need to be in excellent condition or exchange may be refused. Some booths will ask to see your passport. If heading to more remote parts of Russia away from towns and cities make sure you stock up on Rubles in advance.
Mongolia’s currency is called the Tugrik which comes in notes of of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000, 10,000 and 20,000. Don’t get over excited with a 20,000 note though as it is worth about £12! Changing cash in Ulaanbaatar at exchange booths is straight forward enough and the city has several ATMs. For any trips out of the city it is best to take the cash you need with you in local currency although small denomination dollars in good condition may also be accepted. Any Tugrik you leave Mongolia with will be souvenirs as it is nigh on impossible to change outside of Mongolia.
Chinese Yuan, also known as “Renminbi” (RMB) and “Kwai”, is king in China and used for almost all transactions in what is still very much a cash orientated society. The largest denomination is 100 which is approximately £ / €10 or US$15 so you’ll get used to carrying far more cash around on you than you do at home. Other denominations are 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. You rarely come across coins. Exchange rates within China at hotels, banks and ATMs are the same everywhere on any given day although commission rates may vary. ATMs are plentiful in major Chinese cities.
Card Payments Along the Trans-Siberian
Card payments have become the norm along much of the route and are even being rolled out on the trains in Russia. Contactless is useful for smaller payments but you should both let your card provider know you will be using the card in Russia (or it may be blocked on use) as well as check the rates they will use to exchange.
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