Vladivostok – General info
Vladivostok, like Ekaterinburg, was a closed city during the Soviet era – even Russians needed permission to visit friends and relatives who lived there.
It opened up to tourists in 1992 and since then there has been a slow but steady increase in numbers, particularly from Japan and increasingly from the Chinese who are attracted by the chance, as they put it, “to see a little bit of what Europe looks like” as well as to gamble in the many casinos (a banned activity in China).
For other travellers, particularly those of you who have been living and working in Japan, Vladivostok is a great place to start your Trans-Siberian trip and the longest single train ride on the planet!
History of Vladivostok
On July 2nd 1860 Alexei Shefner arrived aboard a ship called the “Manchur” with thirty soldiers. They set up a military outpost, which they called Vladivostok, which means “owner of the east”.
When they arrived the region was well forested and full of Siberian tigers.
Within 20 years Vladivostok was designated a city and became a successful port. Due to it’s proximity to Japan the city has always had a strong military presence with the first coastal defence batteries being built in the 1870s.
In 1871 The Siberian Navel fleet and the Primorsky region’s Governor moved their operations from Nikolayevsk-on-Amur to Vladivostok. Since that time Vladivostok has been the home of Russia’s Pacific Fleet. Today a third of the population of 620,000 works in jobs related to the sea.
The Trans-Siberian terminus – Moscow is 9,288km from Vladivostok.
The idea of a railway to connect the two cities was conceived in 1877. By 1891 the station at Vladivostok was being built and to highlight the importance of this the heir to the Russian throne, Nicolas II, participated in the stone-laying ceremony.
One of the best stations
The first station building was simple. The current, more impressive construction was constructed in 1912 and is regarded as one of the best stations along the whole of the Trans-Siberian route.
In the 1990’s the station was extensively refurbished. At the terminal is an old steam engine with the number 9,288 on its side to represents the distance to Moscow.
Today – In the early 1990s Vladivostok’s developed a reputation as the wild Far of Russia.
Those days have past and now its importance as a port continues to grow as the city has opened up. Although the military still maintain a strong presence, trade, particularly with Japan and South Korea, is increasingly reshaping the city.
One of the clear signs of this is the almost total lack of Russian cars on the traffic jammed streets of the city – they are almost all Japanese. This and the pleasant aspect of a city by the sea sprawling over the hills, the cruise ships in summer, the plethora of café’s and restaurants and the restored historical centre give Vladivostok a prosperous feel that is pretty unique in Russia’s vast but relatively undeveloped far east.
Good to know
Vladivostok’s weather can be unpredictable due to its maritime location. Summers are warm and wet and the winters cold and windy but with little snowfall.
The gulf can freeze in the winter, not unusual in Russia until you realise that the city is on the same latitude as Nice in Southern France.
Money Exchange is recommended with banks and hotels (Hyundai) as to private exchange offices (open till 8pm) taking Euros, Japanese yen or US dollars. There are even ATMs in the downtown area. Major hotels and restaurants accept credit cards.
Vladivostok has major water supply problems despite the summer rains. We advise you to not drink water straight from the tap unless it has been boiled or filtered – bottled water can be bought in most stores and street booths.