Travel Tips for the Trans-Siberian Railway

Traveling on the Trans-Siberian Railway is the adventure of a lifetime! Not only will you set off on the longest railroad in the world, but you’ll enjoy changes in the landscape, wildlife and culture. While breaching Russia’s great expanses, you want to focus on fun, experiences and learning. To ensure you have a great time, we’ve compiled a list of important information and tips. These include tips for traveling in COVID-19, to ensure you have a carefree trip.

Packing:

How much luggage should I bring?

Each person should limit themselves to two bags or suitcases. By limiting yourself to two, you won’t hog storage space. Also, bringing too many small bags makes it easy to lose or forget one, or have it picked off. You may want to designate one suitcase for on-train needs, and another for excursions.

What sort of clothes should I pack?

Russian trains are famous for being warm. In fact, they’re so warm, you should bring breathable clothes to wear in layers. Sports clothes and slippers will work, and no one will judge! There’s no need to impress anyone on the train, even at dinner. Bring outerwear according to the season if you’ll be stopping off in cities and towns.

Toiletries and medicines

Some Russian trains have showers, so bring mini bottles of toiletries. Baby wipes will help everyone. Don’t forget things like toilet paper, a little towel, soap, toothpaste and a brush. Each bathroom has an outlet for electronics. Bring earplugs and an eye mask if you ever have trouble getting to sleep. Pack any medicine you need; there are no pharmacies in train stations.

Do I need to bring food and drink?

Whether or not your train ticket includes “services,” as in meals, you’ll want to pack at least some snacks. If you don’t have any meals with your ticket, you’ll want to bring food on the train, and have local cash to purchase food on and off the train. You can buy food in the restaurant car. You can also buy food in the stations both at stands and stores. Purchasing homemade treats can offset the cost of the Trans-Siberian railway  tickets by providing an affordable and interesting culinary experience while you ride. A samovar, or hot water dispenser, is available in every car of nearly every train. You could use this for soups and snacks for which you just add water. Don’t forget to bring a few bottles of drinking water, cutlery, napkins and plates. Officially, packing alcohol is prohibited. However, the restaurant car serves it and some people stow a little away. Bring a few extra snacks from home to share with Russian pals you may meet.

How can I stay entertained on the Trans-Siberian?

Modern trains usually have power outlets. Perhaps bring a portable charger too. Wi-Fi can be spotty in Siberia, as you might imagine. Bringing books, cards, a travel journal and paper puzzles can be fun. If you’re heading westbound, start journaling on the Yekaterinburg to Moscow train ride, before you forget what the unique Far East, Siberia, Mongolia, Mongolia or China was like.

What to expect…

Before boarding

After reaching the station and passing through security, looking at the departure schedule (отправление/otpravleniye) is your next move. There you will see your train number, departure time and platform number. Even if you’re in the Far East, all times are shown in Moscow’s time zone. Trains are often there forty minutes early. Carriage numbers can be found on the first or last windows of each car. A provodnik/provodnitsa (conductor) will welcome you aboard at one end of the carriage. Show your passport, ticket and then get ready to hop on the Trans-Siberian! If part of your ticket is returned to you, keep it until you leave the country.

Aboard the train

Stow your luggage under the lower berth in your cabin. You may need to make your own bed if you didn’t purchase a premium-level ticket. However, almost all tickets include bed linens. Booking on a special tourist train will provide true luxury. Otherwise, things can be a bit basic. For more privacy, book first class. If you don’t have a shower, you may be able to ask the staff to use theirs for a fee.

Nearly all compartments on the Trans-Siberian railway trains are unisex. A few trains have single-sex compartments. Your compartment mates could be anyone, so choose your bunk strategically if you can. Lower bunks offer more headroom but can become spaces to hang out during the day.

One hour before you reach your final stop, the provodnik will ensure you’re awake. You should take the linens off your bed and return them. For trains without bio-toilets, the restrooms may be closed while passing through the city.

At stations

You should stretch your legs and go purchase anything you may need. Beforehand, you might ask a neighbor who stays to keep an eye on your luggage. When disembarking, carry your ticket, documents, money and phone. Mind the time and don’t go too far from your carriage. Trains may depart suddenly if they’re running late.

Most stations have locals selling a variety of goods. This is a chance to pick up some Russian treats, both the edible kind and for entertainment or souvenirs. They’re usually inexpensive too. You might get smoked fish or pies from a babushka—but only if you have enough cash.

COVID-19 Safety Tips:

  • Third Class, (platskart) has an open plan, so don’t book in it. You could also book an entire four-person cabin for extra safety.
  • Purchase a ticket with included meals. You might also be able to have meals delivered to your car so you don’t have to be around so many people.
  • Pack enough snacks to avoid relying on the restaurant car or the communal hot water dispenser.
  • The higher the ticket class, the fewer folks you’ll encounter. Some trains have VIP cabins with their own private bathrooms.
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