Travelling by train in Russia
Long-distance rail tours, and first of all, Trans-Siberian Rail tour are something many travelers crave to do. This famous route attracts multiple tourists being the longest railway that shows you numerous changing landscapes and gives you the chance to experience a unique way of travelling. You will gradually see the beauty and diversity of Russia as long as you go from Moscow to Ekatenburg, Irkutsk and Vladivostok – each of these cities has a very distinct face and can tell you a lot about the Russian history, different lifestyles and cultures in the country. Before you start considering this route as your next travel destination, we suggest you having a look on the specific of this trip.
Trains in Russia
Russian trains are quite special due to specifics of the routes. First, majority of the trains that operate in Russia are low-speed, with average 60 km/h speed. There are some routes where high-speed trains circulate like Sapsan train Moscow-Saint Petersburg or Moscow-Nizhny Novgorod. Second, the distances in the country are huge so many trains have only sleeping compartments which may be open (less expensive type of wagon called in Russian Platzkart) and closed (Coupe). Coupe has a door that locks from the inside to keep the privacy between the four people in the compartment.
Useful tip: it is convenient to have some comfortable clothes and slippers for the train. Every car is accompanied with the car attendant (in Russian provodnik) who usually speaks only Russian. Provodniks check your ticket, distribute bed-linen and sell tea, coffee and snacks. Some people say that the way to win provodnik’s sympathy is to purchase anything listed above.There are newer and older trains which differ in terms of comfort. The distribution of the two types is almost even, and in the Asian part of Russia older trains are still very common.
Eating on the train
There are two options to eat while in the train. First, you can use the dining car (in Russian wagon-restaurant) where you can purchase hot meals, salads and desserts, as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. You can find such dining car in most of the trains, usually it is located in the middle of the train, near the car 9. The prices start from around 200-300 roubles per meal. Some trains have bank cards payment options but they might have limited service when the mobile connection is bad. Thus, it is recommended to have some cash if you plan visiting the dining car. The second option is taking meals with you which is a usual way the Russians do when they travel by train. You can take some cooked meal for the first mealtime, as there is no fridge on the train. The very traditional thing is a home-made fried chicken, boiled eggs and vegetables. There is a joke that once you board the train, you can start eating your chicken! Also you can take noodles, muesli, instant pure or soups, teabags, water, and anything you can cook with hot water, as it is always available on the train. You can purchase snacks in kiosks on the railway platforms during the longer stops (10 minutes and more).
Hygiene in the train
The trains are equipped with the toilets that can be either portable toilet that keep their sewage in a tank or the ones that discharge their sewage onto the tracks. The latter are found in the older trains and still the chances to have them in train on the Trans-Siberian trip are quite high. The special thing about this kind of toilets is that they are closed 30 minutes before and after the stop and during the stop because of obvious reasons. Such toilet has a sign «Sanzona» on the door. Portable toilets are found in the newer trains and they are not closed during the stops. There is a shower available in one of the cars, you should ask the car attendant about it, it costs around 150 roubles.
What to do in the train?
Sometimes there is Wi-Fi on the train but rather on the newer cars so be ready to use your mobile phone Internet or even have a temporary digital detox while going with the train. On the routes the mobile connection can be also poor. The good news is that in the cities you can easily find free Wi-Fi in many public places like cafes, restaurants, and in hotels. There is much room for a peaceful leisure on the train, such as reading books, playing board games, listening to music, and of course sleeping. You can ask car attendant some board games like domino, chess or checkers, they are usually available free of charge. Train is a unique communication spot, since the distance is long, and sometimes people spend a few days on the way to another stop, so in case you speak Russian, it is a good way to practice the language talking to the Russians on the train.
Highlights of train trips that we described can be a bit too much of a wild travelling, so if you want a little more comfort and an organized program where you do not need to plan yourself, there is an option here. Transsiberian Dream offers you a unique experience that is thoroughly organized and planned for you. You will take a train with the comfortable Coupe department where you will have a chance to chat with other travellers but there will be more privacy for you to enjoy. You might want some during more than 17 days of travel, don’t you?! You will also explore each city with the excursions of professional guides that will help you dive into the history and culture of Russia. You will get to see the oldest line of Moscow metro, the place where East and West meet in Ekaterinburg, discover Baikal, the deepest lake in the world, and learn how Vladivostok became a vibrant capital of the Far Eastern Russia.
Thus, going with the train in Russia is the whole new world of travelling. If the tips we gave you do not make you reconsider your interest to Trans-Siberian Railway, you should definitely go for it! All in all, the train adventure is something you can hardly get anywhere else, because of the diversity of routes, interesting things around the train and a chance to see Russia the way it is.