The trans-Siberia train is one of the longest trains in the world. It connects Asia to Europe via the mega landscapes of Russia & Siberia. Here are 15 tips for travelling the trans-Siberia train. Tips are from Harm Kramer. (Interview with him coming soon!)
1st Trans-Siberia Train tip: FOOD
If you miss out all the tips in this article, the ONLY tip you should remember is BRING FOOD!
Food on the train is expensive and un-delightful. You are better off with your own food and drinks. (Ps: this also works on long-distance trains in China. I took a 10h train to Shanghai. Thankfully I had tons of food, otherwise I might have starved.)
- Biggest staple of travelling by train in Russia is morning tea that you order with the controller. It comes in glass and metal mugs. Tea in Russian is chai.
- Bring food. You can always get boiling water from controller for your noodles and instant mash. If you are starting in Vladivostok, go to the supermarket and buy a variety of Japanese and Korean ramens that you are unlikely to find outside of Asia. Other good foods to bring are butter, bread, cookies, canned meats, fish, pickled vegetables.
- If the stop length allows (45min+), come out to the platform. Almost always there are street food vendors with local food (sometimes even region specific). Enjoy Russian savoury pastries, sweets and even things like cured chicken.
- There used to be vendors selling things on the train (they stay on the train for a couple of stops). You can get souvenirs from them cheaper than in touristy stores in the cities. They commonly sell all sorts of glassware, knitted goods, handmade figures, etc. You can bargain with them.
- If you are passing Ukranian border, specifically close to Kiev, buy Kiev cake on the train. The one that I bought on the train was definitely in the top 5 Kiev cakes I’ve had.
- Chances are that your controller is doing the entire route just like you, so befriend them if possible – you’ll find out a lot of valuable information from them.
- If you want to take a shower, ask controller about it. You have to pay for it and they are the only ones who know how to set it up. Shower is Russian is douche (pronounced just like that).
- Don’t be intimidated by people telling you their entire lives. Russians have so called “fellow traveller effect” – telling about their entire life and all of their problems to a stranger that they will never meet again.
- You will be encouraged to drink with them but if you deny it’s okay. Russians strongly believe that they can outdrink every nation so you denying a drink just reassures a stereotype for them.
- Don’t count on electricity being accessible. Charge your electronics. Charge your powerbank. Use the battery wisely. Don’t wait it on stupid games when you need the alarm clock so you don’t miss the station! (Bring physical books to read instead.)
- All cars are sleeper cars. During the day, the lower beds transform into seats and you are meant to share them. So less privacy. Get the top bunk if possible.
Tips in Winter
- It was piping hot INSIDE the train. Maybe it’s a winter thing, as I was told it is a Russian cultural thing that they like warm houses in winter or something, but the train was at a consistent 27/28 degrees Celsius all night long. Expect to see people walk around in their underwear.
- Take sleeping pills with you. It helps a lot.
- Travel during spring or autumn instead, if possible. There is nothing to see outside during winter (everything is bare, the landscape is boring) and it is incredibly warm inside. That being said, winter is the low season, so it is cheaper. What trade-offs are you willing to make?
- Temperature drops significantly once the sun goes down (which is very early in winter time). The coldest was even -35 degrees Celsius.
Trevellers is my way to change the world. Through my stories, tips and lessons learnt, I truly hope to inspire you to get out of your comfort zone, see the world and see who you truly are. Travel is more than just taking a selfie at beautiful destinations. Travel is an adventure, where you can truly become who you are, give you the time to reflect and grow to become the person you’ve always dreamt of.