The Trans-Siberian Survival Guide
Is the Trans-Siberian Safe?
Trans-Siberian Safety Tips
How to Get the Best Seats on the Train
Toilets, Showers and Personal Hygiene
There is a toilet and a sink in every carriage, so you will have access to basic hygiene. They are not the cleanest possible, but not filthy either.
It makes sense to take some cleaning wipes, a personal roll of the toilet paper, and anti-bacterial soap, just in case. Only the 1st class carriages have the showers, but if you make friends with the conductor you might get access to those for a small fee. You might also want to take some light sandals.
Wi-Fi and Internet on the Trans-Siberian Train
There is no Wi-Fi on the train, but you can get a SIM with 3G/4G fast internet, so you can check your e-mails and Facebook along the way. The 3G (fast internet) coverage is pretty good along the whole Trans-Siberian railway while 4G is available in the vicinity of the big cities. One thing to keep in mind is that Russian mobile operators have roaming even in Russia, so it's better to switch on a special data roaming tariff, which will give you 1 Gig of traffic for a lower price when you get outside of the region you bought your SIM in. Any of the 3 main operators will do well: Megafon, BeeLine or MTS. Later in Siberia Megafon and BeeLine work better at places like Baikal Lake.
Luggage on the Trans-Siberian Train
Another thing is your luggage. Stealing does not occur too often, but it's a risk. So in case you have something too valuable, always carry it with you in a small bag and leave the big bag under the lower bunk bed seat (thereís a compartment for that – you have to open the bed to get it) or above the top bunk bed in the luggage compartment (hard to get to). Also, don't be afraid to ask your fellow passengers to look after your stuff if you go away and keep an eye on your belongings during the stopovers especially when people leave off the train.
Food and Water: Eating on the Trans-Siberian Train
Food and water is not a problem at all. The train stops every few hours and there are people selling delicious home-made ready-to-eat meals at the platform ñ even during the night. Itís actually a huge part of the experience getting those stuff and trying out specialities from every region. The most common foods are boiled potatoes, meat, salted cucumbers, and cabbage salads. They also sell drinks and water as well. It makes sense, nevertheless, to have your own stash of drinking water and some basic products (especially to have breakfast) at least for the beginning of the journey. Conductors also have a few items on sale but those may be a bit expensive.
Russian people usually bring with them some food, and buy some at the stops. What they traditionally bring is hard-boiled eggs, salted cucumbers, bread, dried cakes such as ‘Suckaris’, and sausage ‘colbasa’. On the stops they buy boiled potatoes, more eggs, cakes, beer, vodka, dried noodles, fresh or salted fish, and fresh vegetables such as home grown tomatoes, cucumbers. Many old Babushkas living in the cities where the Trans-siberian train stops prepare fresh food before each halt. It’s a nice business for them, and what they prepare is often very tasty. For example they make all kind of ‘Pirozhki’ e.g. cakes filled in with cottage cheese or meat, or vegetables, or fish.
Tea is a traditional Trans-Siberian train beverage. Every carriage has a dedicated boiler, so you can always get hot water for free and make your own tea in the traditional Russian train glasses in metal holders. There is a special cup, specific for the train: a glass slipped inside a metallic holder with a hand. One can ask a tea to the provodnik, who will fill up this special cup with hot water and drop inside a tea bag. The nice thing is to ask for the tea once and then to keep the cup and drink your own tea inside it. The hot water provided in the train is free, and as it is boiling it shouldn’t be dangerous to drink it. The food that is sold on the stations by locals is just great, delicious, and very cheap. You can buy everything: from a bottle of beer or water to home made potatoes, chicken breast, or smoked fish from Baikal lake. So, it's not necessary to stock any food with you, maybe only some things you won't find along the way, like muesli and milk. In the Trans-Siberian Route section of this website.
Hop On / Hop Off the Trans-Siberian Train: Stopovers
Really, the best way to travel along the Trans-Siberian, is to hop off the train a few times. In the Introduction section we list the places (in Russia) we think it is interesting to visit.
However, there's one little problem. Standard train tickets in Russia (including the Trans-Siberian) are not open — you will have a specific date and train that you should travel. So, if you would like to hop off along the way, you will have to either plan everything beforehand, or buy tickets as you go. But there's a danger (especially during high season) that there won't be any tickets left.
There is a way around it: some agencies (including the one that proposes services on our site - Services / Train Tickets) sell a special kind of train tickets, which allow you to hop off any place along a certain route. And then, after reserving another part of the journey, hop on the next train (and so on, as many times as you wish).
To illustrate, say, you want to go from Moscow to Beijing, and you know you want to stop in Novosibirsk for sure, but then, you don't know for how long you want to stop there, or if you will stop anywhere else afterwards. Then you book the whole journey Moscow - Beijing, and also claim you will stop in Novosibirsk for sure, but then want to be free about how long you'll spend there, and about your next train, and about where you will stop next. You will buy the ticket Moscow - Beijing, with the route Moscow - Novosibirsk paid completely, the rest of the route (Novosibirsk - Beijing) will be paid half price. When you stop in Novosibirsk, and spend enough time there, you will need to come to the railway station, show them your ticket (with Novosibirsk - Beijing paid half price), and tell them you want to take a specific train going on a specific date from Novosibirsk to a certain destination (Irkutsk, for example). You will need to pay extra on top of your ticket (in this case, about $30), and will have another part of your ticket paid completely (the part Novosibirsk - Irkutsk, that is). After you arrive to Irkutsk, you enjoy there, and when you are sure about your plans, go to the railway station again, and buy the other part of the route. Finally, when you reach Beijing, you will have used your ticket. Before you reach the final destination, always keep all tickets you bought with you — don't throw them out.
Again, you can get this type of tickets through agencies only (not at a railway station), and the agency we work with can provide you these tickets (we used their services ourselves Summer 2002 and were very satisfied).
To book your ticket, you can go to Services / Train Tickets.
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