Trans-Siberian: is there life on the train?

tu-tu – train travel

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Travelling the Trans Siberian is all about trains. But have you actually been on any train for  THAT long? If you are one of the brave hearts coming on a Vodkatrain Ruski Huski or Budgeting Bolshevik to tackle the cold with the help of some vodka and a great attitude then you convinced yourself you can do it. And you are right! This doesn’t mean though that we won’t give you a hand with figuring out what the Trans Mongolian trains are, what it is there to do and what is the day by day routine on the longest train journey in the world. Keep reading and you will find some helful info to get ready for your train adventure!

Most Vodkatrain journeys include second class train compartments.

Cozy 2nd class compartment

It is great that these trains we travel on are the REAL scheduled trains and therefore there will be REAL local people who would be normally taking a train to visit their relatives in other cities, making their way to a holiday or going on a few day trip to do some sightseeing. You may also encounter soldiers, being relocated; police or railroad workers since they get a free ticket or families with children. These could be fun given they are older than 2 y.o. and don’t cry all night!

If you travel on a Budgeting Bolshevik, you will be in a third class compartment on a train leg between Moscow and Irkutsk. During these three and a half days you will witness a changing parade of people coming and going, some of them will go on after you get off (Russia doesn’t stop in Irkutsk!), but it is generally a totally awesome experience of meeting local people and getting to know what paths of life they come from. Although this may seem difficult with no profound knowledge of Russian, that is what happens! In no time you will know who is who around there! Third class is less comfortable than the second class as there is no doors separating you from a hall way and you need to be more attantive to your belongings but it is definitely an experience of a lifetime. Should you have more questions about the difference between the second and third classes, contact Vodkatrain or your local agent.

Any great journey starts from a good plan. Your plan (which is to get from Moscow to Beijing) should include the following points:

1. Board the right train at the right time. You can tick this box – your Honcho will take care of that for you.

Carriage attendant – “Provodnitsa”, possibly Olga

2. Find out what the train equipment is like, where hot water samovar is, how toilet and wash basin work, where the restaurant car is and what your Provodnitsas’ names are. It will often be Olga, Tatiana or Lyuba, as these are some of the most common russian names.

3. Settle in on one of the bunks, make your bed and enjoy the changing scenery for a while.

4. Get “birched out” and thus pull out some of the drinks that you picked at the supermarket before boarding the train. Go visit your fellow travellers in the neigbour compartments, play a few rounds of “hearts” or “500”. “Uno” goes extremely well after a few drinks and by then you might pick up some russian words from Nikolai or Ivan who would be speaking to you regardless of your mutual disability to understand each other.

Party goes on, but no need to go home!

Awesome part about being on the train for 3 continuous days is that you can have a party, meet people, travel the country, stay up and sleep in without worrying about a taxi to catch home, a job to go to in the morning or a mess to clean up. Well the latter might still be the issue. As russians say: “a soldier sleeps, but the service goes on”, meaning that you can have fun, enjoy the scenery, learn the language, read books, create 1000 and 1 ways of making instant noodles taste different and also travel the Trans Siberian railway!

Where are we?

5. A vital part of travelling the Trans Siberian is knowing where you are going through and how much time you have got at a station. No matter how attractive that babushka is on the platform you still wanna get to Beijing and celebrate the life on the Great Wall! Therefore, go check out and – what’s even better – print out a timetable for your train from Moscow to Irkutsk which will tell you what stations you will be going through, what’s the time difference with Moscow (all the trains operate on Moscow time) and  – most importantly – how much time you have got on each station! Your provodnitsa will be keeping an eye on you, but keeping situation under control should be the way you wanna do it! Click here for your timetable: Train 340-350 for VT

This timetable doesn’t include stations where you stop for less than 10 minutes as you won’t be allowed off the train on those. Very often, you wouldn’t want to anyways!

Now that you’ve completed your Hercules’ 13th feat and survived the 3,5 train journey, let us know what your experience was like!

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4 Responses to Trans-Siberian: is there life on the train?

  1. Sierd says:

    Collect all your mates in the restoran wagon and toast in all available languages! It’s the same place where you can have breakfast, lunch and diner 24h a day. And yes, that has to do with the timezones. Russians stick to Moscow or their own Siberian timezone, Mongolians adapt to UB time and the Chinese prefer to know what time it is in Beijing. What do you do?

  2. When you spend more than two days in the train it becomes like your second home you get to know all the conductors you spend a lot of time with… This section will provide you with some general information about trains in Russia as well as specific information timetable and routes of a few… ..But I guess it has only 2 because Ive traveled in that train and we go nikir replied to 1 month s ago Train tickets are easy to get even in the peak season I have always been able to get them on the day I wanted to travel…

  3. jouljet says:

    A ha ha ha – we have photos just like your party on the train…except we managed to cram 11 people into our cabin for a game of International Celebrity Head. I think there were at least 5 nations represented in the group too! The people you meet is an unforgettable aspect of this trip!

    • Vodkatrain says:

      11 in a compartment is pretty impressive! I couldn’t agree with you more that life on board and the people you meet are unforgettable aspects of every journey. Sharing a compartment on a train really helps you get to know people pretty quickly, sometimes even with the language barrier! When did you do your trip?

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