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Useful tips for Russian train travelers
Before starting your Russian rail trip, remember to pack carefully and try to decide what you really need and what you don’t. It is best to pack 2 large bags or suitcases per person. Packing several little bags can cause problems because they are easy to forget or lose and are more likely to be attractive to thieves that might be passing by your compartment during your journey. Think about putting all things that you will need during your Russian rail trip into one bag and all the other luggage into another. It might also be good to take a small bag with some food or books in it. Regardless if you are traveling from St. Petersburg to Moscow or from Moscow to Vladivostok, your Russian train travel will be more enjoyable if you pack accordingly.
Some suggestions of what you might want to bring:
- comfortable clothes for traveling (something in cotton, like a t-short, sport trousers or shorts and slippers);
- earplugs if you have trouble sleeping on trains;
- cup, plate, knife and spoon;
- food (muesli, junk food, fruit, water, noodles, tea bags, cookies and so on);
- any necessary medicine that you might need;
- hygienic things (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, lotion, a little towel, toilet paper, etc.);
- some interesting books, guide books; phrase book or dictionary;
- table games; notebook, pens, pencils and sheets of paper;
- pictures of your family and friends and maybe your dog;
- some small souvenirs from your country for your new Russian friends.
Once you have packed – go to the train station!
Once at the train station, look at the departure timetable (отправление), where your train number, time of departure and platform number (л-left side, п-right side) will be displayed. Train is usually at the platform and ready for boarding 40 minutes before departure.
Carriages are numbered on the 1st or last window of each car. A Provodnik (conductor) will be waiting at one of the ends of the carriage to take your tickets and welcome you aboard. After showing your passport and ticket (or only passport if you have an electronic ticket), you climb aboard the train. Sometimes the Provodnik takes one of the 2 pages of your ticket and sometimes he just tears the ticket a little. If he gives you back 1 page of the ticket, keep it until you leave the train.
All compartments have a table and spaces for stowing your luggage under the lower berths. Some trains mix men and women together in the same compartment. Just make sure to arrange it at the moment of booking the ticket. If you have Russian neighbors, they might welcome you to share their food with them. This is Russian hospitality! Do what you think will be fine for you. Sharing is fun!
Russian trains are usually very safe but you should always use common sense to guard against petty theft.
Unless you have bought an entire compartment for yourself or with friends fellow travelers might be a fat kolbasa eating guy or a nice old lady – you never know!!!
Train stops are good breaks to go outside, breath in some fresh air and stretch your legs. If possible, it is best to ask your neighbors to look after your luggage. Always mind the duration of the stop. It’s always good to be near the train because sometimes stops are shortened to make up for being late or for some other reason.
You may be surprised but there will be lots of local people selling a wide range of goods at most stations including homemade food, fruit, ice-cream, books, dishes, toys and clothes usually at very low prices. Sometimes it is annoying but this is part of the train experience.
Carriages usually have 2 WCs. Using the bathroom in the morning can sometimes take a long time due to a line of all of your fellow passengers also waiting to use the bathroom. When your train arrives to a major train station, the bathrooms will usually be closed for 45 minutes before and after the city. Prepare yourself for this nice ritual! Some very long distance trains will have showers at the end of the car.
1 hour before arriving at your station, the Provodnik may ask you to return the bed linens and towels to him. When disembarking, don’t forget to thank the staff and say goodbye to your new friends.
Unfortunately, we can’t anticipate all of the things that might occur during your journey (adventures, problems, annoyances, etc.) but always remember to be friendly, polite and well organized – this will serve you well on Russian train travel. We are sure that your journey will be great and that you will enjoy it! If you have any specific questions, just contact us and we will do our best to handle your queries.