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Useful tips while traveling on the Russian railways
Before starting your trip along the Russian railway, 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 of your other luggage into another. It might also be good to take a small bag with some food or books in it.
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 (َُِْـقًمٍوم), where your train number, time of departure and number of your platform (ً-left side, ُ-right side) will be displayed. The train is usually in the station 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, you climb aboard the train. Sometimes the Provodnik takes one of the 2 pages of your ticket or sometimes he just tears the ticket a little. If he leaves 1 page with you, hold onto it until you leave the country.
In 2nd class compartments, the Provodnik will distribute bed linens at a cost of about 1 or 2 USD (on many trains, these will be included in the price of the ticket). In 1st class compartments the linens almost always are included in the ticket price. Your berth will also come with a blanket, pillow and mattress. All compartments have a table and spaces for stowing your luggage under the lower berths.
Almost every Russian train mix men and women together in the same compartments. If this is a problem, you might want to ask your Provodnik if there is a possibility to switch compartments with someone. This however is not always easy to do. If you are traveling in 2nd or 3rd class, you and your neighbors will most likely sit on the lower berths during the day - with people climbing back into their own berths at night. 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. You are also randomly assigned to your compartments (unless you have bought an entire compart for yourself or with friends) so your fellow travelers might be a fat, kolbasa eating guy or a nice old lady - you never know!!!
Train stops are a good time to go outside, take in some fresh air and stretch your legs. If it possible, it is best to ask your neighbors to look after your luggage. Always keep track of the duration of the stop. It's always good to be near the train because sometimes it goes spontaneously - especially if it is late and trying to make up some time. It is also best to always have your ticket, documents and money with you when you leave the train.
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 Russian railway experience.
Carriages usually have 2 WC. 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 main 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. If your car does not have a shower, you may want to ask the Provodnik to help you arrange a shower. He can usually help if you pay him a little.
1 hour before arriving at your station, the Provodnik may warn you. At this time, you should return the bed linens and towels to the Provodnik. 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 Russian railway journey (adventures, problems, annoyances, etc.) but always remember to be friendly, polite and well organized - these traits 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 try to answer you as best we can. Buy your Moscow St Petersburg train tickets with us today.
Traveling on the Russian railway is easy and can be lots of fun
To learn more about Russian railway travel, read this section of our website