Surviving the Trans Siberian

After a gruelling four day stretch on the Trans Siberian Express from Moscow to Irkutsk we had quick conflab in the carriage to offer fellow travellers some survival tips:

  • Pack Baby Wipes – ESSENTIAL for every eventuality and main source of washing (as no shower on board and toilets are locked at illogical interludes for long periods)

    Beautiful (mostly locked) bathroom facilities!

  • Take comfortable clothes – Pjs, joggers, t shirt/vest, flip-flops (Despite being -20 degrees outside, inside it can be over 30 degrees and the windows don’t open)
  • Make sure you have plenty of things to do – MP3 player, download books, films, take playing cards, guidebooks (good trip planning time), comedy stories, pens and paper (write an old skool letter…there isn’t much else available by way of communication)
  • Give some careful thought to the food you buy for the journey…cooking facilities consist of a hot water tap, but super noodles and even crisps get VERY dull, plus you need plenty of bottled drinking water (Vodka also very useful, unless a nice Russian man happens to give you a bottle as a present “From Russia with love”).

    Four days worth of food and "nutrition"!

  • Take a cup and some cutlery
  • Pack a roll of  Toilet paper
  • Use the toilet in plenty of time before station stops and border crossings
  • Get off at stations for a “quick” breath of fresh air
  • Visit the restaurant car for a change of scenery (but beware of the “Beef Tea” containing chicken, particularly if you have a poultry allergy!)

    "Borsch" AKA Beef Tea, which contained chicken...go figure!

  • Get back on the train before it leaves the station…they will leave without all passengers, without warning
  • Take a Trans Siberian Handbook for working out train times, stops, toilet breaks and for simply figuring out where on earth you are!
  • Take a gas meter box key(the one with a funny triangle shape) for locking your cabin, opening the window and the toilet
  • Make sure you take your sense of humour


  • Instant intimacy with complete strangers…you wouldn’t change your clothes in front of a bloke on the bus, but when you sleep opposite him you soon will!
  • Cabin fever…it will happen, but giving yourself a good talking to or taking your iPod to the toilet for a quick dance can help!

The onset of cabin fever!

  • Potential sense of humour failure, even from the funniest of people
  • Not showering, not washing your hair and wearing the same clothes for a long, long time

    Stunning shower room (again mostly locked) - thank goodness for baby wipes!

  • Stunning scenery, which stays the same for days


  • Cross the tracks to go to the shop on the opposite platform (in case a very long freight train comes along in the other direction and you have a hair-raising wave at your mate between the gaps in the bogeys as 40 carriages full of coal pass by!)
  • Buy meat from the Babushkas on the platform (unless you want to be put to bed by a Russian soldier whilst vomiting into a carrier bag and all over yourself, whilst not being able to use the toilet at the dedicated lockdown times)
  • Have an impromptu vodka party with 10 people in a four berth cabin (unless you wish the head provodnitsa (carriage attendant) to come along and threaten to get you thrown off the train by ringing ahead to the next station and get you deported!)

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But if it is an experience like no other you are after, which makes any other train trip you will ever take again pale into insignificance, then the Trans Siberian is for you! Hope these handy hints help you along your way.


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