Many people who heard about our trip plan told us that they are the most envy about the trip by Trans Siberian Railroad. Every time when i heard about it i was really surprised, as personally for me the best journey is going to start when there is no sign of civilization- which is most likely somewhere in Mongolia. Russia and Poland doesn’t differ too much when comes to the scenery and overall culture, but countries like China, Laos, Thailand or the whole Indonesia thats a different story and for me this is when my real journey will begin.
Before I go over our personal experience and observations i would like to share some historic facts about this legendary method of transportation because they are very impressive:
- it is the longest railway line in the world build in turn of 19th and 20th century,
- the train travels from Moscow to Vladivostok and from there it take 2 days on the ferry to get to Japan
- the total length of the railroad from Moscow to Vladivostok is 5,772 miles ( if you want to go across the US from Key West to Seattle, WA that is about 3,456 miles)
- if you travel the Trans Siberian Railroad you go through 8 time zones which is one zone more than if you would have traveled between Poland and Mexico.
When comes to the more practical information lets start from purchasing the tickets. If you are thinking or maybe even planning to travel on trans Siberian train you have to make sure that you will be able to get the tickets to the exact transit that you planned to go and do it ahead of time as the train gets filled up really fast. I have to admit that we were very lucky to get tickets couple of days before our planned trip with pretty good seating arrangement. Important is the fact that you have to plan this ahead of time, if not you might end up buying tickets without seating option and you might have to sleep next to the walk and the doors which is not most convenient and sometimes this trip might take up to 7 days (!!!). The train leaves from Moscow 2-4 times a day and even though it runs pretty often it gets packed really fast!
Availability and prices you can check directly on their website which is www.rzd.ru. There is also an English version, which helped us a lot considering the fact that we can’t speak (not even mention read) Russian fluently. The price is based on how far you are going and how comfortable you want to be while traveling. In our case we chose the “low budget” option called “plackart”. Very similar option to the one we chose traveling from Minsk to Moscow……..train compartment without doors with assign sitting/bunk bed. Price also included clean sheets, pillow and blanket. There is also a cafe car where you can enjoy hot dish as well as cold beer or even stronger beverages. If you choose to dine in you have to know that this come with a pretty hefty price tag. Very interesting thing for us was that you could buy cigarettes there but “officially” you could not smoke in the train. Of course- unofficially- everyone was smoking in walk through areas and if this was your unlucky day and the train conductor caught you red handed you had to throw away your cigarette which was a waste, but beside that there was no consequences. Luckily for us we were able to “break that law” without any confrontations.
When comes to eating while traveling besides the option of making your own food, you could choose the best, cheapest and really delicious option of buying your food from “babushkas” who were waiting at the train station selling “piroshki” with different filling. Not only that- you could buy cold beer, water, ice cream or cigarettes from them. You could also buy all the above named products on the train but they were much more expensive. It is also worth mentioning that “piroshki” that were sold by “babushka” has nothing to do with our Polish “pierogies”. They are much bigger and made of yeast bread like dough and are stuffed with different filling- cabbage, potatoes and meat. They are really tasty and satisfying and you can buy them for about 100 Russian rubles which is a little less than a dollar. While traveling we had an unlimited access to hot water and through the train conductor you can order a cup of coffee for about 30 Russian rubles ( 0.70$).
Let’s talk a little more about the overall experience while traveling- which was very satisfying. You can be pretty comfortable resting even if you are as tall as i am. There was one thing that was bothering us………high temperature! You might think that if we go through Siberia we should be freezing our asses off but as a matter of fact it was hot as hell. Right now as i’m writing this, and it’s about 10pm the temperature is around 84F. During the day it was even worse as the temp got to around 95F and there is no AC in our train car. We do have windows which are open a little but that does not help even though if everyone wears the bare minimum. The air is so thick which makes it even worse and during the day you can see your sweat dripping down.
People that we met on the train proved again that “Russians are not that scary” as we portray them. As we traveled from Moscow to Chelyabinsk we met a group of soldiers- young 20 year old men that were ending their year long deployment during which they weren’t able to see their family and friends. They were happy and very laid back. We connected very quickly and when we became more friendly they didn’t let us out of their sight. Of course alkohol helped us communicate even better and with our broken Russian we were able to talk about different topics. With a big interest they were listening about our journey and with disbelief they were looking at our backpacks. They also were showing us their military equipment which was very impressing. One of them was trying to sell us some stuff for pennies so he could get couple of beers at the train cafe car. We asked them about the overall military experience but they admitted that most of them weren’t satisfied and that they didn’t like that experience. At the end of our trip they gave us a couple of “souvenirs”: their name tag and the belt with the hammer and sickle logo on it.
If you want to see a little summary of our trans Siberian trip you have click on the video below and even though the video is in Polish you can definitely see how much we enjoyed our trip! 🙂