A long-desired trip which I’ve been dreaming about for awhile now, marked with the number 8 on my travel bucket list finally came true: that was my recent Trans-Siberian trip. And since I’ve been getting a lot of questions – questions I myself had when beginning to organize this trip – I decided to prepare a post providing useful tips and information on a variety of matters concerning the life on the train.
Travelling on the Trans-Siberian is a life goal for many people around the world while for others it is either a distant and faraway possibility, an outrageaous and dangerous idea or, on the other hand, an exciting adventure they wish to live but they are completely unaware of the specifics when it comes to organizing it.
Before jumping on the train, I came across various dilemmas, as well as fear and anxiety, mainly caused by the lack of information provided by the Greek websites about the Trans-Siberian. There were many times along the way, I felt I should give up trying and focus on organizing an “easier” trip. And then, there were all those odds and ends – things you realise you need only after you’ve boarded the train. But hey, that’s the point, right? If you don’t experience something how will you be able to know the necessities, the must-haves and the things that make the trip easier?
Well, I’ll stop babbling – let’s move right into the post: my 10 essential tips/objects that you need to know or have before beginning this trip!
Start taking notes:
- Cleansing Wipes
Don’t even consider getting on the train without having packed at least 2 packs of cleansing wipes. That’s right! Should you decide to board the train on Moscow and get off at Lake Baikal without a stop, you will be on the train 4 days without a shower (unless you buy a 1st class ticket). They’ll prove to be extremely useful! Extra tip: buy a few pocket-sized ones to carry around at all times.
2. Toilet Paper
Two or three rolls of toilet papers will be just fine. Don’t ask me why, you’ll just need them. There is no toilet paper aboard the train and if there is, it is a strange, cardboard-like, grey…thing. Plus, living inside a ger in the middle of the Mongolian Steppe, definitely requires a stock of toilet paper. I won’t get into details. Just don’t forget to have some with you. End of story.
While on the train, most of the time you will be laying in your bed or just sitting in your cabin. Besides having some books, your computer or chatting with your fellow passengers, you’ll have to have some snacks in order to get yourself busy and spend some time entertaining yourself. Of course, there’s always the choice of the dining hall, however if you’re planning a low cost trip, you will need a good stock of snacks, water and various beverages. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, you can find pre-packaged food inside plastic bags, either in a store at the beginning of your trip, otherwise you can buy it from a street vendor in one of the train stops. Buy as many snacks as you can and be careful not to get supplies that need to be refrigerated and melt easily (chocolates, cheese etc).
4. Thermos bottle and a cup
Don’t forget to buy some coffee and tea! If you prefer a certain type of coffee or tea or a particular brand, make sure you get them before leaving your country. The endless hours aboard the train, you’ll need your hug in a cup a.k.a a cup of coffee or tea and since boiling water is provided free of charge, you should definitely take advantage of it! And how will you keep it warm? Using your thermos of course!
5. Solar Charger
Having read that inside the cabins there were but a few sockets to use and those were usually purposely sealed in order for the passengers to pay to use them, I made sure I packed three different power banks. You can imagine how proud I felt for myself the first time my phone was out of battery and I reached for one of them! How brilliant did I feel! Well, that was until my fellow traveller used his solar charger. Well, it seemed like I wasn’t the most clever person on this train anymore. I wrote it down for future reference and here I am, sharing my knowledge. (And as it turned out, you don’t have to pay to charge your electronic devices!)
6.Offline translation app
Originally built to solve the region’s transport problems, the Trans-Siberian is a vital means of transport to the people living along it. The majority of the passengers aboard the train are locals who usually don’t speak English and believe me, a few gestures or body language won’t help at all! Assumming that you own a smartphone, you should download Google’s translation app which has a great offline version which helped me a lot while on the train while being with Russians who speak nothing but Russian – it is certainly a go-to application while travelling.
7.Get to know your co-passengers
If it wasn’t for the cleansing wipes, this would be my number one tip for this trip: get to know as many of your co-passengers as possible. Whether if you are travelling solo or not, meeting new people is the essence of your trips. Besides being social and open to new cultures and ideas, you will take a peek into the lives of different people, having the chance to see the world through their eyes and their unique point of view. You’ll gain inspiration for your upcoming trips or life-long targets. Plus, being friendly and open means you’ll easily make some friends eager to share their snacks or meal with you if you’ve run out of.
8. Keep a log of your journey
Such a unique, distant and out-of-the-ordinary trip, is the epitomy of an adventure and without a doubt, it deserves to be remembered. Use a notebook to write down your thoughts, experiences, places, names and everything worth to be mentioned while aboard the train or when wandering around town. You don’t have to be a writer or a travel blogger to take notes – just use a notepad or your smartphone to keep a log of your journey using a few words and dates. And who knows? Maybe your little diary will end up being featured in a travel website or used as piece of evidence one day to convince your grandchildren that you did really take that trip!
9. Do not stray far from the train stations
The Trans-Siberian is a massive railway network connecting Moscow to Vladivostok or China. That can’t happen without stops. There are several stops along the way, lasting from 5 to 20 minutes or even 4-hours long. The safest thing to do when getting off the train at a station is to not stray far from it. There will be no annnouncement that the train is ready to depart or if there is, it will be in Russian and you won’t be able to tell. In that case, prepare to wave your luggage goodbye as the train will be leaving. To prevent such a misfortune, print a map with each stop along the way and double-check the timetable with the station master. And I shall repeat it one more time: Do not stray far from the stations!
10. Do not sleep the trip away
My last and most important tip is about sleeping. On your first day on the train, you’ll either feel sleepy or bored and you will find yourself falling in and out of sleep almost every hour! The fact that you will be chaning 8 consecutive time zones will make you feel constantly exhausted. Resist the urge to fall asleep or else you’ll be losing a great part of the magical landscapes of Siberia just outside your window. Try getting 8-9 hours of sleep per day and when up and awake, dress up like you’re about to head out – you’ll instantly feel fresh and ready to go!