Are you planning on taking the Trans Siberian Railway, but unsure how your experience will be when you do take it? Or you perhaps trying to plan how you can make your experience best to your possibility when taking the train?
Well in this article I will be sharing with you my experience of taking the Trans Siberian railway for short distances and long distances. Some my trips took less than 10 hours, whereas I’ve had certain travel experiences of spending 4 days on the train non stop.
Buying Train Tickets, How To Get Them For Cheap
If you are looking to buy the train tickets without extra fees and don’t want to go through agencies, then you can buy it directly from the Trans Siberian Railway website. You can choose the English version for the site if you don’t know Russian.
As long as you have a credit card, you should be able to book a ticket for fairly decent prices online.
Buying online and at the counter at the station, the prices are the same, so it’s better to buy it online and then print your ticket once at the station at one of the small kiosks or with those machines.
Is The Trans Siberian On Time?
YES! I was amazed how the trains are always on time. Compared to my experiences with Amtrak in the U.S, The Trans Siberian Railway in Russia is much more reliable and have amazing prices. Amtrak does not come anywhere close to the Russian Railway.
If you are thinking that you can come late 5-10 minutes later than the actual departure, you are mistaken. You better be there on time with your ticket, otherwise they are leaving without you!
Luggage Storage On the Trans Siberian
The luggage storage on the trans siberian is not that bad to be honest. You have plenty of room to put things. Big suitcases and bags are a hassle to carry with you so it is best advised to bring smaller suitcases, but even if you have big suitcases there is enough room to store them under the berth.
If interested read: Best suitcases for backpackers and digital nomads
Though I would advise the Amazon Basics Brand of suitcases, because it’s easier to carry and doesn’t pose too much headache to carry with you.
Anyways, you have the option of storing your luggage under your bed if you are on the lower bunk, or on the upper compartment if you are on the upper bed.
How Comfortable Are The Beds on The Train
The beds are okay I would say. Not the most comfortable but not horrible, so it’s okay. For taller people, 180cm+ it might be a little difficult for leg room, because the beds are short and small, so there isn’t much room to move around.
It feels like you are confined in a box, so the beds could be better and could use improvement. Luckily though I am not too tall or stocky, so it wasn’t too bad for me, but anyone who is over 180 cm and 90kg, it will take some time to get adjusted to the bed.
If you are on the lower berth, it might be a little easier for you since you won’t have to climb up everytime you want to get to your bed and there is more room compared to upper bunks.
You have hangers, overhead lights, and a small net to store your belongings while you sleep, so besides the lacking space, it’s decent. The bed is not too hard nor too soft, so it’s not too bad on the back. However, after 20 or so hours of laying there in bed can get somewhat uncomfortable if you don’t get up to stretch and walk.
Do You Need To Bring Your Own Blankets and Sheets?
No you don’t need to bring your own blankets or sheets when taking the Trans Siberian. To be honest, they are pretty clean and well washed. You know the feeling of freshly washed linens and cloths right? Well that’s how the sheets feel when you receive them.
You also get a towel for hygenic purposes. Though I never really used the towels provided by the Trans Siberian, they are pretty clean and well washed.
The only problem I have with blankets and sheets are the thickness of the blankets, because they are pretty thin and during the night when the train gets chilly, you can get cold, so it’s not a bad idea to bring travel blankets with you in case you get a little cold.
My recommendations for travel blanket is the Coolmax travel blanket, because it is thin, light, and very portable.
How Safe Is the Trans Siberian Railway?
I’ve taken it a few times and never have I felt unsafe or uncomfortable. The people are pretty nice and some offer to share their food with you. If you are a foreigner and from a different country some will want to know more about you and your culture, so it’s always a pleasant experience to talk with the locals.
You would assume Russians like to drink and get rowdy during the night, but as far as my experiences go, no one really cared to drink nor were there disturbing noise during while trying to sleep. Everyone seemed to behave well and there are plenty of conductors and employees on the train keeping an eye out for suspicious activity, so safety is not something to worry about.
However, one thing that kind of bothered me is how the Train stations don’t really care much to check luggages and what’s inside it. Yes, you do go through scanning process, it’s not that enforced, so you could easily smuggle something on the train.
Do You Get Bored On The Trans Siberian Railway?
If you are taking long distance trains for 2-3 days, yes you DO get bored so bring something with you that will keep you entertained. Since in most cases you have limited number of outlets, you do run the risk of running out your phone and laptop battery.
Bringing a journal, a book, cards, or some other non digital forms of entertainment is a good idea while taking the Trans Siberian.
You can always converse with the people on the train and converse about whatever topic assuming both of you can understand each other’s language well. Otherwise, you’re stuck for hours and hours trying to keep your mind going insane.
Oulets for charging phones and batteries
Depending on the train you take, some of the newer ones do have outlets in the 2nd class compartments, whereas some don’t and have only a few outlets out in the hallway.
Be sure to buy one of these adapters for your travels if you want to have battery though!
So if you want to make sure you don’t run out of battery, then it is advised to bring some portable power banks for your trip. Read: best power banks and battery chargers for travelers and backpackers.
Should You Take 3rd Class or Higher?
Depending on your budget, this is up to you which one you choose. If you have some money to spare, then I would recommend taking the 2nd class at least, because in the 3rd class, privacy is almost nonexistent and you are at the whim of 20 or so people not to disturb you during the night.
It can incredibly hot and oxygen lacking in 3rd class compartments because well… you have 20-30 people in the same room.
In 2nd class you at least have your own window, a shared desk, and it’s more personal if you want to get to know some of the people you are traveling with. So if you are wondering whether you spend that extra $20 to upgrade your ticket, do it!
Is There Air Conditioning on the Train?
This also depends on the train you are taking, but in most cases there is no air conditioning, no cool breeze that you might expect. What’s interesting is that during the night and evening though it’s pretty comfortable and cool, but it does get chilly when it passes midnight.
However, during the day, if it happens to be sunny, you are in for a ride. If you especially happen to be a big guy, then you probably should bring your own fan or something to keep you chill because it can pass 30 or so degrees celcius when the sun is out.
The best advice is to keep your window shades down and buy cold water to keep yourself cool. If you are in the 3rd class compartment it’s worse, because you don’t have control over opening the shades and windows as much.
How Clean Is The Train in General?
Generally the Trans Siberian is fairly clean and well kept. However, depending on what kind of train you are on, the toilet is a hit or a miss. Some of the toilets an be dirty and a bit unpleasant to take a shit, but some others are very clean and well maintained, so this will depend on how lucky you are.
Otherwise, overall the train is very well maintained and is clean. You don’t have dust, garbage, or other things out in the hallway etc. Things are where they are supposed to be.
Final Verdict and Judgment of the Trans Siberian Railway
If you don’t mind the long hours and the wobbling train that rocks back and forth, then the Trans Siberian is absolutely recommended. I actually prefer the Trans Siberian over flying because when you are flying the process is much more annyoing.
Train rides usually have a calming effect, at least for me, because you are with your own mind away from the many distractions of the world. I find it the perfect time do some journaling, writing poems, and just reflecting on my life. It’s a great way to contemplate on your travel experiences and your journey so far. It has been one of the most eye opening and insightful experiences personally.
But for some others, it is recommended to take the Trans Siberian Railway just for the experience and the stories you will make, otherwise the price is in most cases almost the same compared to airfare, though maybe slightly cheaper.
Flying is still the best choice if you want to get to your destination quickly.