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FAQ about life on a Russian train

a person standing in front of a train car

Traveling by Russian trains might seem a little bit challenging for an international who is visiting our country for the first time. Yet, the Trans-Siberian railway trip is on a bucket list of many travelers.

We put together a FAQ especially for those adventurers who are looking forward to exploring Russia and discover the Trans-Siberian railway.

Trans-Siberian railway coupe carriage

I. Compartment

There are different types of classes, how do I know what I get?

Check out this post where you will see different accommodation classes that Russian trains offer. By default, we recommend taking not lower then coupe accommodation with 4 people in one compartment.

There are lower and upper berths, how do I know which I get?

Here we provide the scheme, where you can find your seat. If you have the upper berth you can still use your neighbors lower berth during the day to eat or just hang out. Just make sure it won’t bother him/her. But usually, people tend to take care of each other. So, if you are the owner of lower berth also make sure your upper neighbor has an opportunity to eat downstairs.

Can I sleep on the train?

Yes! There is enough place on a Russian train for you to actually lay down. At the beginning of your trip, provodnitsa will give you bed sheets, which are included in the price of the ticket. In some trains provodnitsas ask to bring back your bed sheets at the end of your trip.

I am a woman traveling solo or with the female friend, what to do if I get in one compartment with men?

There are female copes, male cupes and mixed cupes. Choose whichever coupe makes you feel comfortable.

What if I don’t feel like mingling with others while being on the train?

You can book all 4 berths in the coupe, if buying tickets in advance or go for SV, which is the 1st class of accommodation with 2 people on board only. Otherwise, you can pretend to sleep all the way, in this case, the upper berth helps!

What if my neighbor snores or I just don’t like him/her?

Well, this happens, but there is nothing you can do about it. However, it is equally possible that your neighbor will be a very interesting person!

Can I upgrade the class of accommodation when already being on the train?

Usually no. But you can try if there are spare berths. It might be possible to upgrade for SV with paying to provodnitsa.
Trans-Siberian railway trip snack

II. Food on the train

Do I have meals included in my ticket?

It depends on the type of your ticket. If it says you have 2? class, then you have a meal included, and even a package with toothbrush and paste. All other coupe classes do not include meals on the way.
Trans-Siberian railway trip tea

How do I get food on a train?

You can buy food in the supermarket before getting on the train. Some of the most typical products that people eat during their Trans-Siberian railway trip: instant noodles, salami, bread, cheese, water. Good news: every carriage has huge cattle with boiling water accessible to everyone for free, you can have tea or coffee, some instant food whenever you want. On top of that, there are vendors on some of the stations, selling pies, smoked fish and other types of good. You can try that as well! There is a tradition of sharing food with your neighbors on a Russian train. Be prepared that Russian people will try to feed you, it is a custom and they are simply trying to be nice to you. On top of that, sharing a meal is a great conversation opened!
Trans-Siberian railway train restaurant

Is restaurant-carriage any good?

Overall, it really depends on the train. There are better trains with newer carriages, hence, the restaurant might be better. Though don’t expect any “restaurant quality” food, it would probably be something more like fast food. You can always go there to grab a beer on a long train ride.

Can I drink alcohol on the train?

Officially, it is prohibited to drink alcohol on the train. It is only allowed in the restaurant-carriage if you buy it there and drink it there. But, generally, many people drink on the train, usually, it is beer, they just have to do it quietly.

III. Life on the train

Are there any sockets in the carriage?

It depends on the carriage type. In the worst case, you will have 220 V socket at the end of the carriage, right in front of the WC. In new coupe carriages, each berth has a socket. Moreover, there is a socket in each WC specifically for the electric shaver.

What’s with the cell-phone connection?

When arriving in cities you will have the connection, but while going in between the towns you won’t be able to use your phone. Try to avoid relying on your phone while you are traveling along the Trans-Siberian railway.

Where do I store the luggage?

Each berth has space for luggage. In the lower berth, there is storage inside of it, and you just need to lift the hatch to actually open it. In the upper berth, there is a shelf on top of it for your luggage.

What about the WC?

Well, the WC on the train is usually not that bad. For every carriage, there are 2 WC, at the beginning and at the end of the carriage. If your train is new enough you will have bio WC, which means they will be available no matter how close you are to the cities. On the older trains the WC is closed throughout the entire time that you spend in the city, so make sure to use it before you reach the station. Also, they close the WC while passing natural protected areas (for example, the seaside).

IV. Safety on the train

Is it safe on a Russian train?

Overall, Russian trains are very safe. It is absolutely okay to travel solo for a female, as well as for a family to go on the vacations.

Who is responsible for the safety on the train?

Each carriage has a provodnitsa or provodnik, a person responsible for the general order. They will call the police if something happens.

What if I see people acting weird or dangerous?

You should reach out to the provodnitsa. There is a procedure in worst cases, that a person can be taken off the train on the next stop if acting dangerously.

Can I leave my personal belongings unattended?

Please, don’t. Keep an eye on your documents, money and cell-phone are.
Trans-Siberian Railway train carriage assistant

V. Provodnitsa

Who is the provodnitsa?

Provodnitsa (for females) and provodnik (for males) is a carriage assistant who is responsible for the order on the Russian train. When boarding provodnitsa or provodnik checks your passport and ticket, later they give you your bed sheets.

Can I ask her for a mug, plates or cutlery?

It is better to bring yours on the train. Provodnitsa will only provide you with a mug, which you have to return are the end of the trip.

Should I tip her?

It is not customary. She might think you are trying to bribe her. Otherwise, it might be perceived as a rude gesture.
In case you really want to thank her, just buy a small gift at the local store for her (e.g. cookies, water, chocolates, souvenir package from Russian Railways, etc.) Also, most probably she will offer you to buy a lottery ticket, so buy it if you want to make her happy!
For more info on how to plan one of the most scenic railway rides in the world check our Essential guide for Trans-Siberian Railway trip.
Are you interested in booking your own railroad trip?
We’ve got you!
Check out our Trans-Siberian Adventure Tour!
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