What is so interesting about the Trans-Siberian Railway?



    We have one attraction in Russia that wildest attracts foreigners. But at the same time, almost every one of us will consider her torture. This is the Trans-Siberian Railway: six days by train from Moscow to Vladivostok. The first day you will sleep, on the second you still stand it somehow, but then you go crazy. Or use the cheap and practical teleportation method using vodka.

    Every time we go abroad, we are asked what we need to know about the Trans-Siberian Railway. And we can’t really answer. In general, this is a post-educational program about how not to face the foreigners in the dirt, and about what you need to know about this trip. And a memo for foreigners immediately in English.

    Well, trying to figure out why, that's why they drive. And why rejoice. Our respondent is a guide with many years of experience.



    What attracts foreigners?


    I work in ordinary reserved seat wagons; quite rarely I see docked and soft (sleeping car - CB) wagons. Therefore, the main contingent is youth. About 5-7% of passengers are English-speaking, most often Europeans, sometimes Koreans, Indonesians. But more of Europe: Germans, French. Often there are Americans. Students and students. Europeans travel alone, either in pairs or in a small student group. South Koreans are students, they are almost always a group of 3 to 12 people.

    The compartment is a bit older. In SV, it’s even older, there are already held people who enter the train, like in a hotel. But most buy the same tickets as we do, and ride like us. In an ordinary Soviet train. Because when new cars appear, they first appear in the western part of Russia and most often after the first service (repair) they already come to us, that is, after 10 years. That is, no one buys the romance of the train.

    Foreigners usually go in one direction - either to Vladivostok, or from there. Our train runs with short stops in cities, there’s only enough time to get out, look at the platform, buy food and go back. Therefore, very often travelers break the road into several segments and travel from city to city. It is easier to carry: when you are a guide, then there are many things, but once I traveled as a passenger and almost went crazy in six days.

    In general, most of all foreigners are attracted, of course, by Lake Baikal. This is not even discussed. They ride for him, sit and wait for him to begin. They come to me and ask if Baikal is coming soon. Worried: afraid to miss. They still don’t really understand that it is big - for about four hours the train travels directly along the shore of this lake.

    And then it starts, and they sit by the window, like glued.

    Further there, behind Baikal, rather sad landscapes begin: dull, dilapidated Buryat houses and other devastation of anthropogenic character. This is not exactly what you want to show the guests of the country, but they still look. They are very pleased with the vegetation outside the window, many can spend hours looking at the fields. They say it’s amazing that so much land is basically without people. Well, in general, in Europe, you can get from city to city in an hour, and here they can move 300 kilometers without stopping in an “empty” place. They are surprised.

    Ledum blooms around May. These are pink seas on the sides of the train. Then, of course, aesthetics. You can watch there for a long time, it is very beautiful. So, if you send a foreigner by the Trans-Siberian Railway, then advise the beginning of May.

    What are the everyday differences from a regular trip?


    First of all, hygiene. There is no shower in the reserved seat; there is a shower in the head car and in luxury cars (where there is a compartment with a shower). A staff shower costs 150 rubles. We announce it in Russian, so foreigners do not always understand. But they do not need much, they travel in short segments. Not everyone knows that if there is no towel, then you can buy a shower set for 150 rubles more: they will give you a large towel, a face towel and one more disposable toothbrush, toothpaste, small shampoo and gel in bags, a one-time comb. We give linen once for the whole trip, but if you want, you can buy another clean set on any day, and give the old one to the guide.

    Secondly, the food. Here, the country's guests are very affected. Ours all know that the whites bought at night on the platform of a grandmother who approached the train can be life-threatening. But they think that this is a station service. And that this is a civilized trade with permissions and all that. Well, eat them. Then they turn green and start to get very worried, take up the toilets for a long time, come to me. The correct procedure is to contact the staff carriage, where the head of the train contacts the driver, the driver transfers data to the nearest station; when we approach her, there should be an ambulance that takes the foreigner. I don’t want to leave Europeans at the stop (and they rarely travel alone), so we only do this in serious cases. This is not according to the instructions, but I take 10 packs of activated carbon with me and give them.

    It’s right to either buy food in stores, or eat in a restaurant car, or order something hot from a restaurant car. Well, or take food with you. The comprehensive lunch and dinner at the restaurant are good and are quite normal for Europeans.

    For many people, a surprise is three meals a day or “power is on”: we have a bit strange tariffs, where you are fed three times in six days. Or where one set of food (dinner) is included, which can be taken on any day. Historically, it turned out from the tariffs of short trips, where “power on” is one meal. Foreign students often do not quite understand where the food is.

    We, the guides, eat from the house or bought in stores. There is a microwave in the compartment of the conductor, we warm there. You can eat on a special menu for staff in a dining car, prices are about 150 rubles for a meal. After several trips along the route, you already know where and what to buy cheaper, where you can’t buy at all, where else. Passengers do not have refrigerators. We are small, but you can’t take it from the house for the whole flight anyway. When I tell other conductors with short flights about this, they are glad that they do not go with us. But then they find out that you see the bosses on the earth twice a month, and not every day, and think hard.

    Yes, foreigners still do not understand or do not immediately understand that you can take a cup holder, glass, spoon, plate: they think that you need to pay and the bill will be at the end of the trip. Or try to pay right away. And this is included in the ticket.

    Thirdly, heating. The Trans-Siberian Railway has been electrified since 2002. The trunk is 3,000 volts almost everywhere. Almost - we have branches on an odd pattern (the route is not always the same), the structure is divided into Skovorodino, and part goes to Neryungri with a diesel locomotive. This life does not change the passengers, but to me - a lot of extra work with a coal stove. Because it's cold outside.

    The temperature in the car is maintained from 20 to 24 degrees, we usually keep along the upper border, because they give ears for the transition beyond the lower one. Foreigners do not freeze: many live in countries without central heating, they are very nice and pleasant to train. But they are surprised how our people go to the platforms in their pajamas. By the way, do not believe these pajamas in travel reviews. These are not pajamas, these are alcoholic T-shirts and sweatpants with elongated knees. They just don’t understand what it is.

    Sleeping in cars is very nice. Not a hotel, but everyone gets used almost immediately. Foreigners are afraid that they will not fall asleep on the shelf, but it is motion sick. Yes, we have the Velvet Way: there are a lot of places where the rails with joints are laid along the Trans-Siberian Railway not as usual, “ta da da ta da”, but once every 800 meters. The usual joints are on the arrows, station necks, level crossings and on the stations themselves. The rest of the time, the train quietly rustles so half, half creaks. Soft and calm. But in the permafrost zone, the wheels again become round and they knock on this PR square.

    Fourth, the connection. There is almost always 3G at the stations, 2G between the stations or no connection at all. I would say that conversations are possible about 40% of the way, but with the Internet it’s worse. We do not temporarily provide Wi-Fi, because there was an incident with a burned-out car, and Internet modules are suspected as a cause of fire. Until the end of the investigation, they turned off so far to avoid. But in any case, the incoming channel is from mobile operators (not from the satellite), so anyway, it does not always give a connection. This affects the fact that for foreigners in the phone, translation programs stop working.

    Fifth, security. It happens that they steal from us. It is infrequent, but, since it is precisely foreigners who often find themselves in possession of expensive phones and other things, they steal from them. They are very relaxed comrades: they can put the phone on charge in the corridor and go for a walk in a restaurant car or on the platform. Then they wonder what happened. There are no safes in the reserved seat, the locker below is open according to counter-terrorism requirements (without a wall), so there is basically nowhere to safely hide things. We do not officially have such a service, but I warn you that you can deposit things for me at night. Because when something disappears, a terrible procedure begins. At the exit from Vladivostok, a telephone was stolen from a foreigner, so then I was interrogated by police at each station. Four days of the same questions, then on earth once again for a long time, made a bunch of papers fill. In general, very enraged.

    Why are they getting off the train so joyful?


    Often because they communicate here. The wagon contingent is these 5–7% of English-speaking, many labor migrants (countries of the former USSR, North Korea, Mongolia) and our citizens, who quickly become bored. And when our citizens get bored, they begin to get acquainted. And the language barrier here does not interfere. The whole car is eager to talk to them. They show photos from phones, tell something, draw and, of course, offer a drink. A foreigner has almost no chance of reaching a restaurant car so that some grandfather does not pour him a glass of brandy.

    But! I have never seen at least one getting drunk on saliva. If they already drink a lot, then they do it in a dining car and sometimes fall asleep there. But they don’t play in the car, do not fight on the platforms, do not go to leave their boa on the linen of other passengers. Know the measure. It is rarely used in a carriage. Disasters happen when some of our sincere Vasya says: “Everything will be right now!” - and persuades them to join. Often such a “party” ends with a competition “Look How I Can” among our fellow citizens, after which we call the transport police and she picks up a drunken body under the white handles to transfer him to the “monkey” at the nearest station.

    They also really love souvenirs. We have many models of trains, ballpoint pens, all sorts of key chains, mugs with the symbols of Russian Railways and so on. They directly approach themselves to buy them, they sort everything out and take a lot.

    In general, this is how the trip goes: they look at something they like very much outside the window, live in a warm comfortable train, try new things, talk with very friendly and sociable Russians (which breaks all the stereotypes about us about them), they look at the stranger’s everyday life countries, sit in a restaurant car, get out in the cities and get back on the train. They say that such a trip changes the outlook on life, but I think this is because they are just a couple of days without a phone.

    So the most important thing:

    1. Blooming Ledum in May.
    2. Don't eat suspicious whites.
    3. Better to download a phrasebook.
    4. Crockery (especially a glass and cup holder) is given free of charge.
    5. Better to bring food.
    6. It is better to bring a normal shower set.

    There are also posts about the railway: what kind of trains there are , the energy systems of wagons , how the passenger wagon is arranged , how the wagons are assembled , how they evolved , about the Leningradsky station , about locomotives , about old cars , about the Grand Express train . Great FAQ about long-distance trains and unobvious rules .

    Link to the memo . It is available under the CC BY-SA license, that is, you can use it however you want and make new ones based on it, but you must keep the attribution.

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