The reality of Trans-Siberian rail is absolutely incomparable to anything you've heard about it.
No amount of talking about it, seeing pictures from it, or reading a guidebook about it can really prepare you for the experience.
So here are five travel tips to contribute to a vague but inevitably incomplete feeling of preparedness for one of the world’s most famous train journeys:
- Take as Much Food as You Can Possibly Carry.
If you’re as unfortunate as I was and you end up travelling 5 days from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar in one of the, erm, less pleasant trains, you’ll need to avoid the restaurant at all costs!
I ate here three times. Each time I was left disappointed, a little queasy, and ultimately still hungry. The first few days on the other hand, my shopping did me well and I ate like a queen. Albeit a queen on a budget with an unhealthy love for pickles and fruit tea… but a queen nonetheless. This royal buffet soon ran out, and I was left eating noodles and crisps for three days. Stock. Up.
- Take as Much Alcohol as You Can Handle. Then Times it By Two
Two hours into the first night on the train and the excitement has subdued, the novelty worn off, and you quickly realise that there is nothing to do on the train. Literally nothing. No source of entertainment apart from your sorry self, and if you’re lucky enough to have nice companions, then those as well. This calls for alcohol, and lots of it. Which leads us to tip number three…
- Get Used to Boredom
You’re on a train for 5 days straight. Think about all the trains you have ever been on. Do you get excited about the hour long train to work or college? No?! Of course you don’t. You know why? Because it’s a train. It’s not built for fun, it’s built for getting you from A to B.
Trans-Siberian rail is no different. If alcohol doesn’t float your boat, bring books. An tablet PC. A crossword book would suffice, but for the love of God don’t go with nothing. Even if you’re with your best mate you’ll get a good dose of cabin fever. There’s only so many hours you can watch the scenery.
- Discard All Previous Levels of Hygiene. Personal and General…
Five days in the same place without showers or general cleaning facilities doesn’t make for pristine living conditions. Embrace it. Purchase your body weight in baby wipes. The shower at the end will be worth it, just don’t ruin it by awkwardly sticking your head under the tiny, sinks in the dirty little toilets.
Just don’t do it!
- Prepare for Random and Slightly Dodgy Intrusions of Privacy
Every cabin in our part of the train was visited by Mongolian wheeler dealers. Ceilings were unscrewed, seats were lifted up, storage space was intruded, and leather boots emerged. And ‘Nike’ hoodies. And other assortments of shady sundries. Although each sleeping compartment locked from the inside, sharing my compartments with two males certainly helped alleviate any worries about any midnight returns.
Travel Tip Shared by Gemma Fottles