7 Things I Learnt Travelling On The Trans-Siberian Express
1. The russian people aren’t anywhere near as hostile as western media makes them out to be.
Coming into Russia, I was expecting it to be a tough environment to travel in, with the people being just as hostile, especially with me being British. Recent world events shown in the media had led me, and the rest of the west, to believe this. When telling friends and family that i was travelling through Russia, alone, they looked at me in shock. Followed by the usual ‘don’t get poisoned’ and ‘try not to get put in the gulag’ jokes… However, after spending nearly a month here I found the Russians to be some of the friendliest people in the world. Helping me out as much as possible, despite the language barrier.
2. The country is huge.
Okay now this one sounds obvious, everyone with a basic understanding of geography knows that russia is the largest country in then world. However, travelling arcross the country for eight straight days makes you realise just how big it is compared to travelling in europe where you can literally hop from country to country in less than an hour…
3. Everywhere in Russia operates on Moscow time.
With the country being so huge, Russia spans a massive seven different time zones. Going through them one by one, its easy to forget this. My phone automatically changes its time depending on its location and I often found myself thinking god, where did that last hour go?! When in reality we’ve just gone through another time zone…
When you arrive at a station and look up at the arrivals and departures board, the times displayed are also in Moscow time, leading to even more dismay - Especially when you’re in cities that are +5 or +7 hours in front.
4. You can cope with a lot less stuff than you think you can.
Space on the Trans-Siberian is something that is in short supply. Especially in third class, you can have up to 40 people per carriage. After many days on the train I soon came to realise how little you need to bring on with you, something that the locals have mastered. On the train, you literally only have a 2x1m bed to call your own. Besides that you have a thin strip of corridor and a toilet and thats it. If you end up bringing tonnes of unnessisary items onto the train you’re only going to get yourself, and the locals, wound up.
5. The importance of keeping your living space clean, neat and tidy.
If you’re on the train for more than one night, things can become untidy and dirty very quickly. Especially in third class, you haven’t got much space at all and you’ll be living, eating and sleeping all in the same area so it becomes crucial to throw things away, tidy your belongings away and keep yourelf clean.
6. The importance of looking after yourself
Being on the train for long periods of time doing nothing at all it can be so easy to forget to look after yourself. Living off instant noodles is fine for a day or two but when days become weeks, you need to make sure you’re getting enough nutrients to stay as healthy as possible. Its also easy to forget to drink enough water as you’re not doing any physical activity. During the summer, parts of the route can get very hot and this can lead to dehydration very quickly.
Living in such cramped conditions it becomes super easy to catch something. With 50+ people on each carriage its almost a guarantee that someone on board will have a cough or a cold. I recommend always travelling with a small hand-sanitiser to try and stay as clean as possible.
7. Theres a lot more to Russia than just Moscow and St. Petersburg
No visit to Russia is complete without a visit to its two biggest cities - Moscow and St. Petersburg. However, after spending nearly a month exploring what else this huge country has to offer, I quickly came to release how much, both culturally and historically, this country has to offer. In order to explore it more, take the Trans-Siberian express fromMoscow to Vladivostok in the East, and be sure to make a few stops along the way. I recommend Yekaterinburg, Ulan-Ude and Lake Baikal as a starter!