The most epic train journey of them all, and one which every traveler has on their bucket list, the Trans Siberian conjures images on Soviet train carriages, drinking Vodka with people in your cabin, vast landscapes and huge distance – it’s pretty much exactly like that.
Already I’ve done 2 nights from China to Mongolia, 2 nights from China to Irkutsk, 3 nights from Irkutsk to Omsk and I’m just about half way to Moscow. It’s been an awesome trip, and I’ve really fulfilled one of my backpacking dreams, but I wish I had thought about the stuff I should have brought on each journey! Here are 5 things every traveler should bring on the Trans Siberian with them:
A plug adapter for Europe:
Russian plugs are the same as most of Europe (the circular indented gap with 2 round pins), so all their plug sockets require adapters. You’re probably gonna be the only foreigner on the train, especially if you travel third class, so if you forget yours you’re screwed! And there’s no chance of buying them en route.
A multi-tap adapter:
There are only 3 or 4 sockets per carriage, and each carriage holds between 40 and 100 people, you don’t have to be a mathemagician to work out that those figures don’t work in your favour. Bring an adapter to make one socket into 2 or 3 and you’ll be everyone’s new best friend.
Water and food:
Pretty obvious right? Apparently not, I’m sitting on the train, like an idiot, now without any of the above. The train does have a food cart but it’s nearly $2 per bottle of water, and up to $10 for food so if you’re on the standard $30 a day budget, the dining cart is not for you. Instant noodles are a great addition, you get free hot water at the end of every carriage.
A Russian phrase book:
Russian’s don’t speak English, really. If you’ve been to Japan, China, Pakistan and think that you’ve had extreme language barriers, Russia beats those hands down. Even numbers are beyond Russians, and this is no criticism, it’s there country and they shouldn’t have to speak English, so bring a phrase book and build a bridge, no doubt you’ll be drowning in complementary vodka for making the effort!
There’s only so much of Siberia you can see until you begin to get bored, even if you squeeze 4 or 5 hours out of the landscape, you’ve still got days and days of it ahead. Bring at least 2 books, you’ll be doing a lot of reading.
An Irish buddy of mine packed this in China, before that I had no idea about it. It’s the size of an external hard drive and charges your laptop, iPhone, dslr etc. I’ve never had one but I’ll be looking into it as soon as I make it to a major city.
Toothbrush, deodorant, shorts, flip-flops:
I’m sure you’ll have all of these packed in your backpack anyway, but I’m including it here because you’ll want to move all of this stuff into your daypack. There’s so little space that accessing your big bag regularly is a nightmare, so have everything you need in your smaller bag. It gets hot as hall on the train too, so flip-flops and shorts are the way to go.
A bottle of Vodka:
It’s the Trans Siberian, you can’t board it without some Vodka surely, right?! Buying it in a shop for around $6 a litre as opposed to $15 on the train is sound economics too! Also, if you’re in the third class, it can smart smelling a little funky after the third day or so, a night cap to help you sleep might be very well appreciated by you and your buddies!
For me, the Trans Siberian has lived up to every expectation I had. The second class compartments (4 people cabins with doors) were nicer than I expected and the third class areas (sections of 6 beds, with an open corridor running throughout) were a little dingier than I expected, but still very manageable and my transport of choice (being 35% of the price of the 2nd class!). Russians are a lot friendlier than their stereotypes suggest, and I can’t wait to make it to Moscow and see the Red Square, after everything I’ve seen so far, I’m sure it’s gonna blow my mind. Happy travels!