The ABCs and 123s of Russian Trains


As you read this, I am traveling halfway across the world on the Trans – Mongolian Railroad. This trip will take us from Moscow, Russia, through Siberia, through Mongolia and finish up in the Beijing China. We have several stops along and way but for the most part it will be lots of nights on the train, no showers, no internet, minimal privacy and hopefully lots of Russian Vodka.

Obviously I’ve never ridden the Trans-Mongolian before, so I’m not entirely sure what to expect. However, Shannon and I did get a chance (thanks to some missed flights) to take two overnight trains from Moscow to St. Petersburg and back. We also got a chance to take both a second class and third class train. Here’s how life on the train looks.

Third Class

Third class in the Russian Train is fairly open plan. There aren’t doors to block of each compartment so as you walk up and down the corridors you will pass by people sleeping or sitting at their tables. Each compartment has six beds. Two agains each wall (one top and one bottom) and two against the opposite wall across the corridor. When its daytime, you sit on the lower beds with a table in between. At night, the people in the top bunks climb up and the lower bunks lay down on the seats. There isn’t a lot of folding or configuring necessary.

In third class, each compartment is issued bed rolls, pillows, heavy blankets and plastic wrapped sheet sets (so I guess they have just been cleaned). You are responsible for getting your bed together on your own. Our train departed at 1 am so people made their beds right away. There is also free filtered and hot water. There are no individual lights or sockets and there is only one bathroom per train (toilet and sink, no shower)

The bottom bunk can be lifted up for storage, which is really nice if you happen to get a bottom bunk because you can store your valuables there and know they are safe. I guess if you are a super deep sleeper and you think that someone could move you off the bed and lift your bunk without you noticing its probably better to not keep them there.

In the morning, the train guy (official title) came around and woke us up about an hour before our stop. We then had to strip our beds, fold up the blankets and return the sheets to the front of the car.

Second Class

As you might of deduced, second class is a bit nicer than third class. Each car is divided up into compartments which sleep/seat four people. You are given an assigned bed which will either be top or bottom. The top ones are already set up. The bottom ones are created by folding down the seats.  As in third class, during the day both people sit on the bottom on the chairs and at night the top person climbs into the bunk.

When you board the train in second class, your bed is already made with sheets. Each compartment is also given a heavy blanket and pillow. While there are no outlets in the cars, each bed does have is own reading light.

The compartment door itself can be locked form the inside, but there is very little secure storage within the room.

As with third class, free filtered and hot water is available and snacks are also for sale. In second class we were also issued a pair of slippers and a toothbrush with toothpaste.

I have yet to explore the train beyond my own compartment. I am excited to spend my time on the trans-mongolian exploring and checking out some of the trains other features like the cafe car.

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One Response to The ABCs and 123s of Russian Trains

  1. memographer says:

    Great report! I feel like I was there :)
    Look forward to the next one.
    Good luck! Always keep your passport and money with you and don’t leave train on long stops.

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