What To Pack For The Trans-Siberian Railway

18 October 2016

Covering almost 10,000 kilometres from Moscow to Vladivostok, the Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest in the world. For the remote communities along its path, this train line serves as a connection to Moscow and the outside world and plays an important role in the local economies. For travellers along this route, it is both intriguing and long, a rail journey that requires forward planning and smart packing. Journeys must be pre-booked and can last from anywhere between four days non-stop, to a number of weeks. Between spectacular scenery and strange encounters with locals, here’s the lowdown on what to throw in your back pack.

 Travelling through vast Siberia

CLOTHES

You will see some of the most incredible outfits you could ever imagine on this journey – and not always in a good way. Remote communities and nomadic traders are all about comfort and practicality, and you should be too. The trains are kept quite warm year round, so light clothing is best, with a jumper you can throw on at night time. Think clothes you can sleep in, stretch in and laze around in.

The Essentials

  • Comfortable, light clothing like t-shirts and shorts, linen trousers
  • Sweater or hoodie
  • Slippers or slip-on shoes to wear in the train (you’ll need these for the bathroom!
  • Gloves (if travelling in winter)

LUGGAGE

Avoid a suitcase on rollers if you can. The train corridors are narrow, and having your gear in a rucksack on your back will keep your hands free for tickets and passport checks too. Also pack light if you can. Compartments generally have storage beneath the bottom bunk beds or above the corridor, but there isn’t a lot. Finally, pack smart with your toiletries as bathroom facilities in second and third class are basic at best. If a freezing cold shower in a wet room doesn’t sound appealing, make friends with baby wipes and deodorant.

The essentials

  • A rucksack style bag you can throw on your back
  • Toiletries (including makeup wipes and baby wipes for an improvised shower)
  • Body lotion and face moisturiser
  • Lip balm

FOOD AND DRINK

The first thing you’ll want to look for when you jump on board is the hot water dispenser, the life source of most of your meals along the journey. Every few hours when the train pulls into a station you can stock up on soups, noodles, local sweets and the only item usually within its best-before date range: beer. Be sure to have a meal or two in the dining car too. You’ll likely find authentic Russian fare served by a couple from Moscow who barely speak any English but are eager to chat and point at a poster of Russia’s long list of Tsars.

The essentials

  • Instant noodles
  • Packet soups
  • Sachets of porridge
  • Non-perishable snacks
  • Tea bags and instant coffee
  • Your own reusable cup with a fitted lid (the train ride can be bumpy and hot soup hurts!)

ENTERTAINMENT

Photo ops, reading books, listening to decent tunes, strange but enchanting card games with fellow travellers and being yelled at in a language you do not understand to GET BACK ON THE TRAIN NOW. That will be your life while on board the Trans Siberian. The yelling will be taken care of by your “carriage mum” who makes sure all of her passengers are on before departing each station. The rest will be taken care of by you. As with the comfortable outfits, go for fun, guilty pleasure reads over status reads – a captivating story will make the hours pass much, much quicker.

The essentials

      • A decent camera
      • Headphones and good tunes
      • E-reader and/or audio books
      • Notepad and pen to play hang man or spill your pensive thoughts
      • Pack of cards

Sibéria | Russia Meu primeiro trem pela ferrovia Trans-Siberiana partia de Vladivostok, por volta da meia-noite embarquei no vagão da 3ª classe sem saber muito como funcionavam as coisas, minhas companheiras de baia eram 3 senhoras que só falavam Russo e logo pegaram no sono. Só na manhã seguinte eu fui entender que eu podia pedir pra comissária de bordo lençóis e um travesseiro! Mas até que eu dormi bem com meu colchonete dobrado. — My first train through the Trans-Siberian railway was leaving from Vladivostok, I boarded my 3rd class wagon around midnight not really aware about how things work, my "cabin-mates" were 3 Russian ladies with whom I failed to communicate as they were sleeping quite fast. Only in the morning I understood I could ask the wagon commissary for pillow and sheets. At least I slept quite well with that folded mattress.

A photo posted by Eduardo Viajou (@eduardoviajou) on

EXTRAS

There are a couple more things to mention that will make your journey smoother and much more enjoyable. Such as the fact that Russian train tickets display your departure in Moscow time, regardless of where you are – even 4 hours ahead – so keeping a clock with Moscow time is mighty handy to avoid being stuck somewhere in the middle of Siberia. Cash, toilet roll and earplugs will also make the trip a hit.

The Essentials

      • Cash for meals in the dining car, snacks on train platforms, or even souvenirs or clothing from the train’s resident traders
      • A watch, or three (Or, different time zones saved on your phone)
      • Spare toilet roll
      • Portable charger
      • Spork (the most versatile utensil!)
      • Earplugs and an eye patch (if you want to get any sleep at all)

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Vicki Fletcher

An Australian writer and photographer, Vicki loves road trips down unknown tracks, following locals to the best food in town and spending long afternoons people watching in city squares. She's written for publications across Australia and Europe. Top travel tip: always look up. Follow Vicki on Instagram @vickijanefletcher.