Recommended Readings

Travelling on the Transsiberian means having A LOT of time to kill and, since you can only play cards, enjoy the landscapes, eat and write your journal so much, you should definitely bring a couple of books with you.

Here is a list of recommended readings:

  • A fortune-teller told me – Tiziano Terzani

Warned by a Hong Kong fortune-teller not to risk flying for the entire year of 1993, Tiziano Terzani – an Italian foreign correspondent – accounts for his travels by rail, road and sea, across Asia.

  •  Il était une fois l’URSS – Dominique Lapierre

About the journey by car through the USSR by journalist Dominique Lapierre and his colleague photographer Jean-Pierre Pedrazzini and their respective wives across the Soviet Union. 

  •  On the Road – Jack Kerouac 

An undying classic, this is the account of a series of trips made by Kerouac and his Beat Generation friends across America in the years after the Second World War.

  • The travels – Marco Polo

Marco Polo was the most famous traveller of his time. His voyages began in 1271 with a visit to China, when he served the Kubilai Khan on many diplomatic missions. On his return to the West he was made a prisoner of war and wrote this account of his travels, which give a unique glimpse of the many societies he encountered.

  • The great railway bazaar – Paul Theroux

Theroux writes about his train adventures from London to Tokyo on the Orient Express, the Khyber Pass Local, the Frontier Mail, the Golden Arrow to Kuala Lumpur, and then back from Japan across Russia on the Transsiberian railway. 

  •  The innocents abroad – Mark Twain

In 1867, Mark Twain toured with some friends around Europe and the Holy Land, aboard a retired Civil War ship known as “Quaker City.”

  •  Walden – Henry David Thoreau

The recount of Thoreau’s experience of his two years spent in a cabin he built in the woods near Walden Pond.

  • Master and Margarita – Mikhail Bulgakov

An incredible satire of Soviet life, written during the darkest period of Stalin’s regime. A must read.

  • Goodnight, Mister Lenin – Tiziano Terzani

Yes, Terzani, again! But you won’t be disappointed. This book his about Terzani’s travels across Russia during the collapse of the Soviet Union. An amazing account of that time and the transformations the country went through. 

What to eat on a Russian train

You have already booked your ticked, you are at the train station in Moscow and a 25-hour train will take you to Yekaterinburg the next morning… This means you’ll have to eat at least two times on the train. What and where to eat? Here are some tips about how to survive long-distance trains in Russia.

On the train, you have at least four choices concerning food:

  1. Every train has its own Restaurant wagon. It generally offers a variety of different dishes, from soups to salads and sandwiches and prices are not  expensive. Seating in this area is also an occasion to socialize, meet new people or catching a break from your noisy neighbors.

  2. Every 2-3 hours some lady from the restaurant car will stop by your wagon with a basket full of food and drinks.
    You can buy warm piroshki, noodles, vodka and beer. Attention: prices are usually higher in this case, so try to avoid buying stuff on the train.

  3. At the various stations, when the train stops (at least for longer stops, half an hour or more),  you will have time to get off and walk along the railways, where you’ll either find small “produkti” (the typical Russian grocery shops) and kiosks or Russian “babushke” selling drinks, biscuits, ice-cream and delicious home-made pastries for really low prices. Be careful and ask at what time the train leaves before getting off!

  4. You can also bring your own food. But…What to choose?


Food shopping on the Transsiberian

A typical Russian-style dinner on a train is made of beer and dried fish, with some shots of vodka at the end. You can find these products in every “produkti” and supermarket in Russia.

Too much for you? Then try a smoother version of the Russian food.

In every carriage there is a water boiler (samovar), which you can use whenever you want, just bring your own cup.


Take some warm water and have a coffee, tea or any other warm drink you want – remember to bring with you powder coffee/tea or whatever. Then bring some packs of cookies or croissants and you’ll have the perfect breakfast!


We suggest two options, depending on how much time you will spend on the train.

  • You can bring with you fresh food. A good choice is bread, cheese, fresh vegetables (carrots or cucumbers) and ham or salami. Take a pocket knife and you’ll be able to make a tasty sandwich with these basic ingredients! Be careful: in summer inside the train it can be very hot, so you should eat this kind of lunch as soon as possible.

  • “Drinking” a noodle soup. Obviously this is a last resource, but sometimes you spend so much time on the train that only dried food can survive. Go to the boiler, fill the container with warm water, wait some minutes and dinner is served! We tried everything, from noodles to instant mashed potatoes, to Russian grechka. Maybe noodles are the best choice, you will find them at a really cheap price in the supermarket. Unfortunately, after a while you will be disgusted by them!


So, other than food, we suggest you to bring the following items on the train:

  • A fork, a knife and a spoon

  • A plastic dish

  • A cup

  • Tissues or toilet paper

Hostels in Russia

Hostels in Russia are really something else from what you may be used to, so here is some piece of advice for when you plan your bookings:

  1. Read the reviews carefully. We mostly used and hostelworld, but hostelbookers is good too.
  2. Come with an open mind.
  3. Most of the hostels are quite hidden, very rarely you’ll find any sign or indication of them, so make sure you have ALL the information about the address.
  4. Be nice to the locals living in the hostel.
  5. Check the hostel rules.

Point #1 & #2 seem pretty standard and need no clarification.

About point #3, here is why.

The Russian address system might get a bit confusing, as each address is often made up of a bunch of information, an inheritance of the Soviet mass construction of tall multi-apartment buildings. So, you’ll usually have a “dom” number, which refers to the whole complex; then, since many housing complexes in Russia are massive and contain multiple buildings, most of which are accessible from an inner courtyard, you’ll also have a “korpus” number referring to the specific building; the “stroenie” number is quite similar to the “korpus”, as it still refers to the specific building of a complex having a common entrance from the main street; then, you may have a “pod’ezd”, aka the actual entrance to an apartment located in a multi-storey building; and finally, the “kvartira”, referring to the specific apartment accessible from the specific “pod’ezd”, inside the specific “stroenie” or “korpus” of a certain “dom”.

And if after all this you feel like you haven’t understood anything, don’t worry, me neither! The important thing is, when you write down the address of your hostel, make sure you get the “korpus”/”stroenie” number and the “pod’ezd”/”kvartira” as well. For example, a full address could look like this: Ulitsa Lenina, dom 15, korpus А, pod’ezd 15 (kvartira 7)

Again, not all addresses necessarily have all these specifications, it really depends on the type of building, but it’s better to check with your hostel. Most booking sites indeed only mention the number of the “dom”, which may cause you to get stuck wandering around a massive building for hours with no idea which entrance you should actually use. Trust me, been there, done that, not fun.

About point #4: most hostels in Russia are used by locals as permanent accommodation. It can be old widows or middle-aged workers or young boys, but these people do actually live in such hostels on a permanent basis, for reasons which may vary. Anyway, they may appear cranky at times and look at you like you’re invading their space, cause, hey, they were there first! In these cases, don’t stress about it, just smile and be nice to them even if they’re not, who knows maybe one of them will open up and tell you incredibly interesting anecdotes, you never know.

Point #5: Many hostels in Russia forbid to drink alcohol inside, so, before you get crazy ideas, check with the administration. It’s really not about you, it’s just that they know their horses, and Russians can get a little too out of control when they drink, so it is just easier that way.

Last but not least, not all hostels are the same, these are just tips for what the average Russian hostel looks like and what to expect, but you can find youthful, party hostels as well, especially in the most touristic cities (Moscow, St. Petes, Irkutsk, Ulan Ude). Most likely, these places will also be more expensive, while usually you can easily get a room for about 350 Rubles/night. Again, it really depends on what you’re looking for and on your budget.

Survival Russian Phrasebook

Basic Expressions

Hello: Привет = privet (informal); or Здравствуйте = zdravstvuite (formal)
Thank you: Спасибо = spasibo
My name is _ : Меня зовут = menya zovut
How are you?: Как дела? = kak dela 
Good: Хорошо = khorosho
Please: Пожалуйста = pazhaluista 
Yes: Да = da
No: Нет = net
Excuse me/Sorry: Простите = prostite 
Goodbye: До свидания = do svidaniya 
I can’t speak Russian: Я не говорю по-русски = ya ne govoryu po-russki
Do you speak English?: Вы говорите по-английски? = vy govorite po-angliiski
I don’t understand: Я не понимаю = ya ne ponimayu
I don’t know: Я не знаю = ya ne zany


Help: Помогите = pomogite
I lost my bag: Я потерял свою сумку = ya poteryal svnyu sumku 
I lost my wallet: Я потерял свой бумажник = ya poteryal svoi bumazhnik 
I need a doctor: Мне нужен врач = men nuzhen vrach 
Can I use your phone?: Можно от вас позвонить? = mozhno pozvonit’
Police: Полиция = politsiya 
I got lost: Я потерялся = ya poteryalsya


1: один = odin
2: два = dva
3: три = tri
4: четыре = chetyre
5: пять = pyat’
6: шесть = shest’
7: семь = sem’ 
8: восемь = vosem’ 
9: девять = devyat’ 
10: десять = desyat’ 
100: сто = sto
1000: тысяча = tysyacha 

Number:  номер = nomer
Half: половина = polovina
Less: меньше = men’she
More: больше = bol’she 


How much is a ticket to _?: Сколько стоит билет в _? = skol’ko stoit bilet v _
One ticket to _: Один билет в _ = odin bilet v
Where does this train/bus go?: Куда идёт этот поезд/автобус? = kudos idet etot poezd / avtobus? 
Where is the train/bus to _?: Где поезд/автобус до_? = gde poezd / avtobus do _?
Does this train/bus stop in _?: Этот поезд/автобус останавливается в _? = etot poezd / avtobus ostanavlivaetsya v _?
When does the train/bus for _ leave?: Когда отходит поезд/автобус в _ ? = kogda otkhodit poezd / avtobus v _? 
When will this train/bus arrive in _?: Во сколько этот поезд/автобус приходит в_? = vo skol’ko tot poezd / avtobus prikhodit v _?


How do I get to _?: Как добраться до_? = kak dobrat’sya do _?
… the train station: вокзала = vokzala
… the bus station: автовокзала = avtovokzala
… the airport: аэропорта = aeroporta
… the city center: центра = Tsentra
… hostel _: хостел _ = khostel


Do you have a menu in English?: У вас есть меню на английском? = u vas est’ menyu na angliskom?
What is the most typical dish?: Какое самое типичное блюдо? = kakoe samoe tipichnoe blyudo?
I am a vegetarian: Я вегетариaнец = ya vegetaryanets


Currency exchange: Обмен валюты = Obmen valyuty
Money: денги = dengi