What time is it on the train?
The time difference and moving through different time zones guarantees to confuse even the most seasoned traveler. Until you enter Russia, you remain in China time. After that, you use Moscow time – even if this isn’t the time zone you’re currently running through. This is, however, only for the stops. The actual train time on the dining cart still uses Beijing time.
Are there power sockets?
Yes. In each carriage, there is two or three, but very low voltage (40). In the guard’s kitchen area, the voltage is higher, but you’ll have to ask them nicely. In the Russian carriage, the voltage is 220+. There is also power sockets in the dining carts.
They take European 2-pin plugs.
Can I smoke on the train?
Yes. Contrary to advise in the Lonely Planet guide, you can smoke in the doorways and also toilets. Train guards are also known to have a cheeky cigarette in their rooms.
Only on the Chinese side though! There are no smoking signs in the Russian compartments.
Is there a shower onboard?
Yes. But… Only in first class. You can try to pay extra to use it once, or you can just slum it like the rest of us!
What are the toilets like?
Thankfully, the toilets are Western style, but pretty basic. They close 30 mins before arriving at a stop and remain closed whilst you’re stationary – something to remember! Also, it’s 50/50 as to whether it will contain toilet paper.
What are the different classes like?
1st class: 4-bed compartment, no shower.
2nd class: 2-bed compartment, shower.
Are there beds on board?
Yes. Depending what carriage you’re on and what class, they’ll be different. But all of them include a fully fledged bed and bedding! In the first class, you’ll have a compartment with 2 beds in it. 2nd class has 4 beds, but if you’re lucky enough you might get the compartment to yourself anyway. The Russian beds are a lot nicer than the Chinese ones. The Chinese ones remain typically hard and Chinese with minimal bedding, whilst the Russian side has softer beds with full-on duvets.
Is there heating?
Yes. But, in the Chinese compartments, this only gets put on post-Russia. So wrap up warm! The do provide heating in the dining cart, though.
In the Russian compartments, you’ll find it almost gets too warm.
Will there be food?
Yes! The dining cart offers lunch and dinner when you get on in Beijing (for free) and there is also a dining cart when you get into Mongolia and Russia. At some of the bigger stops, there will be people selling numerous goodies to keep you going. If you’re not fussy, the food is pretty decent.
What should I bring?
Check out our post here for a comprehensive list, but the key things are;
- Warm clothes
- Toillitearies (incl. toilet paper)
What currency should I bring?
If you can get your hands on Chinese, Russian, and Mongolian currency you’ll be set.
What currency can I use on the train?
The dining cart changes depending what country you’re in. In China, it accepts RMB. In Mongolia, it accepts the Mongolian Toegreog and the RMB. In Russia, the dining cart accepts Rubels and USD.
Can I get off?
Yes! Sometimes the train will just stop for 2 minutes, sometimes for a couple of hours. You don’t have to get off though. And if you do, make sure to get your coat, scarf, and gloves on!
Is there drinking water on the train?
Yes, There are hot water taps that you can drink from and make tea from. Also handy for making your pot noodles!
How do I know when to get back on?
There are timetables throughout the carriages which show arrival and departure time in each station. Make sure you stick to this, and don’t go too far!
What if I miss the train?
If you’re unfortunate enough to wander too far on a stop and lose track of time, the train waits for no one. You could wait for the next train, admit defeat and check into the nearest hotel, or try catch the train at the next stop in a taxi. Depending on where you are, this could be good fun and relatively cheap, although there is no promise you’ll manage to get to it. If you do, this is definitely the best (and most fun) option, since it doesn’t mean re-booking all your tickets.
Is there vegetarian/vegan food?
Yes, but limited. It’s best to prepare all your meals in advance if you have any dietary requirements. In China, there is nothing vegetarian. In Mongolia there are a couple of dishes, and in Russia the dining cart offers a whole page of veggie food!
Check out our being vegan on the TS blog here.
How much are meals on the dining cart?
Anything from $10-$30 dollars, with an average of around $20 per meal.
What language does the staff speak?
Just because you’re in a train and surrounded by the same environment for the 6 days, it doesn’t mean that the world outside stays the same too! You’ll be passing through 7 time zones and 3 different countries – so everything changes from this. In China, you can get by with Chinese and also a bit of English. In Mongolia, both Chinese and English skills are limited. You may want to learn a few key phrases! In Russia, you will find Russian and English to be the main languages.
Are there places to buy food along the way?
Yes. You shouldn’t rely on this too much, but at the bigger stops, you will have time to get in some essentials such as snacks and drinks. No vodka until you arrive in Russia though…
What do you do on a 6-day train journey?
Good question! Bring books, a laptop & hard drive packed full of films, some work… And anything else you like to do to keep yourself busy!
For a more detailed guide on how to prepare, see our blog here.