How to survive on the Trans-Mongolian Express

Here are a few tips I’ve collected for happy traveling aboard the Trans-Mongolian Express.

  • Board in an orderly fashion, let the ones with compartments furthest from the door go first.
  • Compartments are small, stand in the hallway while your traveling companions sort out and store their luggage.

Compartment Moscow leg

  • Compartments have four berths, two up, two down. During the day, the bottom berth is meant to be sitting space for you and the one sleeping above you. Make sure he or she feels welcome to sit there. Make up your bed in the morning and don’t spread your stuff all over the bench.
  • If you plan on sleeping during the day, and many passengers do, opt for a top berth.
  • Some trains have no dining car. Plan to have food for each meal. Good choices are pot noodles (instant soups), cheese and crackers, buns, sweets, nuts and cookies. Reading labels in Russian or Mongolian grocery stores can be a challenge – you may have a few surprises when you sample your food. That’s part of the fun.
  • Bring tea and instant coffee.
  • Beware the hot water in the samovar, it’s very hot.

the Samovar

  • Bring a bowl, a cup and cutlery.
  • Drink lots of water, the air is dry.
  • Keep your space tidy. Share the space on the little table in the compartment.
  • Share your food and your vodka if you have any. It goes a long way towards breaking the ice and starting a conversation.
  • Plan your bio-breaks. The toilettes are locked when the train nears towns and during stops at stations.


  • Bring toilette paper, it sometimes runs out.
  • Be good to the Prodvonitsas – they are the attendants who take care of the rail car during the trip. They speak no English, so knowing a few Russian words help.Prodvonitsas
  • Eat in the dining car, if there is one. The staff is expected to sell the food, it’s a good idea to help them out when you can.
  • Get off the train when it stops at stations, you’ll appreciate the architecture of the stations, get some fresh air and a bit of exercise.
  • Dress lightly, the cars are overheated, as a rule.
  • Wear comfortable clothes and plan for what you’ll wear to sleep in. Many men wear shorts, women wear loose cotton pants and tops.

The guys in shorts full

  • Bring an eye mask if you’re a light sleeper.
  • Be nice to the people on the car and in particular the ones in your compartment, you’re going to spend many hours in close quarters.
  • When you’re standing in the hallway, make room for those walking by.
  • Chat with the people on the train. Everyone has a story to tell.
  • Take in the views out the windows.
  • Bring a good book and music you like to listen to. Use ear buds.
  • Enjoy the experience!AM at train window



2 thoughts on “How to survive on the Trans-Mongolian Express”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s