While my incredible Trans-Siberian train trip across Russia ended almost 2 months ago, there are still a few travel trips I would like to record and share. This first post is about Russian train food, and more specifically the food on the Trans Siberian Railway.
One of the most asked question I received when both planning the trip and later once the trip was finished, was people asking “What about the food?” or “what will you eat ion the train?”
The truth is I really didn’t know much about Russia, or Russian food, until I arrived in Moscow. And while I tried to eat local food when possible, there often wasn’t a lot of choice on the train and we would simply eat whatever it is that we were given.
In this post I’m going to talk about the various options available, where to buy food and what to expect as well as getting by with very little Russian!
VIDEO: Russian Train Food On Board The Trans Siberian
Russian Train Food On The Trans Siberian
Free hot meals on overnight trains
For most overnight train journeys we were given at least one hot meal from the Provinitsa – sometimes we were given a choice of meals, sometimes we were just given whatever they had. The language barrier did cause a few problem,s when communicating, but we usually got by and had a good idea of what they were saying or offering.
When you get into your cabin, in second class at least, there were nearly always small bottles of water and a few snacks waitingon the table. Then around 5 or 6pm, the Privinitsa would drop off a small package of hot meals, airplane style, and some pieces of bread and almost always a few Oreo cookies!
As far as I remember, we were never offered hot meals in third class so if you’re travelling third class you really need to go food shopping before getting on the train.
No matter how long your journey – 24 hours or 52 hours – it seemed they only even gave us that 1 hot meal. So again you’ll either need to stock up on food from the supermarket, or else buy some basic snacks like mashed potato or pot noodle from the provinitsa.
The restaurant cart: Best of Russian train food
On most of our trips there was also a restaurant cart on board the train, but as we learned on the last 3 days of our trip – the longest portion of a train trip to Vladivostok – NOT ALL YRAINS HAVE RESTAURANT CARTS. If you’re ticket seems a bit too cheap, the likelihood is that it’s an old train with no restaurant cart and no charging sockets inside of the cabins.
You can look online to see the name and number of your train, and that will tell you in a way how “luxurious” or basic your journey is going to be.
When there was a restaurant cart, we would always spend a few hours a day there wither chatting to other passengers, doing some work on our computers, having a few beers, or trying out some of the food on offer.
The menu was pretty decent, offering sandwiches, chips, salads and a variety of meat dishes. The Russian people we talked to said the food was kind of expensive but if you’re coming from Ireland or the USA the prices seem pretty reasonable.
Sometimes we were the only people in the restaurant cart for hours, or even days, on end while on other trips it was almost like there was a full on party with many international passengers, everyone drinking beer and eating dinner together.
Tea and coffee on board
Whether you bring your own food or not, definitely bring some coffee or tea bags, as it’s a good way to help pass the time. by always going to the hot water machine to make coffee.
We forgot to buy it the first few days but luckily the locally Russian lady in our cabin, travelling with her young daughter, always shared her food and coffee with us!
Buying food at stations or local supermarkets
Once the train stopped for longer than 10 minutes we would jump off and go the small stands at the railway station to stock up on supplies – usually a can of beer, crisps and some chocolate which we always shared!
The Provinitsa gives everyone these lovely glasses at the start of the trip which you can use for the duration, just be sure to wash it out and return before getting off the train.
When preparing for your trip in the supermarket, be sure to get food that won’t go off in the heat. Pot noodles bread, cheese, buts, crisps, crackers – stuff like that is all good. we also brought honey and it was the perfect treat to eat with the bread and cheese.
We mainly lived on noodles, and it seems the rest of the people n our train were the same.
International Cuisine in top cities across Russia
Once we got off the train at various cities across Russia, including Yekaterinburg, Kazan and Perm, we actually ate quite a bit of international food including Veinamese Pho in Perm, an amazing dumpling restaurant in Kazan and an international cafe in Yekaterinburg.
If we didn’t understand the menu, we would simply use the Google translate app, scanning the menu and waiting for the English words to pop up. Definitely download this app before going to Russia!
Drinking on board the Trans Siberian
Besides the food, I wanted to briefly touch on drink – as many people associate Russia with vodka and imagine the Trans Siberian to be one big vodka guzzling adventure across Russia.
The truth is, apart form a very small selection of locals and foreigners, people don’t really drink alcohol on board the train. Sometimes we would have a few beers, but most of the time we waited until we got off the train and would then go in search of cool bars.
My friend Amy, who I travelled with, is super into cocktail bars and speakeasy so she was always able to find very unique bars with interesting cocktail menus in bizarre locations. She was on a mission to find the best cocktail bars across Russia to write about them in her blog. So in a way we did “drink our way across Russia” but we didn’t do it on board the train!
I hope these tips about food on Russian trains is helpful to anyone planning to take the Trans Siberian and feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions related to the food, the journey or even just travel in general.