Dining in Trans-Siberian Trains
There are many different ways for travelers to dine during their multi-day Trans-Siberian trip. Each person can always choose the most appropriate one or combine them all to have as much variety as possible during the long train journey along the Trans-Siberian railway.
- Dining cars. Besides passenger cars all Russian long-distance trains include a restaurant or a dining car. It is usually located next to the 1-st class carriages (if there are any). In all international trains that run along the Trans-Mongolian railway Russian dining car is pulled throughout the Russian territory, then after crossing the border Mongolian restaurant car is attached which is in turn substituted for Chinese after entering China. In the dining car passengers can order a la carte meals as in full-service, sit-down restaurant. Besides, there is usually a counter in it where customers can purchase light snacks, beer and liquor to take to their compartments.
One should not expect a fine cuisine in such a restaurant, but as a whole, meals are quite good and surely safe to eat. The same as in many Russian restaurants outside of Moscow and St. Petersburg dining cars on Trans-Siberian trains might have an extensive menu, but with only few meals available at the moment. Travelers should probably account for an average Russian mid-priced restaurant with a standard quality of food, not really fancy, but okay to eat during the journey.
- Meals served into compartments. Many Russian trains including both top-quality and cheaper ones allow choosing between regular tickets and tickets “with services”. “With services” means some extras that are already included into ticket price. Those are newspapers and magazines, toilet accessories (including soap, napkins, toilet paper, etc.) and meals served right into passenger’s compartments. Meals are usually full-course dinners served into compartment by car attendant at nights. Ask your train ticket agent, the number of meals in normally indicated in the ticket. Though, during daytime, travelers still need to take care of their own food.
Even if your ticket does not include meals, car attendants in many of the Russian trains sell tea bags, instant coffee, and snacks. They also take orders and deliver carry-out meals from the restaurant car to passenger compartments for an extra charge.
- Your own food supplies. Alternatively, passengers may always bring their own food with them. There are no refrigerators provided in the cabins, so this should be something that can survive at room temperature during at least couple of days. One of the peculiarities at Russian trains is the water boiler located in the front of each coach next to the attendants’ compartment. Water is heated by a small stove underneath of the tank. It is one of the car attendant’s responsibilities to burn chopped wooden sticks in the stove. Hot water is provided free of charge for making tea, coffee, hot chocolate, and instant noodles. Cold drinking water, in turn, is not availabe unless you cool off hot water which may take time. We suggest bringing your own bottled water to the train to drink and to brush your teeth.
Most Russians would actually prefer taking their own food into the train rather than dining in the restaurant car. People take snacks and cookies, smoked chicken, sliced meat, instant noodles and potatoes, etc. Our advice is to plan a visit to a supermarket before the train departure to purchase some food and snacks to take it into the train. Make sure you bring your mug, knife and fork as well.
- Buying food from vendors. Passengers who are not used to carrying their own provisions on boards can purchase food from many vendors at station platforms when train stops. At some stations businesses are allowed to install small booths on platforms to market groceries. While at the smaller stations even private persons (often Russian babushkas) sell their home-made purozhki which is a Russian word for individual-sized backed or fried pies with different stuffings. One may challenge those, but we would suggest a shot of Russian vodka to accompany such a meal.