what are Differences between first and Second class on Trains-Siberian trains?

On almost all Trans-Siberian trains it is a very simple distinction – Trans Siberian railway 2nd class cabins have 4 berths (2 upper and 2 lower) and Trans Siberian railway 1st class cabins have 2 berths (usually 2 lower but occasionally one upper and one lower). Aside from the number of berths there is little difference between the cabins from a space, decor, luggage storage, security and window size perspective. There are also open 3rd class carriages but we never use these.

Classes: Russian & Mongolian Run Trains

There are two cabins classes we use on our trips. Most carriage son any train are Trans Siberian second class in 4-berth cabins known as “kupés” which have 2 upper and 2 lower berths, plenty of luggage storage space and a small table. There are also 2 berth Trans Siberian railroad first class cabins called “spalny vagons” which are very similar to 4 berth cabins but just lack the upper two berths. Many trains do not have the 2 berth cabins though. All cabins are comfortable and clean with full bedding provided consisting of duvet, sheets, pillows and pillow cases, blankets and hand towels.

Classes: Chinese Run Trains

The Chinese call their cabin classes by different names with soft sleeper being a 4 berth compartment little different to a Russian 2nd class kupé and deluxe sleeper being a 2 berth cabin that usually has a basic shower / basin shared between 2 cabins, a single upper and lower berth and a small couch.

When There Is No First Class

Not all trains have first class 2 berth cabins. In this case what we can do is buy all 4 berths in a second class cabin so that, for example, a couple, have sole occupancy of that cabin with the same privacy, space and security of a 2 berth first class cabin. In fact many people, including us, prefer a 4 berth buyout to a 2 berth cabin as the unsused upper berths are useful for easy access storage.


what is the Carriage Set Up on the Trans-Siberian?

Each carriage has two Western style toilets with basins for a brief wash. There is also boiling water on tap from a samovar. The corridor usually has fold down seats and each cabin has a lockable door, 2 or 4 berths, a table and a decent amount of luggage storage. Smoking is not allowed except in the small room at the end of each carriage.trans-siberian-train-carriage-layout

Provodnik & Provodnitsa

Each carriage has two Provodnik (male) or Provodnitsa (female) attendants whose job it is to look after the carriage and passengers. They are charged with providing the bed linen, keeping the carriage clean, making sure the samovar each carriage has keeps providing boiling water (very useful for tea, coffee, noodles etc..) They are also the last word in how long a train will be stopping at a station – something which is very important to check with them when heading off for a platform walk as the train will not wait for you!

To sum up you are their charges and they will keep a paternalistic eye out for you. They range from being friendly to indifferent but somehow play a larger than life role in many a Trans-Siberian trip.
trans-siberian Provodnitsa 1
trans-siberian Provodnitsa 2


The unsung hero of any Trans-Siberian trip is the Russian water heaters called Samovars which each carriage has and produces piping hot boiled water safe to drink. You will be using this for coffee, tea and that occasional cheeky pot noodle!

what are the Toilet facilities like on the Trans-Siberian?

Almost all trains we use have sit down western style toilets – usually 2 – one at either end of each carriage. Standards are decent with the facilities being frequently cleaned – the responsibility for this lays with your carriage’s Provodnik / Provodnitsa. Each toilet will also have a basin and the whole set up is designed for a bit of splash around so bring a sponge or flannel and keeping washed shouldn’t be a problem.

are there Showers on Trans-Siberian trains?

Only the better Russian trains have showers which are in a separate carriage which is usually located next to the dining car. YOu will often find a sign in the toilet advertising this. There is a small fee to use them and you will need to bring your own soap, towel etc… Deluxe class on Chinese train 3 / 4 has a very basic shower facility shared between two cabins. Rolling stock varies though and you should always assume showering and private toilet facilities are not available.
trans-siberian samovar and shower
trans-siberian train toilet


are there Dining Cars & Food on the Trans-Siberian trains?

Menus follow national cuisines (so Russian food in Russia, Chinese and China and – ahem – Mongolian food in Mongolia) and prices are not cheap but usually reasonable value for what you get as they do have competition from vendors on the platforms. Soft drinks and beer, wine and some spirits such as Vodka and Whisky are available or you can bring your own on to the train (and consume discreetly in your cabin).

Of course, you don’t have to eat in the dining car. You can bring what food you like on board either buying before the train trip or at station kiosks along the way. In reality most people mix it up bringing some treats on board, buying fruit and the ubiquitous noodles at stations and having one good hot meal in the dining car itself.
trans-siberian train dining car 2
trans-siberian train dining car 1
Although some trains in Russia have the option to include meals in the ticket price we don’t recommend this although for some tickets a meal per ticket is included whether you want it or not. This practice is a bit of a Soviet leftover when the train was frequently used to transport state workers and managers around Russia and all meals would be included. The disadvantage is you get what you are given at fixed times and there is no catering todifferent dietary requirements. We think it is much better to combine visits to the dining cars with food brought on to the train and food bought from the vendors and kiosks on the platforms. That way you have a far greater choice of what you eat, how much you eat and when you eat and it is quite possible to do this and not spend any more than adding in meals to the ticket price – assuming the occasional “pot noodle”!
trans-siberian train menu 1
trans-siberian train menu 2

Stops & Platform Life Along the Trans-Siberian

Electricity & WiFi on Trans-Siberian Trains


money & payments ON THE TRANS-SIBERIAN

border crossings on the trans-siberian


Planning Route Options

Map of the Trans-Siberian railway showing the major stops and popular places to visit as well as the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian routes.

Planning Where To Stop

The Trans-Siberian Travel Company's selection of the best places to visit in Russia, Mongolia and China for your trip of a lifetime.

Planning When To Go

The best months of the year to take a Trans-Siberian rail tour - and when not to! Do you prefer the idea of a summer trip, a winter trip or fall colours of autumn?

Planning The Trains

A guide to the main trains used in our The Trans-Siberian Travel Company's tours, differences between first and second train classes and life on board.

Planning Experiences

The staff of The Trans-Siberian Travel Company came up with this list of the best experiences on offer though Russia, Mongolia and China.

Planning Accommodation

From modern to soviet hotels, Mongolian Gers, Siberian Home Stays to traditional style Chinese courtyards, the right hotel selection can make your trip!

Planning Money To Take

What currency to take on a Trans-Siberian tour - Russian Roubles? Mongolian Tugrik? Chinese Yuan RMB? US Dollars? Euros? Find the answers here.

Planning Visa Requirements

Most nationalities will need a visa for their Trans-Siberian trip - find out more information about Russian, Mongolian and Chinese visas here.

Planning Vaccinations

Vaccination and inoculations needed or recommended for a Trans-Siberian trip visiting Russia, Mongolia and China. Updated for Covid-19.

Planning FAQs

Our guide to the most frequently asked questions when planning your rail tour and holiday along the Trans-Siberian routes.

Planning Top Tips

Top Tips for a Trans-Siberian railway adventure based on experiences both good and bad from the trips we have done with specific lists for Mongolia and China.

Planning Reading List

The Trans-Siberian Travel Company's suggestions for a good read as you travel along the greatest railway in the world including reading lists for China, Russia and Mongolia.

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