The first night was exciting! A new train, a new experience! We had 2nd class tickets for the entire trip so we had a small room with 4 beds, and a small table and a window. There is also a storage container below the bottom bed to put our packs in and storage above the door in the roof kinda (see pictures). There was only 3 of us during this round, which was quite nice. Our roommate, Steph, is. Londoner who was on month holiday. She knew her first destination, but didn't know when she would leave Russia, only she had a return ticket fr Beijing. She worked for the NGO Save the Children, and had been to India many times. I told her about being adopted and going to India as she works for those types of children. We had a great three days with her; we shared food, vodka, beers, and toilet paper.
Well it's all fun and games until you realized all you have seen for three days is vast nothingness, some small broken down villages, and trees. With a few days getting off the train at the platforms, but only inhaling coal air, you start to get cabin fever. Or realizing it's easier to sleep whenever, with no true concept of time or day.
Would I do it again? Probably, but I would do things differently, including what I packed. Here are my first three tips on traveling on the trans-mongolian/Siberian/ whatever train.
1. Bring a roll of toilet paper (or two):
These toilets are absobloodylutely DISGUSTING. They don't care you spent an extra few dollars for second class, so don't expect too much, including toilet paper or soap to be in there. Our second train was newer and nicer, but when they ran out of tp, they didn't replace it. I had some for this leg of the journey thankfully. But anyways, buy it, take it from your hotel before or steal it from 1st class, because when you have to number 2 on the number 4, well, don't say I didn't warn ya.
2. Bring some hot chocolate:
You get all the hot boiling water you want. Drinking coffee and tea is nice, but on those cold nights on the train, a mug of hot chocolate is what makes the night. Hell, make it a grown up one and add some vodka if you want, but bring it. Who cares if you think you're too old for it because you're not, nor ever will be. When Steph (40) made a steaming mug of hot chocolate, needless to say, Tom and I were eyeing it with jealousy.
3. Bring a mug, thermos, or for the coffee lovers, a French press coffee mug:
Again all the hot water you want. Mugs act as cups or bowls, an the hot ones have covers so you can store stuff. I am still regretting not taking the one Mom offered me before going into the airport. And for you coffee addicts, bring a French press one. Sure it might cost more, but when you are looking for a good cup of Joe, don't expect it from Siberia. Nescafe and instant coffee is what they have here. So bring some ground coffee and your mugs and be the envy of your carriage mates. Tom has an insulate hydro flask bottle which keeps hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold for 24+ hours. It's been a lifesaver.