Travelling with children on the Trans-Siberian Railway
Tourists from all walks of life take the Trans-Siberian Railway each year from young groups of students on gap years to those looking to make the most of their retirement later in life. While many of these groups are well equipped to face the challenges of the Trans-Siberian experience, what about those who have others to consider?
The number of families taking the Trans-Siberian is increasing year on year and is becoming hugely popular with parents looking for an experience that offers something different to the typical package holiday. Regardless of age, the Trans-Siberian has something to offer everyone. Here we have provided all parents need to know about taking children on the Trans-Siberian from the documents you need and what to pack, to alleviating those common concerns on the minds of any parent.
Documents you need:
- Train tickets – Your train tickets always need to clearly show the dates of travel and be kept on your person. These will be checked at regular intervals along your journey (especially if crossing borders into Mongolia or China as part of the Trans-Mongolian / Trans-Manchurian Railway).
- Travel Insurance – you will need proof of travel insurance that covers all members of your family.
- Visas – Adults and children with their own passport will need visas for every country that will be visited. The classic Trans-Siberian from Moscow to Vladivostok will only require a Russian visa, while the Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Manchurian will require Mongolian and Chinese visas in addition to a Russian visa. Children that are listed in a parent’s passport do not require a separate visa.
All visas need to clearly show the validity dates and you need to make sure that all travel is conducted within the start and end dates.
- Passport – Adults and children will need a passport to board the train. If the child does not have a passport they will need to be listed in their parent’s passport.
If the child does not have a passport or is listed in a parent’s passport you will need:
- A copy or translation of the child’s birth certificate.
- A photo of the child – this must be a recent photo that can be clearly identified as the child. We recommend taking an official passport-style photo.
What to pack:
- Tissues, wipes and toilet paper – Toilets are usually well stocked, and carriages are maintained and cleaned periodically by the on-board provodnitsa, however it is always good to carry these with you just in case.
- Stroller - For babies and toddlers, a stroller is essential. We recommend taking a stroller that can either fold away or that takes up minimal space to allow you more room in your compartment and for easy transportation across platforms.
- Children's potty / toilet lining - These are more private and hygienic than using the bathroom facilities on the train and can be used within your own compartment at any time if you have younger children.
- Sanitizers, first aid medicine and prescriptions - There are very few medical facilities on the train so you should always carry basic medicines and first aid. Prescriptions are especially difficult to get hold of when travelling abroad so you will need to make sure these are packed before you leave.
- Face towels - it is good to have a face towel handy as washing facilities on the train are limited.
- Baby food, snacks and non-perishable food - While there is a restaurant carriage on-board the train, we would recommend stocking up on non-perishable foods such as biscuits, noodles etc as the journey between stations can range up to 12 hours or more in some areas. Baby food will not be readily available at the stations or on the train, so we recommend taking your own supply before leaving home.
- Bottled water – there is usually a restaurant carriage where you can buy food and bottled water, however it is always good to keep a bottle with you in case of emergency. Each carriage will also have a samovar which dispenses hot water throughout the journey.
- Small cup – utensils are not readily available on the train so you should always carry a small cup or mug with you.
- Cutlery – Cutlery is usually not available, so it is worth packing some plastic cutlery.
- Cash – Card payments are often not available on trains, therefore you should always carry a small amount of cash with you.
It is also important to remember that there will be changes in currency when passing into other countries such as Mongolia or China, and these countries will not accept Russian currency, therefore we recommend changing your currency before starting your journey.
- Clothing – The train can vary widely in temperature, so it is always good practice to carry a change of clothes.
- Something to keep your child occupied – The Trans-Siberian takes around seven days to complete, with certain parts of the journey spanning over 12 hours or more without stopping. Therefore, it can be difficult to keep even an adult entertained for such long periods let alone a child.
Books and offline games are often a good choice since WiFi can be limited in certain locations; power sockets can be found in each cabin and we would recommend taking a multi-plug so multiple devices such as games consoles, mobile phones and laptops can be charged simultaneously.
How to choose the best train class for travelling with children
Certain train classes are better than others when travelling with children and the age of the child can be an important factor to consider when selecting the best train class for your needs.
Infants can share a sleeping berth with parents and can travel free of charge. In such cases, if there are only two adults and one infant, we usually recommend taking 1st class for two people.
2nd class is perfect for families with older children who can't share a berth with a parent. If there is only one child, it is often best to book the entire 2nd class cabin, so there won't be any strangers in your compartment.
3rd class is also an option for families on a tight budget so long as parents don't mind their children travelling among strangers. In 3rd class we usually recommend avoiding side berths.
Additional services for children on Russian trains
Inside a Child's Train Compartment on Sapsan Trains
Russian trains also include a host of additional services for children including playpens, baby changing tables and children's compartments.
Playpens can be bought in advance or rented as an additional charge. You can ask your train attendant for "manezh" (this is how it sounds in Russian so that a Russian speaking conductor can understand).
Baby changing tables are not available on all trains, however you will usually find these on high-speed trains such as the Sapsan in carriages 6 and 10.
There are child compartments on Sapsan trains in carriages 10 and 20 (Moscow to St Petersburg) that are separated from the rest of the car with a door and platform. The compartment has seven comfortable armchair seats designed for a parent and infant up to one years' old. The compartment includes a carpet on the floor, a special cradle, a baby changing table, books, toys and a device for warming up children's bottles.
Layout of a Children's Carriage on a Sapsan Train
Discounted train tickets for children
Children will often qualify for discounted train travel; however, the rate will differ depending on the train, age of the child and location. As a rule, on Russian domestic trains, a child's rate is 50% of a full adult train fare and applies to children below 10, a child under 5 may travel for free if they do not need their own seat or bunk. The age restrictions on this varies hugely from country to country though so it is best to contact our specialised travel experts to find out if child discounts will apply to your family journey.
Any other questions?
We hope our Trans-Siberian family guide has helped you, however if you have any other questions or concerns, please contact our team who will be happy to help you further.