I am planning to take Trans-Siberian train from Moscow to Vladivostok this summer. I read some travel journals and people say it's hard to communicate in English with the attendants on the train. Do I need a Russian phrasebook on the train in order to communicate?
Train attendants are quite friendly and helpful, but having a Russian phrasebook will make their job easier. So take it with you. BTW, books are quite chap in Russia...
Concerning the travel itself... It might be more than boring. Normally people seldom travel that far by the same train. almost 8 years ago
The phrasebook will come in handy. So take it.
A journey like that is better taken in a company of four. Then you'll occupy the whole compartment. I wouldn't recommend going alone cause chances are you'll be bored to death. It is really a long journey. almost 8 years ago
We have just done part of the Trans-Siberian (Moscow to Irkutsk) and while you can generally get by with a mixture of gesturing and English it is much more satisfying to be able to speak a few phrases and the Russians you meet will be all the more friendly if you at least give some Russian a go.
Apart from handing over our tickets and passport when we boarded we had very little interaction with the attendants.
I wouldn't recommend doing the whole stretch in one go, aside from getting bored you will be missing lots of great places along the way. If you only make one stop then I would suggest Irkutsk or Ulan Ude, while not fantastic destinations themselves they give you the opportunity to take trips to Lake Baikal. Olkhon Island is amazing and if you like easy hiking the Circum-Baikal railway is great.
We spent 4 days on the train and certainly after 3 days I was bored out of my mind. But if you like reading and chilling out then its quite a good way to just cut yourself off from the world and kick back. Sharing with other foreigners as a tour group might sound more fun but then you'll be missing the real Russian experience of taking the train. It will also probably cost you about 2 or 3 times as much as walking up to the counter at the train station in Russia. We shared our cabin with 2 very nice Russian ladies who were always giving us Russian food and had a little English so we attempted some conversation from time to time. almost 8 years ago