Sunday, July 14, 2013

Travel Lite and Take a Good Camera

When you are travelling about in Russia it is a good idea to travel lite for a variety of reasons.  For one, if you are riding the Russian rails, you don't want to be tossing around heavy baggage from the platform into and out of your train car.  It isn't like America where there is barely any room between the train platform and getting into the train car.  In Russia there can be a substantial distance between the edge of the platform and getting into the car.  In places such as Kazansky Station in Moscow, not only is there are significant gap between the platform and the train car, you also need to make your way up a set of narrow, nearly vertical set of train steps into the car.

Last time I made the trip, I took 3 pairs of slacks, 3 shirts, 3 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of underwear, and a minimal amount of the necessary bathroom sundries for washing, shaving, oral care, deodorant, etc.  I was going for 3 weeks, and simply washed the clothes I wore each day, and changed to another set for the next day.  If you pack smart, you can get away with only a carry on.  If you take more than one suitcase that you have to check at the airport, you will have to pay extra for the second suitcase, up to $100.00 or more US.

Make sure you also take a decent digital camera so you can document the places you've been and the people you've been with.  If you aren't a professional photographer, don't go overboard and get some huge digital SLR that is going to bog you down.  I've found that a Nikon CoolPix camera is small enough, light weight enough, and has enough options for it to be a good all around camera and it has pretty good resolution for a small digital camera.

Also, unless you are already a fluent speaker of Russian, take with you a small pocket Russian-English dictionary or a lightweight electronic translation machine. Before you go, learn some basics, such has "hello, please, thank you, how much, and where's the bathroom."  You should also learn how to use the toilet squatting instead of sitting, not that you'll have to do that everywhere, but there are places where it might be handy knowledge.


BYOTP

BYOTP does NOT mean bring your own tent; however, no trip to Russia is complete without having some experience riding the Russian railways.  Whether it's an overnighter from Moscow to Kazan or Yoshkar-Ola or a multi-day trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway or Trans-Mongolian Railway, one thing you certainly need to bring along is toilet paper.  Russians are not known for being hardy merely because of the harsh winter weather, but also their ability to endure toilet paper that feels more like sandpaper than it does like toilet paper.

You should make sure you have an adequate supply for length of your train trip.  It might also be advisable to have some supply for your stay in Russia, because my experience has been that you can't always easily find toilet paper in the supermarket either.  I had to buy a roll of paper towels and cut it in half the last time I tried to find toilet paper in a Russian supermarket in Yoshkar-Ola.