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Holiday in Ukraine

Ukraine Train Travel 

I understand that for many Ukraine train travel is a new experience so here I have produced a ''guide' with advice and etiquette regarding traveling on an Ukrainian train.

I have traveled 1000's of miles within Ukraine and never had any problems or trouble so please it as fun, an adventure so enjoy the experience

First what to wear

Ok, the first surprise you may get is that in Ukraine , you buy a train ticket and they do not segregate male and female travelers. So you could find yourself sharing a coupe with some females. What you must remember is that the Ukrainians change into something more comfortable or appropriate, especially if it’s a long overnight journey They will change into T-shorts and shorts or sports costume and flip-flops or slippers

So if you share a cabin with a stranger of an opposite gender and she expresses the intention to change, you should leave the compartment and wait in the corridor. When she has changed her clothes , she will open the door letting you know you can come in. She will then walk into the corridor allowing you to change your clothes and after you have changed clothes open the door to indicate that she can enter the compartment,

As most train travel in Ukraine is 'overnight' and as such you may arrive to your destination early in the morning., so if you find that your fellow traveler(s) are asleep just take your other clothes to the toilet/washroom and after washing , shaving , etc get changed.

My advice would be try and pack a T-Shirt and some loose fitting trousers ( jogging pants ) into your 'hand luggage' thus allowing you to find them easily and travel in comfort


Couchettes and Bedding

Couchettes in 1st and 2nd class cars are relatively soft and fit for one average-sized person; ,a tall or large person might probably feel the couchette is a bit short or narrow to sleep well.

If you travel 2nd class, (kupé/coupe),, watch your head while standing up from the lower berth – don’t forget there’s an upper one.

Every passenger has individual bedding - pillowcase, bed sheet and cover (or two sheets)

In 2nd class, (kupé/coupe) the bedding provided in sealed plastic bags to make sure they weren’t used. You will also find there’s a mattress roll on the berth with a pillow inside it and you’ll have to make the bed yourself with the bedding from the bag.

There are warm blankets for each passenger to be found on the shelf above the cabin door. You can freely take them if you feel it gets colder at night. Sometimes, if you see no above mentioned mattress roll on the berth, it’s on this shelf as well. The bedding cost is included into the cost of your ticket

You don’t have to make your bed in the morning, but don’t be surprised if you see people taking the bedding off and carrying it to the attendant. This is an old Soviet requirement (or habit), which is no longer valid, but some people still practice this now and then.

Lavatories and Toilets

Lavatories are located at each end of the carriage. They represent relatively small cabins with a sink, the mirror and a toilet, and have sockets for electric shavers.

Check lavatories at both end, not only the closest to your cabin, as sometimes one can be cleaner and more modern (say, bio-type) than the other.

Most of the doors have signs, so you’d know if it’s occupied. If there isn’t one, press the door handle and try to push it. In the newest cars these signs are located at each end of the corridor above the exit and are visible once you come out of your compartment. Sometimes you may have to queue in the corridor to get to the lavatory (especially in the morning before arrival).

Take a towel, soap and paper tissue ( again put some soap and paper tissue in your hand luggage or buy it in Ukraine before you get on the train ) with you when going to lavatory. By the end of the route they sometimes run out of soap and toilet paper and the attendants are not quick enough to replace.

You may wish to bring a small bottle of water to brush your teeth , washing your face; and hands is fine with tap water. Needless to mention there’s no drinking water in a train lavatory.

The tap in the older trains can be tricky: push up the button hanging in the middle of the faucet hole; in the oldest cars water runs only while you hold that button pushed up. Modern ones are usually equipped with normal valve (or two separate for hot and cold water) and you just have to turn it.

A foot pedal is the most common flushing mechanism in trains. Modern toilets have a flush button.

Most of the lavatories (except “bio-type”) can’t be used at the train stations, as those are considered city sanitary zones, so the attendant would lock the restrooms for some time before and after the train stops.

Smoking

Smoking is NOT allowed on all Ukrainian trains.

Meals and Drinks

Most people here usually bring their own food, water and drinks (both soft and spirits) on board. Do the same, especially if it’s an overnight train and you’ll need something for dinner and breakfast. Or do as I do and eat before boarding the train and go to a shop or supermarket and buy some fruit , water/juice and other small snacks to eat.

You can also consider taking some tea, coffee and sugar as well. At the front end of the car, near the attendant’s cabin, there’s a boiler with free hot water. If you didn’t take your cup/mug with you, ask the attendant for one However you can also buy tea/coffee from the attendant,

At each station where the train stops you will see people on the platform selling fruits, seeds and nuts, home-made bakery, meat or wine, beer, cigarettes etc. If you are not traveling with the local who knows which items are safe to buy and can haggle over the price, you better avoid buying and as already said by before you board the train.

Rarely (but possibly) you can see the beer/snack seller going through the car while the train moves (those are locals shuttling between train stations). Better refrain from buying anything with those as well – it’s overpriced and the quality isn’t guaranteed.

Security and Safety

Most of the newer cars have video cams overviewing the corridor. Apply your usual safety measures to keep your valuables and documents safe and don’t show them off to your fellow travelers  Try not to leave your valuables unattended. This doesn’t mean you should take your entire luggage when heading to the restroom, just make sure valuables are secured properly. 

The safest place to keep your luggage at is under the lower berth (especially if you are the one who has it). The space under the berth is divided into an open one, which can be easily reached while you seat, and the one that you can reach only if you lift the berth - it looks as if there’s a metal box under the berth, so put your luggage into it and move the berth down. 

Note though, that any passenger of the cabin is entitled to place his luggage there, so if you find it occupied by the earlier arrived passenger, you can’t insist it be removed. Just share the space. Some people also put their expensive shoes/cloth inside that box. 

Another place (less safe though) to keep your luggage, especially the sizeable one, is on the shelf above the cabin door. 

In 1st and 2nd class compartment there’s not only a door lock, which you should certainly use before going to bed, but also a security latch that blocks the door. This is a metal rectangular bar located in the upper corner of the door opposite the door handle side (ie. if the door handle is on the right, as it usually is, look for the latch in the upper left corner). Once you lift it, the door won’t open wider than the distance between the latch and the cabin wall allows. To unblock the door you have to move the bar down - feel for a tiny button on its side verge, push it and move the latch down.

Tickets are sold here in such a manner, that you never know who your companions will be, men or women. Usually it’s not a problem and is quite safe even for a woman in the company of three men. But if you feel uncomfortable, you may ask to change your seat so that you could share the cabin with the person(s) of your gender. Note though, that this is only possible if another traveler doesn’t mind changing his cabin/seat or if there are free seats available. 

Traveling

Trains in Ukraine travel a a lower speed than in many Countries, and in many cases your journey will be overnight. So pack a book , a walkman ( or something similar )

Your train will makes stops and these vary in time from a few minutes to 45 minutes. You can use these stops as an opportunity to 'stretch your legs ' or a cigarette but do not wander to far from your carriage door as the only warning that the train is about to depart is the other passengers getting back on board.

Do not worry about 'over sleeping' and missing your 'stop'! The steward or stewardess will wake you about one hour prior to your arrival

My final advice is!

Please enjoy the experience! I have traveled many 1000.s of miles by Ukrainian trains and never had any problems or trouble.

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