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On Russian long-distance trains that include restaurant cars, should I in 2019 expect that I can buy full vegetarian dishes there? On those pictures of a 2015 menu on the Trans Siberian Express linked by this answer, it seems that virtually every dish contains meat or fish. Should I expect difficulties as an ovo-lacto-vegetarian (but not vegan)?

I will be travelling in classes 2К and 2Т on trains 024Й, 042В, 041М, and 009Щ, where the trains do appear to have some 10 minute+ stops to stock up on food (and water) off-train if food on the train is too limited, assuming such is available on the platform.

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    Vodka is vegetarian :) – Harper - Reinstate Monica Aug 17 at 19:01
  • I have fairly much assumed that vegetarian dishes would be unavailable which led me to ask this question: vegetarianism.stackexchange.com/questions/1864/…. – badjohn Aug 18 at 21:48
  • @badjohn Thanks a lot for the link. I'm going to use this as an opportunity to finally try one of those complete food products! – gerrit Aug 18 at 22:36
  • They don't appeal to me much. I wouldn't use them if more normal food was available. However, they seem to fulfil this requirement. – badjohn Aug 19 at 4:35
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    Of course down-voting is allowed, but I would appreciate if some of the four down-voters could comment on how they think the question can be improved, made clearer, made more useful, etc. – gerrit Aug 19 at 12:42
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No, you definitely cannot count on having vegetarian meals on long-distance trains in Russia. In fact even the menu is misleading, as quite commonly only a very limited selection of dishes are actually available on any given train.

Beware that fresh/hot food selections at stations are also quite limited, and vegetarian options even more so. (They've cracked down on unlicensed sellers, they need to rent stalls now and this has cut down on the selection a lot.) Vegetarianism in general is poorly understood in Russia, and even notionally vegetarian Russian staples like piroshki cabbage pastries may contain lard.

You're not going to starve, because you can always buy vegetarian packaged snacks (potato chip, peanuts, etc), but I would strongly encourage you to bring along enough staples to last you until your next stop. Hot water for noodles, porridge etc is always available.

You may find my little review of food options on the Trans-Siberian last year useful: https://driftingclouds.net/2018/07/04/from-siberia-to-tibet-life-on-a-train/

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    As soon as we entered Belarus, women came onto the train selling potato cakes (vegetarian), and in Russia too I saw at train stations not only stalls but also women (rarely men) walking around with plastic bags selling stuff. Incidentally, I had no problem at all buying vegetarian food on the trains (it was much harder in the town of Inta). I brought along staples as a back-up, but I did not need to use them. – gerrit Sep 24 at 19:07
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@jpatokal is right, "you definitely cannot count on having vegetarian meals on long-distance trains in Russia" (as well as on a menu).

However, there might be something in a restaurant car as, e.g., a salad suitable for a vegetarian. In fact, I traveled with a vegetarian girl this July on 056Ы, and she was quite happy with salads from a restaurant car and vegetarian snacks we bought on train stations.

There are classes where you can preorder food (full board, half board (breakfast, dinner), only breakfast or lunch or dinner, with a choice from the menu -- unfortunately, I cannot find this info in English). Breakfast is usually a porridge (kasha); however, I don't know whether you are OK with milk or not. Here a passenger provides a review on food options on the Trans-Siberian in 2018 when you preorder food online (the review is in Russian but full of pictures).

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    I can have milk, eggs, honey, etc. I'm vegetarian and one rule of thumb is that I don't eat what I wouldn't feel comfortable "harvesting" ;-) – gerrit Aug 17 at 10:57
  • Does preordering food make any difference for a vegetarian? Can one order food with special dietary restrictions? – gerrit Aug 17 at 11:27
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    Interesting! I couldn't readily find out how to preorder food, so I've asked a new question. – gerrit Aug 17 at 15:55
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    I found out how to preorder food that I already paid for and tried: the choices were "rice with chicken" and "pasta with meat". Maybe I should have bought the ticket that did not include meals... – gerrit Aug 17 at 21:22
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    Finally, it was no problem at all to get vegetarian food on the train. – gerrit Sep 24 at 19:07
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On all Russian trains I have taken, vegetarian food was no problem. The vegetarian options were much better than on British, French, or Spanish trains. I did not need to use my backup option.

For the domestic trains Moscow - Vorkuta and Vorkuta - Moscow, the проводник asked me what kind of food I wanted. When I told her I was vegetarian, she said, no problem. I was served cous cous with vegetables, complete with a Vegetarian sticker which is evidence that they are prepared for this situation:

Image with a closed meal box and a green sticker *вез мяса / Vegetarian*

The restaurant car also had plenty of vegetarian options, and I ate my breakfast, lunch, and dinner there. The vegetarian options were marked bilingually and what I wanted was always available.

The international train Paris-Moscow also had plenty of vegetarian options in its menu, which were mostly available. The restaurant car was Polish.

The international train Moscow-Warsaw did not have a restaurant car, so it had neither vegetarian nor non-vegetarian dishes.

Incidentally, the international train Warsaw-Berlin, which is Polish, has the best vegetarian food I've ever had on a train, a tofu-walnut salad that would not be misplaced in a fancy vegetarian restaurant in Berlin.

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    I have taken and added this image on purpose. I have reverted an edit which deleted it; the sticker shows evidence that the Russian railways are clearly prepared for this situation, which I think is an important piece of information. – gerrit Sep 24 at 19:02
  • Ok, your choice. Nice post though, +1 – user89966 Sep 24 at 19:16
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    Makes me wonder what the word 'ham' in Russian actually means ;-) – Berend Sep 24 at 20:15
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    I don't doubt for a moment that the trains you caught were as you describe, though I do wonder whether this was typical. In my experience of Russian trains over the last few years, it's not uncommon to find they only have a single dish available, and it's not vegetarian. If that's starting to change, then I'm pleased. But – and this is the reason I am posting this comment – if another traveller comes along and reads this answer, I would be very wary of accepting it as the normal situation. The answer by @jpatokal, above, is much closer to my experience. – Richard Smith Sep 24 at 20:54
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    @jpatokal 2К and 2Т on trains 042В and 041М (see question), with "komfort". – gerrit Oct 1 at 9:45
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I strongly recommend to bring along food. Train restaurant car's dishes are not popular. It's not the same as meal in planes.

  • Is this general advice or specific to Russian trains? – Bernhard Döbler Aug 19 at 9:32
  • I suppose it's specific to Russian trains. On trains in the US and Canada (Amtrak and Via Rail), the meals in the restaurant cars on the long distance trains are excellent. In Sweden, UK, Germany, France, Spain it's mediocre to intermediate, certainly better than on planes where it ranges from poor (most airlines I've flown) to outright disgusting (British Airways). – gerrit Aug 19 at 12:43
  • Yes, defenitely in Russian trains and in Kazakhstan trains. – VDR Aug 20 at 8:59
  • I agree that the restaurant car is not popular, but I found the food there good, cheap, and with enough vegetarian options. I suspect that by Russian standards they're expensive (430 roubles for breakfast, at the hostel the same was maybe 200 roubles), but for a westerner it's still cheap. – gerrit Sep 24 at 19:10

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