Rob's Russian Blog: Public transport
Russian public transport by Honza Souk
Rob's landed in Russia and is tackling the public transport. Here are his top tips to get yourself around...Russian public transport
Now that I’m actually in Russia and not just vaguely posturing, I’ve been learning the ropes on Russian public transport. A good hangover from the Soviet days is the multitude of ingenious ways with which Russian citizens cart themselves around their city. As a result I’m going to focus on the Trolleybus and the Marshutka, 2 ways that might need a little explaining to a Western year-abroader...
The bizarre offspring of a bus and a tram, the trolley bus may not be the prettiest or quickest thing on the road but it is convenient and reliable. They run on set routes and have numbers like regular buses but are powered by electricity from overhead cables and driven by chain-smoking Russians.
Trolleybuses operate in lots of Russian cities and, asking around, many Russians can’t understand why we don’t have them in the UK. Often there is a set fee that you pay to an official on board (not to the driver) that lets you travel anywhere in the city. Passes are usually available for students and the elderly but getting hold of one can be tricky. It’s best to ask at your place of study or work and see where they direct you to. Here in Petrozavodsk a single journey ticket is very cheap at only 12 roubles from anyway to anywhere on the city route.
Another odd one this, a Marshutka is basically a cross between a taxi and a bus and can be anything from a minivan to an entire coach. They pull up to bus stops with a list of destinations on the side and they stop at each one giving those on board time to hop out. Yes it looks dodgy, but they are legal and (supposedly) all licensed - people use them every day to get to work. If you can’t be bothered to wait for the bus or trolley, or are running late, you can hop in and get to your destination quickly - albeit for a few roubles more. Often they are packed and cramped little minibuses so getting in and out, even for experienced Russians, is a little inelegant. The drivers are also a little on the cocky side so expect a slightly wild ride at times. In Petrozavodsk they cost 15 roubles to any destination on their route - only a little more than the trolley.
One more thing...
Public transport etiquette exists in full-force in Russia. You may be expected to give up seats to the elderly, not talk on a mobile phone, keep chit-chat with other students quiet and ensure you keep your feet off of the seat in front (as I found out myself when a conductor slapped my legs...ouch).