You need to have your passport to buy a train ticket. Actually, you will need your passport to do pretty much anything in Russia. Even for sightseeing and visiting museums. There are always two prices quoted for entry to many sightseeing attractions: one – for a Russian person, and the other – for foreigners, which is multiple times higher than the “Russian” price. The ticket salesperson wouldn’t want to play guessing games in order to charge you the right fee: “Your passport, please!” Well, “please” is usually not included.
As a rule, you should always carry your passport with you in Russia. That’s because at any given time someone somewhere might want to check your identity: at the bank while exchanging your foreign currency (the date of your birth is of high importance there!), at the train station while buying a ticket, on the street while sightseeing… Yes, if for some reason you stick out of the crowd, a militiaman, sorry, a policeman could stop you and ask you for your documents. I have never had the unfortunate experience of being stopped by a militiaman, sorry, a policeman, but I have seen plenty of random people being stopped and questioned on the streets or such venues like train stations. What happens to these people afterwards, I can’t say, but I never see them again. I’m not saying that I don’t see them again because they were stopped by the militiaman, but one can’t rule out that possibility. I apologise for calling the policemen by their old name “militiamen”. Their “christening” has happened quite recently, and apart from the name change nothing has changed, in particular their habit of harassing innocent people on the street. Why they do it is a separate story. Meanwhile remember to carry your passport with you at all times.
But we shall go back to the queue at the train station. You’ve joined the queue, carried out all the required procedures, received and passed on the information, and, after a considerable length of time, you are about to face the ticket-selling woman (it’s always a woman, as I said earlier) with your passport. There are just two more people in front of you… Now, just one… Any moment now! And then… You hear a very polite voice: “Excuse me, please! Allow me, please, to jump the queue in front of you and buy a ticket, please!” It could be a woman decorated with hanging crying babies. Or a man, whose fiancé is already sitting and waiting for him on the train, that leaves in 5 minutes to a particular destination containing her anxious parents. Or an elderly person, whose legs are about to give up while talking to you and begging you to allow him or her to jump the queue in front of you. You are not heartless. Even if you don’t believe them for a second, you still let them in…
Eventually, after what seems like eternity (certainly long enough to write a narrative about practical advice on how to stand in the queue in Russia) it is your turn to buy a ticket. You present your passport, specify the destination and the date/time of travel, and within minutes you are the proud owner of a double-paged elongated pink paper strip. A sense of anticlimax hits you. Suddenly, you want to be anywhere else but here, in the ticket hall of the train station…
So, choose your destination! Now you are armed with the knowledge and ready to master the ticket queue in Russia. Better still, you could pretend not to understand the whole art of queue-standing and be daring enough to jump that queue. You have a valid reason: your train really is leaving in the next 5 minutes!
The second half of the satirical guide to life in Russia dealing with queueing, buying tickets and the Russians themselves. If you missed the first part, you can read it here.
I would be happy to hear your feedback. The story is not the final version.