Billed the greatest train journey on Earth, the Trans-Siberian provides an exciting insight into the world’s most mysterious countries, as well as a different way to travel and absorb the culture.
The train journey itself is a bucket list trip everyone should take at least once in their lifetimes. Whether you’re taking the Trans-Siberian or the Trans-Mongolian route, putting your safety first throughout your travels is, of course, a priority.
We’re always sharing our top tips for enjoying the Trans-Siberian and its many stop-offs safely. In this blog post, we concentrate on one area that may be a concern as you countdown to your trip – the presence of hawkers.
What exactly is a hawker?
A hawker is an individual who travels to sell their goods. Known as platform traders or street sellers, hawkers can be found throughout many major towns and cities around the world. They are also commonly seen at train stations based overseas.
These traders have established a reputation for aggressive selling techniques and typically advertise by shouting exactly what they are selling, but not all hawkers should be tarred with the same brush.
As a Trans-Siberian Express passenger, you’re likely to encounter many hawkers on your travels. The question is, should you buy from hawkers at stop-offs?
Why hawkers are a part of the experience
Each stop-off entails a break of up to 20 minutes, which doesn’t leave a lot of time to browse the wares of hawkers thoroughly. Buying from hawkers, however, is a tradition as old as the railway itself, and many sell great quality food, clothing, specialities, and souvenirs. Some even sell delicious home-cooked meals to enjoy back on the train, as well as essential items – like water and other drinks.
Hawkers offer the perfect opportunity to buy the supplies you need and the goods you want quickly and easily, you may after all not have another stop off for several days.
How to negotiate with hawkers
Due to the small time frame you get on the platform, there are no long, drawn-out negotiations. You may have just a few minutes to buy but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t haggle. Haggling with hawkers can be a very fun experience.
Certain techniques like walking away may not be able to be used on hawkers at stop-offs but by determining what the item is worth to you you can never go wrong. Here, Rick Steves reveals how to do just that:
“Marked prices can distort your idea of an item’s true worth. The merchant is playing a psychological game. Many tourists think that if they can cut the price by 50 percent they are doing great. So the merchant quadruples his prices and the tourist happily pays double the fair value. The best way to deal with crazy price tags is to ignore them. Before you even find out the price, determine the item’s value to you, considering the hassles involved in packing it or shipping it home.”
You’ll find more advice across our blogroll about the joys and challenges of travelling Trans-Siberian style. Check out our latest guide to living out of your suitcase for more inspiration.