Marshrutkas keep appearing in my nighmares. I think that marshrutka drivers have souls of racers, and all passengers (or is it just me?) start feeling a profound need of praying during this journey. I promise you that a ride on marshrutka will significantly raise your level of adrenaline and will become an unforgettable memory.
What is a marshrutka?
Marshrutka or marshrutnoye taxi (маршрутка, маршрутное такси, also called a „marshmallow” by some of my non-russian friends 🙂 ) is a way of public transport, private minibus. It is very common in Russia and other neighboring countries.
Understanding how marshrutkas work can be quite a challenge, but it makes moving around and between Russian cities much easier. With marshrutkas you can reach almost every destination, their number is impressive, they are popular. You can move around Saint Petersburg or Moscow but also take a 6 hours ride from Irkutsk to Olkhon Island by lake Baikal.
Difficulties in using marshrutkas and how to overcome them
1. Getting on a marshrutka
Marshrutka drivers can stop on every bus stop (actually they can stop everywhere 🙂 ). But they will do it only if a person on the bus stop lets them know that he wants to get in or a passenger tells him he would like to get off.
So if you are waiting on a bus stop and you can see your marshrutka approaching, wave – give the driver a sign that you want to get in. Sometimes they stop also without this on more crowded bus stops (e.g. near metro stations), but better to be cautious.
2. Getting out of a marshrutka
When you are in the marshrutka, you paid the driver and you know what is your destination, it’s still not full success 🙂 Remember to ask the marshrutka driver to stop when you get close to your destination.
If you are not sure you can recognize your stop, it’s very convenient to ask the driver to tell you when to get off. However if you don’t know Russian, it can be a challenge. Nodoby speaks English there. Believe me, I volunteered in a Russian school!
You may use this expression: „скажите пожалуйста когда будет (your destination)” (you better listen to the pronunciation in Google Translate 🙂 ). It means “Tell me please when we’ll be at…”. The driver should stop in the right place and say the name of your stop aloud. It always worked for me and I was using marshrutkas to go to “I-was-not-sure-where” very often 🙂 But it doesn’t mean you can stop being attentive! The driver might always forget!
If you take a long-distance marshrutka, it is usually much easier, as they usually have scheduled stops. You may however always ask the driver to stop earlier on the way if it is more convenient for you.
3. Descriptions of marshrutka’s route
On every marshrutka there is a board with its route description both at the front and on its side. Unfortunately in vast majority of cases it is described in Russian with Cyrillic alphabet only. I have seen some exceptions on the most popular touristic routes, but this is not a rule.
Again, if you don’t know Russian, this may be a problem. But if you tell the driver where you want to go, he will at least give you a sign if this is a correct marshrutka or not 🙂
4. Marshrutka timetables
Timetables for marshrutkas basically do not exist. Marshrutkas work every day more or less from 6 am till midnight. Most of the buses go every 10-20 minutes. During the day they’re more frequent, early in the morning or late in the evening evening – much rarlier. My marshrutka to go home (K-246 <3) in late evenings was going every 25-30 minutes.
There is a website which helps to figure out the marshrutkas system in Saint Petersburg (I don’t know about other places in Russia). http://www.spbmar.info It is available in Russian only, why I am not surprised! Let me know if you need help with this… 🙂
Regarding long-distance marshrutkas, it’s often best to ask your host or at the reception of your hotel. They will most probably know when and where to catch the marshrutka you need. They sometimes are even able to order a pick-up from your hotel’s door – this was possible for the way from Irkutsk to Olkhon island.
Don’t let marshrutkas scare you. They’re a fun part of the culture of eastern countries 🙂 Go there, it’s totally worth it.
Check top things to see in Saint Petersburg, Russia and get your free printable guide. It will make your planning so much easier and it’s so stunning there 🙂 Also check how to organize a trip to Saint Petersburg and these 8 things you need to know before going to Russia.
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