6 Phrases to Help You Survive on the Marshrutka

6 Phrases to Help You Survive on the Marshrutka
09 July 2017

Okay, I’ll admit it: I love marshrutkas. What could be finer than being smushed into a minivan with a gaggle of Russians while you zoom through St. Petersburg at breakneck speeds? The first time I lived in St. Petersburg, the best way to get from the metro to my apartment was by marshrutka, and I learned fast that to survive on the marshrutka you need to master the terminology of transport. This is due to the fact that, unlike a bus, marshrutkas don’t have scheduled stops. Technically, a marshrutka is a privately owned minibus or minivan that follows a fixed route, but it’s up to the passenger to tell the driver where he/she wants to get off, and it’s also up to the passenger to hail the minibus down, like a taxi. Really, the marshrutka is a big party taxi where you have the chance to practice screaming in Russian to get the driver’s attention when you want to get off. As a naturally soft-spoken person, riding the marshrustka was like a high-volume Russian phonetics class. But how does one communicate to the driver where and when they’d like to exit the marshrutka? Below are a few helpful phrases to help you survive on the marshrutka and expand your public transport vocabulary.

How Can I Find a Marshrutka?


Before we get into phraseology, let’s take a minute to figure out how you even get on a marshrutka. First of all, you can always tell a marshrutka from a bus by the number: marshrutka numbers are always prefixed with the letter “K” and displayed on both the front and side windows, alongside the names of a few of the major stops on the route. Officially, these days marshrutkas are only supposed to pick passengers up at predetermined stops, but some drivers will still stop if you flag them down on the street. In terms of exiting the marshrutka, the process is the same as ever: you must tell the driver where you want to get off, else you will ride around in circles for the rest of your life.

Helpful Phrases for the Marshrutka

1. Вы идёте дo + genitive

If you’re not quite sure you’ve chosen the right marshrutka, or unclear on the marshrutka’s route, it’s probably a good idea to ask the driver if he’s passing by your destination. The phrase Вы идёте дo means, literally, are you going in the direction of, followed by your destination in the genitive case (Технологического института, Невского). And yes, for some reason, buses, like people, идут.


2. Возьми́те, пожалуйста…

Once you’ve successfully determined that you’re on the right marshrutka, you must pay. If the bus is relatively empty, you can likely approach the driver and simply hand him the fare. If the bus is crowded, as it usually is, and the driver is focused on driving like a maniac, you might have to fight a bit to pay. In this situation, don’t be afraid to yell, “Возьми́те, пожалуйста,” to get the driver’s attention. If you’re far away from the driver, usually a good hearted Russian, upon hearing the phrase, will pass the fare up front.


3. Бу́дьте добры/останови́те, пожалуйста…

And now, for the main challenge: getting off the bus. This is also the most delightful part of the ride, in which you get to test your fledging Russian screaming skills and demand the right to exit. There are two ways to do this: the extremely polite way and the normal way, which is still quite polite. To exercise a normal level of politeness, you can yell, “останови́те, пожалуйста,” followed by where you want to stop (see below) which simply means, “stop, please.” Or, if you feel like practicing your Russian a bit more, you can add on the classic, “Бу́дьте добы,” meaning “be so kind as to…” followed by the aforementioned, “останови́те, пожалуйста,” to get the whole sentence: “Бу́дьте добры, останови́те, пожалуйста.”


4. У + genitive


The next few phrases all concern location: how to express, using proper grammar, where you’d like to stop. The first one, У, in this context means “near,” and is used, by and large, if you’d like to get off around some sort of obvious landmark. For example, on the marshrutka you’ll commonly here, “останови́те, пожалуйста, у метро,” meaning: “please stop by the metro station.” Some other common places using this construction are: у вокзала (near the train station), у перехода (near the crosswalk), у школы (by the school).


5. На + prepositional


На is used when you have a more specific place in mind, such as an actual street name. For example, if you’re nearing Nesvsky, you can ask the driver to “останови́те, пожалуйста, на Невском,” and he’ll understand that you’d like for him to stop at the intersection. Other examples of street names are: На Богатырском, на Красноармейской. For some reason, the words “traffic light” and “bus stop” also take the prepositional case. You must stop на светофоре and на остановке.


6. Перед поворотом, за поворотом


After consulting with a real live Russian, it seems that the prefixes перед (in front of) and за (behind) are also used as a way to describe destination, though really only in relation to a поворот, or turn. If you want to experiment with these two prefixes, be sure to use the instrumental after, but generally the prefixes у and на are more widely used.


With these six phrases you are more than ready to hop on the marshrutka and confidently yell at the top of your lungs when it’s time for you to get off. Though it’s a bit nerve wracking to scream in Russian in front of a bunch of strangers, it’s definitely a worthwhile and often necessary experience. If you hear any interesting destinations that deviate from the above standard grammatical constructions, leave us a comment!

Emily, studying Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg 

Posted by Emily Ziffer

I'm Emily, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg and on the hunt for vegetables, climbing, books, and coffee.

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