Vending Machines

drinking machine 4

Don’t you just love vending machines?  I mean, what’s better than being able to put some coins or notes of whatever your currency is into a slot, and the product of your choice falls out in the vicinity of your feet?


Apparently the first ‘modern’ vending machines were found in London in the 1880s and contained postcards.

I guess one of my first memories of vending machines would be those glass boxes on a stand which contained coloured gum, or bouncy rubber balls, or plastic rings and other cheap stuff for kids.

Something like this…

One of my favourite childhood things

Or at the post office, which dispensed 1 and 2 cent stamps (yes, I’m old).

There are vending machines everywhere these days.  I guess the most common ones are for drinks like Coca Cola, Sprite, water etc., and snacks like chocolate, Kit-Kats, crisps (chips) and other junky type food.

But they’re not only for junk food.  You can also get sandwiches and fruit bars and other more healthy options from vending machines.

Or public transport tickets.  Parking tickets.  Or in some toilets you can find machines which sell you condoms and tampons.  In a public toilet in Germany there was a machine which sold sex toys.  I kid you not.  I did take a photo but I won’t put it here, I’ll leave it to your imagination (or not).

Hot drinks, soup, fresh orange juice.  The list is endless.  It seems that you can get almost anything from a vending machine these days.

pinterest pic
Pin me!

I don’t know what vending machines are like in your country, but here in Russia there are many different kinds.  And even after 11 years here I’m still surprised about what I see in vending machines.

Let’s have a look at some of them.


I’m sad to say that these have almost disappeared now, but when I first came to Moscow in 2007 they were quite common in metro stations.  Plenty of choice of reading material for your commute to work in the metro.  And they were popular, everybody read in the metro.  Now they just play games or look at social networks on their phones.

Newspaper dispensers in the Moscow metro – 2007


In the Soviet Union, they had drink machines from which you could buy carbonated water, with or without syrup flavourings.  The only thing was that there were no paper or plastic cups.  There was a glass.  That was used by everyone.  Apparently you cleaned it by turning the glass upside down and putting it in a special place before you used it.

I can’t imagine that going down too well these days.

In a town called Tula, we found a small market which had some old drink machines rotting away beside a small shop which sold small pies and bread products.  There were a couple of working machines, so Olivier decided to try one of them.

drink machine 1
Olivier bought a drink from one of these machines – it was pretty bad
drinking machine 2
Olivier’s drink

Here are the old ones, which were just behind the one Olivier bought his drink from.

drinking machine 3
Relics of the past
drinking machine 4

There are modern versions of this now, with paper or plastic cups so no concerns about germs for the squirmish.

Here’s one, also in Tula, where the man at the table was selling plastic cups for the people to use for the drink machines.  It was a hot day and he was doing a roaring trade.

drinking machine 5

And finally, one new drink machine, in the style of the old ones, but much more hygienic.

drinking machine 6
The writing on the machine says ‘Back to the USSR’

OK, let’s move on now.


When you think of food vending machines, you probably think of snack food, chocolates.  But in Russia, we have caviar and pelmini.

caviar 1
Caviar machine at the train station where you take the train to the airport – just in case you forgot to pick some up while you were here
caviar 2

And Pelmini, which is a kind of dumpling with meat inside.  It’s a traditional Russian food which is often bought frozen from the supermarket and cooked at home, and is a favourite among students because it’s relatively cheap.

A bowl of steaming hot pelmini on a cold day – perfect

And finally in the food category, we have Space Food.  We found this at the airport, although it didn’t seem to be a very popular choice amongst the travellers that particular day.

space food 1
One of the flavours was creamed cheese with fruit puree – yum
space food 2


Let’s look at some of the ones that I couldn’t categorise.  Like contact lenses.  In Australia, you have to have a prescription to buy contact lenses.  It’s a pain, having to make an appointment at the optometrist, and then buying your lenses in the shop at inflated prices.  Not so in Russia, no prescription needed.  And you don’t even have to go into a shop.

contact lense
This is one of my favourite vending machines
contact lenses 2

And then there’s this rather practical one.  It contains all kinds of women’s products for your convenience.  Including a pregnancy test.

random products
Some very useful products in this one
random products 2

And here are some handyman stuff like glue, and batteries.  I can’t see what else is in here but I’m sure I’ll need something from this one one day.

home stuff

Oh look, here’s some socks.  That’s good, because I forgot to get some when I was at the shop earlier.

What colour would you like?

If you prefer something a little more feminine, how about some pantyhose?  Note the pin-up pictures decorating the machine.


And last, but certainly not least, the one I was most surprised to see.  The patriot box.  These are t-shirts.  Complete with an image of the President.  Class.

patriot box
T-shirts with the President
patriot box 2

So, as you can see, you can get almost everything you need from a vending machine in Russia.

What’s it like where you live?  Let me know in the comments if you’ve seen any interesting vending machines lately.

~ Cheryl

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Author: Cheryl

I'm an Australian woman who is now living in a village in rural Bulgaria. I lived for 12 years in Moscow, Russian Federation, working as an English language teacher. My current loves are my husband and my vegetable garden.

10 thoughts on “Vending Machines”

  1. This is so crazy!!! who knew you could even put half of these things in vending machines?!!? But, I have to say it’s pretty genius! Especially for people who have issues talking to people in person. It probably does take some jobs away though, but idk how many people are setting up stalls to sell caviar lol. Great post! Thanks for sharing!


    1. Hi Sana! Yes, it’s pretty crazy here when it comes to vending machines! I do think about the number of people out of work because of them, but what can you do – it’s progress. And, I think you’re right about the caviar, I’ve never seen a stall selling it (but there are small shops selling caviar and fish products!). Thank you for reading my blog, glad you enjoyed it! 🙂


    1. Hi Kira! Yes, it’s pretty wild! 🙂 I’m currently living in Moscow, so you can read a lot about Moscow and Russia in other parts of my blog – take a look around! Thanks for visiting and commenting! 🙂


  2. Did Oliver get beer?

    I really appreciate this post. I needed some research on modern Russian / older Soviet vending machines. I have to paint several 28mm scale versions for a game called Zona Alfa. I will definitely be painting the ‘Back to the USSR’ coke machine!

    I am also very envious of the sock machine. Piano key socks?
    I may take a trip to Moscow to get a Putin t-shirt from a vending machine!


    1. Hi Ronald, thanks for reading my blog. No, Olivier got some carbonated water, not beer, and it wasn’t very tasty. Glad you found my post interesting and useful. Yeah, piano key socks! Pretty cool, hey! The Putin t-shirt vending machine was at the airport. Hope to see you again at Born in a Car 🙂


  3. I remember using those drinks vending machines in Leningrad in 1970. They dispensed a cheap form of champagne for 20 kopecks and we reused the same opaque old glass – very welcome on a hot July day. How we avoided catching typhoid I cannot imagine.


    1. Hi Robin, I guess those drinks vending machines were everywhere in the Soviet Union! I love seeing them in old Soviet films and photos. I can’t imagine using a ‘communal’ glass these days, can you?! Funny how life has changed, even when it comes to vending machines. I’m not a big fan of the coffee vending machines we have now, there are small coffee cups and plastic stirring sticks all over the place where I live (Bulgaria) because there are coffee vending machines everywhere! Thanks for visiting Born in a Car, have a great end of the week and weekend. 🙂


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