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Travel by Train 101: Everything You Need to Know About Travelling by Train

Buying Train Tickets in Russia

If you are in Russia, you can buy train tickets yourself. You can do it either at any train station, or from any agent (please note that most of train stations staff does not speak English). The agents always charge a fee (usually from 5% to 25%) on top of the Russian Railways price, because the Russian Railways dont pay any commission and require a lot of paperwork to be done on each purchase. The tickets for all destinations are usually readily available; however, if you want a train for a specific date or a train that departs only a few times a week, it is best to buy your ticket at least 3-7 days in advance (usually at all railway stations and in ticket offices in town). You always need to present your passport when buying tickets. All travel documents will have your name, seat number, and passport number.

 
Restrictions on Purchasing Your Ticket

In Russia, you cannot book a train ticket. No ticket reservation system will be able to hold your ticket – you should purchase it right away. Should you need to return your tickets, you can only do so in the ticket offices of railway stations. In Russia, you cannot purchase train tickets earlier than 45 days before the departure of your train.

 
Stopovers while traveling on a Russian train

If you intent to break you railroad trip into several parts, you need to know that you require a separate ticket for each portion of your journey. The train tickets in Russia are issued for a specific date, on a specific date, for a specific journey, and for a specific person. So, it is not possible to buy an open ticket. For example, from Moscow to Irkutsk with a stop-over in Novosibirsk, you will need to buy two tickets: Moscow - Novosibirsk and Novosibirsk - Irkutsk. If youre not sure about the second part of your journey, you can wait till you get to your first destination and then try to buy your ticket there. Usually, if you want to buy a ticket for the train that departs in three or more days, it is fairly easy to be able to purchase the tickets (except for the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian trains, which we advise to book in advance).

 
Buying your ticket at the railway station

Buying the train tickets yourself directly at the railway station is cheaper, but has a few disadvantages. First, there are often long lines. Second, the operators at ticket sales offices dont speak English. Third, there may be no tickets left if you try to purchase tickets right before your planned departure. On the positive side, you have an opportunity to purchase stand-by seats that are sold two hours before departure: the price stays the same, but you might get a ticket that was previously unavailable.

 
Buying your ticket at the ticket agency

The agencies can provide excellent service but charge commission. The Russian Railways dont pay any commission to the agents for tickets sold, so the price at the agency will always be higher. The agencys commission depends on the quality of service and may vary from 10% to 50% of the ticket price.

For more information please, see Russian Railroad Rules and Regulations

 
Guidelines for Baggage
  • For travellers in 2nd and 3d class, each passenger may bring aboard baggage not exceeding 36 kg. Not included in this limit are personal items such as purses, briefcases, laptop computers, baby items such as strollers, diaper bags and car seats
  • For travellers in 1st class, each passenger may bring aboard baggage not exceeding 50 kg

For more information please, see Russian Railroad Rules and Regulations

 
Traveling with Children

Children under 5 years old are allowed to travel for free if they do not require a separate seat. In this case, the child will get a price-free ticket. This rule only applies to passengers departing from cities in the Russian Federation.

If there are two children under 5 years of age traveling with one adult passenger, one of the children is required to have a child’s ticket.

Children {5-10 years old) require a child’s ticket. A child’s ticket for 2nd and 3d class is usually 65% of a full adult ticket, and 1st class child’s tickets is 50% discount. Children under 10 years of age are not allowed to travel unsupervised.

All underage passengers require ID for boarding (passport or birth certificate). For more information please, see Russian Railroad Rules and Regulations

 
Traveling with Pets

Small domestic animal: dogs, cats, birds, etc. being transported in a luggage car only with no change of a train to your final destination.

 

Transportation of Dogs

  • in kennel or dog travel bag with pallets in baggage cars;
  • in passenger car (second-class carriage), but no more than 2 dogs of large size muzzled and leashed, under supervision of owners, which should travel in the same car;
  • passenger has to pay per number of seats in compartment required for the pets.
  • any size dogs will increase your luggage fee for extra 20 kg/44 lbs weight.

Transportation of small domestic animals and birds allowed in all classes type of car (except fist class), if it is not forbidden by veterinary rules, may require appropriate veterinary certificates.

Amenities of Trains

Bathrooms

There are two bathrooms at each end of every carriage.
The showers are provided on long-distance trains (more than 24 hours); only in kupe or 1st class carriages. If your train doesnt have a shower, you can ask a conductor to allow you to use a shower in another carriage for a small fee.
The bed sheets are provided in the train, and a set (which includes a towel) costs about 50R ($1.5-$2).

Meals

Most of long distance trains have a restaurant car serving hot meals, drinks and snacks.

There is also an option of having your meal without leaving your seat. Each carriage is equipped with a samovar with unlimited free hot water at the end of the corridor - pack some tea or coffee, sugar, soups or hot chocolate and bring your own mug. Tea, coffee and some food items are also available for purchase from the car assistant. On some trains breakfast or light dinner is included into the ticket price.

Types of Trains in Russia

There are three train types.

  • Firmenny: These are high-quality trains, often with a name such as Krasnaya Strela (Red Arrow) or Rossiya. They have the most modern carriages, often painted in that trains own special color scheme, usually air-conditioned and with on-board service. These are easily the best trains to go for, although the fare is a little higher than for other trains. They usually are assigned low-numbered train numbers such as 1, 8 or 10, and have a restaurant car serving drinks, snacks and affordable dinner menu. They generally have “spalny vagon” (SV) - two-bed sleeper , “kupe”- 4-bed sleepers and sometimes but not always “platskartny” open-plan dormitory sleepers.
  • Skory - Express train. These trains have SV - 2-berth sleepers, kupe 4-berth sleepers and platskartny sleepers, and most have a restaurant car. They are normally assigned one or two-digit train numbers, for example 11 or 26. Ticket prices for such trains are lower than on a Firmenny train.
  • Passazhirsky: Ordinary passenger train, often relatively slow, has more stops along the way and usually uses older carriages. They typically have 3-digit train numbers, for example 904. They usually have kupe 4-berth sleepers and platskartny, but not SV 2-berth sleepers. It is the cheapest option, but not the best!

The train classes description
Long-distance trains within Russia and the former Soviet republics have three main classes, all designed for both daytime and overnight travel given the distances covered by many trains:

Spalny Vagon / SV Luyx(1st class)

2-berth compartments, 9 compartments per coach, with both beds at the lower level. Bathrooms and toilets are at the end of the corridor. Its twice the price for traveling kupe, although you get twice the space per passenger, so its recommended for those who want extra privacy and space and who can afford it. SV is also known as myagky or lyux. On the best firmenny trains you can often buy tickets with or without service, meaning with or without bedding and meals included. In addition to the SV 2-berth sleepers, the best Moscow-St Petersburg overnight trains (the Krasnaya Strela or Red Arrow) also have two deluxe sleeping-cars with 1- & 2-bed compartments with private bathrooms, showers and TV / DVD entertainment systems. These deluxe sleepers were introduced in 2004.


Kupe (2nd class)

4-berth compartments, 9 compartments per coach. Bathrooms are at the end of the corridor. Kupe is recommended as the most often chosen carriage type by visitors to Russia. On best firmenny trains you can often buy kupe tickets with or without service, meaning with or without bedding and meals included.



Platskartny (3rd class)

Open-plan dormitory cars. There are 54 bunks per coach, arranged in baws of 4 on one side of the aisle and bays of 2 along the coach wall on the other side of the aisle. Recommended for the most budget conscious and adventurous travelers.

Other classes...

Strictly-speaking, youll also find basic seats on some long distance trains and on local or suburban trains, known as Obshchi, but they are not intended for long-distance travel and are not recommended. There is now a number of daytime expresses between cities such as Moscow and St Petersburg, and these have comfortable airline-style seating in ordinary and business classes rather than the sleeper-based classes described above.



Train Stations in Moscow

Leningradski railway station (usually northbound routes): St. Petersburg, Novgorod, Pskov, Vyborg, Murmansk, Estonia (Tallinn), Finland (Helsinki). Suburban trains to/from Klin, Tver.
Kazanski railway station: Adler, Barnaul, Izhevsk, Kazan, Novorossisk, Orenburg, Penza, Rostov, Samara, Tashkent, Toliatti, Ufa, Tchelyabinsk, Krasnoyarsk, Ryazan, Tomsk (usually southbound routes).
Yaroslavski railway station: Arkhangelsk, Ekaterinburg (Sverdlovsk), Irkutsk, Kostroma, Kirov, Novosibirsk, Perm, Vladimir, Vladivostok, Vologda, Yaroslavl. Trans-siberian trains. Suburban trains to Abramtsevo, Sergiev Posad.
Belorusski railway station: Kaliningrad, Smolensk. Belarus (Minsk), Lithuania, Germany (Berlin), Poland.
Kurski railway station: Kursk, Krasnodar, Nizhni Novgorod, Oryol, Perm, Rostov-na-Donu. Local trains to / from Vladimir, Podolsk.
Rizhski railway station: Latvia (Riga)
Kievski railway station: Ukraine (Kiev)

Train Stations in Saint Petersburg

Moskovski railway station: Moscow, Novgorod, Murmansk
Vitebski railway station: Belarus (Minsk), Ukraine (Kiev), Latvia (Riga), Lithuania (Vilnius).
Finlandski railway station: Finland (Helsinki)
Varshavski railway station: Poland (Warsaw)
Baltiiski railway station: trains to the cities around St. Petersburg

How to Find Your Train

Usually the railway stations are named according to their destination routes. For example, if a train to St.Petersburg would normally depart from Leningradski vokzal (Leningrad - old name for St.Petersburg), a train to Riga would depart from Rizhski vokzal(train station).
If you are not sure what train station exactly your train departs from, see our city guides transportation section.
The railway timetable (raspisanie - расписание) information can be also found at the train stations (vokzal - вокзал in Russian) near the information (informatziya - информация) counters.
Once you find your train (poezd - поезд) information, its helpful to write down its number (nomer - номер), the departure time (vremya otpravlenia - время отправления), destination point (punkt naznachenia - пункт назначения).

Russian Railroad Rules and Regulations

This is a summary of the most interesting and important rules. It is not a legal advice but useful information that will allow you to make your train journeys through Russia more flexible and less expensive.