Travel by train

Generally all trains can be divided into three major categories: long-distance trains, commuter trains and express   (high speed) trains.

Поезд едет

Almost all long-distance trains are set up for overnight     travel. They suit best if you need to cover 500 — 1000 km. For   example, if you wish to get from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Nizhniy Novgorod, Kazan or Sochi taking a long-distance train may be one of the best options.

As a rule, each long-distance train provides several classes of accommodation:

1st class is a private compartment for two people, in Russia it is commonly referred to as SV. The tickets may be quite expensive, around $200 — $300 (6000 — 9000 RUR) for a overnight train from Moscow to St. Petersburg. However, some trains to minor  destinations are highly likely to lack the 1st class option.

2nd class is a private compartment for four people with two upper and two lower births. Russian people call it kupe. It is likely to be most popular option for tourists with an overnight ticket from Moscow to St. Petersburg costing around $100 (3000 RUR).

3rd class is an unwalled compartment of four fold out beds opposite two beds on the window wall (platskart in Russian). Not much privacy and comfort can be expected here, however this option is quite cheap and might suit best for young sociable people. An overnight ticket to St. Petersburg will cost $30 — 50 (900 — 1500 RUR).

Each car has its own attendant who checks tickets at your boarding, provides you bedding, sells tea and snacks and can lend you a mug and a spoon. Don’t be afraid if the attendant takes your ticket, he or she will give it back to you at your destination.

Opposite to attendant’s compartment you’ll find a boiler with free hot water for tea. Two toilets are located at the end of the corridor. Lower berths are safer and slightly more comfortable than upper berths. However, if you have an upper berth you may well sit on the lower berth during daytime.

Long-distance train tickets can be bought either in the Internet (though the Russian Railways official website is only in Russian, tourist agents with English speaking staff may take care of this) or at any railway station. Train tickets can be bought for up to 45 days in advance.

Электричка

Commuter trains are common for short distance trips. Usually they cover no more than 200 km (for Russian people it is a really short distance trip!). They are slower than long-distance trains and buses (if the latter are not stuck in the traffic jam) and usually link cities with smaller towns and villages around.

Each commuter train car has about 80 — 100 passanger seats; however Moscow commuter trains are notorious for being overcrowded. The tickets can be bought directly at the railway station, at a separate from long-distance trains deck. No booking is available and you don’t get a designated seat number.

Taking a commuter train late in the evening might not be safe; to avoid the risk of being robbed it is highly recommended to take a bus or taxi. 

Сапсан

Express (high speed) trains  appeared in Russia just a few years ago. Sapsan high speed trains link Moscow with St. Petersburg and Nizhniy Novgorod. With a speed of up to 250 km/h (155 mph) it reaches both St. Petersburg and Nizhniy Novgorod in less than four hours.

However, tickets for Sapsan are quite expensive and range within $50 – 200 (1500 – 6000 RUR) for a single ticket.

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