Buy Russian train tickets online

Tickets can be collected at Real Russia's offices in Moscow or St Petersburg, or an e-ticket can be emailed to you so you can collect the ticket from most main stations in Russia.  More details.

Trans-Siberian journey planner & ticket sales

Arrange a Russian visa

 
 

Taking the train within Russia...

The Russian rail system is one of the largest in the world, and trains serve almost every town and city in Russia.  Train travel is a safe, comfortable and inexpensive way to get around.  In fact, it can be safer to use Russian trains than internal flights!  It will certainly be cheaper and far more interesting.  This page will help you understand Russian train system, choose the right train & on-board accommodation for you, and buy your train tickets securely online from a reputable source.

On this page...

Buy Russian train tickets online

How to check train times & fares within Russia

Moscow to St Petersburg by train - a quick guide

How to buy Russian train tickets at the station

What are Russian trains like?

Hotels in Russia

 

On other pages...

Russian visas & how to get one

Useful country information:  Time zones, currency...

Train travel from London to Moscow & St Petersburg

How to plan and book a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway

The Silk Route from Moscow to Central Asia & China

Moscow & St Petersburg to Helsinki by train    

Moscow & St Petersburg to Tallinn by train

Moscow & St Petersburg to Riga by train

Sponsored links...

 

Train times & fares

How to check Russian train times & fares...

There are several ways to check train times & fares for journeys within Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, and the other ex-Soviet republics:

Travel tips...

Moscow to St Petersburg by train:  A quick guide...

Moscow to St Petersburg option 1:  By Sapsan high-speed train in 3 hours 55 minutes...

All baggage is X-rayed before you board a Sapsan, so arrive in good time for your train...

Sapsan train   2nd class seats on a Sapsan train.

A 150mph Sapsan train between Moscow and St Petersburg.  Above right, 2nd class seats on the Sapsan train.

Photos courtesy of Mark Pascoe

Moscow to St Petersburg option 2:  By sleeper train, including the famous Krasnaya Strela (Red Arrow)...

A 2-berth first class sleeper on the Krasnya Strela train from St Petersburg to Moscow   The most famous train from St Petersburg to Moscow:  The Krasnaya Strela or 'Red Arrow'.  You can now buy Russian train tickets online.

A first class 2-berth sleeper on the Krasnaya Strela, from Moscow to St Petersburg.  Photo courtesy of Chris Sparks

 

Train number 1, the famous Krasnaya Strela  (Red Arrow) from St Petersburg to Moscow.  Photo courtesy of Chris Sparks

How to buy tickets...

Buy Russian train tickets online...

You can buy tickets online in English from Real Russia using this booking system, with good after-sales service if you need it.  This system is good for checking Russian train times, too, even if you plan to buy tickets at the ticket office.

Buy Russian train tickets online

Trans-Siberian journey planner & ticket sales

Arrange a Russian visa

 

What tickets can this system sell?  This system can sell tickets for any mainline train journey within Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Lithuania, Kazakhstan and the other ex-Soviet states.  It will also sell tickets for journeys starting in those countries heading outwards, for example Moscow to Berlin or St Petersburg to Helsinki.  Reservations officially open 45 days before departure, but Real Russia allow you to request tickets up to 180 days ahead and they will contact you for payment when the price is confirmed.

Can anyone buy tickets using this system?  Yes, you can buy tickets online with a credit card whether you live in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, or wherever.

How are tickets delivered?  Tickets can be collected free of charge at Real Russia's offices in Moscow or St Petersburg, or an e-ticket can be emailed to you so you can collect the ticket from most main stations in Russia.  For journeys starting in other ex-Soviet countries, tickets can be sent to UK or EU addresses for a £12-£15 charge, or couriered to any address worldwide, also for an extra charge.

Who run this service?  Is it reliable?  This service is provided by Real Russia, a reputable joint UK-Russian company which has got very good reports from users.  Real Russia can also sort out your Russian visa.

Booking tips:  Look for a train marked 'Firm' if there is one. 'Firmeny' trains are the best 'quality' trains, with modern coaches and good on-board service.  'TBC' means the system cannot provide a price for that particular train automatically, but they'll contact you with a cost by phone or email.

Is it cheaper to buy at the ticket office?  Real Russia charge the normal Russian Railways fare plus a 15-23% mark-up to cover their costs (all agencies charge a mark-up, in fact Real Russia is one of the cheapest agencies).  There's a 2.5% charge for credit card payments, but you can easily avoid this by calling their UK office to pay by debit card when your tickets are confirmed.  The fares shown include the mark-up, but not the credit card charge.  By all means buy tickets at the ticket office if you're flexible, but Russian trains can get fully-booked so it's good to pre-book if you want a specific date and train.  Russian Railways offer online booking but it's only in Russian, so it can be worth the extra to quickly and simply organise your Russian rail tickets in English.

How to buy tickets at the station...

The cheapest place to buy Russian train tickets is at the station reservation office.  Here are some tips:

Other agencies who can arrange Russian train tickets...

You can also arrange train travel in Russia through several Russian agencies, including:

Feedback from 'seat61' correspondents has generally been very positive about the first three of these Russian agencies, nothing has yet been received about the All-Russia agency.  Remember that Russian train reservations only open 45 days before departure, so reservations cannot be confirmed before bookings open - although obviously, you can contact the agency and arrange the booking beforehand.  Some agencies appear to operate a waiting list system for key Trans-Siberian trains.

What are Russian trains like?

The three types of train...

There are three main categories of long-distance train in Russia:

The three classes of accommodation...

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 (1st class)

   

2-berth compartments, 9 compartments per coach, with both beds at the lower level either side of the compartment.  Washrooms and toilets are at the end of the corridor.  It's twice the price of travelling kupé, although you get twice the space per passenger, so it's 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 'firmeny' trains you can often buy tickets with or without 'service', meaning with or without bedding and meals included.

In addition to the normal 2-berth sleepers, the best Moscow-St Petersburg overnight train (the 'Krasnaya Strela or 'Red Arrow') also has two deluxe sleeping-cars with 1- & 2-bed compartments with private toilet and shower and TV / DVD entertainment system.  These deluxe sleepers were introduced in 2004.

Kupé (2nd class)

4-berth compartments, 9 compartments per coach.  Washrooms and toilets are at the end of the corridor.  Kupé is recommended as the class chosen by most visitors to Russia.  On the best 'firmeny' trains you can often buy kupé 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 bays 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 visitors.

Other classes...

Strictly-speaking, you'll also find basic seats on some long distance trains and on local or suburban trains, known as 'Obshchi', but this isn't intended for long-distance travel and is not recommended.  There are 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.

2-berth first class compartment on the 'Rossiya' from Moscow to Vladivostok    Russian trains:  'Kupé' class 4-berth sleepers      Russian trains: 'Platskartny' class sleepers

Spalny Vagon.  A comfortable 2-berth spalny wagon compartment on a quality firmeny train, in this case the Moscow-Vladivostok RossiyaPhoto courtesy of Daniel Brewster.

 

Kupé.  Lockable 4-berth compartments.  This is an older train - newer coaches have more modern compartments.  Courtesy David Smith

 

Platskartny.  54 bunks per coach, arranged open-plan in bays of 4 (left of photo) & longitudinal bays of 2 above & below the window (right of photo).  Courtesy of

Life on board Russian trains...

Whichever class of travel you choose, each coach is looked after by a pair of attendants called a 'provodnik' (male) or 'provodnitsa' (female).  The provodnik will check your ticket at the door to the sleeper when you board.  Shortly after departure, the provodnik will come round to take your ticket and the small bedding fee (less than £1).  You may be asked if you would like a glass of black Russian tea ('chai') - this costs about 15p.  Bedding (two sheets, pillowcase and towel) is then handed out in sealed packs - blankets and mattresses will already be stacked in your compartment.  After a few journeys, you will become quite proficient at making up your bed!

A samovar with unlimited free hot water is available at the end of the corridor - pack some tea or coffee, sugar, cuppa soups or water-based drinking chocolate and bring your own mug.   Most long distance trains have a restaurant car serving drinks, snacks, and inexpensive full meals - reckon on less than £7 for two courses and a couple of bottles of beer.

Security.  Are Russian trains safe for families or single women?

Yes!  There is no need to worry unduly about security on Russian trains, even for families or women travelling alone. How do you think Russian families or solo women travel?  By train, of course, like everyone else!   Just use common sense as you would in a hotel, locking your door at night and not leaving valuables unattended in your compartment.  In addition to the normal lock on the compartment door, 'Spalny Wagon' and 'kupé' compartments have a security latch which stops the door opening more than an inch or two, and which cannot be released from outside.  There's also a safe place for your bags at night - if you have a bottom bunk, there is a metal box underneath the bunk which you can only get to by lifting up the bunk - in other words, for anyone to get to your bags, they will have to shift you off your bunk first..!  Your provodniks will probably also lock the access doors at each end of the corridor at night to prevent unwanted guests.  Men and women share the same compartments in Russia, but it's generally quite safe for women travelling alone.  If you're a woman and find yourself in sharing with three men that make you uncomfortable, just ask the provodniks (carriage attendants) if they can move you.

 

A typical Russian long-distance sleeper train, in RZD's new standard grey-and-red colour scheme.  Above left, a carriage provodnitsa hoovers the corridor carpet.  Photos courtesy of David Smith.


The Thomas Cook Timetable

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team have set up a private venture and published the first edition of a reborn European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

A Traveller's Railway Map of Europe covers the whole of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  On the back are detailed maps of Switzerland, Benelux & Germany, plus city plans showing stations in major cities.  Scenic & high-speed routes highlighted.  Click to see sample.  Buy online for €13 + €5.50 postage worldwide at www.treinreiswinkel.nl/railway_map_of_europe.

 


Guidebooks

You should take a good guidebook, and a phrasebook can help too.  I think the Lonely Planets and Rough Guides are about the best there are for the independent traveller, and you will not regret buying one of these!

Click the images to buy at Amazon.co.uk...

Lonely Planet Russia - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Russia - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Russia - click to buy online

 


Find hotels in Moscow, St Petersburg & Russia

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...


Travel insurance & health card...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without insurance from a reliable travel insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash (up to a limit) & belongings, and cancellation. An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, though, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from www.ehic.org.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on calls & mobile data...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, so consider getting a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone which can cut call & data costs by up to 90%.  At the time of writing, www.roamsure.com claims a definite 25% saving within the EU and up to 90% saving in the rest of the world.  Incoming calls are free in 73 countries, including all of the EU, the USA, Australia & South Africa.  There's no contract or commitment, and at time I write this Roamsure is offering a global SIM card for free when you buy £20 of call credit.  Seat61 gets some commission to support the site if you buy airtime from Roamsure.

 


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