St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow.  Easy to reach Moscow by train..!

St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

Photo courtesy of Tony Willis

UK to Russia by train in 48 hours...

Of course, doesn't everyone go there by train?  It's easy, safe & comfortable to travel from London to Moscow by train in just over 48 hours.  Just take an afternoon Eurostar to Paris and board the Paris-Moscow Express, this runs once a week all year round.  It's the civilised way to reach Russia!  Or travel more cheaply via Berlin, Warsaw or Kiev, it's all explained on this page with times, fares & how to buy tickets...

COVID-19 update See COVID-19 travel information.

Train times, fares & tickets...

small bullet point  London to Moscow

small bullet point  London to St Petersburg

small bullet point  London to Minsk (Belarus)

small bullet point  Important update on travel to Russia via Belarus

small bullet point  Visas for Russia & Belarus

small bullet point  Useful country information: dial code, currency...

small bullet point  Hotels & accommodation in Russia

small bullet point  Holidays to Russia by train not plane

small bullet point  Buy train tickets within Russia online

Information on other pages...

small bullet point  Starting from other UK towns & cities

small bullet point  Train travel within Russia - a beginner's guide

small bullet point  Trans-Siberian Railway to China & Japan

small bullet point  The Silk Route & Central Asia   

small bullet point  Moscow & St Petersburg to Helsinki by train    

small bullet point  Moscow & St Petersburg to Tallinn by train

small bullet point  Moscow & St Petersburg to Riga by train

small bullet point  European train travel - general information

Route map:  UK to Russia by train...

London to Moscow by train is a comfortable 1,924 miles (3,097 km) via the route in dark blue.

Route map, London to Moscow & St Petersburg by train


large bullet pointUseful country information

Train operator in Russia: 

RZD (Rossiyskiye Zheleznye Dorogi, www.rzd.ru)   Buy Russian train tickets online

All-Europe online train times    Eurostar times & fares

Metros:

Moscow metro map    St Petersburg metro map

Time zone (Moscow):

Russia & Belarus GMT+3 all year (since October 2014), with no daylight saving time.

Dialling code:

+7

Currency:

£1 = 100 Rubles, €1 = 90 Rubles, approx.     Currency converter

Hotels:

Find hotels in Russia   Hotel reviews, see www.tripadvisor.com    Backpacker hostels

Visas:

You'll need a tourist visa for Russia & transit visa for Belarus

There appears to be no problem entering Russia on a direct train via Belarus

Page last updated:   

2 December 2020. Train times valid 15 Dec 2019 to 12 Dec 2020.


large bullet pointLondon to Moscow

What are the options for getting to Moscow?

There are a range of good options for travel from London to Moscow by train:

Option 1, London to Moscow via the daily Warsaw-Moscow sleeper:  The cheapest option.  Routed via Belarus.

Option 2, London to Moscow via the weekly Paris-Moscow Express:  The most glamorous & comfortable option, once a week all year.  Routed via Belarus.

Option 3, London to Moscow via the twice-weekly Berlin-Moscow Talgo:  Another classy option, twice a week all year.  Routed via Belarus.

Option 4, London, East Anglia, the North & Scotland to Moscow via Amsterdam:  Similar to option 1, but by ferry not Eurostar.  Routed via Belarus

Option 5, London to Moscow via Kiev:  Takes an extra night, but avoids Belarus so no Belarus visa required & has daily departures.  Easiest non-Belarus option.

Option 6, London to St Petersburg via Stockholm then train to Moscow.  Also avoids Belarus, a scenic & comfortable route via Scandinavia.

Other routes & options including journeys via Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Vilnius, Riga or Tallinn.


large bullet pointOption 1, via Warsaw

Daily departures, usually the cheapest option...

This option runs every day and is usually the cheapest way from London to Moscow.  It takes the direct route shown in dark blue on the route map above.  You might still want to consider option 2, the Paris-Moscow Express, as it's a classic experience even if it costs a bit more, or option 3 via the new Berlin-Moscow Strizh, also a very classy experience.  If you want to avoid having to get a Belarus transit visa, consider option 5 via Kiev.

London ► Moscow

Moscow ► London

How much does it cost?

 1. London to Brussels by Eurostar

 From £52 one-way, £78 return 2nd class.

 From £115 one-way, £199 return 1st class.  Child fares 

  

 2. Brussels to Berlin  by ICE

 From €39.90 each way 2nd class or €69.90 in 1st class.

 Fares vary like air fares, so book early for the cheapest rates.

  

 3. Berlin to Warsaw

 by EuroCity train

 From €29.90 each way  in 2nd class or €59 in 1st class.

 Fares vary like air fares, so book early for the cheapest rates.

 

 4. Warsaw to Moscow

 by sleeper

 Booked at Russian Railways www.rzd.ru

 6,600 rubles (€94) in a 4-bed sleeper

 9,900 rubles (€140) in a 2-bed sleeper

 12,200 rubles (€173) in a 1-bed sleeper

 Ordered online through http://booking.polrail.com:

 598 zlotys (€140) in a 4-bed sleeper

 835 zlotys (€195) in a 2-bed sleeper

 1048 zlotys (€245) a single-bed sleeper

 All fares one-way per person per berth.

How to buy tickets...

How to buy tickets by phone...

You can buy tickets just by picking up the phone, with either...

What's the journey like?

1. London to Brussels by Eurostar...

Eurostar trains link London & Brussels in just 2 hours, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in (10-minutes for business premier) as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More information about Eurostar including check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Brussels Midi station guide & short cut for changing trains in Brussels.

Eurostar e320   Eurostar e320 first class seats

A Eurostar e320 train.  More about Eurostar.

 

Standard Premier/Business Premier.  Larger photo.

Eurostar e320 2nd class   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class seats.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, in cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Brussels to Cologne by ICE3...

Germany's superb ICEs have a bistro-restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  In 1st class, bistro orders are taken at your seat.  50 minutes after leaving Brussels the ICE calls at Liθge, where you can admire the impressive station designed by celebrity architect Santiago Calatrava.  As you approach Cologne Hbf you'll see the twin towers of Cologne Cathedral on the right, next to the station.  More information about ICE3 Brussels Midi station guideCologne Hbf station guide.

ICE3M to Cologne & Frankfurt, boarding at Brussels Midi

An ICE3M to Cologne at Brussels Midi.  More information about ICE Advice on changing trains in Brussels.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Food is served on proper china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant on an ICE3M.  ICE3 classes 403 & 407 have a larger restaurant area.  Larger photo.

3. Cologne to Berlin by ICE2...

ICE2 trains have a restaurant car, bar car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi. In 1st class, bistro orders are taken at your seat.  Immediately after leaving Cologne Hbf, the train crosses the Hohenzollern bridge over the Rhine.  It passes through the industrial Ruhr via Wuppertal & Hamm.  After leaving Hannover, the train passes non-stop through Wolfsburg - look out for the original Volkswagen factory on the left, built in 1938.  The train then travels at up to 280 km/h (174 mph) on the high-speed line to Berlin Hbf, where it arrives at the low-level platforms.  More information about ICE2Cologne Hbf station guide Berlin Hbf station guide.

ICE second class   High-speed ICE train from Cologne to Berlin

2nd class seats.  Larger photo.

 

An ICE2 at Berlin Hbf...

ICE2 restaurant car   ICE2 bar car

Restaurant car.  Larger photo.

 

Bar car.  Larger photo.

ICE2 at Berlin   ICE first class

Boarding an ICE2 at Berlin Hbf...

 

1st class seats.  Larger photo.

4. Berlin to Warsaw by EuroCity train...

These comfortable air-conditioned trains have a restaurant car.  See the Berlin-Warsaw EuroCity page for more photos, tips & information.

Berlin to Warsaw train at Berlin

A Berlin-Warsaw EuroCity train at Berlin Hbf...

1st class car on the Berlin to Warsaw train.   2nd class open plan seating on the Berlin to Warsaw train

1st class compartment car...

 

2nd class open-plan car.  Some seats are in compartments.

Bar counter on the Berlin to Warsaw train   Food on the Berlin-Warsaw train

The bar...

 

Decent food, served on proper china...

5. Warsaw to Moscow by sleeper train...

The Warsaw-Moscow train starts in Prague, and uses excellent Austrian-built air-conditioned sleeping-cars owned by Russian Railways, with compartments which can be used as either 1st class 1-berth, 1st class 2-berth with two lower berths or 2nd class 4-berth with all four berths in use.  There are toilets and a nice hot shower at the end of the corridor.  See panorama photo inside one of the new Russian sleepers.

One of Russian Railways new international sleeping-cars   A 2-berth or 4-berth compartment in daytime mode
 
The train to Moscow crosses the Vistula on leaving Warsaw

The train rumbles slowly across the Vistula and out of Warsaw...  Courtesy of David Smith.

The Polonez to Moscow crossing the Belarus border   Brest station, the Belarus border station.

A Belarus diesel takes over at the Polish border station of Terespol and hurries the train into Brest station (above right), the Belarus border point.  The actual border is the bridge over the River Bug, between the two stations.  Photos courtesy of David Smith.

Byelorussia station in Moscow   Statue at the Byelorussia station, Moscow

Welcome to Moscow!  Next morning you arrive at Moscow Belorussia Station.  Photos courtesy of David Smith.

Custom-made travel arrangements with hotels...

Don't forget your visas & trains within Russia...

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large bullet pointOption 2, Paris-Moscow Express

  Destination board on side of the Paris-Moscow train
 

The Paris-Moscow Express. This is a carriage destination board...  Courtesy of www.discoverbyrail.com.

  On board the train from Paris to Moscow
 

On the Paris-Moscow sleeper, the china & serviette stand are proudly branded Paris-Moscow! Courtesy of John  Delikanakis

   

Relax on the Paris-Moscow Express...

This is the most glamorous and comfortable way to reach Russia!  It's the option I'd choose, at least if its weekly schedule suited me.  A direct train run entirely by Russian Railways (RZD) links Paris with Moscow once a week all year round.  It's the safe, comfortable and civilised way to travel to Moscow, with a restaurant car throughout the journey and the option of deluxe VIP sleepers with en suite toilet & shower as well as modern air-conditioned 2 & 4 berth sleepers with washbasin and a nice hot shower at the end of the corridor.  On the route map above, this option takes the route shown in light blue via Paris as far as Berlin, then the direct route to Moscow shown in dark blue, a total of 3,483 km or about 2,164 miles from Paris to Moscow, making it the second longest direct passenger train in Europe - the longest being another RZD train, their weekly Nice-Moscow Express.  See the Paris-Moscow Express page for more information.

London & Paris ► Moscow

Moscow ► Paris & London

How much does it cost?

 London to Paris

 by Eurostar:

 From £52 one-way, £78 return 2nd class.

 From £115 one-way, £199 return 1st class.  Child fares 

 

 Paris to Moscow

 by sleeper, per person:

Sharing

4-berth

sleeper

(2nd class)

Sharing

2-berth 

sleeper

(1st class)

Sole occupancy 

of a 2-berth

sleeper

(1st class single)

Luxury sleeper,

sharing a

2-berth

(Business class)

Luxury sleeper,

sole

occupancy

(Business class)

 One-way bought at www.rzd.ru

€245

€345

€381

€798

€896

 One-way bought at Raileurope.com

-

£291

-

£674

£735

Returns are twice the one-way fare.  Children under 12 half price.

Berths are sold individually, prices are for one person in one bed.  So if you book (say) one second class ticket you will travel in a 4-bed sleeper sharing with 3 other passengers of the same sex.  There is no need to pay for sole occupancy unless you want to!

How to buy tickets...

  • Method 4:  You can sometimes book this train at the French Railways website en.oui.sncf with tickets collected from any French station if your journey starts in Paris, or sent to address in your home country if it doesn't.  Again, if this doesn't work, try another method.

How to buy tickets by phone...

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar...

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in (10-minutes for business premier) as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More information about Eurostar including check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Gare du Nord station guide.

Eurostar e320   Eurostar e320 first class seats

A Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class seats.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, in cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Moscow See the Paris-Moscow Express guide

One of Russian Railways new international sleeping-cars   A 2-berth or 4-berth compartment in daytime mode

Standard sleepers with washbasin on the Paris-Moscow Express.  These compartments can each be used as 1st class 2-berth or 2nd class 4-berth.  More photos & information.

VIP sleeper with shower & toilet on the Paris-Moscow train   VIP sleeper on the Paris to Moscow train

A VIP luxury sleeper with en suite toilet & shower on the Paris-Moscow Express...  More photos & information

Custom-made travel arrangements with hotels...

Don't forget your visas & trains within Russia...

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large bullet pointOption 3, the Berlin-Moscow Swift

Twice a week via Berlin...

Russian Railways introduced a new twice-weekly sleeper train between Berlin and Moscow in December 2016. Branded Strizh (Swift) by the Russians, it's a little articulated Spanish Talgo train featuring a restaurant car and cosy sleepers, some with en suite shower & toilet.  Like the Paris-Moscow option it's a classy option, and faster too:  It cuts 4 hours off the journey time as the Talgo has axles which adjust in minutes from European standard gauge to 5' Russian gauge, without the need for hours in a shed being jacked up.  If you get any photos of this train inside or out, please let me know!

London ► Moscow

Moscow ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

What's the journey like?

1. London to Brussels by Eurostar...

Eurostar trains link London & Brussels in just 2 hours, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in (10-minutes for business premier) as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More information about Eurostar including check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Brussels Midi station guide & short cut for changing trains in Brussels.

Eurostar e320   Eurostar e320 first class seats

A Eurostar e320 train.  More about Eurostar.

 

Standard Premier/Business Premier.  Larger photo.

Eurostar e320 2nd class   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class seats.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, in cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Brussels to Cologne by ICE3...

Germany's superb ICEs have a bistro-restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  In 1st class, bistro orders are taken at your seat.  50 minutes after leaving Brussels the ICE calls at Liθge, where you can admire the impressive station designed by celebrity architect Santiago Calatrava.  As you approach Cologne Hbf you'll see the twin towers of Cologne Cathedral on the right, next to the station.  More information about ICE3 Brussels Midi station guideCologne Hbf station guide.

ICE3M to Cologne & Frankfurt, boarding at Brussels Midi

An ICE3M to Cologne at Brussels Midi.  More information about ICE Advice on changing trains in Brussels.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Food is served on proper china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant on an ICE3M.  ICE3 classes 403 & 407 have a larger restaurant area.  Larger photo.

3. Cologne to Berlin by ICE2...

ICE2 trains have a restaurant car, bar car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi. In 1st class, bistro orders are taken at your seat.  Immediately after leaving Cologne Hbf, the train crosses the Hohenzollern bridge over the Rhine.  It passes through the industrial Ruhr via Wuppertal & Hamm.  After leaving Hannover, the train passes non-stop through Wolfsburg - look out for the original Volkswagen factory on the left, built in 1938.  The train then travels at up to 280 km/h (174 mph) on the high-speed line to Berlin Hbf, where it arrives at the low-level platforms.  More information about ICE2Cologne Hbf station guide Berlin Hbf station guide.

ICE second class   High-speed ICE train from Cologne to Berlin

2nd class seats.  Larger photo.

 

An ICE2 at Berlin Hbf...

ICE2 restaurant car   ICE2 bar car

Restaurant car.  Larger photo.

 

Bar car.  Larger photo.

ICE2 at Berlin   ICE first class

Boarding an ICE2 at Berlin Hbf...

 

1st class seats.  Larger photo.

4. Berlin to Moscow by Strizh sleeper train...

The Strizh sleeper train from Berlin to Moscow is a Spanish-built articulated Talgo train run by Russian Railways (RZD).  Each car is relatively small, with just one axle between each pair of cars.  The axles adjust automatically from standard European gauge (4' 8½") to Russian 5' gauge at Brest, as the train passes slowly through a special gauge-changing shed at Brest on the Polish/Belarus border.

The Strizh sleeper train from Berlin to Moscow

The Strizh sleeper train from Berlin to Moscow boarding at Berlin Ostbahnhof.  Photos courtesy of Stuart Wilks & Jaap van Ginkel.

2-bed sleeper with washbasin, night   2-bed sleeper with washbasin, day mode   Complimentary toiletry pack in a Strizh sleeper

2-berth sleeper with washbasin, in night & daytime modes...

 

Complimentary toiletry pack...

Don't forget your visas & trains within Russia...

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large bullet pointOption 4:  By ferry from Harwich

The ferry alternative...

The fastest option is to take Eurostar via the Channel Tunnel using one of the options shown above, but there are some good reasons why you might prefer a ferry alternative.  For example, if there are problems affecting Eurostar or the Channel Tunnel, or if all the cheap Eurostar tickets have sold out, or if you live in the North of England, Scotland or East Anglia and want to by-pass London.  Or you might simply prefer a relaxing journey, cruising overnight on the Stena Line superferry to Hoek van Holland in a cosy en suite cabin with shower, toilet, satellite TV, have lunch in Amsterdam, then take comfortable trains to Warsaw and the daily sleeper train to Moscow.  You can buy special Rail & Sail tickets from London or any Abellio Greater Anglia rail station to Amsterdam using Stena Line's Harwich-Hoek ferry, complete with a private cabin. 

If you live in the North of England or Scotland, DFDS Seaways run an excellent daily overnight cruise ferry from Newcastle to IJmuiden (near Amsterdam), and P&O Ferries run a daily overnight cruise ferry from Hull to Rotterdam Europoort with bus/train connections to Amsterdam.  So catch the overnight cruise ferry to Holland, spend a day exploring Amsterdam, then take the train to Russia! 

London & Harwich ► Moscow

Moscow ► Harwich & London

How much does it cost?

 1. London to Amsterdam

 by Rail & Sail...

Rail & Sail tickets from London to Amsterdam start at £55 one-way plus the cost of a cabin, (from £34 for a single-berth).  See the Stena Line Rail & Sail page for full details of prices and cabins.  This price covers the British train, Stena Line ferry and Dutch train between London and Any Dutch Station.

  

 2. Amsterdam to Berlin

 by IC train...

 From €39.90 in 2nd class or €69.90 in 1st class.

  

 3. Berlin to Warsaw

 by EuroCity train...

 From €29.90 in 2nd class or €49.90 in 1st class.

  

 3. Warsaw to Moscow

 by sleeper train

 Booked at Russian Railways www.rzd.ru

 6,600 rubles (€94) in a 4-bed sleeper

 9,900 rubles (€140) in a 2-bed sleeper

 12,200 rubles (€173) in a 1-bed sleeper

 Ordered online through http://booking.polrail.com:

 598 zlotys (€140) in a 4-bed sleeper

 835 zlotys (€195) in a 2-bed sleeper

 1048 zlotys (€245) a single-bed sleeper

 All fares one-way per person per berth.

How to buy tickets...

What's the journey like?

Step 1, London to Amsterdam by train & ferry...

A train takes you from London's Liverpool Street station directly to the ferry terminal at Harwich.  You walk off the train, into the terminal, get your boarding card & cabin key at the Stena Line check-in desk and walk straight onto the overnight ferry to Hoek van Holland.  The superferry Stena Britannica is the largest ferry of its kind in the world.  Have a late dinner in the restaurant, retire to bed in a private cabin with en suite toilet & shower and satellite TV.  At Hoek van Holland, you walk off the ship, through passport control and straight onto the station for the frequent metro train to Schiedam & Rotterdam.  Change at Schiedam Centrum for a Dutch Railways (NS) train to Amsterdam CentraalThe journey from London to Holland is explained in detail on the Stena Line Rail & Sail page See the video...

Captain's class cabin on ferry   Stena Line ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland

Captain's Class cabin on the Harwich-Hoek ferry with double bed, complimentary minibar with sparkling wine, tea & coffee making facilities, hairdryer.  Larger photo.

 

Boarding the Stena Britannica at Harwich.  She's a floating hotel to Hoek van Holland, with easy rail connections on either side of the Channel.  Restaurants, bars, shop, kennels, cinema...

Metropolitan restaurant on ferry   Standard outside cabin on ferry

Dinner before bed?  Metropolitan ΰ la carte restaurant.

 

Standard outside cabin.  Larger photo.  360Ί photo.

Step 2, Amsterdam to Berlin by Intercity train...

Take a comfortable Intercity train from Amsterdam Centraal to Berlin HbfSee the Amsterdam to Berlin InterCity page for photos, tips, and what to see along the way.

A DB InterCity train

A German Intercity train.  More information about Intercity trains.

Beef ribs and Spatburgunder red wine on the Amsterdam to Berlin InterCity train   Inside the Amsterdam to Berlin bistro car

Dinner in the bistro.  The beef ribs were delicious...

 

Bistro car.  See current month's menu...

2nd clas seats on a DB Intercity train

2nd class seating is usually in open-plan saloons like this, most seats unidirectional, but with some tables for 4.  Sometimes you'll find 2nd class compartment cars with side corridor and ten 6-seat compartments  Larger photo.

Step 3, Berlin to Warsaw by EuroCity train...

These comfortable air-conditioned trains have a restaurant car.  See the Berlin-Warsaw EuroCity page for more photos, tips & information.

Berlin to Warsaw train at Berlin

A Berlin-Warsaw EuroCity train at Berlin Hbf...

1st class car on the Berlin to Warsaw train.   2nd class open plan seating on the Berlin to Warsaw train

1st class compartment car...

 

2nd class open-plan car.  Some seats are in compartments.

Bar counter on Berlin-Warsaw train   Food on the Berlin-Warsaw train

The bar...

 

Decent food, served on proper china...

4. Warsaw to Moscow to Russian sleeper train...

The train from Warsaw to Moscow uses immaculate modern Russian air-conditioned sleeping-cars (pictured below, see also panorama photo inside one of the new Russian sleepers).  The Russian cars have compartments which can be used as 1st class 1 or 2 berth or 2nd class 4 berth, shower & toilets at the end of the corridor.

One of Russian Railways new international sleeping-cars   A 2-berth or 4-berth compartment in daytime mode

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large bullet pointOption 5, London-Moscow via Kiev

London to Moscow avoiding Belarus...

If you want to avoid Belarus to escape the bureaucracy & cost of a Belarus transit visa and any issues crossing Belarus to reach Russia, the cheapest and easiest way to do this is to go south of Belarus through Ukraine rather than north of Belarus via the Baltic states.  EU & UK citizens no longer need a visa for Ukraine and the trains work much better this way than via the disjointed rail networks through the Baltic States.  in spite of the current tension between Russia & Ukraine, the trains are running normally between Kiev & Moscow and foreigners are unlikely to have any problems travelling this way.

The complete journey from London to Moscow takes 3 nights this way, assuming you don't want to stop off anywhere for longer, as opposed to just 2 nights on the direct route via Belarus, so although you save the cost of a Belarus transit visa it takes longer.  Going north of Belarus via Vilnius & Riga generally means an even longer 4 night journey, with yet more changes of train and at least one, possibly two nights in a hotel, although by all means do this if you want to see the Baltic capitals on the way to Russia.

London - Moscow via Warsaw & Kiev...

This is the easiest route avoiding Belarus, and you can stop off in Kiev this way too.  There seem to be no problems travelling this route if you are neither Russian nor Ukrainian, contrary to what you might expect given tensions between Russia & Ukraine.

London ► Moscow

Moscow ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

Night train from Kiev to Moscow, about to leave Kiev   2-bed sleeper on night train from Kiev to Moscow.   TV screen in 2-bed sleeper on Kiev-Moscow train

Train 6 from Kiev to Moscow, boarding at Kiev station.

 

The 2-berth spalny vagon on train 6 even have an LCD TV.  Photos courtesy of Discoverbyrail.com

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large bullet pointOther possible routes & options...

There are several other routes worth considering, especially if you want to stop off on the way in Scandinavia, the Baltic States or Ukraine, or to avoid travelling through Belarus and so avoid the cost and hassle of getting a Belarus transit visa (although this isn't really a problem, just an expense and a bit of extra bureaucracy).  All these routes take at least 3 nights compared with just 2 nights travelling on the direct route through Belarus, so the cost of an extra day or two's food and accommodation must be set against the cost of the Belarus visa for travel on a direct train to Moscow.  These alternative routes tend to involve a bit more legwork to book, too.  If you simply want to avoid Belarus, the quickest and easiest way to do this is really to head south via Kiev & Ukraine, see the section above.  You might not be saving much money by avoiding Belarus, but the opportunity to stop off in some fascinating places and countries makes these alternative routes worth considering.

London to Moscow via Warsaw, Vilnius & the Baltic States...

London to Moscow via Copenhagen, Stockholm & Helsinki...

London to Moscow via Copenhagen, Stockholm & Riga...

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large bullet pointLondon to St Petersburg

There are several good ways to travel from the UK to St Petersburg by train:

Option 1:  London to Moscow, then Moscow to St Petersburg...

This is the fastest and most frequent option, first travelling to Moscow, then using one of the many Moscow-St Petersburg trains.

Sapsan high-speed trains from Moscow to St Petersburg, in 3h55...

Introduced in December 2009, the Sapsan (Peregrine Falcon) 250 km/h high-speed trains link Moscow & St Petersburg in just 3 hours 55 minutes.  The initial 3 services a day have now been increased to 5 trains each way every day.  The Sapsans have been very successful, with a 99% on-time performance and an average load factor of 80% (meaning each departure is on average 80% full).  Built by Siemens and based on the superb German ICE, they are set to revolutionise travel between Russia's two prime cities, with additional services and faster journey times to come as the line is progressively upgraded.  See the Russian railways' Sapsan video.

Traveller Ian Newberry reports:  "I travelled from Moscow to St Petersburg on Sapsan train 156 leaving at 13:00.  Departure was punctual and the staff greeting passengers could not have been better - they all speak English as well as Russian.  The service on the train was extremely good and in business class a full 3 course meal was served with wines and spirits all included in the price of the ticket.  Information was supplied through screens and announcements in English as well as Russian. The train is very comfortable and arrived 5 minutes ahead of schedule at 17.40.  If one wants to avoid a night train then this is a very civilised way to travel, on a par with any equivalent TGV or ICE available in western Europe."

Sapsan train   2nd class seats on a Sapsan train.

A 150mph Sapsan train between Moscow & St Petersburg and (above right) 2nd class seats.  Photos courtesy of Mark Pascoe

Overnight sleeper trains from Moscow to St Petersburg... 

The best Russian Railways overnight train is the famous Krasnaya Strela (Red Arrow) leaving Moscow (Leningradski Vokzal) at 23:55 daily, arriving in St Petersburg (Moskovski Vokzal) at 07:55 next morning.  The Krasnaya Strela has 2-berth and 4-berth sleeping cars plus two luxury sleeping-cars with 1 & 2-bed rooms with private toilet shower and TV/DVD entertainment.  The fare is about 3,280 rubles (£70 or $110) in a kupι 4-berth sleeper, 5,895 rubles (£126 or $197) spalny vagon 2-berth sleeper or 16,250 rubles (£551 or $865) luxury sleeper with private shower and toilet - although there are less swish, cheaper sleeper trains.  The Krasnaya Strela has now been joined by a couple of other premium sleeper trains, train 3/4 Ekspres and train 5/6 Nicholaevsky Express.  Since 2005, there's also a privately-run luxury train, the Grand Express, with fares from 3,700 rubles.  Click for information & online booking for the Grand Express.

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 between Moscow & St Petersburg.  Photo courtesy of Chris Sparks

 

Train number 1/2, the famous Krasnaya Strela (Red Arrow) between St Petersburg & Moscow.  Photo courtesy of Chris Sparks

Option 2:  London to St Petersburg by train to Stockholm then direct cruise ferry...

Other options....

London to St Petersburg via Stockholm & Helsinki...

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large bullet pointLondon to Minsk (Belarus)

The direct Belarusian sleeping-cars from Amsterdam & Cologne to Minsk were discontinued in December 2013.  However, it's still easy to get there via Warsaw or using the Paris-Moscow express.

Option 1, via Brussels, Cologne & Warsaw

This is the cheapest option, and it runs daily.

London ► Minsk

Minsk ► London

How much does it cost?

 1. London to Brussels by Eurostar

 From £52 one-way, £78 return 2nd class.

 From £115 one-way, £199 return 1st class.  Child fares 

  

 2. Brussels to Berlin  by ICE

 From €39.90 each way 2nd class or €69.90 in 1st class.

 Fares vary like air fares, so book early for the cheapest rates.

  

 3. Berlin to Warsaw by EuroCity train

 Fares from €29.90 each way in 2nd class or €49.90 1st class.

 

 4. Warsaw to Minsk

 Booked at www.rzd.ru

 4,000 rubles (€57) in a 4-berth sleeper

 6,000 rubles (€85) in a 2-berth sleeper

 8,300 rubles (€118) in a 1-bed sleeper.

 Booked through Polrail.com:

 Not known.

How to buy tickets...

Option 2, using the Paris-Moscow express...

Minsk railway station

Minsk's modern railway station.  Photo courtesy of Phil Brownjohn.

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large bullet pointBuy Russian train tickets online...

Click the image above to buy tickets at www.realrussia.co.uk/Trains.

 

You can buy tickets at www.realrussia.co.uk/Trains

Which tickets can Real Russia sell?  They sell tickets for any mainline train journey within Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Lithuania, Kazakhstan and the other ex-Soviet states, also for international journeys to or from those countries, for example Moscow to Berlin or St Petersburg to Helsinki, and also for Russian sleeping-car services within Europe, for example Paris-Moscow, Paris-Berlin or Budapest-Sofia. 

Reservations officially open 60 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?  If your train is e-ticketable, an e-ticket will be emailed to you.  If it's not, tickets can be collected free of charge at Real Russia's offices in Moscow or St Petersburg or they can be sent to any address worldwide.  Postage to a UK or EU address costs around £12-£15.

Who run this service?  Is it reliable?  This service is provided by Real Russia, a reputable joint UK-Russian company which has got 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 Russian Railways fare plus a mark-up to cover their costs (all agencies charge a mark-up).  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 now offer online booking but it's more fiddly.

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large bullet pointVisas...

To visit Russia, you'll need a Russian tourist visa.  You may also need a Belarus transit visa if you're using the direct rail route from Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Warsaw, Budapest or Vienna to Moscow as this passes though Belarus.

UPDATE:  It's reported that from 1 July 2020, Russia & Belarus have signed an agreement whereby a Russian visa will also cover Belarus.  So you'll only need a Russian visa to travel from Paris, Berlin or Warsaw to Moscow via Brest.

How to arrange a Russian visa...

Always check the latest visa information, as it changes from time to time, but here's a quick run-down of the arrangements:

IMPORTANT:  Travel to Moscow via Belarus in 2020...

How to arrange a Belarus visa...

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large bullet pointHolidays to Russia by train

 

0207 864 4600

Railbookers, www.railbookers.co.uk....

Tailor-made holidays to Russia by train!  Specialist travel company www.railbookers.co.uk can tailor-make a flight-free holiday to Russia for you, with train travel & hotels, for however long you like, leaving on any date you like.  Tell them what you want and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out for you.  They get a lot of repeat business!   Give them a call...

UK flag  UK call 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk

US flag  US call free 1-888-829-4775, see website.

Canadian flag  Canada call free 1-855-882-2910, see website.

Australian flag  Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, see website

New Zealand flag  New Zealand call toll-free 0800 000 554 or see website.

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large bullet pointEuropean Rail Timetable & maps

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 set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at either www.stanfords.co.uk or 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.  Buy it online for £14.50 + postage worldwide (UK addresses £2.80) at www.stanfords.co.uk/Continents/Europe-A-Travellers-Railway-Map_9789077899090.htm or (in the Netherlands) for €13 + €5.50 postage from www.treinreiswinkel.nl.

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large bullet pointGuidebooks

Definitely take a good guidebook, and a phrasebook may be a good idea too.  I think the Lonely Planets and Rough Guides are about the best out there for the independent traveller, and you will not regret buying one!  My own book, an essential handbook for train travel to Europe based on this website called "The Man in Seat 61", was published in June 2008, and is available from Amazon.co.uk with shipping worldwide.Amazon logo

Click the images to buy the book from Amazon.co.uk...

Lonely Planet Russia - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Russia - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Russia - click to buy online   Lonely Planet St Petersburg

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large bullet pointHotels in Moscow & Russia

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Tripadvisor hotel reviews...

www.tripadvisor.com is a good place to find independent travellers' reviews of the main hotels.  It also has the low-down on all the sights & attractions too.

Backpacker hostels:  www.hostelworld.com

If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about the hostels.  For backpacker hostels in Amsterdam and most other European cities at budget prices (either a dorm bed or an ultra cheap private room) see www.hostelworld.com.

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large bullet pointTravel insurance & VPN

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

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

UK flagIn the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct.

UK flag

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

UK flagYou can use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

UK flag

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

 US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Curve card

Get a Curve card to save on foreign transaction fees...

Banks often give a poor exchange rate, then charge a currency conversion fee as well.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I use a Curve Blue card myself - I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you £5 cashback through that link, too.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explained ExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.

 


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