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...

On this page is a step-by-step guide to planning, booking & making a train journey from the UK to Russia:

  London to Moscow

  London to St Petersburg

  London to Minsk (Belarus)

  London, the North & Scotland to Moscow via ferry

  Visas: How to arrange Russian & Belarusian visas

  IMPORTANT:  Update on travel to Russia via Belarus

  Useful country information - dial code, currency, etc

  Hotels & accommodation in Russia

  Holidays to Russia by train not plane

  Buy train tickets within Russia online

Information on other pages...

  Starting your journey from other UK towns & cities

  Train travel within Russia - a beginner's guide

  Trans-Siberian Railway,  Europe to China & Japan

  The Silk Route & Central Asia   

  Moscow & St Petersburg to Helsinki by train    

  Moscow & St Petersburg to Tallinn by train

  Moscow & St Petersburg to Riga by train

  European train travel - general information

Route map:  UK to Russia by train...

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

Route map, London to Moscow & St Petersburg by train


Useful 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 = approx 80 Rubles    $1 = 64 Rubles     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 July 2020. Train times valid 15 Dec 2019 to 12 Dec 2020.


London 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.


Option 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 online...

How to buy tickets by phone...

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

Have your trip professionally arranged, including trains, transfers & hotels...

What's the journey like?

Step 1, London to Berlin by Eurostar & high-speed ICE...

It's easy to travel by train from London to Berlin in one comfortable day, taking a morning Eurostar to Brussels, changing onto an ICE3 high-speed train to Cologne - Watch the video - and then onto a luxurious ICE2 high-speed train to Berlin.  Pride of the German Railways, ICE2s travel at up to 280km/h (175 mph) and ICE3s up to 300km/h (186 mph).  The ICE2s feature both a cafe-bar and restaurant serving proper sit-down meals.  I recommend the weissbier!

ICE2 first class ICE2 second class High-speed ICE train from Cologne to Berlin, at Berlin Hauptbahnhof

ICE2 1st class.

ICE2 2nd class.

ICE2 at Berlin.  More info about ICE

   

Treat yourself to lunch!

 

ICE2's elegant restaurant car...

 

ICE2's convivial bistro-bar car...

Step 2, Berlin to Warsaw by EuroCity train...

The Berlin-Warsaw Express train   2nd class seating compartment on the Berlin to Warsaw Express train

The Berlin-Warsaw Express has modern air-conditioned smooth-riding coaches in both 1st & 2nd class, most with compartments and side corridor like this, but some with seats in open-plan saloons. You can choose which type you prefer when you book.  More photos & information about Berlin-Warszaw EuroCity trains.

 

The bistro-restaurant car is staffed by Polish train catering company Wars.  Treat yourself to a meal and kill a couple of hours over a beer and some food in the restaurant...  An excellent sausage soup, a main course of schnitzel, potato and salad, all served on proper china, a beer and coffee all come to only around €10.  You must pay in cash, not credit card, but both euros and zlotys are accepted.

Step 3, Warsaw to Moscow by sleeper train...

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

The (Prague-) Warsaw-Moscow train now uses modern 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.

All aboard for Russia...

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.

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Option 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 option is the most glamorous and comfortable way to reach Russia, it's the one 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

...London to Paris by Eurostar: See the Eurostar guide

Eurostar e320   Eurostar e320 first class seats

A Eurostar e320 about to leave London St Pancras...

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

...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.

  One of Russian Railways new international sleeping-cars

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

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.co.uk

-

£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 online...

  • 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...

Custom-made travel arrangements with hotels...

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

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Option 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...

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

What's the Berlin-Moscow Strizh sleeper train like?

The Strizh sleeper train from Berlin to Moscow

The Strizh sleeper train from Berlin to Moscow, seen here boarding at Berlin Ostbahnhof.  It's a Spanish-built articulated Talgo train - note the relatively small size of each car, with just one axle between each pair of cars.  These 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.  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...

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Option 4:  By ferry via Amsterdam

The ferry alternative, with a free day in Amsterdam...

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?

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.  The journey from London to Holland is explained in detail on the Stena Line Rail & Sail page See the video...

 

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...

 

Dinner before bed?  Metropolitan à la carte restaurant.

 

Standard outside cabin, 1 or 2 berth.  Larger photo.  360º photo.

The sleeper train from Warsaw to Moscow.

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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Option 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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Other 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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London 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 3 hours 55 minutes...

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 kupé 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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London 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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Buy 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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Visas...

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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Holidays to Russia by train

 

020 3327 0761

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 call 020 3327 0761, www.railbookers.co.uk

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

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

  Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, see website

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

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European 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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Guidebooks

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.

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  

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Hotels in Moscow & Russia

My 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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Travel insurance & health card

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without proper travel insurance from a reliable insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash & belongings (up to a limit), and trip cancellation.  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, 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, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

        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 ww.nhs.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

 

Curve card

Get a free Curve card to save on exchange rates & foreign transaction fees...

Banks often give you a poor exchange rate, then charge you a currency conversion fee on top.  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 have a Curve Blue card myself and it's great - I get some commission if you sign up to Curve, but I only recommend such things when I've read up on reviews and tried it myself.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card. Use code MAN61 to get £5 cashback after signing up and using your Curve card the first time.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing when you travel.  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 explainedExpressVPN is a best buy and I use them myself.

 


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