Russian Railways sell tickets up to 90 days in advance. Tickets for some trains open only 60, some only 45 days before departure.
Avoid any agencies who claim to have access earlier. You need your passport to buy tickets for all Russian main-line trains. Only local services are exempt from this. Buying Russian train tickets at the station This is the most reliable way to buy tickets. You go to the station, queue up and buy them at the counter using cash or a card.
There is a dedicated counter for international services. You can use cash You get a real ticket that you can keep as a memento. Real Russian train tickets are beautiful — see above You are not dependent on mobile devices working Drawbacks: Welcome to Russian queueing see below You have to explain yourself to an impatient ticket seller in a foreign language If you buy last minute you may be separated from your companions or placed near the toilets.
Not in the picture: The Russians have preserved an efficient set of unwritten queueing rules from Soviet or even Tsarist times. As you near the front of the queue, someone may come and stand in front of you and say they were there before you. The person before them will say this is true. Welcome to the Russian virtual queue. Someone will say that it is they. Raise your hand when they ask who is last Go and have a cup of tea, a cigarette or join some other queue.
Just make sure to check back Bonus step: If you remain in your queue make sure to stand really close to the person in front of you. That means close enough to give them a bear hug. There is no such thing as personal space in Russia. Get used to this by going on the Metro during the rush hour. There are better pastimes. Skip the line when buying tickets to Russian trains AT the station: You will find ticket machines at all major stations.
You can pay with your card there and they have an English option! I have used these machines and find them easy to use. Keep in mind that you will have to have your passport ready and enter its number. Make sure you get this right. How to buy tickets for Russian trains online The Benefits of Buying over the Internet No queueing You can buy your train tickets before you even set foot in Russia Your ticket is both in English and in Russian — you can read it without learning a new alphabet.
Before you book anything, remember: Not all trains allow you to have an E-Ticket. Then you can print your ticket at home. If your journey begins outside Russia you have no access to your tickets. You will have to set up a user account. To issue your ticket, you then enter your data, choose your berth on a little map and are issued a ticket which you can print out or save on your mobile device. Make sure you enter your data correctly or you will not be let onto the train.
That includes your passport number. I love this site. One drawback is that it has been known to get rejected by credit cards. Western anti-Russian hysteria seems to be at the bottom of this, especially with American credit cards. My German-issued card works fine with it. They accept all credit cards, Paypal as well as cash paid into terminals. How much does it cost to take a Trans Siberian train? Russian trains are built for interminable journeys.
Most trains have three classes. To go into how much it costs to go where would make this post very long and boring. Prices vary according to the time of year and the train you choose. What I am going to do now is write how much each class costs if you were to go from Moscow to Ekaterinburg, where our Miss Tourist hails from.
The journey takes 27 hours. This should give you some perspective. You get on through the door at which your provodnik is standing by showing your ticket and passport. Without showing your ticket you cannot get on. There is a jolt, then, barely perceptibly, it lumbers into motion. Rousing music pours crackling from the megaphones on the platform as you draw out.
Which of the three classes do you want to go in? There is no such word in Russian. The concept is alien to the Russian view of the world. Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the platskartny vagon. Platskart is an open plan sleeping car, a mixed-sex dormitory on wheels. Platskart has nine virtual compartments. Each has six berths — two lower and two upper bunks perpendicular to motion on one side of the corridor, one lower and one upper bunk on the other side, riding lengthways.
It has 54 berths altogether. You should not worry about robberies in the trains. It is actually very safe thanks to the openness. People will watch your stuff for you! What is great about platskart is that you immediately make friends and within five minutes are sharing food with strangers and hearing the saga of their family.
Everyone can see what everyone else is doing and everyone looks after everyone else. For the duration of the trip you are all in this together. You are family and this is a nice feeling. The drawback is that you see these people day in, day out, awake and asleep. After three days nobody can stand the sight of anybody else. If the carriage is full, the air can become atrocious. Once I was on a Ukrainian platskart from Odessa to Lviv with sealed windows and no air conditioning.
At 6 am I was nearly sick from the smell of feet, garlic and morning breath. It is hard to imagine a more Russian experience. Go for this option if you want the real thing and if you want to save money. Check your price here 2. A kupe car spreads 36 people over nine real compartments. This is four bunks, two lower, two upper, in a compartment with a door you can close and lock. Said bunks are longer than those in platskart.
More civilised and peaceful, more air to breathe and space to move in, much like the European 4-berth couchette. But kupe is more of a lottery than platskart. Once I spent the night in a Russian kupe from Vorkuta to Moscow with oilmen from Volgograd, drinking vodka made from mosquitoes, judging by the singing in my ears the next morning. All my other kupe trips were uneventful. Kupe is a good compromise between money and comfort. Check your price here 3. Solitude and free slippers in First Class Spalny Vagon compartment, as used on newest international services Spalny Vagon, usually called simply SV say: Es-Vay means sleeping car.
Two berths in a compartment with a door you can lock. Plus lots of cushions, carpet, tassels und curtains. A spalny vagon fits 18 people into nine real compartments. Usually two people book this, but when booking online it is easy to choose an empty compartment to maximise the chances of solitude. Some trains have even more luxurious Luxe compartments with en-suite bathrooms. SV is a wonderful way to travel. I shall always remember the reflection of the cathedrals in the Vologda river, seen from the window of my SV during a white night.
It was just me and the view, and it was marvellous. The downside is that SV is expensive.