Friday, April 26, 2013

How To Buy Russian Railways Tickets And Save. Part 1

Summer is always a hot season for traveling to Siberia. One of the best ways to travel is definitely by train thanks to the Trans-Siberian railway and high quality of most trains and their precise schedule. In this post I will teach you how to buy the best and the cheapest tickets for your independent travel to Siberia. It will look like this:

I must say that there are pre-organized tours on charter trains or charter cars connected to regular trains. They cost somewhere from 3,000 to 10,000 Euro, you board in Moscow and exit in Vladivostok and you don't have to care about tickets. Well, I must say that's an insane price - trips to the North or South Poles cost about the same. Siberia is nothing like Arctic or Antarctica, so you'd better save your 10K for a South Pole trip. Here we'll talk about buying your own Transsib tickets.

First thing to remember - there are no "Transsib tickets" (except for 10K Euro). All tickets you will purchase will be regular train tickets like anyone in Russia would buy. If you want to board in Moscow and exit in Vladivostok (end point at the Pacific ocean), you will need just one ticket but you won't be able to visit any towns and cities on the route. All you can do - go off the train for 5-20 minutes during stops to stretch your legs. If you plan to visit one destination in between Moscow and Vladivostok (e.g. Baykal), you will need 2 tickets: Moscow - Irkutsk (city at the Baykal lake) and Irkutsk - Vladivostok. There are also no flexible dates. It means that you should have you schedule ready and if you miss a train (in case you decide to spend more time in some town), you will have to buy a new ticket.

Now about trains. There are many trains. If your first destination is Irkutsk, you can buy a ticket to any train that goes through Irkutsk. For example, a Moscow-Vladivostok train obviously goes through Irkutsk, so it is safe to buy your Moscow-Irkursk ticket on a Moscow-Vladivostok train. When the train will be near Irkutsk, you'll be reminded that it is your station. Stops in large cities can be from 10 to 45 minutes (sometimes longer, sometimes shorter) but it's usually enough time to disembark with all your bags with no hurry. So, there is no need to look only for "direct trains".

All the trains in Russia are divided into 2 categories: fast trains and passenger trains. Fast trains go faster and stop not on every stations (only in big cities), stops are also shorter. Passenger trains usually stop on every small station. The comfort level in both trains is usually the same. Fast trains can have their own style and name - then it's called "фи'рменный по'езд" [fi'rmeniy po'ezd] ("brand train") - stress on 'i'. They have better schedules, better service and comfort - and higher prices. For example a brand train from Moscow to Novosibirsk is called "Сибиря'к" [Sibirya'k] (Siberian man) and it costs more than going by air.

All trains have numbers. When travelling you must know the train number (it's in the ticket), your car number and your seat (if you travel in a compartment, called Купе - KupE') number.

There are several categories of cars.
SV (СВ) - has kupe's usually for 2 persons. This is the best category.
M - a better kupe, for 4 persons.
K - usual kupe, for 4 persons.
PL - platzkart, buy them only if there are no tickets in Kupe or it's a really short trip and you want some social life.

Sometimes they sell Luxe, VIP, or business class (sometimes called economy class) - they will typically have air-con and better toilets. They can also include meals. Today many cars are renovated, so air-con and a good toilet are pretty common.

It is also important to know that all times and dates in local itineraries are in Moscow timezone.
But for airplane tickets, time is always local (like everywhere in the world).

Sometimes you should pay extra for sheets for your bed (you pay to the stuart) but now it's usually included in the cost of the ticket. Anyway it should be around 200 roubles (10 Eur max) for the sheets.

Please remember that in summer everyone is traveling so it's important to have tickets in advance if you don't want to get stuck somewhere in the middle of Russia. Especially pay attention if you want to travel in the beginning of June and end of August - that's beginning and end of summer holidays at schools and trains can be packed (it means there will be no tickets, not that you'll have to travel on the floor).

In the next part we will buy your first Russian Railways ticket!


  1. I got your statement because my travel agency always trying to this message to me that in summer everyone is traveling so it's important to have tickets in advance and i think its better to book the tickets in advance thanks..

  2. think this post will help to those planning to travel through or to siberia. Hot season is always a difficult weather to travel for.