Budget Travel Russia
For Trans-Siberian "Multi-Cities" Train Bookings
What to prepare for my Russian train ride ?
1) A metal Cup (preferably one that has a wide base)
2) A water bottle (you will be needing this)
3) A knife, Fork and a Spoon.
4) Bread and some meat. (Prepare enough for at least half your journey)
5) Sweets and Tea Bags. (Hot water is provided on the train)
6) Canned food.
7) Short comfortable pants. (Even during winter. It is quite warm in the train)
8) Flip-flops (Easy to get around)
9) Chess set, cards, pictures. (For entertainment and to make new friends)
How can I purchase my Russian Train Tickets ?
There are 2 ways
1) You purchase it online. See above. Ticket prices are a little more expensive. Tickets will be sent to you via air mail.
2) You buy it there and then in ANY of the Russian train stations. This way of purchase is not recommended unless you are living in Russia. This also requires a certain level of Russian Language competency, or else you might end up paying for a more expensive ticket. Below is a picture of how the ticket counter looks like.
Tickets are available for purchase approximately 1 month before departure. During summer and autumn, ticekts to the more popular destinations are usually sold out 1 week before date of departure, so it is advisable to purchase your tickets early.
It is better to purchase separate tickets along the Trans-Siberian route and stop along different cities for a day or two. This would allow you to purchase the necessary food supplies and have a comfortable shower and sleep in a hotel. Besides, there are many interesting cities along the railway which is definitely worth a visit. See our recommended travel itinerary.
Interpreting the Russian Train Ticket
What are the Russian train ticket fare options ?
There are usually 3 fare options for the Trans-Siberian Railway. On short trips there is a 4th options which they just provide you a seat, without a bed.
First Class Russian Train
2 beds in a compartment. Ideal for couples. It is very expensive, but it is very clean, and you get more privacy. Has male or female only compartments, and some have meals provided. These tickets are often available even up to the day of departure.
Second Class Russian Train (Coupe)
4 beds in a compartment. Ideal for group travellers of 4. The price is reasonable, it offers more comfort and less noise. Has male or female only compartments, some have meals provided.
Third Class Russian Train (Plazkart)
6 beds in a compartment. Cheapest option. You get to meet other people, chat with new friends. Downside is the privacy and noise. Avoid choosing beds near the head and end of the train (near the toilet). It is smelly and extremely noisy (doors slamming shut). You will be able to choose to sleep on the top bed or on the bottom bed (better choice). Bottom beds are more convenient and safe as you would not need to climb up everytime, and your luggage is safely kept under your bed.
How much does the train tickets cost?
An example here compares the fare difference between the 3 train classes of a 76 hour train ride from Moscow to Irkutsk (Lake Baikal).
Class 1 : £703.78
Class 2 : £386.53
Class 3 : £152.06
Each train wagon is managed by a train attendant. It is safe to travel, many Russian ladies travel alone. But do not leave your luggage or wallet unattended when you make a trip to the toilet. This is especially important if you are sleeping in the Plazkart wagon.
Rarely, there will be some Russian police patrolling the wagon, and they are on the lookout for foreigners. They will request to have a look at your passport, and try to find some missing documents (such as registration or immigration cards). They will usually speak in Russian, and might threaten to put you in jail if you dont give them a small "fee". If you do have all the necessary documents, just say you do not understand Russian, and stand your ground. In most cases, these policemen will just walk away.
Smoking is not allowed on the train. But you are allowed to smoke at the end of the wagon. (Open air)
There are electrical outlets in every room for Class 1. There are 2 Electrical outlets on the hallway in Class 2. There are no electrical outlets in Class 3 hallway, but you can find them in the toilet. (for shavers)
There is not limit to weight, but you are given a limited space to put your baggage. Your baggage will be kept under your bed.
As long as it is small enough to fit in to the baggage space below your bed (it's not big) , you are allowed to carry it on the train free of charge.
Frequently Asked Questions about Trans-Siberian Railway
Q : Is the Trans-Siberian Railway Just one train going from Moscow to the Far East?
A : No, the Trans-Siberian Railway is just a railway track, run by many different trains connecting city to city.
Q : Should I take a one way train ride from Moscow to Vladivostok to experience the Trans-Siberian Ride?
A : Surprisingly, many have asked me this question, perhaps due to the misconception that the Trans-Siberian Railway is just one special train on one track from west to the east or vice versa. It is a real boring 7-10 day trip from Moscow to Vladivostok, I would recommend to stop every 12 - 24 hours to visit a city, especially the popular ones (see below).
Q : What popular cities do you recommend us to stop during our Trans-Siberian Journey?
A : If you are into big cities and museums, Ekaterinburg (Sverdlovsks) and Novosibirsk are the two major cities which have loads of museums as well as theatres. These cities are good for a short rest and warm bath, as well as to stock up some food for the rest of your Trans-Siberian Journey.
The most popular destination throughout the Trans-Siberian Journey is of course Irkutsk, which connects with Lake Baikal, the pearl of Siberia.
Other hidden gems of the Trans-Siberia journey are Tomsk, which is a serene university town, with beautiful surroundings and young crowd, Krasnoyarsk, which has a natural reserve containing the famous Stalby (remnants of volcano) as well as its famous bridge (which you see on the 10 rouble note), Ulan Ude, which has a mixture of Mongolian and Russian culture as well as their world famous Datsans (bhuddist temples) and is also the hub to the Trans-Mongolian journey.
If you love natural sights and wonders, love hiking, camping, rafting and horse riding, Altai has one of Russia's most greatest natural sight, The Golden Mountains of Altai. It is a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE site, and is one of the favourite destinations of nature lovers all over the world. Ekaterinburg has similar activities in the Ural mountains, which is also very beautiful.
Q : How much time do we need on our Trans-Siberian Journey?
A : A minimum of 10 days would be needed for a 3 day stopover at Lake Baikal (Irkutsk), meaning there would only be one stop. Ideally, to really experience the Trans-Siberian Journey, you should have at least 15 days, with a few stopovers at major cities, experiencing the change of culture from each stop of the way. Each of the cities have something unique to offer, and every one of them have different cultures. Just by moving city to city you can see the change in the facial features of the citizens of the particular cities, from European to Asian faces. It is a real amazing journey.
Q : Is there something like a Euro Rail Pass (unlimited for a period of time) for the Trans-Siberian Railway?
A : No, there is not (as of 2011). If you would like to visit several cities in the Urals, Siberia and Far East, you have to purchase separate tickets city to city.
The amount of train tickets I had during my Trans Siberian Journey
Q : Is it possible to plan and purchase tickets upon arrival of the city along the Trans-Siberian Route?
A : It is possible, but not advisable. Tickets run out fast during summer (even winter) , especially the third class tickets. You might end up paying a much higher price, or you will end up with seats near the toilet (with constant door slamming throughout the night). If you are travelling alone or with just 1 partner, it is possible, but try to purchase tickets at least 2-3 days before departure.
Q : Is it possible to take the Russian Train without knowledge of Russian Language?
A : Yes it is possible. Many have done that. Often no conversation is needed with the cabin attendant. She will ask to check your passport and ticket before entering (does not require talking) , and once more 5 mins after the train departs. The cabin attendant will shake you leg to wake you up before you arrive to your destination. (does not require talking).
Q : Should I purchase my tickets online or should I purchase in Moscow. As I will spend a week in Moscow before leaving on the Trans-Siberia.
A: If you are travelling during the peak season (summer), I would strongly suggest to purchase in advance. Unless you are travelling solo, or with a partner. Tickets to the popular destinations are sold out very fast.