This section will provide you with some general information about trains in Russia, as well as specific information (timetable and routes) of a few chosen Trans-Siberian trains.
The Types of Trains in Russia:
There are a few types of trains in Russia, the most important are passenger trains (called "passazhirsky", they are the slowest, and have numbers from 171 to 400), fast trains
Moscow - Krasnoyarsk train
So, for example, if you see a train #2, "Rossiya" (Moscow-Vladivostok), you will know it is a fast "firm" train, which means that is it quite fast and comfortable, but not the cheapest you can find. On the other side, a train #250 (Moscow-Irkutsk) is a standard passenger train, but as it is not "firm", there's a chance it won't be so clean, however, it is the cheapest.
Usually, the same train can have two numbers: the first stands for the direction towards Moscow, the second — for the direction from Moscow. For example, the train that circulates between Moscow and Irkutsk has number "9" when it goes from Irkutsk to Moscow, and number "10" when it goes from Moscow to Irkutsk.
There are three types of carriages: platzcart (a common sleeping carriage - russian "P"), cupe (a compartment with 4 berths - "K"), a sleeping wagon (aka "lux" or "spalny vagon" - "SV").
Platzcart is the cheapest option. It can be called 3rd class. There are eight opened compartments in the carriage, each providing 4 sleeping places and space for luggage, plus additional 2 sleeping places on the other side. Generally, platzcart carriages are not as clean as kupe, and is more noisy, but on the other side you have less chances to be stuck with unwanted neighbors and get an opportunity to meet many people.
Cupe is a moderately priced option, can be called 2nd class. There are eight cupe compartments in the train, each has a door with two locks. There
Young people having a meal in their compartment
Sleeping wagon can be the most luxury option, let's call it 1st class. It is a compartment for two people, and the carriage itself is quite clean usually. People who travel in sleeping wagons are either quite wealthy, foreigners, or just want to rest for the whole trip, so you have the least chances of running into somebody who will piss you off. It is the most expensive option too —.it is about 50% to 100% more expensive than cupe.
All carriages in every class have a WC with a toilet and a bathroom. Platzcart carriages have quite dirty and stinky toilets, while cupe carriages in "firm" trains have toilets that are quite ok. A few long-distance trains have showers (you should pay about 30R ($1) for 10 minutes), for example, trains #1, #2 ("Rossiya": Moscow - Vladivostok), and #3, #4 (Moscow - Beijing).
There's a conductor in every carriage in every Russian train. It is very good, because he or she usually looks after everything, provides greater security, can solve all the problems, show you around the train, give the information you need, wake you up at a specific time, or just chat.
An exclusive thing about Russian trains is a tea-boiler. It works on real (!) fire, and always has hot water inside. You can buy teabags from the conductor, pour hot water, and have nice tea at any time of the day or night.
Almost every train has a carriage with a restaurant, but the food is usually of not very high quality and is overpriced (about 400R ($13) for a meal). You can always buy a snack or a beer from a conductor, or some real home made meals from the people who sell their food at the train stops along the way.
Specific Trans-Siberian Trains
It is highly recommended, and that's what most of the people do, to stop in a few cities along the Trans-Siberian, instead of just passing it all at once from Moscow to Beijing. The stops that all trains passing the Trans-Siberian do are usually only 15 to 20 minutes, and that is not enough to see a city. So, the best thing to do is to hop off in 3 or 4 cities along the way.
We recommend you to definitely stop for a few days (or at least a day) in Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, and Ulan-Ude, apart from Moscow, Beijing, and Ulan-Bataar. All these cities have very distinct features and will provide unforgettable experiences, if you know where to look for them. (See the Route section).
Below we provide descriptions and timetables of the most important trains on the Trans-Siberian. With these trains you can cover the whole Trans-Siberian and stop where you want. The information is valid as of 10 January 2003.
These trains include #1 and #2 (aka "Rossiya" - route: Moscow - Vladivostok); #9 and #10 (aka "Baikal" - route: Moscow - Irkutsk); #25 and 26 (aka "Sibiryak" - route: Moscow - Novosibirsk); #55 and #56 (aka "Enisey" - route: Moscow - Krasnoyarsk). These trains are quite fast (as little stops as possible) and "firmenny", which means they are relatively
People outside "Rossiya" train
There are all sorts of people in these trains, but generally, the public is quite calm and almost always in Summer there are a few foreigners.
Generally, the same as the the "firmenny" trains, but slightly less comfortable and less clean. However, they may still be a good option and allow to save some money (as they are not "firmenny", they are about 20% cheaper). Examples are trains #7 and #8 (route: Novosibirsk - Vladivostok), #43 and #44 (route: Moscow - Khabarovsk). They have more stops along the way, thus they are slightly slower.
These trains circulate between Russia and China or Mongolia. There are two routes: Trans-Mongolian, which goes from Moscow, through Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, Ulan-Bataar (in Mongolia) to China and Trans-Manchurian, which goes round Mongolia to the east of its border. If you're taking the Trans-Mongolian, you may require a Mongolian visa, check with Mongolian consulate.
Most of the trains are quite well looked after, but after 6 days it takes to get from Russia to China, they might become somewhat dirty. Most of the people traveling on these trains are traders of Chinese goods and foreigners.
The trains include: #3 and #4 (route: Moscow - Beijing (China) through Ulan-Bataar (in Mongolia)) - operated by Russian and Chinese staff alternatively; #19 and #20 (route: Moscow - Beijing (China) round Mongolia through Kharbin (China)) - operated by Russian staff; #5 and #6 (route: Moscow - Ulan-Bataar (Mongolia)).
cheap and rough
There are some trains you should avoid if you want a fast train with a comfortable and clean kupe. These trains are usually slow, stop on every
Workers on the Trans-Siberian
© MPS (Russian Railways Ministry)
You can easily recognize these trains: usually they have a number higher than 171, which means "passazhirsky" train. For example, there's a train #240 going from Moscow to Chita, passing Novosibirsk, Irkutsk, and Ulan-Ude. If you take it to stop in Irkutsk, you'll pay about $30 less than normally for a berth in a kupe carriage. Another such train is #250 going from Moscow to Blagoveshchensk (Far East). It also passes Irkutsk and the ticket costs the same as in #240. However, first consider if you want to bear bad smell, dusty compartments, and lack of good ventilation for four days...
You can see the timetables of the most important Trans-Siberian trains in the Transportation / Timetables / Trans-Siberian section.
Your Comments & Questions:
If you have something to say (or ask) and you want it to be posted on this page, please, leave your message below. We will put on this page the most interesting comments and questions.
You can also leave a message in the Trans-Siberian section of our Talk Lounge forum.
Comment (5/01/04): "can you move from 1 train to another with the same ticket ?
eg. Train A arrives at Town A then instead of staying in Town A for the designated time , I stay longer and catch the next train (Train B) and follow on with my trip."
Answer: No, you can't. Each ticket is for a specific train and a specific time. So, if you want to have a freedom of staying in each place as much time as you want, you will have to buy a separate ticket for each trip all the time. There are quite heavy fees for cancelling or exchanging a ticket, so it's not worth it.
Perhaps, a better way for Trans-Siberian is to get so-called "international ticket" which is basically a document that allows you to travel, say, from Moscow to Beijing, and has separate tickets attached to it for all the stopovers on your way. When you arrive to a new city, you will not need to buy a new ticket for the next part of your journey, but a kind of "half-ticket", which is less expensive. If you're interested in how this thing works, you can apply for a train ticket through the adversers in our Train Tickets (Service) section and ask them about your needs.