Meals on Russian trains
Where can I get meals on a Russian train?
• Complimentary meals: depending on your carriage class and the specific train, some tickets have a hot or cold meal and drink included in their price
• Restaurant car: intercity and long-distance trains have a restaurant car where you can enjoy a wide selection of hot and cold starters and mains, desserts, snacks, and alcoholic or soft drinks. Some restaurant cars serve foreign cuisines and others have bar areas
• Order food to your seat: many trains have a seat buffet service where you can buy drinks and snacks, or speak to the attendants to order refreshments to your seat or cabin. Some trains even have an app where you can browse the on-board menu and order meals!
• Order food to the train: a new service introduced in late 2019, which provides an Uber Eats-style delivery service from restaurants along your route, delivered directly to the train
• Pack your own food: stock up on staples before you set off. Typical train snacks include fresh fruit, biscuits, instant noodles, cured meats, bread, and seeds or nuts.
• Platform vendors: at stations along the way you can find platform vendors selling all manner of refreshments, like freshly baked goods, hot meals, alcohol, local specialties and fresh fruit and vegetables
On your train journey across Russia, you can’t subsist on excitement and gorgeous views alone. Whether you’re embarking on a Trans-Siberian adventure or taking a short hop between St Petersburg and Moscow, at some point you’ll need refreshments. From restaurant car buffets and three-course meals delivered hot to your seat, to local specialties on the platform or even Uber Eats-style restaurant deliveries to the train, what are the different ways you can eat meals on a Russian train?
Meals included in Russian train ticket price
When travelling by Russian train, you can buy tickets with a meal included which is delivered to your cabin or seat. This complimentary meal is indicated with an ‘Y’ when booking your ticket, which stands for the Russian word “услуги” (services).
On long distance trains this service usually starts from 2nd class. The meal you’ll be served depends on your journey length and on the train itself, so you should check the details beforehand to make sure that you won’t be hungry on your travels!
- On a journey from St Petersburg to Moscow on an unbranded train in a 2nd class sleeping compartment, you might have a bottle of water and a packaged breakfast roll or pastry included in your ticket price. The same journey in the Grand Cabin on the luxurious Grand Express train would include a hot breakfast, soft drinks, a fruit plate and chocolate!
- On multi-day journeys like the Trans-Siberian Railway, you can also purchase tickets with a meal included. A 2nd class ticket on the famous Rossiya train includes a cold meal in the price, whereas a 2nd class ticket on the unbranded #061/062 train does not include food. Please bear in mind that the complimentary meal literally means one meal per journey, not per day – it doesn’t matter whether you’re travelling for 7 hours or 7 days. However, the majority of foreign travellers spend no longer than one day on board the train as they want to explore cities along the way, so one free meal is usually enough (topped up with snacks purchased before your journey).
On the high-speed Sapsan train (which runs between St Petersburg – Moscow – Nizhny Novgorod) meals are included in all tickets except for Economy class.
- Economy+: a cold complimentary meal which is usually a sandwich or croissant of some sort, a snack, a bottle of water and a hot drink.
- Business class: passengers can choose between three 3-course set menus for either breakfast or lunch depending on your travel time, with an alcoholic drink included at lunch. Previous breakfast menus have included cheese salad, pancakes with cottage cheese and raspberry and vanilla sauces, and cannoli, and for lunch Stolichny salad, Georgian-style chicken and rice, and chocolate meringue cake.
- 1st class: a choice of three fancier 3-course set menus for breakfast, lunch or dinner, with an alcoholic beverage served with dinner. Lunch menus have included salad with salmon and capers, salmon with grilled vegetables, and cappuccino cake, and for dinner Milanese salad, venison with mushrooms, green beans and potatoes, and Baskin Robbins ice cream.
On the high-speed Lastochka train (which has routes around St Petersburg, Moscow, southern Russia and a couple of Siberian routes) business class tickets include a starter, main dish, dessert and drink, and passengers can select from one of three options in each category. Previous lunch options have included fresh vegetable salad, meatballs with mashed potatoes, orange cake, and juice. The exception is the Moscow – St Petersburg route, where no food is included for business class passengers. Please note that on suburban Lastochka services (e.g. St Petersburg – Vyborg, Moscow – Tver) there is no food on board.
1st class ticket holders on the Strizh train (which runs between Moscow – Nizhny Novgorod and St Petersburg – Samara) are also entitled to a complimentary breakfast or dinner on their journey. Like on the Lastochka and Sapsan, they can choose from three options of starter, hot dish, dessert and drink. Vegetarian options and a kids’ menu are also available.
Passengers can actually order their food in advance if they buy tickets through the RZD (Russian Railway) website. This can be done by registering on the web portal and filling in a form no later than 72 hours before your journey.
Traveller’s tip: If you have allergies, make (or buy) a card which details in Russian which foods you cannot eat, what will happen if you eat these foods, and an explicit request to inform the chefs. If travelling on the Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Manchurian, also have a card written in the local language.
Long-distance and sleeper trains in Russia have a restaurant car where you can buy meals and drinks to enjoy during your journey.
- Trans-Siberian route: on the Trans-Siberian train you will find a restaurant car serving Russian and European cuisine – breakfast dishes, hot and cold appetisers, soups, salads, meat and fish dishes, desserts, and a kids’ menu. Example dishes include borscht with sour cream, and fried chicken and potatoes with dill. You shouldn’t expect anything fancy – the food is standard stolovaya (canteen) quality – but is perfectly edible. Also available are hot and cold drinks and alcohol – including champagne – and chocolate and snacks.
- Trans-Mongolian route: after crossing the Mongolian border, the restaurant car will be switched and will serve the local cuisine. You can expect such dishes as mutton with onions, cabbage, potatoes and rice, to be enjoyed with a local beer.
- Trans-Manchurian route: the restaurant car will be switched to a local one once you’ve entered China, serving dishes such as crispy chicken and peppers, boiled rice with vegetables and meat, and loose leaf tea.
Traveller’s tip: You should pay in the local currency when travelling on each of these trains.
Aboard the Sapsan train there is one restaurant car which serves a large selection of cold and hot drinks and dishes, including omelette with bacon, borscht, Caesar salad, smoked salmon sandwich, pasta dishes, meat with a side dish, pancake with various fillings, crisps and nuts. At the far end of the restaurant carriage is a small bar area with stools and a counter, where you can purchase alcoholic drinks. As well as standard tickets you can actually buy a Dining class ticket, which includes a 2,000 rouble deposit to be spent in the restaurant car and a table allocated in the car for the duration of your journey.
On the Strizh train you can find a restaurant car and buffet car. The restaurant car has two and four-seater berths and serves a variety of dishes such as Greek salad, mushroom soup, meat with rice, potatoes or vegetables, filled pancakes and pasta dishes, as well as hot and cold drinks, a wine menu, breakfast menu, vegetarian menu, and kids’ menu. The buffet car has a bar layout with eight stools sat along the counter. Here you can order snacks, salads, sandwiches, desserts and drinks. The restaurant menu on the Strizh train is updated every couple of months.
Order meals to your seat or cabin
If you don’t get a meal included in your ticket and don’t fancy leaving your belongings to head to the restaurant car, you can order food to be brought to your seat or compartment. This option is available on some inter-city and long-distance trains and is a very convenient way to dine on your journey.
- On the Sapsan train you can consult the on-board menu and order hot and cold food, alcohol and soft drinks from the attendants. You can also order refreshments from the seat-buffet service as it passes through your carriage.
- On the Strizh train there is also a seat-buffet service where you can order food and drinks.
- On the Lastochka train the seat-buffet service serves a simple range of sandwiches, pastries, packaged snacks and hot and cold drinks.
- On the #61/62 Trans-Siberian train, passengers travelling in first class have access to the on-board entertainment centre, which includes an app for ordering food to your cabin.
Drinks on board
All Russian sleeper trains are equipped with a samovar (hot water dispenser) in each carriage. Passengers can access free, unlimited hot water during their trip, which is perfect for making tea, coffee and hot chocolate as well as instant noodles or porridge. However, there is no free supply of cold water. You will need to bring your own or purchase bottles in the restaurant car or at stations along the way.
If you want an alcoholic drink while travelling, then you have several options depending on your train and route – in the standard restaurant car on each train, at the specially-designed bar areas on the Sapsan or Strizh, or in the private bar in the Grand Imperial carriage on the Grand Express train. Technically, drinking alcohol in the cabins of long-distance trains is prohibited anywhere except the restaurant car. But in reality, no one pays attention unless you are terribly drunk and causing problems.
Order food to the train
If you’re not a fan of restaurant car fare, or dread subsisting off instant noodles and biscuits, there is another option for you – food delivery to the train! This service was introduced in December 2019 and allows passengers on long-distance trains run by the state rail company to order food from local restaurants, which will be brought to the train when it stops at the station. Currently you can order dishes from 70 different restaurants in 44 cities, including Moscow, St Petersburg, Yaroslavl, Irkutsk, Ekaterinburg, Vladivostok, Kazan and Sochi.
To do this, you will need to create and then log into a Personal Account on the Russian Railways website (RZD) and select ‘Deliver Food’ as an additional service to your ticket. Here you can see a list of all the stations along your route where the food delivery service is available, and find a list of nearby restaurants and menus (according to RZD, the most popular dish to order is pizza!) You can choose your dishes from one or more restaurants at a particular station and add any allergy information when you register your order. Once you arrive at the station a courier will come to the train with your food.
Bring food with you
If you need to economise, have specific dietary requirements, or want to top up the complimentary meals served on board the train, then make a trip to the shop before your journey. As we’ve mentioned, every passenger on a long-distance Russian train has liberal access to free hot water which they can use to make hot drinks, ramen, porridge or soup. Other Trans-Siberian travellers’ favourites include cured meats and smoked fish, a loaf of sliced bread, jam and honey, fresh fruit, chocolates, cookies, seeds and nuts. Try not to be offended if your fellow travellers start peeling boiled eggs in the already less-than-sweet-smelling carriage – this is another Russian train staple.
Buy food on the platform
If you’re an adventurous eater then the stations along a long-distance train route are a goldmine for you. Here you will discover platform vendors selling a variety of wares, including local specialties which you can sample.
You will usually find:
- Baked products such as bread, pirozhki (small pies usually filled with meat, mushrooms, potatoes or cabbage) pastries, and freshly fried blini and syrniki (golden, fried cottage cheese pancakes)
- Hot dishes such as boiled potatoes, pelmeni (Russian filled dumplings), and roast meat
- Soft and alcoholic drinks
- Fresh fruit and vegetables, often grown at peoples’ dachas
- Local specialties like omul, the smoked white fish from Lake Baikal
Keep in mind that some of the food might have been sitting out on the platform all day or washed under the station tap. If you want to buy meat, fruit and vegetables then watch which vendors the Russian passengers buy from.
Once you have your tickets, look forward to a wonderful, smooth
and enjoyable journey through the Russian countryside.
Buy your ticket safely and securely and then sit back
and enjoy the ride!
A portion of your order goes to helping underprivileged Russian children.