Red Arrow vs The Grand Express Train
Photo by RZD
Travelling by the Red Arrow or Grand Express: What’s best?
- Red Arrow: Russia’s oldest train company has been operating since the early Soviet period. It was the official transport for the Soviet elite, and even the Olympic Flame!
- One train per day leaves from St Petersburg and Moscow, taking exactly 8 hours and arriving at 8am.
- You can travel in second class (4-bed cabins), first class (2-bed cabins), or VIP. Passengers of all classes receive free food and toiletry items, and VIP passengers even have private bathrooms and showers!
- Second class tickets cost around 40 euros, first class 85 euros, and VIP cabins around 230 euros to book the entire compartment.
- Grand Express: Russia’s only private luxury train company. The Grand Express prides itself as a ‘dream hotel on wheels’ with the most luxurious and high-quality service.
- One train per day departs from each capital, taking just over 8 hours and arriving in the morning.
- Economy class cabins accommodate 4 passengers, and tickets cost between 40 and 60 euros. First class cabins accommodate 2 passengers, and tickets cost between 85 and 100 euros. Amenities for all include TV, WiFi, sockets, and towels. Each bed is booked separately.
- Premium class and Grand class cabins accommodate one or two passengers. Grand Imperial is the most luxurious cabin. Amenities can include private bathrooms, private bars and wardrobes. Tickets costs vary from 170 to 550 euros. Prices are a flat rate to book the entire cabin, not per bed.
Train travel is probably the best way to discover Russia’s vast and diverse landscape. The sleeper train is an exciting and comfortable way to travel between Russia’s two capitals, as you settle down for the night in St Petersburg, and wake up bright and early in Moscow. But what are the best options for travelling in comfort and style? From historical journeys with Russia’s oldest train company, to suites with private bathrooms and DVD players on Russia’s most luxurious service, read on to find the best options for train travel in Russia.
Red Arrow (Красная стрела)
Photo by RZD
The Red Arrow is Russia’s oldest and most famous train, and the first luxury sleeper train in Russia. Its service between St. Petersburg and Moscow has been running non-stop since the early Soviet times, interrupted only during the Second World War. It was the official method of transport for the Soviet elite travelling between Leningrad and Moscow, and even transported the Olympic Flame during the 1980 Olympic Games. The train was not painted in its distinct rich red colour until 1962, and was actually blue beforehand!
The Red Arrow travels at an average of 160km/h, taking 8 hours to travel from one capital to the other. One train runs per day, leaving Moscow and St Petersburg at just before midnight and arriving just before 8am, perfect for starting your day. The Red Arrow does not make any stops along the way, so sleeping passengers will not be disturbed. Upon departing Moscow, the song ‘Moscow’ by the musician Oleg Gazmanov is played, and on departure from St. Petersburg, the city’s hymn is played.
On board the Red Arrow
Photo by RZD
The Red Arrow is comprised of 17 carriages; 16 passenger carriages and one restaurant car. Each carriage is equipped with adjustable air conditioning, power sockets and WiFi.
Unlike other sleeper trains, the Red Arrow does not have a platzkart option; all passengers sleep in private cabins accommodating from 2 to 4 people depending on ticket class. In each cabin, there is the opportunity to hang a sign on the door stipulating whether you would like to be brought tea and even lottery tickets in the morning. The grand decor in the cabins includes red and gold curtains and a small table with a tablecloth, flowers and free water. Corridors are carpeted.
Second class cabins are similar to kupe cabins on typical Russian sleeper trains. Each cabin has two upper and lower berths. Beds are made up with fresh linen and each passenger receives a wash kit, toothbrush and slippers, free magazines, and a lunch box of cheese, ham, bread and yoghurt.
First class cabins are outfitted with two lower berths, ideal for a couple or a single person who wishes to travel in privacy. Upon entrance to the cabin, passengers are treated to a croissant and juice, and receive all of the amenities provided in second class as well as a free hot meal.
The VIP carriage comprises only four compartments, all luxuriously equipped for the most comfortable journey. Each cabin has a TV, WiFi, a private bathroom and even a shower. Passengers are treated to a free hot dinner, breakfast, hot drinks and spirits. VIP passengers also receive free shuttles on arrival.
One carriage in both second and first class allows passengers to select their compartment based on gender, perfect for solo women travellers. In the staff carriage, there is a specially equipped cabin for disabled passengers with a lift, low shelves, and sockets.
Tickets can be purchased up to 90 days in advance. The price of a second class ticket starts at around 3000 roubles (around 40 euros), first class at 6000 (85 euros), and VIP cabins at 16,000 roubles (around 230 euros, a flat rate for the entire cabin, not per person).
Grand Express (Гранд экспресс)
Photo by RZD
The Grand Express is one of the most luxurious trains operating between Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the only private luxury train company in the country. The company was founded in 2001. Grand Express prides itself on its luxury services, offering a one-of-a-kind experience in this ‘dream hotel on wheels’ (with prices to match)!
The Grand Express departs from Moscow and St. Petersburg once per day. The St. Petersburg - Moscow service departs at 23:49 each night, arriving in Moscow at 08:14 in the morning; the Moscow - St Petersburg service leaves at 23:40, and arrives at 08:36. As with the Red Arrow, the Grand Express does not make any stops on its journey between the two capitals.
On board the Grand Express
Photo by JSC TC "Grand Service Express"
The luxury promise of the Grand Express does not disappoint. The train carriages are constructed from high-quality materials, and air conditioning and noise-isolating interiors are present throughout. In addition to this, every compartment regardless of class has a television and WiFi access - an unrivalled luxury in Russian train service. Most amenities are provided as part of the ticket fare, so passengers will not need to pay for hidden extra costs. Staff on board the Grand Express go through extensive training and provide a high level of personal service to all passengers.
Seat classes and ticket prices
Economy basic cabins accommodate four passengers in two upper and lower bunks, and provide sockets, WiFi, TV, air conditioning, heating, bedlinen and towels. Economy comfort has all this plus extra USB sockets, a travel set and slippers, and free hot breakfast and drinks. Economy class cabins usually cost between 3,000 and 4,500 roubles (between 40 and 60 euros).
First class cabins accommodate two people. First class basic has the amenities of economy basic cabins, and first class comfort offers the amenities of economy comfort. First class business provides all of the above, plus free transfers from the station. First class cabins cost between 6,000 and 7,000 roubles (85 to 100 euros).
Premium class cabins have all of the above, plus a personal sink inside the cabin. There are two variations of premium cabin: with two bunk beds, or one bed in the form of a single pull-out couch, ideal for solo travellers. Premium cabins cost about 12,000 to 14,000 roubles (170 - 200 euros).
Grand class cabins contain a mini shower, toilet, hairdryer, safe, wardrobe, DVD player and larger bed. Passengers also receive free fruit and chocolate! Grand class cabins can accommodate single travellers or couples. Grand class cabins cost about 20,000 - 25,000 roubles (280 - 350 euros).
The most luxurious class of cabin is Grand Imperial, which has all of the above plus a full size shower, leather sofas and luxurious beds. In the Grand Imperial single, the bed is even adjustable! This carriage has its own private bar and restaurant. Grand Imperial cabins are in the range of 30,000 to 40,000 roubles (from 425 to 550 euros). It is a flat rate to book the entire Premium or Grand cabin, regardless of how many passengers are accommodated.
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.