Train Travel in Russia: Staying Safe During the Pandemic
How can I stay safe on my Russian train journey?
- Bring your personal safety kit – mask, gloves, hand sanitiser
- On high-speed trains:
Bring your own refreshments or book a ticket which includes a meal
Sit in the middle of the carriage
Book tickets next to your travelling companions
Travel during off-peak times
- On sleeper trains:
Travel by first or second class
Depending on your budget and train, book a cabin with a private bathroom
Choose tickets which include meals, and check whether your meals are delivered to your cabin or whether you have to visit the restaurant car
2020 was the year of cancelled plans and closed borders. But countries around the world are relaxing their lockdowns, rolling out vaccination programs, and once again opening their doors to travellers. Russia is no different – the great bear has been slowly emerging from hibernation since August, and has opened its borders to over two dozen countries.
With that said, let the travels begin! A train journey is the ideal way to make the most of this vast and diverse land – whether you want to speed between the two capitals or admire Russia’s rich nature on a multi-day train journey. But if you are experiencing feelings not just of anticipation but of trepidation, then read our guide on how to stay safe while travelling by train in Russia. We have included information about the sleeping/seating arrangements, amenities, and refreshment options on different types of train, so that you can make an informed decision before your trip.
Is train travel in Russia safe?
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Russian Railways has introduced a number of measures to keep passengers safe, such as installing UV air disinfection systems on modern trains, measuring passengers’ temperatures before boarding and during their journey, and making masks a mandatory requirement for travel. However, as the social distancing seating scheme implemented last spring is no longer in operation, you should take extra precautions when you travel and bring your personal safety kit – a mask or visor, hand sanitiser or antiseptic wipes, and gloves.
General safety advice for train travel in Russia
When travelling by Russian short-distance train:
- Travel in first class at off-peak times
- Avoid booking a table seat unless you are travelling in a group of four
- Choose a row in the center of the carriage, away from the toilets and luggage racks
- Bring your own refreshments or purchase tickets which include a meal delivered to your seat
When travelling by Russian sleeper train:
- Avoid travelling in third class (platskart) – open-plan carriages accommodating 54 beds. Travel in first or second class compartments (spalny vagon/kupe) which sleep 2 and 4 travellers respectively (there is also the option to ‘buy out’ a four-person cabin for two or three travellers)
- Opt for a ticket which includes meals. If meals are not included, check whether you have to purchase them at the restaurant car, or whether they are delivered room-service style to your cabin
- Bring refreshments if you do not want to frequent the samovar at the end of each carriage, the buffet car, or the kiosks and salespeople at stations along the way
- The higher your class, the fewer passengers you will share amenities with. Toilets are located at the end of each carriage, although some trains offer VIP cabins with their own private bathrooms
Travelling by train between St Petersburg and Moscow
There are two ways to visit both of Russia’s magnificent capitals during your holiday: via high-speed train, which takes 4 hours or less, or on the sleeper train, which takes 8 or 9 hours. Here are some details on what to expect on each train.
- Sapsan: Traditional carriage layout, with first class seats are arranged in rows of three, and business and economy class seats arranged in rows of four. Both first and business class tickets include a hot meal and Economy+ tickets include a cold meal. Every day there are over a dozen Sapsan departures each way, so you can easily select an off-peak journey.
- Nevsky Express: Compartment layout which allows you to travel with minimal interaction with other passengers. Only economy class compartments are available, each seating 6 passengers – if you are travelling in a smaller group then you may have to share a compartment with strangers, or alternatively you can ‘buy out’ all seats in the cabin. A cold meal is provided. Only one train runs each day in each direction.
- Double Decker: First and second class cabins in air conditioned carriages. First class carriages sleep 30 people and second class carriages sleep 64 people. Each carriage has 3 shared toilets. A cold meal is included in the ticket price and hot meals are available in the restaurant car.
- Megapolis: First and second class air conditioned cabins, and tickets can be purchased with or without meals.
- Express Train: VIP, first class, and second class cabins. VIP class cabins have their own private bathroom with a toilet and shower. Hot breakfasts are provided in all classes, and hygiene kits are provided for VIP and first class.
- Grand Express: Grand class cabins each have a private toilet and shower, hygiene kit, hot dinner and breakfast, and a free transfer to your destination upon arrival, so you do not have to take public transport. All first class tickets include a hygiene kit and hot breakfast, and premium first class cabins are equipped with their own wash basin. Second class cabins include a hot breakfast.
- Red Arrow: VIP cabins have a private toilet and shower. VIP and first class tickets include a hot meal, and second class includes a cold meal.
Over the course of 2020, you may have become accustomed to spending a long time inside, slowing down your pace of life, and taking solace in the small things like a good book and the beauty of nature. If so, then this week-long journey across Russia will be a breeze – relax and watch the world go by, or punctuate your journey with a few days in fascinating Siberian cities along the way.
- #100/099: A non-branded train with daily departures between Moscow and Vladivostok. Only second and third class carriages are available.
- Rossiya: Branded train with daily departures between Moscow and Vladivostok. First, second and third class travel is available. First and second class tickets include meals. As of this year, shower cabins have been installed in each carriage.
- #003/004: Weekly departures from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia, with first and second class compartments. First class cabins have a shower and toilet shared with the cabin next door. Meals are not included in the ticket price and must be purchased at the restaurant car.
- #005/006: Weekly or fortnightly departures between Moscow and Ulan Bator in Mongolia. You can travel in first or second class, but there are no showers or private toilets and the carriages are quite old.
- Vostok: Weekly departures from Moscow to Beijing. The train has modern first and second class compartments, but no private bathrooms or showers.
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.