Q: How can I travel to and from Moscow?
There are two primary options:
There are about 15 trains a day that run between the two cities. About 2/3 of them are overnight trains. The fastest train takes 4:30 and the longest train takes about 10 hours. There are usually three classes of seats - first through third class. On most trains, a first class seat is a private compartment for two passengers with beds. One a few trains, airline style seating has been implemented and first class is merely wider seats. Depending on the quality of your train, the time of day, season, and your type of seat, prices will vary between $10 and $95 per ticket. Almost all trains between the cities are serviced by Moskovsky Train Station in St. Petersburg and Leningradsky Train Station in Moscow. There are however, a few trains that go through other stations so it is important to know for sure your stations if you have people meeting you. Tickets can be bought at any train station or the Central ticket offices. You will need your passport number. Your tickets are not transferable as passports are often checked when boarding trains. If your travel plans change, you can exchange your tickets at the ticket offices for a partial refund. The closer to your date of travel you cancel your ticket, the higher the penalty will be.
There are two airlines that fly daily between Sheremetevo Airport in Moscow and Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg, Pulkovo Airlines and Aeroflot. A third airline, Transaero flies out of Domodedovo Airport in Moscow. The flight lasts about an hour. Economy class tickets cost between $55 and $75 for a one way ticket depending mostly on time of year. The summer and holiday seasons will be more expensive than the winter and shoulder seasons.
Tickets can be purchased at the airport, or in any local travel office. There are approximately 10 - 14 flights a day between the two cities. Most domestic flights are on Russian built aircraft, usually Tupelovs or Ilyushins.
Q: WHEN'S THE BEST TIME TO TRAVEL?
Russians love tea. And just like Russian tea, Russian weather can be enjoyed either piping-hot in summer, or delectably iced in winter! The same is true of Siberia and Mongolia, where the same pattern appears - only with more extreme summer highs and winter lows. But when you get five months of snowy winter a year, it doesn't take you by surprise, and the infrastructure is set-up to deal with it. Trans-Siberian trains run even when it's minus 40 outside! There are lots of things that are best in the winter - dog-sledding, or cross-country skiing, two classical Russian pursuits.
Q: WHERE'S BETTER TO GO BY TRAIN?
RusAdventure recommends the trains for the journey between Moscow and St Petersburg or on the Trans-Siberian route. First-class sleeper compartments have side-by-side lower berths and are quite comfortable. The bed is made up and towels are provided, and bathrooms (with toilet and wash basin) are located at either end of the carriage.Snack meals are provided, but are unappetizing and small! For the overnight Moscow-St Petersburg train, you should aim to have dinner before departure, and have breakfast at your hotel on arrival. The Trans-Siberian has a dining car. Note: to guarantee single occupancy of a cabin, for single travellers, you need to pay double the twin share cost; otherwise, there is a strong possibility that you will have to share your twin cabin with a stranger.
Q: HOW MUCH SPENDING MONEY WILL I NEED?
This depends on what lifestyle you plan pursuing on your trip! The information pack we provide will give you an idea of current costs. Eating and drinking are very similar to most European cities, although Ulaanbaatar and Beijing have upscale versions if you have cash to flash! When itineraries take you far from the shops or cafes we often include meals. Russian souvenirs tend to be fun and low priced so you will be able to stash your pack full of Russian goodies!
Q: WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL DOWNSIDES? HOW IS IT FOR WOMEN TRAVELLERS?
There are no serious downsides or dangers in visiting our destinations. There are two inconveniences which might bother you, though. The first is corrupt cops (and other uniformed officials, such as border guards etc). Their pay is so abysmally low that the temptation to augment it with backhanders is too much for some. The worst this might mean in practice is a routine document-check - slipping them around 2-3 in local currency is the way to prevent "having to have our sergeant complete the process down at our station". It's annoying, but if it makes you feel better, it's not victimisation - they do the same with their own nationals too (Russia, Mongolia and China all have "compulsory ID document" rules for their citizens, of the kind now proposed for Britain...) The other is a new take on an old annoyance - sexual harassment. But this time.. it's the guys who get hassled, by aggressive hookers. A firm "nyet" gets rid of them. Inappropriate approaches towards women are a big society no-no in our destinations, however, and are incredibly rare. Dressing-down is recommended for both sexes anyhow - the lure of conspicuous wealth is a much bigger draw for unwelcome attention than any sexual motives.
Q: HOW ABOUT TRAVELLING WITH CHILDREN?
There are no serious downsides, and the infrastructure of travel and accommodation works well if you're taking children along. However, Communist-era thinking very much treated children as small adults, with little or no provisions or amenities. So priming your children is essential if they are not going to get bored. Take supplies of books and fresh comics secreted in your suitcase - English reading material in unavailable for both children and adults alike. The journey is however the most fantastic introduction to a world they will have never known and they will meet many local children along the way, who will be very curious about their lives so take photos of home!
Q: CAN I STAY EXTRA NIGHTS?
In Moscow and St Petersburg, yes! But the train schedules on some of the less than frequent routes make altering the stays almost impossible. Adding or removing odd days will almost never work. We include one or two nights in Moscow prior to your Trans- Siberian journey and two in St Petersburg is the standard if you buy a St Petersburg add-on.
Q: IS THE TRANS-SIBERIAN LIKE THE ORIENT EXPRESS?
No. Orient Express is a luxury train for package tourists. The trains on the Trans-Sib route are regular long-distance Russian trains that make no concession to tourists at all (which means no "stops for sightseeing" etc). If you want to do stuff in the places en-route that means getting off until the next train comes through.
Q: WHY IS IT MORE EXPENSIVE ON MY OWN?
It's not discrimination, it's just mathematics - when the cost of a car, room, guide etc is shared between more than one person, it inevitably gets cheaper. If people do travel together but split-up for some activities (arriving or leaving by separate means etc) we can adjust things to permit this, and reprice accordingly.
Q: ARE THERE SHOWERS ON BOARD?
Most of the main long-distance (24 hrs+) on Russian Railways (but not on Mongolian or Chinese) now have a pay-to-use shower. You have to go to the Special Services wagon. One use is 100-120 roubles (prices vary with train operators). No towel or soap is included in the price, we hope you have your own!
Q: WHAT ARE FIRST- AND SECOND-CLASS COMPARTMENTS ON THE RUSSIAN TRAIN?
There are only two classes on board international Trans-Sib trains (ie the ones which enable you to get across Siberia and Mongolia to China). First-Class compartments have two berths per cabin - usually two lower berths. Second-Class compartments have two more passengers - a total of four people per cabin, with two upper and two lower berths. Beyond the number of passengers, there is almost no difference in the quality of fixtures and fittings in the cabins. The only other "perk" of First-Class is that it's usually the closest wagon to the Dining Car. All routes longer than 24 hours have a Dining Car service, available to passengers in any class on board - cafeteria-style food, at prices to match. The myth that "the Chinese Train has better food" is a piece of nonsense repeated by guidebook authors - in fact the Dining Car service is provided by whichever country you are crossing at the moment, and is coupled in/out en-route at borders.