In the summer cruise boats are frequent on the rivers in European Russia and interconnect Kazan with Volgograd, Moscow with Saint-Petersburg and Astrakhan while journeys across the Volga cities being the most popular ones. Lakes Ladoga and Onega in the Northern Russia are also operated by cruise companies.
Due to the immense size of the country, and the poor road safety, the best way to get around through the entire country quickly is by train. Russia has an extensive rail network linking nearly every city and town. For intercity travel, the train is generally the most convenient option for trips that can be covered overnight. Although accommodations may not be the best, Russian trains have efficient and courteous staff as well as timely departures and arrivals that would impress even a German. The train is an option for longer trips many Russians continue to use it for trips of 2 days or more, but mainly if you appreciate the nuances and experience of train travel in Russia. For the complete Russian rail experience, the one-week Trans-Siberian Railway has no equal.
Russian trains are divided into types: Long-distance дальнего следования DAHL'nyehvuh SLEHduhvahnyah trains generally cover trips more than about 4 hours or 200km 120 miles. Take a look at theRussian long-distance rail timetable. (http://timetable.tsi.ru) (http://www.poezda.net/en/index) (http://rzd.nnov-airport.ru/) Shorter distances are covered by the commuter trains пригородные PREEguhruhdnyyeh, which are popularly called электрички ehlehkTREECHkee. Most train stations железнодорожный вокзал zhehlyehznohdohROHZHny vohgZAHL have separate areas for selling tickets for these types.
Bringing a bicycle into a carriage is permissble for one ticket if it is compactly folded/dismantled and clean. Usually the wheels and pedals are removed, the bike put into a bag and stored on the upmost shelf in the Platzkart carriage. The other class carriages have less space or shelves and the bike needs to be more compact.
Almost all long-distance trains are set up for overnight travel. There are several classes of accommodation:
Deluxe – myagkiyмягкий – with private compartments for two adults and a child, with a private toilet and shower. Few trains have this posh class. An entire compartment is reserved even if you buy a ticket for yourself only, thus the price can be up to 3 times higher than in the 1st class.
1st class – spalnyy/lyuksспальный/люкс – with private compartments for two people. Most trains connecting major cities have a car of this class; tickets are quite expensive in comparison with European standards. Colloquially this class is commonly referred to as SV es-veh, СВ.
2nd class – kupeкупе – with private compartments of four people. These compartments have two top-bunk berths and two bottom-bunk ones. In the daytime the two latter ones are shared with your neighbours from above as sitting places. In modern 2nd class carriages of firmenny trains the lower berths are convenient sofas that are easily transformed into beds by putting down their backs. On some trains, compartments may be marked as male, female, or mixed-sex by the ticketing system.
3rd class – platskartплацкарт – with unwalled compartments of four fold out beds opposite two beds on the window wall. There is controversy on safety of these compartments. For some these compartments are generally less safe than other classes as they allow uncontrolled access. Others point out that in an open car full of witnesses the chances of becoming a victim of a crime or harassment are less. Anyway, they provide for a much more immersive experience.
Sitting class – sidyachiyсидячий – sitting cars for shorter distance, with seat reservation. These are mostly met on slower regional trains. Not recommended if you take an overnight trip, however it's a cheap option for a 200-300 km travel between adjacent regions.
Every car has its own attendant/conductor provodnik or provodnitsa, which check your tickets at your boarding, provides you bedding, sells you tea or snacks and can lend you a mug and spoon for in most cases free, especially if you order coffee or tea. Do not be afraid, if the conductor takes your tickets, he gives it back at your destination station; if not, feel free to remind him/her to do so. At corridor you find a samovar with free hot water for making tea or soup. Most long-distance trains have dining cars.
Bottom-bunk berths nizhnie – нижние are slightly more comfortable than top-bunk berths verhnie – верхние, because they have more place for baggage under them. There are also discounts sometime for top-bunk berths only usually not in the tourist season and not in popular directions, which are from largest towns on Friday nights, and back on Sunday nights.
Trains are classified according to their average speed:
skorostnoyскоростной, numbered 151 to 168 – the fastest trains seating only, average speed is 91+ km/h, current maximal speed record is ~250 km/h by Sapsan;
uskorennyyускоренный, numbered 171 to 198 and 800 to 898 – fast trains some with seating only, some with overnight accommodation, average speed is close to 91 km/h;
skoryyскорый, numbered 1 to 148 round-the-year and 201 to 298 seasonal – rapid trains with overnight accommodation, average speed is 50 – 91 km/h, usually 60 – 80 km/h;
passazhirskiyпассажирский, numbered 301 to 598 – slower trains with more frequent stops, average speed is less than 50 km/h. Mostly used on regional routes.
mestnyyместный, numbered 601 to 698 – the slowest trains serving all the localities along the railways, speed is the same, as of the previous ones;
pochtovo-bagazhnyy/gruzopassazhyrskiy почтово-багажный/грузопассажирский, numbered 901 to 998 – mainly used to deliver post and bulky baggage or goods but also offering passenger capacity to persons accompanying these items;
prigorodnyy/elektropoyezd пригородный/электропоезд, numbered 6001 to 6998 – suburban trains mostly serving commuters in cities.
express suburban trainsэкспресс, numbered 7001 to 7999, but there is an exception in the St. Petersburg – Vyborg line where they are numbered 609x – faster suburban trains connecting regional and large cities. They make few stops along the way. The difference in fares compared to conventional suburban trains is low, so it's one of the most preferred options to get to Moscow from the capitals of adjacent regions.
According to their standards of service, some trains are promoted to branded ones firmennyy, фирменный and given a proper brand. The most distinguished trains, as the first one in Soviet/Russian history, the Red Arrow, use their own special liveries.
Because virtually all long-distance trains are overnight, the long-distance tickets are bound to specified train. At Russian counters or travel agencies you'll get a reservation automatically, but if you buy an international ticket from some European non-CIS country, you should ask for reservation explicitly.
Ticket price depends on train class and car class, as well as on season off-peak day tickets can cost 2/3 of peak day tickets. You can check the ticket price at Russian language version of Nnov-airport.ru, Poezda.net (http://poezda.net) or Russian Railways e-shop (http://pass.rzd.ru/main-p...) English version.
Most stations have a large room called a KASsovyi Zal кассовый зал where tickets are sold. Lines vary widely – some stations are much better organized than others nowadays, and it also depends on the season. If you find the lines unbearably long, it's usually not hard to find an agency that sells train tickets. Commission rates are generally not prohibitive. For instance, buying your ticket to Saint Petersburg from Moscow, it is much better to walk a flight of steps from the ordinary ticketing office – there are no queues upstairs and RUB140 is a small premium to pay for this service.
Alternatively you can buy an e-ticket online on Russian Railways website. You should take the printed e-ticket at station counter before boarding and pick up a regular ticket.
Stations in big cities now have ticket machines with interface in both Russian and English. You can either buy a ticket or print the ticket you previously bought on the site. To print a ticket, you can either enter the booking code or scan the bar code from the electronic reservation. These machines don't accept cash, only debit/credit cards.
There are many agencies selling Russian train tickets abroad – RealRussia (http://www.realrussia.co.uk), RussianTrains (http://russiantrains.com) or RussianTrain (http://russiantrain.com). They have English-language website and can deliver the ticket by post to your home address, but prices are 30-50% higher.
Generally, buying tickets from Russia to any other CIS country is same as for domestic routes, because all CIS railway companies share a common reservation system. This does not apply for ticket from abroad to Russia – you have to buy the ticket at railway company of the departure country.
Travel time can vary from several hours to several days. There are more types of train between the two largest cities than between any other two cities in Russia. Apart from ordinary trains, there are rapid trains Sapsan that run by day only and cover the 650km between Moscow and Saint Petersburg in 4 hours. Some of the overnight trains are quite luxurious — these include the traditional The Red Arrow service and the newer, fake-Czarist-era Nikolaevsky Express, complete with attendants in 19-century uniforms. Sheets, towels and prepacked breakfasts are included in all the better trains. Shared bathroom facilities are located at the end of the train car. There are special hatches that one may use to secure the door of the compartment from the inside during the night.
Moscow-Saint Petersburg Express Train takes 5 hours of travel and costs RUB2400. Trains are only slightly air conditioned. No one in the Moscow train station speaks any English, so if you are not familiar enough with Russian to purchase your train ticket in person, it is suggested that you purchase online or through your hotel concierge or travel agent before you depart. Also, note that all signs inside the train station are in Russian only, so finding your correct platform can be challenging. The dining car of the express train is nicely appointed with real table linens, and an impressive menu and wine list, but is 3 to 4 times more expensive than eating in the city before and after you travel.
Trains stop at stations for long time, about 15-20 minutes. Check the timetable placed on door at the end of corridor. During stop you can buy various meals and drinks at platform from locals for pretty reasonable prices. Frequently, traders will walk through the cars between stops and sell everything from crockery to clothes to Lay's chips.
The commuter trains are mostly hard-seat train cars. You don't get a designated seat number — you just find space on a bench. These trains have a notorious reputation for being overcrowded, though this has declined somewhat. The trains make very frequent stops and are rather slow. For example, a 200km trip to Vladimir takes about 3h30. They do ! have toilets in the first and the last cars but it is going to be an unforgettable experience use them in "emergency" cases only.
Tickets for commuter trains are sold in a separate room from the long-distance trains, and are sometimes sold from stalls located outside.
A few very popular routes, mostly between Moscow and nearby cities such as Vladimir, Yaroslavl, Tula, and others have an express commuter train that is considerably more comfortable. Your ticket will have a designated seat number and the seats are reasonably comfortable. The trains travel to their destination directly and are thus considerably faster.
Smoking in all types of trains is completely forbidden.
Drinking your own strong beverages is OK in closed compartments if your neighbours don't mind seeing you in a slightly drunk condition, otherwise they may officially complain about your behaviour to a conductor or a transport policeman, and that may result in the termination of your trip at the very next station where you will be accompanied to a police department and fined. In this case your ticket will be marked by a conductor and you'll have to buy a new one.
Beverages with up to 12% of alcohol eg beer and most wine types are also OK for drinking in open type cars platzkart and sitting, but NOT in commuter trains, as well as in compartments without closing them, but anyway you should drink responsibly because in case of complains the consequences might be the same as written above. Also, in some cases, transport policemen will not like seeing you with beer, so it's better to keep the bottles in an opaque pack in order to completely avoid unpleasant conversations with law enforcement representatives.
Alcohol ordered in dining cars may be consumed right there without any problems. But note that, as of 2014, most dining cars officially offer only alcohol up to 16.5%. Sometimes they can unofficially offer you vodka poured in a tea-pot, but beware of its possibly low quality. Perhaps, the best choice in this case would be a glass or two of quality wine instead.
All long-distance trains in Russia run on Moscow time which may be up to 9 hours off local time in the Far East.
Russia has a very lively hitchhiking culture, with many hitchhiking clubs, there is even an Academy of Hitchhiking. There are many competitions. Despite horror stories about bad things happening in Russia, it is relatively safe to hitchhike, especially in the countryside. In some regions Russians expect a little bit of money for a ride.
The tremendous distances of Russia make plane travel highly desirable if you plan to travel to some of Russia's more far-flung attractions. It's worth considering for any destination that is farther than an overnight train ride. Travelling across Russia by train can sound awfully romantic, but it's also time-consuming and rather monotonous. Nearly every major destination of interest has an airport nearby. The great majority of domestic flights are to/from Moscow, but other services exist.
The Russian domestic airline industry had an abominable reputation in the 90s due to uncertain safety records, unreliable timetables, terrible service, uncomfortable airplanes, and substandard airports. Substantial improvements have been made, however. Plane travel in Russia is unlikely to be the highlight of your trip but it has become tolerable.
Aeroflot based at Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow, is Russia's national airline for local Russian and CIS flights and international flights to worldwide cities Germany, South Korea, US, etc.. Flights from St. Petersburg back into Moscow run only USD57 May 2009 and makes this less expensive and less time consuming than taking the train. Since December 2010 Aeroflot operates both domestic and international flights from the new Terminal D located next to the old international terminal now Terminal F serving non-Aeroflot international departures. Many international flights and most internal ones are operated by Boeing and Airbus aircraft, only a few soviet era aircraft are left.
Transaero, based at the second biggest in the Moscow area Domodedovo airport, Moscow across the city from Sheremetyevo, is an independent airline with Boeing aircraft which operates to major cities in Russia and the CIS, and to a few western destinations.
S7 airlines ex-Siberia or Sibir Airlines Russia's largest domestic carrier with international service to many cities in Germany, China and ex-Soviet republics.
Rossiya Airlines has a substantial network based at St Petersburg Pulkovo airport to major cities in Russia, and to western Europe.
UTair operates the largest aircraft fleet in Russia and ranks among the top five largest Russian carriers by passenger volume. UTair is the Russian market leader in helicopter services and is the world's fourth largest helicopter service provider by volume of international operations.
Yakutia Airlines is Siberian/Far Eastern air carrier having extensive flight network around Siberia and abroad.
Many of these airlines apart from Transaero, which started as an independent operation were formed out of the onetime-Aeroflot operation at their home city from Soviet times when the old Aeroflot was broken up.
In March 2009, Rosaviation federal aviation regulator has published stats on average delays of departure in 2008, broken down by domestic airline:
maximal delays in departure are reported for: Alrosa Avia 40% flights were delayed for 2 hours or more, Moskoviya 17%, Dagestan Airlines 16%, Red Wings 14%, SkyExpress 13%, VIM-Avia 12%, Yakutia 10%
minimal delays are reported for: Aeroflot-Russian airlines, S7/Sibir, Rossia, UTair and UTair-Express, Aeroflot-Nord, Aeroflot-Don, Kuban Airlines, Yamal, Saratov Airlines, Transaero, Tatarstan.
Most Russian cities have bus links to cities as far as 5-6 hours away or further. Though generally less comfortable than the train, buses sometimes are a better option time-wise and are worth looking into if the train timetables don't suit you. A small number of cities, notably Suzdal, are not served by train and bus is the only option besides a car.
The Russian word for bus station is Avtovokzal Ahv-tuh-vahg-ZAHL. Most cities have just one for long distance buses and the state buses depart from there. However, in Moscow and in some other Russian cities, a number of commercial buses are available, and they generally don't depart from the bus station. Quite often, you'll see commercial buses near train stations. Sometimes they run on schedules, though for popular routes such as Moscow-Vladimir, Moscow/Yaroslavl, etc. the buses simply wait to fill up. On these buses payment is usually to the driver.
Russian buses have luggage storage, but if it's an old Eastern-bloc bus, you may find your luggage wet at the end of the trip.
Apart from regular buses there are private minibuses called marshrutka маршрутка. Marshrutkas have fixed routes, but usually no timetables and no regular stations. Stop at the roadside and wave a hand, if you are lucky and the minibus isn't full, it will stop. You can arrange with the driver to stop you at desired place on his route. At more frequent stops the driver waits until his minibus will fill up. There are no tickets, you pay directly to the driver.Marshrutkas ride both on countryside in this case they likely to have timetables and as city transport – in cities usually have number plates as regular buses.