In continuation of the previous part about the Introduction of the Trans-Siberian Railway, this part provides some idea about the types of trains, available coaches and berths during the epic Trans-Siberian Journey.
Types of Trains: Depending on your travel style, comfort choice and paying capacity, there are at least three types of trains available for the Trans-Siberian Journey:
1. Private Luxury Trains: At least two private luxury cruise trains operate on this route once in a month during the peak tourist season from May to August. Booking for these trains are offered by many travel agents in Russia as well as in Europe. You can contact these agents online also. The most popular train is known as Golden Eagle Express and round trip fare for 15-days journey from Moscow to Vladivostok on this train is about GBP 9700. This cost includes deluxe accommodation, 3-course meal, planned stop-overs and escorted tours between Moscow and Vladivostok. It doesn’t include airfare to Moscow, Visa fee and other expenditures prior to boarding the train.
2. Express Trains: Known as firmeny trains, these trains are the best choice to travel on this route. Some particularly important express trains are:
Rossiya: This is the most popular train among the tourists. Normally on every alternate day, this train departs from Moscow (Departure time is 13:20 Local Time) to Vladivostok (Arrival Time is 20:10 Local Time, after 143 Hours 50 Mins journey) as Train No.002 and from Vladivostok (Departure time is 11:02 Local Time) to Moscow (Arrival Time is 06:01 Local Time, after 145 Hours 59 Mins journey) as Train No.001. It is a very comfortable train and better than the other express trains running on this route. One way ticket cost from Moscow to Vladivostok on this train is normally 50k RUB for the First Class, 24k RUB for the Kupe, 14.5k RUB for the lowest class Plazkart, if you buy the tickets at the train stations or from the official Russian Railway Website.
Express Train No.100/099: There is another direct express train available from Moscow to Vladivostok and vice-versa. This train departs from Moscow (Departure time is 00:35 Local Time) to Vladivostok (Arrival Time is 03:17 Local Time, after 163 Hours 42 Mins journey) as Train No.100 and from Vladivostok (Departure time is 23:52 Local Time) to Moscow (Arrival Time is 11:03 Local Time, after 162 Hours 11 Mins journey) as Train No.099. One way ticket cost from Moscow to Vladivostok on this train is normally 16k RUB for the Kupe, 9.7k RUB for the lowest class Plazkart, if you buy the tickets at the train stations or from the official Russian Railway Website. First class is not avialble on this train.
Other Express Trains: We can see that there are only two direct trains operate between Moscow and Vladivostok. So, if you wish to plan entire route in a single go, then these two trains are the only options. But, when you plan to stop and explore the en-route destinations also, then there are many more options available. There are many other trains operating between any pair of two stations, so you can plan your journey on those trains also. Some international express trains also operate on this route.
3. Slow Passenger Trains: Normally, these trains operate for the short distances. These trains have the cheapest fare, may not AC/heating facility, don’t have sleeper coaches, and stop at every station on their route at frequent intervals. Its a time consuming affair and they are not advisable, unless absolutely necessary.
Note: A higher train number means a lower train category and less service on the train.
Type of Coaches:
First Class: Known as Spalny Vagon, it is the most comfortable and very-very expensive (Almost double the price of the second class). Each cabin consists of two sofas flanking each side of the compartment, which convert into beds for sleeping.
Safety: Only two people is there and they can lock their compartment from inside. In addition to a normal lock, these doors also have a security latch which stops the door opening more than an inch or two. So, if you have a nice fellow traveller in your compartment, there is no major safety issue in the first class.
Problems: If you fellow traveller is not that good, and you are travelling alone, then it can ruin your experiences. However, in such cases, you can request your coach attendant to provide you any alternate compartment and if you are a female, you may get a woman only compartment, and of course, it depends on the availability of any vacant berth is such compartments.
Second Class (Kupe): Majority of the tourists choose this class to travel. Kupe is basically a compartment holding 4 beds. The lower right bed is 5 cm smaller than the others. If you are travelling with the family or in group of 4 people, this is the best class to travel. However, if you are travelling alone, you may feel trapped with 3 complete strangers in your kupe. Please note that during the daytime, you may need to share your lower berth with the person of the upper berth.
Safety: It’s same as the First Class, only difference is that, in this class, you have three fellow travellers while travelling alone.
Third Class, Platzkart: It’s kind of a dormitory setup with 6 berths in each compartment. A single carriage has many compartments in an open layout with two lower and two upper berths, and a small, narrow corridor and two another berths that are located on the other side of the corridor. It’s just like the 2nd Class AC coaches of Indian Railways.
Safety: It’s a dormitory set up. You travel with at least 60 other passengers. I find more sense of security in this class. It’s a great place to mingle with local Russian Travellers. Safety of the luggage is not a major issue on the Trans-Siberian. At least, I didn’t face any. I roamed around in the carriage, leaving my camera, tablets and phone at the seat many times. Just have some basic precautions like anywhere else and its perfectly safe.
Which Berth is good to book in Kupe or in Platzkart class? To ensure the luggage safety, always book the lower berth. There is a metal box beneath the berth which you can only get to by lifting up the berth. So, once you are on your berth, nobody can open it.
But, for the side lower seat, there is no box. You have to keep your luggage under the berth in open area basically.
For Upper as well Side Upper berth, you can use the shelf above your berth to keep your luggage.
Just to give an idea of the prices at different trains and in different coaches, I summarise it here: A single way journey from Moscow to Vladivostok on:
Golden Eagle Express: GBP 4800 (approx. 4 lac 30 Thousands Ruble)..Deluxe Accommodation with meals
Rossiya: First Class: 46,461 Ruble 4-berth Kupe : 19555 Ruble, Platzkart: 13740 Ruble
Train Number 100: 4-berth Kupe: 15689 Ruble, Platzkart: 9626 Ruble
Now, you can chose your train as per your budget. As far as possible, always reserve the lower seat.
The next part of this post is intended to address your most important query: How to Book the Tickets for Trans-Siberian Railway? I will try to complete that post asap.