Russia by Rail
Some types of cabins in Russian trainsThe following classification is used in Russia:
Generally, the Russian trains are safe; however, if you're going on a long journey or if your train is going to make a lot of stopovers, it's better to be careful about small valuable items and money.
Every carriage has one or two conductors, who look after it 24 hours a day. Every passenger gets his ticket checked upon entry and must present a passport to get on the train. Every train has a police team on board. On every stop the train gets thoroughly checked to make sure there are no minor damages. Every long-distance train has its own diesel generator-carriage.
It is possible to keep the luggage either in an overhead luggage storage area, or under the bed. It is more secure to keep it under your bed.
There are two toilets at each end of every carriage with a WC and a sink; the toilets are usually not very clean. If you take a more comfortable train, there are more chances it will be cleaner.
It's better not to drink tap water in the train, because it's dirty.
The showers are provided on long-distance trains and only 1st class carriages. If your train doesn't have a shower, you can ask a conductor to allow you to use a shower in another carriage for a small fee.
The bed sheets are provided in the train, and a set (which includes a towel) costs about 50R ($1.5-$2).
The train tickets in Russia are issued for a specific date, on a specific date, for a specific journey, and for a specific person.
So, it is not possible to buy an open ticket. If you need to go, say, from Moscow to Irkutsk with a stop-over in Novosibirsk, you will need to buy two tickets: Moscow - Novosibirsk and Novosibirsk - Irkutsk. If you're not sure about the 2nd part of your journey, you can wait till you get to your first destination and try to buy your ticket there. Usually, if you want to take a ticket for the train that departs in 3 or more days, it is possible to get tickets (except for the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian trains, which we advise to book ahead).
Railway station: Buying the train tickets yourself directly at the railway station is cheaper, but has a few disadvantages. First, there are often long queues. Second, the operators at ticket sales offices don't speak English. Third, there might not be tickets left if you buy them before your departure. The advantages are the price and the last-minute tickets that are sold 2 hours before departure: the price stays the same, but you might get a ticket that was previously unavailable.
Ticket agencies: The agencies can provide excellent service, but charge commission on top. The Russian railway doesn't pay any commission to the agents for tickets sold, so the price at an agency will always be higher. The agency's commission depends on the quality of service and may be from 10% to 50% of the ticket price.