How to book Russian Train Ticket
When visiting Russia, you might want to explore it by train. Continuing the series of articles on public transport and Moscow Railway Stations, we offer a new post on Booking Russian rail tickets below. We hope it will be useful. Should your question be left unanswered, please put your comment/question at the bottom of this page and we will do our best to answer it as soon as possible!
- The information below applies to tickets for long-distance Russian trains and is not applicable for commuter trains (elektrichkas), which do not require advance reservation.
Key things to know about Russian Trains Tickets
- Advance booking is highly recommended (please see below for details)
- Seats at long-distance trains are all allocated, so you will get an exact seat number when booking a ticket
- Passenger passport details are required. Make sure the same passport is used for ticket booking and for travelling to/across Russia (it has to have your Russian visa in it)
- Travelling by train in Russia is very affordable and – in most cases – cheaper than by plane. Enjoy!
Booking a ticket at the Official Russian Railways Website
All of the Russian railways are managed by a state-owned company Russian Railways (or RZD). So the official Russian Railways website (RZD site) provides the best commission free prices on Russian rail ticket booking.
Here are the RZD site advantages:
- it's fully translated into English
- provides a description of a seat available, i.e. seat "at the table", "for passenger with a pet", "lower/upper bunk beds" etc.
- car plan is available – you can view the seat location before booking. You may also choose between lower and upper bunk beds (applies to overnight trains) – this feature is rarely available at alternative Russian tickets online resellers
- accepts the following credit cards: Visa and MasterCard
- provides the best price for Russian train tickets!
- the site may not accept some overseas credit cards
- Some of our guests experienced difficulty with booking via the Russian Railways official site. This was probably due to the site's processor, which, as was noted on the web, could not process credit cards issued in the North American banks. We're not sure whether the issue has been fully resolved.
When booking a ticket (“bilet” in Russian) online you will be promted to register as a website user. The site will keep track of all of your current and past orders. Should your travel plans change and you wish to cancel a reservation, it is also easy to do so via your personal account at the site.
- Electronic registration (check-in) is required for most tickets booked online. It serves like a boarding pass. The site will offer an electronic check-in right after the ticket is purchased. Once done, your booking status will change to "Registered".
- In case an online check-in is not possible or completed, you will need to print out a ticket via one of the payment terminals (view below) at a train station before departure. Such printed ticket will serve as a boarding pass (also called boarding coupon). Your ID and booking reference number will be required.
Alternative websites selling Russian Rail tickets
There is a number of websites (resellers) where you can book Russian railways tickets online.
RussianTrains is one of them. We believe it is useful to review its key features below so you know what you gain (or loose) when booking via a reseller:
- user-friendly website
- provides a comprehensive seat description as well pictures of the car/cabin interior, which we found particularly helpful
- supports all popular languages
- accepts Visa and MasterCard credit cards as well as Paypal
- charges a commission of 30% or more on top of Russian Railways ticket fee.
Booking a ticket at Moscow Train Station
Russian train stations are convenient places to buy Russian train tickets if you wish to do so in person. The information below concerns Moscow train stations in particular.
As you probably know, there are nine train stations in Moscow. Some of them serve domestic destinations only, while others – domestic and international routes. At any of these stations you can purchase a Russian rail ticket to any destination, irregardless of a departure station.
Russian rail tickets can be purchased:
1) at the Ticket Offices (Kassa) at all Moscow railway stations in cash or by credit card
2) via a Self-service Terminal (vending machine) at each Moscow train station. Such a terminal has full support of English language and accepts Visa or MasterCard credit cards. It will print out your boarding pass after a ticket purchase is completed.
- A railway ticket purchased at a Ticket Office is your boarding pass, so keep it in a safe place. If such a ticket is lost or damaged, it is possible to recover it only if you travel within Russia.
- A boarding pass for e-tickets (i.e. those booked online or via a self-service terminal) can be printed out at any time before departure. You may do so via a self-service terminal – press the "Print ticket" button as shown on the Terminal screen above. Your ID and booking reference number will be required.
- Cashiers at the ticket offices may have very basic command of English. It is recommended to check available trains and travel options online before heading to the station.
How far in advance to book Russian train ticket?
– As a general rule "as far in advance as possible" after tickets become available on the RZD website and at the Russian Railway Stations Ticket Offices.
Russian trains tickets are offered for sale:
- 45 days or less before departure of most domestic trains
- 60 days or less before departure of all international and some important domestic trains, including Sapsan train between Moscow and St Petersburg, and trains between Moscow and Adler / Kazan / Petrozavodsk / Saratov / Samara / Lipetsk / Cheboksary and some other destinations)
- not later than one hour before departure
How to read a Russian train ticket purchased a Ticket Office?
– if your Russian is fluent, you will have no problem with reading a typical Russian railways ticket. If not, it's better to know how the information is arranged on a Russian rail ticket as it is all in Cyrillic. You may check the English commentary for a ticket below.
Alternatively, you may ask you guide to clear things up while on your Moscow tours English.
Where do I get more information on ticket booking/refunds and boarding the train?
For more information on Russian railway ticket booking visit the RZD site – passenger information.
If you would like us to cover any other issue on booking Russian railway ticket or anything needs to be clarified in this article – please leave your comment / question using a comment box below.
We love questions!
About the author
Diana Zalenskaya, a travel professional and destination expert for Moscow, Russia.