Russia has a very extensive railway network. It is the second largest rail network in the world, after the United States. There are several train routes that run from Moscow to St. Petersburg. Fast trains and slower trains. Comfortable and luxurious cars. Continue reading this article in order to find out about the best way to travel between Moscow and St. Petersburg by train.
What type of train?
All trains in Russia are operated by the national company “RZD”. Tickets can be purchased on the official website: Official website of the Russian Railways. The Moscow to St. Petersburg train connection is operated by many trains. Some trains have a different brand. We will discuss three cases:
- The Russian TGV, the Sapsan;
- The Red Star, a famous train in operation since 1931;
- The others providing train connections from Moscow to St. Petersburg;
Sapsan Moscow to St. Petersburg and back
The Sapsan (” Сапсан ” in Cyrillic) is Russia’s high-speed train. Visually, it is very recognizable among other Russian trains. On the other hand, it is more difficult to see a difference between Sapsan and a Velaro (in Spain) or an ICE (in Germany). That’s because they’re all German trains.
Comfort on board. The Sapsans are all very comfortable. The spacing between the seats is largely sufficient for adults, each wagon has a closet to leave its coat and there is a restaurant wagon that sells everything: drinks, sandwiches, hot dishes.
Accessibility. The Sapsans are accessible to everyone, because there is no step: the floor is flat throughout the train and there is no step between the platform and the train. Some spaces are reserved for people in wheelchairs.
Frequency. Every day, you will find more than 10 Sapsans in each direction.
Duration. The journey from Moscow to St. Petersburg takes about 4 hours. The train runs at a maximum speed of 250km/h. The trip sometimes includes two or three 2-minute stops.
Price. The cost of tickets is higher than other Moscow to St. Petersburg trains. At the time of writing, ticket prices generally start at 2500 RUB, or about 30 pounds.
Of all Moscow to St. Petersburg trains, the Sapsan is myfavorite. It is relatively cheap, fast, frequent and the day trip allows you to enjoy the scenery as well.
The “Red Arrow”
The red arrow is a night train that has been linking the two cities since 1931! This type of train allows you to glimpse a bit of history. And it starts on the platform with special music played at the start and finish:
- «The Ode to the Great City» by Reinhold Glière in St. Petersburg;
- «Moscow» by Oleg Gazmanov in Moscow;
The red arrow is a… red train. It is a sleeper train with several classes. The “De Luxe” class takes you to a real rolling hotel. Among Moscow to St. Petersburg trains, these trains have the most “sovietic” vibe.
Frequency. There is only one Red Arrow in each direction per day;
Duration. You’d think the Red Arrow was the fastest. But still count on a good 8 hours. Time to sleep;
Price. The Red Arrow is a special train a little more expensive. Ticket prices start at 2700 RUB or 32 pounds;
Night trains between Moscow and Saint Petersburg
The Sapsan and the Red Arrow are the most famous trains. Nevertheless, there are also other trains that can drive you from Moscow to St. Petersburg and back: more than thirty in each direction!
Here are some more of them:
- Artika: drives from Moscow to Murmansk, but has a 30 min stop in St. Petesburg as well;
- Baltic Express: connecting Moscow to Tallinn, Estonia in 14:30 and making a stop in St Petersburg;
- Lev Tolstoy: connecting Moscow to Helsinki in 13:20 and making a stop in St Petersburg;
There are also several trains with no particular shuttle name:
Sleeping trains between Moscow & St. Petersburg
Trains running at night are sleeper trains. During the day, the beds can be folded to take advantage of the bench seat. At night, the beds are unfolded and the head of wagon provides you with bed sheets. At 10:00 p. m., the lights are off.
You can get a good sleep in these trains, even in the lower classes. It is a very exciting experience. I had the opportunity to make a 13-hour trip in the cheapest class and it was really a pleasure, a very good memory.
Frequency. More than 20 trains between Moscow and Saint Petersburg every day;
Duration. Between 7h and 9h, depending on the train route;
Price. Again, depends on the one you choose, the cheapest ones start at 600 RUB or around 7 pounds;
Which class to choose on a train between Moscow and St. Petersburg?
The choice obviously depends on the amount of money you are willing to spend for a comfortable ride.
Classes of classic trains
Sitting or “сидячий” = Seated. This class is found in night trains and in this case you will travel seated, at night. It is usually the cheapest;
3rd Class. Open sleeping or “плацкартный” = Open sleeping car. It’s a wagon with undivided bunks. Everyone sleeps in the same room, dormitory atmosphere. It’s very cheap. There are only 2 bunk beds. Throughout the day, the top beds are free and everyone sits on the lower beds.
2nd Class. sleeping compt. or “купé” = Compartmented sleeping car. It is a closed compartment wagon, each compartment contains 4 beds. Again, during the day, the top bed is tidied up and everyone sits on the bottom bench.
1st Class. sleeping count. or “CB” = Luxury compartmentalized sleeping car. It is the same closed compartment wagon but they have only 2 beds, which are more comfortable.
Luxury sleeping. Where each compartment contains 2 sleeping beds, toilets, a shower, air conditioning control in the compartment (i.e. one private bathroom per compartment).
The Sapsan classes
Economy Class or “эконом” = classic wagon. It is the equivalent of 2nd class in Europe.
Economy+ Class or “эконом+”. The same thing with a meal included.
Bistro Car or “вагон бистро” = dining car. You will be installed in the dining car with a prepaid credit for food to eat, usually 2000 RUB or ~23 pounds.
Business Class or “бизнес класс”. 1st class TGV wagon, with a meal.
First Class or “первый класс”. Like the “Business” class, you get a gourmet meal instead of a normal one.
Other Useful information
During your train trip between Moscow and St. Petersburg, you will discover authentic landscapes. The train passes by small typical villages with very picturesque wooden houses. It passes through many lakes and forests where you feel like you are at the edge of the world.
My favorite place is between Moscow and Tver, when the Sapsan drives on a dirt road that only makes the width of the tracks. On either side of the train, we see a very large lake, magnificent, lined with trees (pines, I think). See this place on a map.
Here’s a video of the scenery and the train throughout the whole travel between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Things to know on a train in Russia
When you take the train for the first time in Russia, several details come to mind:
The agents on the train. There are a lot of company agents on the train. At least one per wagon. The agent is there to keep the train in order. For example, the agent will evacuate drunk passengers so that others can travel quietly. When there is no restaurant car, the wagon agent can always sell you tea and chocolate bars. Practical!
Just like at home. The distances are long and we often take a night train. So we’re going to do everything we can to make ourselves comfortable. On the train, you put on your house clothes and slippers (this does not apply to the Sapsan).
Tickets are checked at the entrance of the wagon, on the platform. The head of the wagon will ask you for your passport and look for your passport number. With this information, he can find all the information on her smartphone. In many cases, printing the ticket is superfluous.
Train delays rarely exist in Russia. The trains between Moscow and Saint Petersburg are among the most punctual, because these are the biggest cities, cultural and economical centers of Russia. If your train is scheduled to arrive at 5:53 pm, you can be sure that you will arrive exactly at this time.
Russian trains are designed to operate at -40°C. Including the Sapsan. Therefore, do not be afraid when you have your train and outside is raining or snowing, it will definitely not change your plans.
Technical detail: Antifreeze liquid is automatically sprayed on train bogies at stations. You can notice this on the videos that are broadcasted in Sapsan.
“Leningrad” station in Moscow
If you choose a train that leaves or arrives in Moscow, you will be at Leningrad station or “Leningradsky” station. St. Petersburg was called “Leningrad” in Soviet Times, guess why?
This station is also called “Oktiabrskaya”, in reference to the October 1917 revolution that took place in St Petersburg.
In the station you will find several restaurants and souvenir shops.
The station is very well located and you can reach it by public transport:
- The metro: lines 1 and 5;
- A tram: lines 7, 13, 37 and 50;
- The bus;
- The trolleybus;
Be careful. There are other stations in Moscow. For example, if you take the “Volga” train from Nizhny Novgorod to St. Petersburg via Moscow, the train will stop at the “Kurskaya” station. The stations are normally written before the reservation and on the ticket.
“Moscow” station in St. Petersburg
Trains departing from or terminating in St. Petersburg are most often at Moscow station, or “Moskovsky” station. It is called St. Petersburg GL, for the Russian word “Glavny” which means main.
There are souvenir shops here, but the restaurants are not very exciting. You can go to the shopping centre “Galleria” just next door to find a better choice of restaurants.
The station is very well located on Nevsky Avenue and you will also find several public transport services there:
- Metro lines 1 and 3
Be careful. There are also several stations you can end up in St. Petersburg, depending on the train you take from Moscow. If you take the “Artika” train from Moscow to Murmansk via St. Petersburg, the train will stop at the “Ladjoskaya” station. Again, you can find the final destination on your ticket and upon reservation. If you are unsure, do not hesitate to ask the wagon agent where should you get out, just show them your ticket and they will help you.
Trains between Moscow and St. Petersburg: a Summary
Shortly, Moscow to St. Petersburg trains can be classified into 2 categories.
|Faster Trains||Slower Trains|
|Duration||3h 30 min – 4h 10 min||7h – 9h|
|Price||from 21 pounds||from 8 pounds|
|Trains / day||> 10||> 20|
|Type of Wagon||Seats / Assis||Bunk Beds|
|St. Petersburg Station||Moskovsky||varies|
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