Travelling from St Petersburg to Moscow can be done in many different ways — plane, car, high-speed train — and at many different prices. But taking the night train to Moscow might be the best way to discover Russian culture and how Russian people travel. Here is why you should consider taking a night train to Moscow during your stay in Russia.
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During my first stay in Russia, I was in Perm, in the middle of the Ural, for an internship for my Master’s degree. The plan, once the internship over, was to find my way back to Petersburg by train and enjoy as much of Russia as possible before going back home. But my deadline came in the way, and instead I had to flight back to France the day my internship ended. So when my friend offered for us to take the night train for our little escapade to Moscow? Obviously, I said yes!
Many different options offer themselves to you once you’ve decided to take the train, whether you are talking classes, price ranges or times. tutu.ru is a perfect website (with an English version!) for you to find and buy train tickets in Russia. For budget reasons, and because I wanted to go as local as possible, we decided on a third-class carriage. Which means one big, massive carriage for everyone, instead of a four-people carriage in second class. Packing earplugs seems like a prerequisite, which I did, along with a sleep mask. All set for a good night of sleep!
We left St Petersburg in the middle of the night, taking the last train at 1.30 in the morning. A carriage attendant welcomed us at the entrance of our carriage, checking tickets and passports. For some unknown reason (which I believe to be a clash between Latin and Cyrillic alphabets), my name was not on the travel list, which made for several nervous minutes. But I had my tickets and was let onboard anyway.
The carriage is divided into several parts, each with a six-bed setting. We were lucky enough not to share our space with anyone during most of the journey, with only a mother and her daughter sitting on the opposite side of the corridor during the last three hours to Moscow. Each bed comes with clean linen, a blanket, a pillow, and a small towel. Limited space is available above and below the bunks for suitcases, but we had packed light enough that it was not a problem. We also had a small table, coming in handy in the morning for breakfast.
Confort is, quite obviously, rustique and minimum, but I’m a big defender of the ‘you get what you paid for’ mindset. And we did after all paid for third-class. I will say thought that, even thought I didn’t have a full good night of sleep, I managed a few hours of sleep and the bed was not as uncomfortable as I’d feared. The earplugs and sleep mask helped a lot, as well as the fact that the carriage was not full at all — and no loud snorer to come and disturb us!
I woke up fairly early, lounging a little bit and watching the landscape go by, before we had breakfast. Hot water is provided for free, and came my favourite part — drinking steaming tea from one of those beautiful metal-and-glass mugs that are very reminiscing of the Soviet period. I was, for some reason, as excited about this as I was for everything else about our journey.
All in all, it felt like sleeping in a big hostel dorm — the 12-bed kind you only book once, and never make the mistake again — but the adventure alone was definitely worth it. We were still tired when we arrived in Moscow, in part because we had to take the train so late/early, and in part because a good night of sleep is almost impossible, but I can’t say I regret taking the train. After all, it makes for better memories than a simple flight!