Regularly Scheduled Trains

Photo credit: Vlad Kvashnin

Ride Aboard a Russian Railways Public Train

Riding a regularly scheduled Russian train is an adventurous, immersive experience. Train travel is still the most common way for Russians to get around the largest country on earth, which makes riding the trains alongside local people a great way to get an insider’s look into the diversity of Russian culture. Travel by train is a chance to disconnect (no Wifi on board) and enjoy a relaxing few days.

Contact a MIR Tour Specialist for more information, photos, and tips for traveling aboard public trains. We can provide you with a handy What to Know Before You Go guide.

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Train & Hotel Accommodations

Typically, regular rail travelers share quarters with others. This is part of the experience of a regularly scheduled train – you travel like the locals do, meeting and interacting with other train travelers.

Cabin options are generally two-berth (First Class) or four-berth (Second Class) cabin types. Both cabins are the same size. First Class cabins have two lower bunks, while Second Class cabins have four bunks – two upper, two lower – divided by a two-foot passageway.

On MIR’s Mongolia-to-Moscow small group tour program, Second Class, four-berth compartments are the standard. MIR travelers are assigned a Second Class cabin shared with three other people. With advance booking, it’s usually possible to upgrade to a first class, two-berth cabin.

Please note that a variety of cabins styles may be in use aboard the train. Decor, layout, and type and number of dining and sleeping cars on your journey may differ from the examples depicted in MIR’s literature and on our website.

Second Class, Four-Birth Cabins

Second Class cabins, called kupés (pronounced koo-PAYs), are efficiently designed four-berth cabins, with two upper and two lower bunks.

Upper bunks are accessed by a short ladder and can fold up during the day, making more headroom for those sitting on the lower bunks. A small foldaway table beneath the window can hold snacks and drinks, as well as playing cards and games. 

Cabins can be locked from both inside and out. There is storage suitable for carryon-size luggage below the lower bunks and above the door. Larger luggage must be stowed at the end of the carriage.

You should expect to share your cabin with three other travelers, possibly of mixed genders, as is the standard on trains in this region.

View Photos
  • Sample Second Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels Train tea party Meaghan Samuels
  • Sample Second Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: Vlad Kvashnin Sample Second Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Vlad Kvashnin
  • Sample Second Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train, nighttime. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes Sample Second Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train, nighttime Douglas Grimes
  • Sample Second Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: Vlad Kvashnin Sample Second Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Vlad Kvashnin
  • Sample Second Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: John Seckel Sample Second Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. John Seckel
  • Sample Second Class Cabin, storage under lower bunk. Photo credit: John Seckel Sample Second Class Cabin, storage under lower bunk. John Seckel
  • Sample Second Class Cabin, daytime view of the ladder and the door to corridor. Photo credit: John Seckel Sample Second Class Cabin, daytime view of the ladder and the door to corridor. John Seckel
  • Sample Second Class Cabin, video screen and sliding door to corridor. Photo credit: John Seckel Sample Second Class Cabin, video screen and sliding door to corridor. John Seckel
  • Sample Second Class Cabin, upper bunk. Photo credit: John Seckel Sample Second Class Cabin, upper bunk. John Seckel
  • Sample Second Class Cabin, upper and lower bunks ready for bed. Photo credit: Anna Ivanova Sample Second Class Cabin, upper and lower bunks ready for bed. Anna Ivanova

Upgrade: First Class, Two-Berth Cabins

First Class cabins have the same layout as Second Class. They differ only in that they’re assigned to two passengers rather than four. 

Please note that first class cabins are not available on every train in Russia. It is possible to arrange a single compartment (in either first or second class) if booking all berths in a cabin, but this cannot always be guaranteed on our Mongolia to Moscow small group tour.

View Photos
  • Sample First Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: John Seckel Sample First Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: John Seckel John Seckel
  • Sample First Class Cabin – more headroom! Photo credit: John Seckel Sample First Class Cabin – more headroom! John Seckel
  • Sample First Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: Douglas Grimes Sample First Class Cabin aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Douglas Grimes
  • Sample First Class Cabin, video screen and sliding door to corridor. Photo credit: John Seckel Sample First Class Cabin, video screen and sliding door to corridor. John Seckel

Mixed-Gender Cabins

On MIR’s Mongolia-to-Moscow small group tour program, travelers are generally matched with other members of the group. Depending on the group make-up, you may be sharing your cabin with travelers of a different gender.  

Such mixed-gender arrangements are common on Russian trains, and travelers are accustomed to sharing a train compartment with people of a different gender. Under such circumstances, custom is to ask cabin-mates to exit the compartment while you are dressing or preparing for bed. They will expect the same of you.

Location and Hours of the WCs

For each carriage there are two WCs with toilet and sink, one at each end. Wear your flip-flops or rubber-bottomed slippers when you use the facilities, as there is often water on the floor.

WCs will usually be locked from 20 minutes before arrival at a station until 20 minutes after departure, so plan ahead.

Showers are generally not available on the regular trains and should not be expected.

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  • Sample WC on a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train. Photo credit: Vlad Kvashnin Sample WC on a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train Vlad Kvashnin
  • Sample WC on a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train. Photo credit: John Seckel Sample WC on a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train John Seckel
  • Each carriage of the Russian Rail public trains has two WCs with toilet and sink. Photo credit: John Seckel Each carriage of the Russian Rail public trains has two WCs with toilet and sink John Seckel

Attendants

Each car has a daytime and a nighttime attendant, called a provodnik (male) or a provodnitsa (female). They are responsible for giving you your bedding (included in the price of the ticket) at the start of the journey; selling supplies such as cups, instant coffee, and tea; and keeping the WCs clean.

Hotel Accommodations

On the Mongolia-to-Moscow small group tour, accommodations for nights not spent on the train range from four-star hotels in larger cities to comfortable three-star properties in the smaller cities. There is also one night in a rustic ger camp with shared facilities.

When arranging a private, custom journey using the regular trains in Russia, you can choose any level of accommodations available in the cities you overnight along the way.

View Photos
  • Sample hotel. Sample hotel.
  • Sample hotel room. Sample hotel room.
  • Sample hotel cafe. Sample hotel cafe.
  • Sample ger camp. Photo credit: Joanna Millick Sample ger camp. Joanna Millick
  • Sample ger interior. Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels Sample ger interior. Meaghan Samuels
  • Sample ger interior. Photo credit: Kelly Tissier Sample ger interior. Kelly Tissier
  • Sample ger interior. Photo credit: Meaghan Samuels Sample ger interior. Meaghan Samuels
  • Sample ger interior. Photo credit: Kelly Tissier Sample ger interior. Kelly Tissier
  • Sample ger interior. Photo credit: Kelly Tissier Sample ger interior. Kelly Tissier

Life Aboard the Train

While in transit you can read, snack, and watch the world go by in your cozy cabin, or spend time with fellow travelers in their cabins. The corridor outside the kupés is a popular place to stand and gaze out the window, or chat with other travelers.

Meeting Russians

One of the great appeals of travel on public trains is the opportunity it provides to get to know the Russians who make up the majority of the other passengers. You may find yourself in prolonged contact with a grandfather from Perm on his way to pick up a car in Vladivostok, or an English teacher from a small village who has never conversed with a native English speaker before.

Rail is the preferred way for most Russian people to travel, and you’re sure to disembark with a deeper appreciation of their daily life.

Beverages and Snacks

Hot water is always available free of charge in a samovar at the end of each carriage, but coffee, tea, and mugs to drink them in are not complimentary. A good idea is to purchase a glass of tea at the beginning of a train journey and then keep the glass for use throughout the trip. Most carriage attendants are aware of this practice and don’t mind as long as the glass is either returned or purchased at the end of the journey.

It’s a good idea to bring food to snack on with you. At longer station stops there may be local babushkas (grandmothers) selling home-baked goodies on the platform.

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  • Bring your own utensils for instant soup or ramen noodles made with hot water from the samovar at the front of each car. Photo credit: John Seckel Bring your own utensils for instant soup or ramen noodles made with hot water from the samovar at the front of each car. John Seckel

Dining Car

Meals in the train’s dining car tend not to be as substantial as off-train meals. Each restaurant car or canteen is run separately by a private company, so it is difficult to predict the standard of food that will be available, but it tends to be quite basic. Bringing some snacks with you is a good insurance policy in case you’d like to supplement meals.

If you are on a MIR tour, breakfast and dinner served in the dining car are a part of your package. Your tour manager can help you navigate the dining car during lunch. 

If you’re an independent train traveler, we encourage you to use the restaurant car or canteen, even if you don’t speak Russian (although it’s still a good idea to carry your own snacks). The menu may have English translations; if not, you can use hand gestures, point at menu items and hope for the best, as intrepid travelers do. A Russian/English dictionary is invaluable on such occasions.

View Photos
  • Sample Dining Car aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: Devin Connolly Sample Dining Car aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Devin Connolly
  • The Dining Car is multi-purpose. Photo credit: Devin Connolly The Dining Car is multi-purpose. Devin Connolly
  • Sample Dining Car aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: Devin Connolly Sample Dining Car aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Devin Connolly
  • Sample Dining Car aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: Devin Connolly Sample Dining Car aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Devin Connolly

MIR Off-Train Tours

Private vehicles and local guides whisk you away to explore the principal towns and cities along the line, in some cases including hotel stays. Your tour itinerary includes all the details.

View Photos
  • Old Believers, Ulan Ude, Russia. Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin Old Believers, Ulan Ude, Russia. Vladimir Kvashnin
Exterior of a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train. Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin
Exterior of a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train. Photo credit: Vlad Kvashnin
Exterior of a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train. Photo credit: John Seckel
Sample Dining Car aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: Devin Connolly
Sample First Class Cabin – more headroom! Photo credit: John Seckel
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  • Exterior of a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train. Photo credit: Vladimir Kvashnin Exterior of a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train. Vladimir Kvashnin
  • Exterior of a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train. Photo credit: Vlad Kvashnin Exterior of a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train. Vladimir Kvashnin
  • Exterior of a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train. Photo credit: John Seckel Exterior of a Russian Railways regularly scheduled train. John Seckel
  • Sample Dining Car aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: Devin Connolly Sample Dining Car aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Devin Connolly
  • Sample First Class Cabin – more headroom! Photo credit: John Seckel Sample First Class Cabin – more headroom! John Seckel
  • Sample Dining Car aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Photo credit: Devin Connolly Sample Dining Car aboard a regularly scheduled Russian Railways train. Devin Connolly

Traveler Reviews

  • "We can’t thank you enough for arranging our tour of Russia. Everything went perfectly and the trip was even more than we had dreamed of … so much more was included that everyday brought more unexpected surprises. We especially enjoyed our visits to the 2 private homes that you arranged. All of our accommodations were superb—much better than I expected to find and better than places where I usually stay when I travel in the U.S. And the food was much better than I expected, too. Even on the trains we enjoyed it and were pleasantly surprised."

    S. Duggan & G. Stoiber

    Put-in-Bay, OH

  • "There was never a dull moment, even on the train. I am glad I chose the trip using the regular trains, not the tourist trains."

    J. Parr

    Redwood City, CA