Long distance trains are usually classified by speed and service level. Choosing the Trans-Siberian packages, you will go on fast trains. For a trip with stopovers, if you wish to explore the cities en route, you may ride lower category passenger trains as well, especially in Russia.
Fast trains (skorry poezd). Train numbers from 1 to 160. They are very comfortable and fast with minimum stops in larger cities. The timetables are convenient (departing at night, arriving in the morning). Average speed – 70-90 km/h.
Fast train with a unique name (firmeny poezd) – More or less the same, however, service is better (cleaner cars, more attentive attendants). The ‘Rossia’ train runs from Moscow to Vladivostok, the ‘Krasnaya Strella’ (‘Red Arrow’), connects Moscow and St. Petersburg. Average speed – 60 km/h
Passenger trains (passazhirskiy poezd). Train number from 170 to 870. They are intercity trains and make more stops. Average speed – 40-50 km/h.
Speed trains (skorostnoj poezd). Train number from 161 to 169. Average speed 100 km/h. ; all coaches equipped with DVD players, very comfortable seats. These trains are only available on some specific routes.
Trans-Siberian railway trains are either Russian trains, Mongolian trains or Chinese trains. They all are comfortable and usually offer 1st, 2nd and 3rd classes.
There are two berths in each 1st class cabin, 9 compartments per coach. On Chinese and Mongolian trains the beds are in bunk bed upper and lower alignment with a small sofa. On Russian trains - two lower beds. There are two washrooms and toilets one on each end of the corridor and are usually very clean. All compartments are lockable. First classes on the trans-Siberian train are also known as Spalny Vagon or SV. In high season only, train N4 and N24 have a few luxury wooden compartments with a sink attached to the compartments.
Second Class ( Kupe) has four comfortable beds per cabin, 9 compartments per coach. There are 2 washrooms and toilets one on each end of the corridor and are usually very clean. The compartments are lockable. Bottom berths have odd numbers (1,3,5 etc.), upper berths have even numbers (2,4,6,8, etc.).
The usual distinction on almost all Trans-Siberian trains is that second class compartments have 4 berths and first class - 2 berths. There is very little difference in compartment size, decor or window size.
Russian & Mongolian Run Trains
Second class 4-berth compartments are called “kupés”. The compartments are comfortable and clean with full bedding provided.
The Chinese call their compartments soft sleepers being a 4 berth compartment nearly the same as a Russian 2nd class kupé and deluxe sleeper being a 2 berth compartment that usually has a shower/basin shared between 2 cabins, a single upper and lower berth and a small couch.
Though all International trains keep high standards, there is limited availability of First Class carriages, and you should book far in advance if you do not want to miss a chance to travel in a First Class cabin.
Both First and Second Class coach is looked after by attendants called a ‘provodnik’ (male) or ‘provodnitsa’ (female). A provodnik will check your ticket at the door to the sleeper when boarding. Shortly after departure, the provodnik will come round to give you the bedding (two sheets, pillowcase, and a towel) in sealed packs. You will find blankets and mattresses in your compartment. At the end of the corridor, a samovar with unlimited free hot water is available. You can also have a full meal in a restaurant car which most Trans-Siberian trains have. They serve also drinks and snacks. You will spend less than EUR 20 for two courses and a couple of bottles of beer.
Provodnik does the daily cleaning of the toilets which are at each end of the carriage. Only in the 1st class of train #3 and #4, and in a separate carriage ( service-wagon) showers are provided in every compartment.
Safety on the Trans-Siberian trains is not a problem. Sensible precautions, though, such as locking your compartment from the inside when sleeping or getting the attendant to lock it from the outside when leaving it should be taken.
The Trans-Siberian Railway train tickets prices can be only indicative for Trans-Siberian, Trans-Mongolian, and Trans-Manchurian routes. Depending on the season, date of travel and availability the prices can vary a lot.
Route nonstop 1 class. €
St. Petersburg / Moscow or vice versa (night train nr. 3 or 2, beds) 195
St. Petersburg / Moscow or vice versa (day train – seats) 225
Moscow-Beijing (nr. 4 via Mongolia) 940
Moscow-Beijing (nr. 20 via Manchuria) 1054
Moscow-UlanBator or vice versa (nr. 6 or nr. 5) 638
Moscow-UlanBator (nr. 4) 625
Moscow-Pyongyang (nr. 20) 1018
Irkutsk-UlanBator or vice versa (nr. 6 or nr. 5) 330
Irkutsk-UlanBator or vice versa (nr. 362 or nr. 263)
Irkutsk-Moscow (nr. 5 or 81), first class price not valid for train nr 81 795
Irkutsk-Moscow (nr. 1) 1072
UlanBator-Beijing (nr. 24), see remark 3 308
UlanBator-Beijing (nr. 4) 367
Beijing-Moscow (nr. 3 via Mongolia) 1046
Beijing-Moscow (nr. 19 via Manchuria) 1150
Beijing-UlanBator (nr. 23/23K) 400
Beijing-UlanBator (nr. 3) 714
Beijing-Irkutsk (nr. 3 via Mongolia) 714
Beijing-Irkutsk (nr. 19 via Manchuria) 703
Irkutsk-St. Petersburg (nr. 9) 1060
Irkutsk-Vladivostok (nr. 8 / nr. 2) 670/960
Route including 1 stop 1 class. €
Moscow-UlanBator-Beijing (nr. 4 Moscow-UlanBator), see remark 2 912
Moscow-UlanBator-Beijing (nr. 6 Moscow-UlanBator), see remark 2 920
Moscow-Irkutsk-Beijing (nr. 4 Irkutsk-Beijing) 1096
Moscow-Irkutsk-Beijing (nr. 20 Irkutsk-Beijing) / Moscow-Irkutsk-Vladivostok 1180
Moscow-Irkutsk-UlanBator (nr. 6 IKT-ULN) 791
Moscow-Irkutsk-UlanBator (nr. 362 IKT-ULN), (1cl. on nr.362 = 2 beds in 2cl.)
Route including 2 stops 1 class. €
Moscow-Irkutsk-UlanBator-Beijing, see remarks 1,2,3 1057
Moscow-Perm/Yekaterinburg-Irkutsk-Ulan Bator 796
Moscow-Perm/Yekaterinburg-Irkutsk-Beijing (by train nr. 20 Irkutsk-Beijing) 1222
Moscow-Perm/Yekaterinburg-Irkutsk-Beijing (by train nr. 4 Irkutsk-Beijing) 1124
Route including 3 stops 1 class. €
Moscow-Perm/Yekaterinburg-Irkutsk-UlanBator-Beijing, see remarks 1,2,3 1123
Moscow-Irkutsk-Ulan-Ude-UlanBator-Beijing, see remarks 2,3 1226
Route including 4 stops 1 class. €
Moscow-Perm-Yekaterinburg-Irkutsk-UlanBator-Beijing, see remarks 1,2,3 1170
Moscow-Yekaterinburg-Novosibirsk-Irkutsk-UlanBator-Beijing, see remarks 1,2,3 1100