Getting around Russia
Learn about the best means of transport in Russia for short- and long-distance travel, get our advice on using public transport in Russia’s cities and find out practical details for exploring Russia by rail, boat or bus.
Travelling around Russia
Russia is immense. The country is a federal state which unites 85 subjects – republics, regions, autonomous territories and city-regions. Russians can celebrate the New Year 11 times, as there are 11 time zones across the country.
Climate and nature are very different across Russia; this is why the question “What’s the weather like in Russia?” is funny for local people. Travel across Russia to see astonishingly beautiful nature in the north (Karelia’s lakes and forests), to swim in the Black Sea and smell subtropical flowers in the south (Sochi), climb the soaring Caucasus Mountains (Elbrus) and marvel at outlandish landscapes with hot water springs (Kamchatka, “Russia’s Iceland”).
All across its vast territory – the total length of the state border is 60 932 kilometres – Russia has wonders you need to see once in your lifetime. Many of them have remained pristine as they are located in rural areas and are not easily accessible by public transport. Instead of roads, there are tracks. To explore them is an adventure which is best done with a local guide who knows the area and the language well.
Fortunately, Russia’s railway network connects many lesser-explored destinations. To travel between cities and villages, we recommend taking a journey by train – for inspiration, see the list of sample rail journeys. This is a convenient and inexpensive way to see Russia’s diversity and local character.
As an option, you can use Moscow or St Petersburg as your base, from where it’s easy to access other parts of the country by multiple transport connections. The public transport system in Moscow and St Petersburg, Russia’s largest cities, is efficient and well-developed. To travel to nearby small towns, use a local bus. Finally, to pursue a special interest, for example, to satisfy your ethnographic curiosity about Western Siberian or the Altai Republic’s authentic way of life or to do some mountain tourism, turn to a local tour agency for a well-developed and comprehensive tour package.
Travelling around Russia by train
How to buy train tickets
You can buy tickets from Visit Russia or other travel agents and at railway stations. It is often cheaper to book your ticket in advance, especially on popular routes.
For regional travel, you can book your trip online on Rzd.ru (Russian railways website), or on Tutu.ru, a service providing railway timetables and tickets. Note that a small commission charge will be applied.
Where can I go by train from St Petersburg?
Here are some popular day trip destinations from St Petersburg’s railway stations:
- St Petersburg Baltiysky – Gatchina (54 min), Pskov (3hr 30 min)
- St Petersburg Finlyandsky – Vyborg (1hr 15 min)
- St Petersburg Moskovsky – Veliky Novgorod (3hr 21 min)
- St Petersburg Ladozhsky – Petrozavodsk (5hr 18 min) – Kizhi (by speedboat, 1hr)
Where can I go by train from Moscow?
There are several attractive cities worth visiting from Moscow by rail, either as a day trip or as part of a longer journey, for example:
- Moscow Kurskaya – Vladimir (1hr 40 min), Nizhny Novgorod (3hr 43 min), Tula (2hr 3 min)
- Moscow Leningradsky (Oktyabr’skaya) – Tver (1hr 37 min)
- Moscow Yaroslavlskaya – Yaroslavl (3hr 18 min)
- Moscow Kazanskaya – Kazan (11hr 37 min)
Train connections between Moscow and St Petersburg
St Petersburg and Moscow are about 700 kilometres or 435 miles apart. We suggest choosing a regular night train or a high-speed one for maximum value and convenience.
- Night train
Depending on the train you choose, your journey will take 8.5 – 10.5 hours. Most of the trains have modern double-deck carriages and, importantly for night travel, there are vending machines with coffee and snacks in carriages. Passengers will get a packed dinner (a bun or sandwich), and you can also order a hot breakfast the night before or visit a restaurant carriage.
See the range of prices in pounds below:
- 1st class – cabins for 2, can be booked for one or two passengers from £55;
- 2nd class – two bunkbeds with places on upper beds from about £35 and on lower beds £25. There is also a seat for a disabled person and one accompanying person both for £20 – we advise booking these in advance;
- An open sleeping compartment has a range of beds for £13-20, with options for female, male and mixed carriages.
Cabins for 2 or 4 people (1st and 2nd class) have power sockets to charge mobile devices. For a comfortable night’s sleep, it may be worth paying a little extra for a place in one of the cabins – the beds have a comfortable length even if you’re a tall person. In 1st class, you are entitled to a choice of hot meals and a travel set (toothbrush and toothpaste, slippers, shampoo, hygienic wipes and a shower cap, all packed in a bag).
Book your trip with us on this webpage.
- Sapsan express
This high-speed train takes you from Moscow to St Petersburg – or the other way round – in less than 4 hours. Its maximum speed is 150 miles per hour (240 km/h). Trains run several times per day.
In fact, if you book your trip in advance, this journey could offer good value for money: a standard seat will cost you around £27. Note, however, that the standard seat is just the seat, but you can pay to “upgrade” to places with access to sockets and WiFi (+ £4 in an Economy Plus carriage), children’s facilities and a hot meal of your choice (+ £28 for Business class).
- Nevsky Express
Alternatively, there is another high-speed train, the Nevsky Express, which runs once a day in the afternoon. Journey time is the same as for the Sapsan train. What is different between these two trains is the choice of travel options and service level included in you travel fare. Nevsky Express seats, unlike in Sapsan, all cost the same, approximately equivalent to £17.70. If you are a passenger with limited mobility, you will get a discount, so your seat will cost around £11.70.
You will be seated in a cabin for 6 persons with places for three persons facing each other over a table. There is enough space for everyone. The cabin is equipped with 2 TV sets for each side and 2 power sockets. Travel set, packed lunch and blankets are included in your travel fare.
Sapsan vs Nevsky Express vs night regular?
So, which train service to choose to travel between Moscow and St Petersburg?
Our verdict: if you want to get there faster and are flexible with your arrival time, the Nevsky Express provides the best facilities for a standard travel fare. If you prefer to travel in the early morning or late evening, Sapsan would be a great choice. Also, if you are willing to pay extra for the convenience of WiFi throughout the journey, children’s seats and meals, go for a Sapsan. Finally, if you like travelling at night and privacy is key to you, book a cabin on a regular night train. If you travel as a couple, 1st class will be a perfect value experience if you book in advance.
Long-distance train travel tips
- Although it is generally safe to travel in an open sleeping carriage, every passenger should take precautions against pickpockets in regional trains: keep an eye on your belongings at all times and use luggage locks. A money belt is a smart choice; alternatively, keep a small bag with valuable items under your head when you are sleeping.
- Take a pair of comfortable travel shoes to change and a bag to pack your outdoor footwear – especially in winter, a pair of loafers will make a huge difference from heavy boots covered in snow!
- On some parts of the journey and at stations, toilet facilities may be locked, but try other carriages – modern cars come equipped with bio-toilets.
- You will rarely find individual power sockets in regional trains, but there are always one or two for public use next to the lavatories.
- If you are late for your train, it’s possible to ask for a replacement ticket – this should only cost a small “carriage-use” fee.
- If you book a place in an open-seat carriage and then change your mind, you can pay directly on the train to relocate into one of the cabins if there is free space.
- Sometimes there is free chess or checkers in the coaches – ask a car attendant.
- When asking, be creative when people don’t speak English and show a picture of what you need – most people are actually willing to help despite the language barrier between you. They will be very impressed if you can learn a word or two in Russian.
- Toilets at local stations entail a fee, but passengers are the exception, so show your ticket at the entrance.
- When your train stops at a picturesque town, you can exit the train and continue the journey on the next suitable train within 10 days without having to pay more – just make sure you get a special stamp at the local train station as soon as you get off the train.
Travelling on the Trans-Siberian Train
This is perhaps the best-known Russian railway journey. Although many international guests book places on the Trans-Siberian journey in search of exotic and extraordinary Russian adventures, local people love the “Trans-Sib” for the opportunity to see their vast country, its people and land as it is, honest and authentic. It’s no wonder tickets for Trans-Siberian trains sell out quickly, especially in summer!
We suggest booking tickets at least 45 days before your planned departure date. For more details and inspiration, check out Trans-Siberian Tours.
Travelling by bus
Catching a local bus is a popular way to travel around Russia’s countryside and visit smaller towns, such as Suzdal, as well as travelling from large cities to the suburbs. In rural areas, there are only a few buses per day.
Tickets can usually be purchased from local bus stations. Tickets for a trip usually range between ₽40 and 100 (~ £0.40 – 1.20). Cash is the most common way to pay for a bus ride in smaller towns, while in large cities, contactless card payment is also accepted.
Travelling on Russia's waterways
A large part of Russia’s population lives along river banks; Russia has more than 8 million kilometres of waterways. River cruises are a popular local form of leisure, while small river boats serve as a means of transport connecting remote areas. River rafting and kayaking on the rivers, fishing and swimming – there are plenty of activities you can do on Russian rivers.
Embark on a classic Volga River ferry cruise (and watch “A Cruel Romance” beforehand), explore Lake Ladoga, the all-wooden Kizhi church ensemble and Valaam sanctuary on a ferry from St Petersburg, or watch the frozen mist rise above Enisey, the mighty Siberian river. These cruises can be as short as a day or a weekend tour to week-long adventures.
To get a taste for waterway travel, take a Moscow river cruise or St Petersburg’s rivers and canals tour. Both cities look and feel different from the water, and a river tour is an essential experience when visiting Moscow and St Petersburg. In Moscow, see how the panorama before your eyes changes from an ancient colourful Novodevichy Monastery to high-rise, huge Moscow City skyscrapers; in St Petersburg, enjoy discovering architectural gems appearing above your head as you pass under multiple bridges, Amsterdam-style. All in all, if you wish to discover the real Russia, its rivers and waterways can provide you with a fascinating new perspective.
Travelling about in Russia's cities
There are many ways to reach your destination in Russian cities: by regular or micro-bus, by taxi, trolleybus or tram. In summer, people use bicycles for sport and leisure trips in the countryside. Often, the best way to explore Russian cities is on foot. Overall, you will find that smaller towns in Russia are very peaceful and traffic jams won’t be a problem. In cities, be smart and travel outside morning and evening commute hours.
Get to know the local buses
Buses come in different sizes, colours and shapes. There are regular buses which follow a standard route, as well as micro-buses or marshrootkas. While in regular buses, passengers pay the conductor or scan a public transport pass, in micro-buses you pay the driver direct in cash only. In a micro-bus, unlike in regular buses, you can ask the driver to stop on demand. Micro-buses can get quite crowded, so for travellers with prams or passengers in wheelchairs, a regular bus would be a more suitable option.
A bus or marshrootka micro-bus is an inexpensive way to get to the suburbs from large cities. Bus stops are located next to metro stations in St Petersburg and Moscow. For example, a bus is the most convenient way to travel to Tsar’s Village and Catherine’s Palace in Pushkin, a town 24 kilometres south of St Petersburg. Multiple buses and micro-buses run from two of St Petersburg’s underground stations and take you directly to the Palace.
It’s a good idea to check the websites of destinations you would like to visit for specific information about local buses.
It makes sense to buy a local public transport pass in Moscow and St Petersburg to combine buses and other means of transport.
How to get a taxi
It’s best to phone a taxi company to order a car – in most cities, the service will be fast and convenient.
Travelling on the Moscow Metro
Moscow’s metro network has 14 lines and 259 stations, including 31 stations on the Moscow Central Circle, the metropolitan rail line encircling Moscow’s historical centre, and a Monorail line.
Trains run daily from 5.30am to 1.00am, and you can travel on the monorail from 8.00am to 8.00pm.
The stations are marked with a red letter “M” at every station above ground. At every station you will find colour-coded maps of the metro lines and signage in Russian and English. Inside trains, there is a digital display showing the names of the stations along the line and marking the train’s movement along them.
You can pay as you go, scanning your contactless bank card or smartphone with Apple/Samsung Pay, the ride costing you ₽ 40 (~£0.46).
Moscow locals and tourists like to use the Troika transport card, a top-up electronic ticket which can be used on all public transport in Moscow, including bike rental. Moreover, with this card you can pay to enter several city museums and other activities. See Using a Moscow transport pass for more details.
Using a Moscow transport pass
The Troika card is the best choice for travellers for flexibility and cheaper fares. One public transport ride, either by metro, bus or tram, costs ₽ 36 (~ £0.41).
You can buy your Troika card at every underground station’s ticket sales desk or ticket selling machines. Top-up the card at the underground ticket sales desks or automated kiosks.
You will be asked for a ₽ 50 deposit which will be refunded to you upon return of your Troika card. Of course, you can keep the Troika and use it during your next trip to Russia.
You can also purchase a 90-minute package which allows you to freely change from metro to urban rail for 90 minutes. The fares are as follows:
- ₽ 65 (£0.75) valid for one day’s use (one ride costs you ₽ 32.5)
- ₽ 130 (~£1.50) for two 90-minute rides valid for 5-day use (one ride costs you ₽ 32.5)
- ₽ 2650 (~ £30.50) for 60 90-minute rides valid for 3 months (one ride costs you ₽ 22.4)
Note that using a bus between metro and urban rail services will annul the 90-minute package.
Some museums and attractions support the Troika card – simply scan the card at the Troika-terminal by the entrance to skip the queue. Currently, the following services offer this option:
- Tretyakovskaya Gallery Lavrushinsky
- Lunarium Museum of Moscow Planetarium
- Ice rinks at VDNKh and Gorky Park
- Moscow Zoo
- Zaryadye Park (with a 5% discount)
- Velobike bike sharing service
© Zaryadye Park
Travelling on the St Petersburg underground
There are 5 lines and 69 stations on St Petersburg’s underground.
Each station has a unique design … and opening times. Use the link below as a guide to catch the last train to return to your accommodation in St Petersburg after a night out: http://www.metro.spb.ru/en/rejimrabotystancii.html
The stations are marked with a blue letter “M”. At every station you will find colour-coded maps of the metro lines and signage in Russian and English. There are also interactive information stands in English at stations.
You can purchase tokens at ticket sales desks by cash or card, the price for the token being ₽45 (~£0.52), or simply scan your contactless bank card at public transport terminals.
For multiple use of the metro, it’s best to buy a metro pass, either from a ticket sales desk or from ticket vending machines.
- Pass for 10 Journeys within a period of 7 days - ₽ 355
- Pass for 20 Journeys within a period of 15 days - ₽ 680
- Pass for 40 Journeys within a period of 30 days - ₽ 1300
Travellers to St Petersburg can also use an e-pass for public transport – see Using a St Petersburg public transport pass to find out more.
Using a St Petersburg public transport pass
Travellers can buy a combined public transport pass to use on the metro, tram, trolleybus or bus for 10 journeys for ₽ 310.
Another option is to use a top-up “Standard Electronic Ticket” which is cheaper and more convenient, especially if you plan to use public transport a lot while in St Petersburg.
Any amount of journeys from 1-10 per month will cost ₽ 36; if you ride more, the fare becomes cheaper:
- 11-20 journeys over a calendar month for RUB 35.00 per journey.
- 21-30 journeys over a calendar month for RUB 34.00 per journey.
- 31-40 journeys over a calendar month for RUB 33.00 per journey.
- 41 journeys or more over a calendar month for RUB 32.00 per journey.
You can put money on your Standard Electronic Ticket by using a vending machine.
WiFi in Moscow and St Petersburg metro
Get a local SIM-card to access free WiFi in the St Petersburg and Moscow metro.
Facilities for travellers with special needs are steadily improving in Russia. In 2018, DisQuestion was launched, a project for assessing service infrastructure – including tourist facilities – and reviewing the preparedness of Russian cities to welcome guests with special needs. They identified that a lot has been done in Russia to provide the best possible experience, including:
- Hotels that cater for visitors with impairments, for example, Cosmos Group and Amaks hotels & resorts were rated as the most prepared to welcome guests with visual impairments, while Ibis hotels have been evaluated as the best in terms of wheelchair accessibility and facilities;
- Beaches and seaside promenades equipped with facilities for the disabled – especially in Sochi where the Paralympic Games were held in 2014, and also, notably, in Kaliningrad and Anapa;
- Accessible transport infrastructure and services.
We will cover the latter in more detail.
First and foremost, it is important that you speak to airport or railway station officials and make your needs clear to them. The staff will then be able to assist you.
Making railway journeys accessible in Russia
When planning your trip by rail, you can call an official mobility assistance line to find out about facilities in your train and ask them to help you book suitable seats. Russian railways offer discounted seats for passengers in wheelchairs and accompanying persons.
The Mobility Assistance Centre at Russian Railways can be contacted at 8-800-510-11-11 and firstname.lastname@example.org 24/7, and you can also request a specially equipped carriage if there are no places for the disabled on your selected route. We suggest you contact them 60 days in advance before train departure.
Moreover, you can ask for assistance by calling the Centre for the Promotion of Mobility at Russian railways at 8-800-510-11-11. Assistance includes: meeting at the railway station, providing assistance with access, at ticket offices, moving luggage, using luggage service, first-aid and other sanitary facilities, boarding and getting off trains. The service works best if you contact them 3 days before your departure, at least 24 hours in advance.
Moscow railway stations are equipped with all necessary facilities, including ramps at the entrance (best used with assistance), lavatories, lifts, public spaces, detailed infrastructure plans including in Brail, signage for people with reduced hearing and visual impairments, with Yaroslavsky railway station arguably leading in terms of the amount of signage.
Railway stations in other towns have also designed the necessary facilities, and among those reviewed by DisQuestion, the following railway stations are ready to welcome guests with disabilities: Yaroslavl, Chelyabinsk and Ekaterinburg long-distance railway station.
Russian underground system for all
In St Petersburg and Moscow, there is a dedicated hotline provided to assist passengers with reduced mobility. Staff will be ready to help you from the entrance to stations to boarding. In St Petersburg, the Metro help desk’s number is +7 800 350 11 55, free call 24/7. In Moscow, call 8 495 622-73-41 or 8 800 250-73-41 from 7.00am to 8.00pm (toll-free line).
Also, on the Moscow metro there is a service which allows you to arrange guided tours to the Tretyakovksaya Gallery, Russian Impressionism Museum, Integration Museum, A.S. Pushkin Art Museum and Tsaritsino park-reserve.
All stations’ vestibules have been equipped with induction systems compatible with hearing aids. More stations are now equipped with lifts, metro maps in Brail and new cars with a display showing the train’s movement.
Accessible buses in Russia
The bus system is changing. Inclusive mobility has yet to become standard, but we’ve seen that a lot has improved in recent years. Many regular buses are now accessible, not only in Moscow, where 70% of transport is suitable for carrying passengers in wheelchairs, but also all across the regions. Buses with facilities for the disabled are usually marked accordingly.