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Types of Russian trains
Russian trains can be divided into three main categories:
Firmeny trains (фирменный). Firmeny trains are privately run trains offering high quality service with higher prices as well. Each train has its specific interior design. Some cities have their own original trains that they are quite proud of and that they try to make as comfortable as possible. These trains typically have names like “Kama” (a train run by the city of Perm named after the city’s main river). Train numbers for Firmeny trains consist of a 0 followed by two numbers and one letter. For example, train 002M “Rossiya” Moscow-Vladivostok is a Firmeny train. These Russian trains typically have 1st, 2nd and 3rd class carriages and have a restaurant carriage.
Express trains (скорый) are quite good fast trains. They are a bit less comfortable than Firmeny though and usually make some additional stops. They usually serve long distance routes and are quite popular among travelers. Like in Firmeny train numbers consist of a 0, two more numbers and a letter. These trains run regularly. Express trains have 2nd and 3rd class carriages, a restaurant carriages and sometimes a 1st class carriages.
Regular train (пассажирский). These trains stop at every station along the route and thus it really takes a while to get where you want to. However, these trains offer a great opportunity to see Russia SLOWLY. Train numbers consist of three numbers and a letter.
|1st Class (SV)
This is the most comfortable and expensive option - a compartment for only two people; it contains two (usually lower) berths and a table next to the window. If you would like to travel by yourself there is a possibility to buy two tickets for two berths in one compartment: this will be almost VIP traveling.
|2nd Class (coupe)
The next option is a less expensive class (2nd class) that is provided in compartments each containing two lower and two upper berths. These are called coupes in Russian. Just like a 1st class compartment, a coupe has a door which locks from the inside, and thus privacy for the four people inside the compartment is guaranteed.
|3rd Class (Platzkart)
The next class is cheaper and is called platzkart in Russian (3rd class). The entire wagon is an open space and there are no closed compartments or curtains. There are two lower and two upper berths, a small and narrow corridor and two more berths that are located on the opposite side near the window. So instead of a compartment there are six berths and no doors, thus there is no possibility to lock anything or for people to have any privacy. Platzkart tickets are convenient tickets if you have a short journey or if you are not interested in comfort but want to save money. In some cases, traveling by platzkart is more convenient for a woman taking a journey by herself. In this case, the woman avoids the possibility of getting stuck in a compartment with 3 strangers.
The last option for train tickets are just seats. They are similar to airplane seats and just as comfortable too. Most long distance trains do not have seats. Between Moscow and St. Petersburg there are some trains, which have carriages with seats of different levels of comfort. Best of them are day express trains called Sapsan. Seats of a similar level of comfort are offered on Helsinki – St. Petersburg trains Allegro.
So as you can see there is a big variety of travel options when traveling by train: you just have to decide what is most convenient for you.