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Trains, Classes, Booking
Trains, Wagons, Cabins
Train system of Eurasia differs from country to country, but there is one thing in common, they all have poor advance reservation feature. In most cases, seats are confirmed 30-50 days in advance, but often only 24-48 hours prior to the arrival of the train. During summer and peak holiday times, trains, especially International ones, fill up very quickly. To avoid disappointment, please ensure that you plan well in advance, book early, and adhere to the payment deadlines. Because of the tremendous distance between most destinations, the majority of trains are equipped for sleeping with bunk beds (~185cm x 65cm). The average size of a standard cabin is 2 x 2 meters. You have a choice between open carriages (referred as 3rd class, platzkart, or hardsleeper), individual compartments of 4 (referred as 2nd class, kupe, softsleepers, or hardsleeper), and individual compartments for 2 people (commonly referred as 1st class, SV, Spalny and deluxe). For short distances, most trains have a choice of a bunk bed or chair type seats. All long distance trains have tanks for boiling water (in each wagon) and wagons dedicated for dinning. Boiled water is available round the clock. As a rule, bedding is included in 1st and 2nd class wagons, otherwise supplied by attendants for extra fees. Food and drinks can be purchased on the train at the car-restaurant/cafe/waiter, or during stops from local merchants (exercise caution). Snacks, bottled water, hot drinks can be also (usually) purchased from your wagon attendant. Do not drink water from toilets sinks.
Watch the Video on YouTube for some useful tips on traveling in the 2nd class cabin
RESTROOMS (other names Toilets, Bathrooms)
All private, express and regular trains have 2 single toilets per each wagon (car). Toilet rooms are small (~ 1.5x1.5 meter with some exceptions). Be prepared for lines in the mornings , evenings, and before large stops, particularly in 3rd class wagons. The wagon attendants lock toilets approximately 30-60 minutes before and after major cities (stops). Plan accordingly when boarding the train or approaching large cities during travel. Carry your own toilet paper. If your stomach is sensitive to water and food (it will have a higher fat/oil content in Russia!), definitely bring medicine for upset stomach or diarrhea. Small hand towels are provided with your bedding. The bottled water mentioned earlier for packing is handy for brushing your teeth.
Watch the Video on YouTube showing a standard toilet room in the private (firmenny) wagon
PRIVATE TRAIN (other names firmenny, deluxe, 1st class)
Comfort and speed are 2 main priorities for this trains. As a rule, most trains are not owned by private firms or individuals, but they do get additional financing from local regions and private investors in addition to the federal funding. Name, quality, comfort, speed, convenience, and higher fares are distinct features for these trains. Private trains make stops at key towns and cities only. The veteran and most recognized one is the famous #1/2 Trans-Siberian "Rossia" (Russia) train....and similar "Baikal", "Sibiryak", "Altai", etc. In the past years, new wagons with deluxe features were built for busy routes such as Grand Express Moscow - St. Petersburg.
Watch the Video on YouTube showing a typical wagon of the private (or firmenny) train
EXPRESS TRAIN (other names Skoryi, 2nd class)
Fast, reliable, affordable is the mission for this trains. Many of these trains are set for long distance travel, so speed is very important, but often compromised by more stops at smaller towns to make it more accessible to the public. Lower cost and good service combined with reasonable speed make this trains a great combination for both local passengers and travelers.
Watch the Video on YouTube for a quick view of express trains outside
REGULAR TRAIN (other names Passazirsky, 3rd class)
Access to the smaller communities is the top priority of these trains. As a rule, regular trains carry wagons with 2nd and 3rd class cabins only. During peak season, some add 1st class wagons. Regular trains are known for low service standards. It is common to see dirty windows, some never open, dysfunctional central AC, wagons and cabins with outdated looks, and often dirty bathrooms. As Russians like to say, “these trains stop at every electric pole”. To some extend this is true, but in some areas this is simply a necessity to make sure small towns and villages have access to the outside world. Along with low fares, the regular trains can be a great chance to see rural life as they tend to fill up with villagers, hunters and foresters. But again, as a rule, most of them are slow, make many stops, and if set to travel long distances, usually equipped with older wagons and have poor service.
Watch the Video on YouTube showing the arrival of a typical passenger train
1ST CLASS SLEEPER CABIN (other names SV, Spalny, deluxe)
As a rule, there are 9 double compartments per wagon with 2 beds each; 1-2 serving attendants (often bilingual); 2 toilet rooms, no shower cabins. The wagon has a spacious corridor with few seats and windows providing nice retreat for lone time, sightseeing or reading. The wagon, corridor and compartments are cleaned 3-4 times per day. Carpets are changed daily. As a rule, the Russian trains (private class) offer 2 level of services to first class passengers - "lux" and "standard". Both categories include bedding, newspapers, outlet in each cabin. The "lux" category includes extra services: light breakfast and lunch; extra blankets; sometimes flat screen TV in the cabin; complementary tea/coffee; variety of games (chess, checkers, etc).
Watch the Video on YouTube with a brief tour of the 1st class cabin on the private (firmenny) train
2ND CLASS SLEEPER CABIN (other names Kupe, Softsleeper, Hardsleeper)
As a rule, there are 8 individual compartments per wagon with 2 lower and 1-2 upper bunks in each compartment; 1-2 serving attendants; 2 toilet rooms; central AC; boiled hot water 24 hours; electric outlets (sometimes in the toilet rooms only). Light breakfast, clean sheets and blankets are included. The wagon has a spacious corridor with few seats and windows providing nice retreat for lone time, sightseeing or reading. The wagon, corridor and compartments are cleaned daily. The Russian trains (private, express and some regular class) offer 2 level of services to the second class passengers - "lux" and "standard". The "lux" category includes extra services: light breakfast and lunch; bedding; extra blankets; newspapers.
Watch the Video on YouTube showing a typical 2nd class cabin (or kupe)
3RD CLASS SLEEPER CABIN (other names Plazkart, Hardsleeper)
This is an open car (no compartment doors). As a rule, compartments are groupings of 4-6 bunks connected by the communal corridor. Each wagon has 2 bathrooms that are shared by the 30-50 people in the wagon, central AC (not always), hot water, electric outlets in the toilet rooms only.
Watch the Video on YouTube showing a typical 3rd class cabin (or plazkart)
1ST CLASS CHAIRS
This class tailors towards business and comfortable travel. As a rule, there is 1 serving attendant in each wagon; clean toilet rooms (1-2); individual tables (sometimes shared); electric outlets, TV set, central AC. Passengers are served breakfast depending on arrival time, offered snacks and drinks.
2ND CLASS CHAIRS
This is a standard class with rows of chairs similar to an economy class airplane setup. As a rule, each wagon has central AC (not always), 2 toilet rooms with electric plugs, and sometimes serving attendand.
DINNING WAGON (other names restaurant, wagon-restaurant)
Watch the Video on YouTube showing a typical wagon-restaurant (dinner)
COMMUTER TRAIN (other names Elektrichka, Prigorodnyi, Suburban
This trains are very popular in Russia and Asia. Just like all other trains, they have a locomotive and few wagons with bench type seating arrangements. There are no sleeping beds on this trains (except few exceptions). As a rule, the travel time varies from 1 to 24 hours. The mission of this trains to serve the local rail systems to provide inexpensive and fast transportation into suburbs, neighboring towns and cities or other close locations that draw large numbers of people on a daily basis. As a rule, each wagon has 1-2 toilet rooms for 50+ passengers. Newspapers, books, snacks are often offered for extra cost.
Watch the Video on YouTube showing a typical commuter train
Similar to the ocean cruises, you can find organized group train voyages from 1 day to 3 weeks. This privately owned train tours are available in many countries. Among them are Trans-Siberian Golden Eagle Train or Trans-Mongolian Private Express Train, BAM Express, Polar Express, etc. Everything on this trains, from the wagon interior to food service is tailored for comfort travel from basic to exclusive.
Watch the Video on YouTube with brief video showing the restaurant on the luxury train
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