Holiday in Russia is one of the most exciting travel experiences one can find. However, booking such a holiday may cause a lot of questions. Our FAQ section is designed to answer the most commonly asked questions related to travelling to Russia.
If you have questions that aren’t answered here, or you have an interesting experience you would want to share with other travellers, please do contact us.
Visa to Russia
Do I need a visa?
What documents do I need to get a Russian visa?
Is it difficult to get a Russian visa?
What is a letter of invitation/tourist voucher for a Russian visa? How can I get it?
What are the visa processing times?
Where can I apply for my Russian visa?
15- 27 Gee Street,
53 Fountain Street (Regus Business Centre),
64 Albion Road (back entrance),
If you are applying in Ireland the documents have to be submitted to the Russian embassy:
184-186 Orwell Road, Rathgar,
Do I need an appointment in the visa centre?
How much does it cost to get a Russian visa?
Can I apply for a Russian visa in the UK if I have a non-UK passport?
Can I travel to Russia visa free?
Do I need to go to the visa centre to get a Russian visa?
How much in advance can I apply for a Russian visa?
What is visa registration, and do I need one?
According to the Russian law, your Russian visa must be registered within 7 working days of your arrival. If you travel on Trans-Siberian Rail, you will most likely spend less than 7 days in each town or city and therefore, you will not need to register your visa.
If for any reason you are stopped by the police and you have not registered your visa within the required 7 days, you may be subject to a fine.
Do I need travel insurance?
Climate and lifestyle
What is the best time to travel to Russia?
Are the places of interest open on a Sunday?
How easy is it to locate restaurants that provide vegetarian food in Russia?
Do I need to leave tips?
Trans-Siberian Railway journeys
What do I do if I change my passport during the booking process or after the train tickets are purchased?
If you are travelling with a new Passport and the train tickets are issued under the previous document, please make sure to have both documents with you (as your visa will be issued in the new passport and the train tickets will show the old passport number!). If you are unable to travel with your old passport, you will need to rebook the train tickets with the new document. Please be aware that this involves cancellation fees and a cost of a new ticket.
Is it safe to travel on the trains?
As with travelling anywhere around the world, let the common sense be your guide. Do not leave valuable items unattended and keep your passport and money on you at all times.
We recommend travelling with your own personal first aid kit as doctors are available only at the stations. Be careful hopping off and on the train at the train stations: the stops can only be for 5 - 20 minutes and if you are late for your departure, the train will not wait for you. If that ever happens, contact the station master and ask them to contact the train to take your luggage off at the next stop.
In many ways, trains are one of the safest means of travel across Russia, Mongolia and China!
Do I need any vaccinations before travelling along the Trans-Siberian railway?
Generally, you do not need to be vaccinated to travel to Russia.
What do I do if I travel with prescription medication?
You can normally bring prescription and over the counter medication into Russia for personal use. However, if your medication contains narcotic or psychoactive substances (details available on the Rossiyskaya Gazeta website in Russian), you must carry a prescription in your name which has been translated into Russian and then notarised.
While in the European part of Russia, it is important to know that your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is not valid, and the reciprocal healthcare agreement between the UK and Russia ended on 1 January 2016.
While in Mongolia, you’re only allowed to bring medicines for personal use. These include medicines for urgent aid for up to 7 days or for the treatment of diabetes, cancer, mental illness or HIV/AIDS for which you have a doctor’s prescription. If you’re arriving by plane, you should carry all medicines in your checked baggage.
Do I need to be able to speak the language to travel on the Trans-Siberian?
Before departure, invest in a simple phrase book or download an offline version on your phone..
We also offer a variety of guided tours and day trips with English speaking guides.
Are there male / female only compartments?
Is it possible to hop on and off the train?
We recommend planning your rail journey well in advance. We are here to help you with booking the right trains on right times. It is important to keep in mind that all trains stick to the Moscow time.
Is the internet available on Trans-Siberian trains?
Please be aware that certain websites are blocked in China: you will not be able to access Facebook (or most social networks); Google will not work either so if you have a gmail account, please use an alternative e-mail address for correspondence. You can access Google in China by using a VPN. Not all VPNs will work, however.
Can I smoke on the train or at train stations?
It's illegal to smoke within 15 metres of the entrance to any rail station in Russia. Please make sure to pay attention as signs will be clearly visible.
What are the trains like?
There are facilities to provide hot water for drinks in every carriage (samovar).
If you are unsure about the amenities available on the train you have booked, feel free to ask our travel specialists so you are fully prepared before travelling. You will find that the amenities available on the train will vary depending on which class you have booked.
What are the bathrooms on the trains like?
The quality of the bathroom depends on the type of the train booked, and the class of the ticket. On some of the privately-run trains between Moscow and Saint Petersburg showers may be provided but generally there will be no shower. Some first-class cabins will have showers that are shared between two cabins; these are not full showers but shower heads connected to the tap so you can rinse your hair with ease.
Generally, they are clean and will have soap and toilet paper and are cleaned regularly throughout the journey. We do recommend though bringing your own toiletries as all toilets will be communal and very busy and likely run out of toiletries. We suggest that you have your own travel toothbrush, toothpaste, toilet roll, some soap and a small towel as well. The 1st class tickets will provide these as well, but you may choose to have your own anyway. We also advise to have a reusable bottle that you can fill with the hot water from the samovar and cool it down. You can drink it and also use it to brush your teeth with if you feel uneasy about using the tap water from the bathroom trains.
It is important to remember that many older trains will lock the bathrooms 30min before pulling into a station and will only reopen 30min after they left the station – so the toilet may not be accessible for 1h or 2h, depending on how long the train will stay at the station. The bathrooms are likely to be busy before these times because of this. At border crossing, trains can remain stationary for up to 6 or 7 hours so please take this into account.
Are food and drinks available on the train and the train station?
When you cross into Mongolia or China, the restaurant carriage may change to match the country, so the style of food and staff can change. And so will the currency!
Price and availability can vary so we would always recommend bringing a good supply of your own food. As there is always a samovar with hot water available we would recommend bringing a supply of instant noodles and soups, some dried fruits, granola bars and other foods to see you through the journey. During longer stops, you can also buy food at the train station shops (these are not open 24/7 though).
On some trains, there will be snack trolleys; if there are no snack trolleys you can sometimes buy snacks and drinks from the train attendant’s cabin.
You can also hop off the train during longer stops to buy some delicious local specialities right there on the platform. Many Babushkas living in the cities along the Trans-Siberian rail track prepare fresh food before the train’s arrival.
We also recommend packing your own cutlery and travel mug.
What if I have special dietary requirements?
The same advice can be offered to vegans; however, we advise more precaution in this case. You can always pack instant noodles and soups, granola bars, dried fruits and nuts etc.
Those with gluten and lactose intolerances will need to take the same precautions as at home. We can prepare a small message for you in Russian. You can print if off in a business card size and always have it on you. For further advice, please contact our travel specialists.
What are the travel classes on the trains?
Some cities have their own original trains and try to make them as comfortable as possible - these trains typically have names such as Kama (a train run by the city of Perm). However, these trains may not be operating on all legs of the journey and only travel on certain dates that can make the connecting travel difficult. They are also in very high demand; when the sale opens, the 1st class seats are often sold out within 24h. If no seats are available on branded trains or if we cannot use them due to the itinerary, we purchase the best available alternative. On our tours by public trains we offer 4 berth compartments. An upgrade to a 1st class 2 berth is possible, depending on the train used (many trains do not offer 1st class carriages and in that case we offer 2nd class for double use). There is really little difference between 1st and 2nd Class other than the number of berths in the cabin, and slightly more space in 1st Class. It is easy to decipher the standard of the train at a glance: all trains are numbered in Russia, less digits means more comfort. All branded trains have a single digit number (train Rossiya #2 for example). The “double digits” trains (#76, #56) are very popular and offer good standard as well, then we have the “three digit” trains such as #100 for example. These are the cheapest options and often used by locals as well. They still offer a comfortable standard and certainly will save you a lot of money!
2nd class coupe
The 2nd class cabin has 4 berths: two lower and two upper.
When we purchase the tickets we can select a specific berth (the lower beds are also more expensive). For older passengers, a lower bed may be recommended as they will not need to climb up the bed ladder. However, sometimes due to high demand it’s impossible to order lower berths only. But the upper berths are a good choice as well! They are used only by berth holders (day and night) and nobody can disturb you while lower berths may be used as common place for other passengers during the day. The 2nd class is also a perfect way to meet other travellers and is a preferred option for many passengers. If you are a couple travelling, we recommend getting one side of the cabin; 1 lower and 1 upper bed, that way you will have some privacy AND the place to sit during the day.
1st class SV
The 1st class cabin has 2 lower berths only. Two bio toilets (WC and wash basin) per carriage are located at both ends of corridor. 1st class cabin will be suitable for those who prefer more comfort and private place for travelling. But the price will be considerably higher!
It is important to know that if 1st class tickets are not available on a particular train (tickets are sold out or there are no 1st class carriages at all) we will buy out the whole 2nd class compartment for two passengers – two 2nd class tickets per person. Sometimes this way is even more comfortable as you can use all 4 berths in the cabin as opposed to 2 berths only in the 1st class carriage!
It is good to know as well that on the Mongolian train 24 / 23 Ulan-Bator – Beijing the 1st class compartments have one lower and one upper berth. Please make sure you are ok to climb the upper berth if you will be travelling on 1st class ticket. If you prefer a lower bed only, it may be preferable to get a 2nd class ticket instead.
3rd class Platzkart
This is the cheapest (and the most fun) class! Here the entire carriage is open and there are no closed compartments or curtains. There are two lower and two upper berths on one side, a small narrow corridor and another two berths on the opposite side, near the window. Instead of a compartment there are six berths and no doors. There is no possibility to lock anything or for people to have any privacy. The 3rd class tickets are good for anyone travelling on a budget and not interested in comfort, and looking to meet a lot of travellers as well! In some cases, Platzkart is more convenient for a woman travelling alone; you avoid getting stuck in a cabin with strangers! Sometimes it may be more comfortable to travel in 3rd class as these carriages may have better ventilation during hot summer months.
The last option for Russian train tickets are just seats. These are very similar to the kind of seats you will find on airplanes. Most long distance trains do not have seats. You can travel in a carriage with seats only for a short distance. Between Moscow and St. Petersburg for example, there are a few trains, which have wagons with seats with different levels of comfort (Express Sapsan train or a Nevsky Express).
Is there a luggage allowance on the trains?
In addition to the 1 piece of hand luggage, each passenger is permitted to take a briefcase/laptop bag, handbag, camera, umbrella, and other small items free of charge as long as the sum of the three dimensions does not exceed 100cm.
Please bear in mind that you will want to keep your luggage safe once on-board so it is better to make sure it is not too big and bulky as it will not be able to fit.
If you are planning on transporting any luggage that is larger than the sizes specified, please contact our travel specialists who will be able to advise you on the best course of action (as you may need to purchase an extra luggage car ticket).
Where are the train stations in Moscow?
If you are worried about turning up at the wrong station, please make sure to check out your itinerary. If you want to be sure you will be on time, we can book for you a car transfer from your hotel or airport.
Belorussky Station (Белорусский)
Address: 7 Tverskaya Zastava Ploshchad
Serves: Kaliningrad, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Germany, the Czech Republic and some trains to Latvia
Kazansky Station (Казанский)
Address: 2 Komsomolskaya Ploshchad
Serves: Central Asia, Ryzan, Ufa, Samara, Kazan, Ulan-Ude and Novorossiysk
Kievsky Station (Киевский)
Address: 1 Ploshchad Kievskogo Vokzala
Serves: Western Ukraine, South-Eastern Europe and Vnukovo Airport
Kursky Station (Курский)
Address: 29 Ulitsa Zemlyanoi Val
Serves: Southern Russia, Caucasus nations, Eastern Ukraine, and Crimea
Leningradsky Station (it will show as Oktyabrskaya on tickets) (Ленинградский / Октябрьская)
Address: 3 Komsomolskaya Ploshchad
Serves: Estonia, Finland, St. Petersburg and North-Western Russia
Paveletsky Station (Павелецкий)
Address: 1 Paveletskaya Ploshchad
Serves: Voronezh, Tambov, Volgograd, Astrakhan and Domodedovo Airport
Savyolovsky Station (Савеловский)
Address: 2 Ploshchad Savyolovskogo Vokzala
Serves: Kostroma, Cherepovets, some trains to Vologda and Sheremetyevo Airport
Yaroslavlsky Station (Ярославлский)
Address: 5 Komsomolskaya Ploshchad
Serves: Siberia, the Russian Far East, Mongolia and China
Rizhsky Station (Рижский)
Address: 1 Rizhskaya Pl
Where are the train stations in Saint Petersburg?
Moskovsky Station (Московский)
Address: 85 Nevsky Avenue.
Serves: Moscow, far north, Central Asia, Crimea and the Caucasus region
Finlyandsky Station (Финландский)
Address: 5 Lenin Square.
Serves: Helsinki and other destinations in the North-West
Baltiysky Station (Балтийский)
Address: 120 Nab. Obvodnogo Kanala
Serves: Local and suburban services
Vitebsky Station (Витебский)
Address: 32 Zagorodny Avenue
Serves: Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Odessa
Ladozhsky Station (Ла́дожский)
Address: 73 Zanevsky Pr
Serves: Murmansk, Volgoda and Yekaterinburg
What tickets do I need to travel on Russian trains?
In some cases only paper tickets can be sold as well, for example for a train #306 from Irkutsk to Ulan Bator. In that case we have our agents in Irkutsk who will be buying the tickets for you and then will deliver it to you in Irkutsk as well (as we never post original tickets to the UK before your departure, in case the tickets will not arrive on time or may get lost in the post).
How do I find my platform and board the train at the station?
If you already know the platform number, you can make your way there straight away; this will be always clearly marked. Before you will approach the train, your ticket and passport will be checked so you are sure no unauthorized travellers will be on the train! The train carriages are also clearly marked, but you do not need to worry about trying to find your berth, as the train attendant at the carriage entrance will again check all your documents and will show you the way.
Russian Railways do recommend that you arrive at train stations a minimum of 1 to 2 hours before departure. You can also board the train up to 30 minutes prior to departure. We certainly recommend boarding rather earlier than later.
Can I travel with children?
At border crossing, bathrooms are likely to be closed so you'll need to look up the timings prior to travel to work around these times.
When boarding the train, children must have their own passport or be listed in their parents passport, or have a copy and translation of their birth certificate.
What currency should I take on-board?
What happens if I miss my train?
What happens if I lose my ticket?
If you have already exchanged your e-ticket for a paper ticket, or originally bought a paper ticket, and it has been lost or damaged you will need to pay a charge to have it replaced. When travelling late at night, the ticket offices may be closed, but it is still worth trying as staff will be as helpful as they can.
What happens at the border crossing between Russia, Mongolia and China?
Several uniformed border control officers will board the train; one group of guards will go cabin to cabin checking visas and passports. These guards will also check customs declarations. The other group of guards will check bags and cabins. During these checks you'll be asked to remain in your cabin.
This process will be similar on both sides of the border.
Once the passenger border checks have been carried out you will be able to leave the train. If you do, make sure you take any valuables and anything else you may need for the next hour or two. This is because new carriages will be added or removed. And while entering China, the wheels of the train will be changed to fit the Chinese track.
It may seem a little worrying when the train suddenly moves without you, but this is a standard procedure and can happen three or four times. When the train will be ready to depart, you will not miss the announcement.
What about disabled facilities?
For passengers with visual impairments, all switches, power sockets and call buttons will have brail instructions and special audio devices that make it easier to contact the train attendants.
Each cabin designated to the disabled passengers will have its own bathroom facility with enough room for those with limited mobility or wheelchairs. They are also equipped with handrails, lighting and sound boards for passengers with visual or audio impairments.
Most train stations in larger cities will have facilities for passengers with disabilities, including disabled toilets, and wheelchair ramps.
Please contact us for further advice to discuss your exact travel requirements.