The trains: from steady comfort to speedy flights
The first thing to know is that there are two types of suburban trains: the elektrichkas and the Lastochkas.
Elektrichka is just Russian for “electric train,” and these are basic rail cars filled with benches.
- Slow but steady: scheduled pretty frequently and typically stops at every possible station on your route.
- No air conditioning, but there are plenty of windows to compensate for that – if you manage to open them, that is. It might be a good idea to bring a little fan with you on a sunny day.
- Arrive in advance, but if you are starting from one of the main train stations in the city, you are likely to find a seat even if you arrive 3-5 minutes before departure.
Lastochkas (Russian for swallow, the bird) are more modern and comfortable high-speed trains.
- Comfortable: padded individual seats, air conditioning, and fewer stops, the latter meaning that they will get you to your destination faster.
- Rare gems: scheduled less frequently, with a gap in the middle of the day and more trains in the morning and evening.
- Tend to get crowded nearly as soon as boarding starts during the high season.
- Pro tip: arrive 20-25 minutes early to comfortably get your ticket and secure your seat.
Additionally, note a few things about both types of trains:
- The seats are not assigned, so your luck in securing one depends on how close you end up to the door. Sidenote: Lastochkas covering longer distances (like between Moscow and Vladimir) will have assigned seats and you will have to purchase tickets on the Russian Railways website.
- There is usually only one WC per train, so you will likely have to go through multiple cars to reach it;
- Always check the schedule to keep track of the time of your arrival and not to miss your stop (there are also vocal announcements, but it’s always great to have backup).
One of the most common places to look for schedules is tutu.ru. It is not fully translated into English yet, but the interface is pretty intuitive. Another similar service is Yandex Schedules. With both of them, you simply type your starting point, your destination, and the travel date to see a full schedule for the day.
Attention! Each of these services will indicate the train station you will be starting from – do check this carefully to arrive at the right one (and there are currently five in the city).
Tickets & discounts
You can purchase your ticket at one of the digital ticket machines at each station or at a ticket booth. Note that the time of departure isn’t indicated on the ticket, so if you’ve purchased yours but have just missed the train, you can use the same ticket to catch the next one. Bonus: during the academic year, you can get a 50% discount as a student – just make sure to have your student ID on hand.
Some locations you will be traveling to might not have a separate station with ticket booths or machines. In this case you can just board the train and get your ticket from the controller when they pass through your section.
Attention! Make sure to hang on to your ticket for the duration of the trip. You will need it to enter the boarding area, show it to the controller on the train (maybe multiple times), and then exit the train station when you arrive. Don’t lose it!
Things to expect during any ride
- Journeys between 30 minutes and 2.5 hours. Prices between 80-300 rubles.
- Controllers who will come to check your ticket, your student ID, if you used your discount, and your passport, if you buy your ticket online.
- Food and drink vendors with baked goods, water, ice cream, etc. Strictly speaking, they are not authorized to do it, so it’s best to avoid purchasing anything from them.
- Potential discomfort (too many people, no place to sit), especially if you are traveling on a summer weekend. At the very least, you might need to squeeze a little on the bench to allow two other people to share it with you.
- It is okay to eat while on the train (unlike on the metro, where you might get a few stares).
We recommend always having water and snacks with you for the ride, as well as a book or some great music with a pair of noise-canceling headphones for longer journeys.
Where to go
We have written at length about some great destinations on ITMO.NEWS, but here are some things to get you started:
- Best getaways from St. Petersburg on a budget;
- Beautiful nature around the city;
- Eco-paths for beginners and pros.
Enjoy your travels!