St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow.  It's easy to reach Moscow by train..!

St Basil's Cathedral, Moscow

Photo courtesy of Tony Willis

 

UK to Russia by train in 48 hours...

Of course, doesn't everyone go there by train?  It's easy, safe & comfortable to travel from London to Moscow by train.  Just take an evening Eurostar to Paris, and board the Paris-Moscow Express next morning, this runs 3 times a week in winter, 5 times a week in summer.  It's the civilised way to reach Russia!  Or travel more cheaply on daily trains via Warsaw or Kiev.

Train times, fares & information...

On this page is a step-by-step guide to planning, booking & making a train journey from the UK to Russia:

  London to Moscow train times, fares & how to buy tickets

  London to St Petersburg train times, fares & how to buy tickets

  London to Minsk (Belarus) train times, fares & how to buy tickets

  London, East Anglia, North of England, Scotland to Moscow - ferry alternatives.

  How to arrange Russian & Belarusian visas

  Useful country information - dialling code, time zone, currency

  Hotels & accommodation in Russia

  Holidays to Russia by train not plane

  Buy train tickets within Russia online

On other pages...

  Trans-Siberian Railway - train travel from Europe to China & Japan

  Buying add-on tickets from other UK towns & cities to London

  Train travel within Russia - a beginner's guide

  The Silk Route & Central Asia   

  Moscow & St Petersburg to Helsinki by train    

  Moscow & St Petersburg to Tallinn by train

  Moscow & St Petersburg to Riga by train

  European train travel - general information

 


 
Route map:  UK to Russia by train...

London to Moscow by train is an easy & comfortable 1,924 miles (3,097 km) via the route in dark blue.

Route map, London to Moscow & St Petersburg by train

 

Useful country information

Train operator in Russia: 

RZD (Rossiyskiye Zheleznye Dorogi, www.rzd.ru)   Buy Russian train tickets online

All-Europe online train times    Eurostar times & fares

Metros:

Moscow metro map    St Petersburg metro map    Book city tours

Time zone (Moscow):

Russia & Belarus are now GMT+4 all year, with no daylight saving time.

Dialling code:

+7

Currency:

£1 = approx 46 Rubles    $1 = 29 Rubles     Currency converter

Hotels:

Find hotels in Russia   Hotel reviews, see www.tripadvisor.com    Backpacker hostels

Visas:

You'll need a tourist visa for Russia & transit visa for Belarus

Page last updated:   

23 July 2014.  Train times valid 15 June to 13 December 2014.


London to Moscow

What are the options for getting to Moscow?

There are a range of good options for travel from London to Moscow by train:

Option 1, London to Moscow via the Jan Kiepura to Warsaw & Polonez to Moscow:  The cheapest option, with daily departures.

Option 2, London to Moscow via the Paris-Moscow Express:  The most comfortable & classic option, 3-5 times a week.

Option 3, London, East Anglia, the North & Scotland to Moscow via Amsterdam:  Similar to option 1, but by ferry not Eurostar.

Option 4, London to Moscow via Kiev or Budapest:  Takes an extra night, but avoids Belarus so no Belarus visa required.  Runs daily.

Option 5, London to St Petersburg via Stockholm, then onward train to Moscow.  Avoids Belarus, a scenic and comfortable route via Scandinavia.

Other routes & options including journeys via Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki, Vilnius, Riga or Tallinn.


Option 1:  London to Moscow via Warsaw

This option runs every day, and is the fastest and cheapest way from London to Moscow.  It also has a civilised departure and arrival time in Moscow.  It takes the direct route shown in dark blue on the route map above.  You might still want to consider option 2 (the Paris-Moscow Express) as it's a classic experience, or option 3 via Kiev if you want to avoid having to get a Belarus transit visa.

London Moscow

Moscow ► London

Take Eurostar to Brussels and a German ICE high-speed train to Cologne:  Watch the video.

ICE3 second class High-speed ICE3 train from Brussels to Cologne & Frankfurt

ICE3 2nd class.  ICEs are perhaps the most comfortable daytime trains in Europe...

An ICE to Cologne & Frankfurt at Brussels Midi.  More photos & information about ICE trains.

...and the EuroNight sleeper train Jan Kiepura from Cologne to Warsaw.

Dinner in Cologne before you board?  For a traditional German meal in Cologne before boarding the sleeper to Warsaw, try the Brauhaus Sion (www.brauhaus-sion.de), 5 minutes walk from Cologne hauptbahnhof, or the Malzmuehle restaurant (www.muehlenkoelsch.de), 10-15 minutes walk from Cologne Hauptbahnhof, or there's a restaurant inside the Hauptbahnhof itself at the Schweinske, www.schweinske.deFeedback is always appreciated!

The Jan Kiepura sleeper train from Cologne to Warsaw   3-berth sleeper on the Jan Kiepura   3-berth sleeper on the Jan Kiepura, beds folded away

1, 2 or 3 bed sleepers:  The EuroNight Jan Kiepura has 1 or 2 modern air-conditioned Polish sleeping-cars, with 1, 2 & 3 bed compartments, either standard with washbasin or deluxe with shower & toilet.  More info about this train.

 

A cosy standard sleeper shown with all 3 beds folded out & the  washbasin visible.

 

A standard sleeper with the beds folded away and seats folded out.  There's a socket for laptops & mobiles.

4-berth couchettes on the Jan Kiepura sleeper train to Warsaw

4-berth couchettes:  Ideal for families.  More space per person than 6-berth couchettes.

    6-berth couchettes on the Jan Kiepura sleeper train to Warsaw

6-berth couchettes:  A very economical option, far better than a seat for just a few euros more...

    A couchette car on the Jan Kiepura overnight train to Warsaw

Above: The Jan Kiepura also has two couchette cars, with 4 & 6 berth compartments.  There are toilets & washrooms at the end of the corridor. 

More pictures & info about this train

...then the sleeper train Polonez from Warsaw to Moscow.

The 'Polonez' overnight train to Moscow about to leave Warsaw Centralna   A newly-refurbished sleeper compartment on the Polonez train from Warsaw to Moscow.

The Polonez train from Warsaw to Moscow uses Russian sleeping-cars one day (pictured below) and Polish sleeping-cars the next (pictured above), so you've a 50:50 chance of getting the Polish train or the Russian train.  The Polish train is pictured above, about to leave Warsaw Centralna for Moscow.  Freshly repainted in the new PKP InterCity colours, each compartment (above right) has been smartly refurbished and can be used for single, double or triple occupancy, and features a washbasin, comfortable beds which convert to a seat for daytime use (as shown here).  Each car is in the charge of an immaculately-uniformed attendant from 'Wars', the Polish railways sleeper & dining car company.  An excellent train!  Below, Russian sleeping-cars as used on the Polonez, in daytime, single-berth and 2-berth modes.

Cologne to Moscow sleeping-car compartment:  Daytime mode   Cologne to Moscow sleeping-car compartment:  Single-berth compartment   A 2-berth sleeper on the Cologne-Moscow train

A Russian sleeper compartment as used on the Warsaw-Moscow sleeper, in daytime mode with beds folded away & seats folded out...

 

Single-berth sleeper:  This is a compartment in night-time mode, set up as a single berth room (middle & top bunks unused & folded away).

 

2-berth sleeper:  A similar compartment in night mode, this time set up as a 2-berth room with the third bunk unused & folded away...

A Russian sleeping-car on a train to Moscow  

Russia here we come!  This is an air-conditioned Russian sleeping-car as used on the Russian version of the Polonez.  It's a safe & comfortable way to reach Russia.  It is seen here sporting the new grey & red RZD colour scheme.  Photo courtesy of Ivor Morgan.

 

Above:  Children watch from the end of the coach as it's jacked up at Brest to have its bogies changed to Russian gauge.  Courtesy www.fiddlerontherails.com.

How much does it cost?

1. London to Cologne

by Eurostar + Thalys or ICE

 Fares for Eurostar+ICE start at €59 (£49) each way.

 Fares for Eurostar+Thalys start at £56 one-way or £103 return

 Fares vary like air fares, so book in advance to get the cheapest prices.

 Child, youth, senior Eurostar fares

  

2. Cologne to Warsaw

by Jan Kiepura, per person

In a

seat

In a couchette

Standard sleeper

Deluxe sleeper

6-berth

4-berth

3-berth

2-berth

single

2-berth

single

Savings fare one-way from:

€43 (£36)

€59 (£49)

€69 (£58)

€71 (£59)

€91 (£76)

€151 (£126)

€124 (£103)

€184 (£153)

Savings fare return from:

€86 (£72)

€118 (£98)

€128 (£116)

€142 (£118)

€182 (£152)

€302 (£252)

€248 (£206)

€368 (£306)

Full price one-way:

€159

€175

€185

€187

€207

€267

€311

€371

Savings fare = cheap fare, price varies, book in advance, limited availability, no refunds, no changes to travel plans. 

Full price = fully flexible, refundable, buy any time.

 3. Warsaw to Moscow

 by sleeper Polonez

 Booked online at en.voyages-sncf.com (but not uk.voyages-sncf.com):

 €167 in a 3-bed sleeper.

 €251 in a 2-bed sleeper (unduly high!).

 Booked in the UK by phone with German Railways or Erail:

 £109 off-peak or£120 peak in a 3-bed sleeper.

 £155 off-peak or £170 peak in a 2-bed sleeper.

 £195 off-peak or £214 peak in a single-berth sleeper.

 Peak = various dates around Easter, summer, Christmas, New Year.

 Ordered online through http://booking.polrail.com:

 598 zlotys (£122 or €140) in a 3-bed sleeper

 835 zlotys (£170 or €195) in a 2-bed sleeper

 1048 zlotys (£214 or €245) a single-bed sleeper

 All fares one-way per person per berth.

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by email from Erail...

You cannot book this journey online.  However, I've prepared a booking form for you, listing all the specific trains you need to book.  Simply click here to open the form, fill it in with your dates & details and email it to sales@europeanrail.com.  Erail are a London-based agency of German Railways.  They will make the reservations and call you back to confirm the cost.  If you're okay with the price, you can give them your credit card details and buy the tickets.  Erail charge a £35 booking fee which includes postage to any UK address, or they can send to any address worldwide if you pay the courier fee.  Seat61 gets some commission if you buy tickets using this form.  If you need train tickets within Russia, for example Moscow to St Petersburg, click here.  Don't forget to arrange your Russian visa & Belarus transit visa.

Buy tickets to Russia

  

 

How to buy tickets by phone...

You can buy tickets just by picking up the phone, with either...

Tailor-made travel arrangements with hotels...

If putting the trip together yourself seems too complicated (even with the booking forms and advice on this page), www.railbookers.com is an experienced train travel specialist which offers a compete tailor-made travel service with all your rail tickets booked and hotels arranged at stops along the way.  You simply tell them where you want to go and where you'd like to stop off on the way, and they will do the rest.  They can advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels too.  They get very positive reviews, and look after their customers very well.

-  In the UK see www.railbookers.com or call 020 3387 0761

-  In the US & Canada see www.us.railbookers.com or call toll-free 1-800-408-3280.

-  In Australia see www.railbookers.com.au or call 1300 971 526

-  In New Zealand see their NZ website or call 0800 002 034

Don't forget your visas & trains within Russia...


Advice on booking westbound trains from Moscow to London...

UK agencies can easily book sleepers to Russia using the computer reservation system which covers trains starting in Germany.  However, berths on trains starting in Russia are held on the Russian reservation system, so UK agencies may have difficulty booking an inbound sleeper from Russia back to western Europe.  The German reservation computer sometimes has an allocation of berths for the inbound Moscow to Cologne or Berlin sleepers - If you are booking through Deutsche Bahn's UK office, ask the agent to try using the train number '11MJ' for the Moscow-Cologne train (whatever train number appears on their timetable enquiry screen) as this has been reported to work.  But if all else fails and your UK agency is unable to obtain the inbound Moscow-Cologne sleeper for you, simply ask them to book you (1) the return Eurostar+Thalys ticket from London to Cologne and back, (2) a one way sleeper from Cologne to Moscow.  Then book the return sleeper from Moscow to Cologne using a local Russian agency such as RealRussia, Svezhy Veter, Waytorussia.net or G&R International.  Alternatively, you can book westbound Moscow-Warsaw or Moscow-Berlin tickets using the online form below, then use www.europeanrail.com or DB's UK office to book the Warsaw or Berlin to London section.


Option 2, the Paris to Moscow Express...

  Destination board on side of the Paris-Moscow train
 

The Paris-Moscow Trans-European Express. This is a carriage destination board...  Courtesy of www.railbookers.com

  The special deluxe sleeper Berlin to Moscow
 

Luxury sleeper on the Trans-European Express from Paris to Moscow, 1 or 2 berth with shower & toilet plus TV/DVD.  Photo courtesy of Antσnio M. Tavares

  A 1, 2 or 3-berth sleeper compartment in the direct sleeping-car from Paris to Moscow
 

Standard sleeper on the Moscow to Paris train, in daytime mode.  Each compartment can be used as a 1, 2 or 3 berth.  Courtesy of  John  Delikanakis

  On board the train from Paris to Moscow
 

On the Paris-Moscow sleeper, the china & serviette stand are proudly branded Paris-Moscow! Courtesy of John  Delikanakis

  Russian Railways direct train to Moscow
 

Moscow express... Russian Railways international train to Moscow...  Courtesy of David Smith

   

A train called the Trans-European Express started linking Paris with Moscow from December 2011, running three times a week in winter, five or six times a week in summer, taking 2 days and 1 night.  Run entirely by Russian Railways (RZD), it follows the success of RZD's twice-weekly direct sleeping-car from Paris to Moscow introduced in December 2007, which was attached to other trains and took two nights.  This was itself a resurrection of the direct Paris-Moscow sleeping-car service introduced by the Soviets in the 1960s and withdrawn in 1994. 

The Paris-Moscow train is safe, comfortable, and very civilised (apart from a rather late arrival in Moscow at certain times of year, that is), with a restaurant car throughout the journey and the option of deluxe sleepers with en suite toilet & shower as well as regular sleepers with washbasin. 

On the route map above, this option takes the route shown in light blue via Paris as far as Berlin, then the direct route to Moscow shown in dark blue, a total of 3,177 km or about 1,985 miles from Paris to Moscow, making it the second-longest direct train in Europe.  There's more information at http://moscow-paris.ru/index_en.htmlWatch the Paris-Moscow video!

London & Paris Moscow

Moscow ► Paris & London

On board the Paris-Moscow Trans-European Express...

How much does it cost?

 London to Paris

 by Eurostar:

 From £39 one-way, £69 return 2nd class.

 From £107 one-way, £189 return 1st class.  Child, youth, senior fares 

 

 Paris to Moscow by

 sleeper, per person:

Sharing

3-berth

sleeper

(2nd class)

Sharing

2-berth 

sleeper

(1st class)

Sole occupancy 

of a standard

sleeper

(1st class single)

Luxury sleeper,

sharing a

2-berth

(Business class)

Luxury sleeper,

sole

occupancy

(Business class)

 Adult one-way off-peak:

€347

€486

€541

€1116

€1266

 Adult one-way June-Sept:

€405

€566

€541

€1296

€1476

Returns are twice the one-way fare.  Children under 12 half price.

Berths are sold individually, prices are for one person in one bed.  So if you book (say) one second class ticket you will travel in a 3-bed sleeper sharing with two other passengers of the same sex.  There is no need to pay for sole occupancy unless you want to!  There's more detailed fare information at http://moscow-paris.ru/index_en.html.

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by phone...

You can book both the Trans-European Express by phone with Deutsche Bahn's UK office on 08718 80 80 66 (lines open 09:00-20:00 Monday-Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturday & Sunday, no booking fee) or www.europeanrail.com on 020 7619 1083 (08:30-18:00 Monday-Friday, 09:00-13:00 Saturdays, £35 booking fee but can sometimes have more time to help).  If you are making a return journey or a one-way trip inbound from Moscow, please read the section above about booking westbound trains from Moscow to London, as the same may apply to the Trans-European Express.  Don't forget to arrange your Russian visa and Belarus transit visa.

Tailor-made travel arrangements with hotels...

If putting the trip together yourself seems too complicated (even with the booking forms and advice on this page), www.railbookers.com is an experienced train travel specialist which offers a compete tailor-made travel service with all your rail tickets booked and hotels arranged at stops along the way.  You simply tell them where you want to go and where you'd like to stop off on the way, and they will do the rest.  They can advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels too.  They get very positive reviews, and look after their customers very well.

-  In the UK see www.railbookers.com or call 020 3387 0761

-  In the US & Canada see www.us.railbookers.com or call toll-free 1-800-408-3280.

-  In Australia see www.railbookers.com.au or call 1300 971 526

-  In New Zealand see their NZ website or call 0800 002 034

Don't forget your visas & trains within Russia...

Watch the video - A journey on the Paris to Moscow Express...


Option 3:  By ferry via Amsterdam

  Boarding the Stena Line ferry from Harwich to Hoek van Holland

London to Amsterdam by Dutch Flyer train & ferry...  By train from London to the ferry terminal at Harwich.  Walk off the train into the terminal, get your boarding card & cabin key at the Stena Line desk & walk onto the overnight ferry to Hoek van Holland.  See the Netherlands page...

  Captain's suite deluxe cabin on the Stena Line ferry 'Stena Hollandica'

Cosy cabins:  All passengers travel in a private cabin with shower, toilet, satellite TV & free WiFi.

The ferry alternative, with a free day in Amsterdam...

The fastest option is to take Eurostar via the Channel Tunnel using one of the options shown above, but there are some good reasons why you might prefer a ferry alternative.  For example, if there are problems affecting Eurostar or the Channel Tunnel, or if all the cheap Eurostar tickets have sold out, or if you live in the North of England, Scotland or East Anglia and want to by-pass London.  Or you might simply prefer a relaxing journey, cruising overnight on the Stena Line superferry to Hoek van Holland in a luxury en suite cabin with shower, toilet, satellite TV and free WiFi, spending a day at leisure exploring Amsterdam, then taking the Polish 'Jan Kiepura' EuroNight sleeper train from Amsterdam to Warsaw and the 'Polonez' sleeper train from Warsaw to Moscow.  Note that the direct Russian sleeping-car from Amsterdam to Moscow was discontinued in December 2012.  You can buy special Dutch Flyer train & ferry tickets from London or any National Express East Anglia rail station to Amsterdam using the Harwich-Hoek ferry, complete with a private cabin.  If you live in the North of England or Scotland, DFDS Seaways run an excellent daily overnight cruise ferry from Newcastle to IJmuiden (near Amsterdam), and P&O Ferries run a daily overnight cruise ferry from Hull to Rotterdam Europoort with bus/train connections to Amsterdam.  So catch the overnight cruise ferry to Holland, spend a day exploring Amsterdam, then hop on the sleeper to Russia! 

London, East Anglia & Amsterdam ► Moscow

Moscow ► Amsterdam, East Anglia & London

Introducing the EuroNight sleeper train Jan Kiepura from Amsterdam to Warsaw...

The Jan Kiepura sleeper train from Amsterdam to Warsaw   3-berth sleeper on the Jan Kiepura   3-berth sleeper on the Jan Kiepura, beds folded away

1, 2 or 3 bed sleepers:  The EuroNight Jan Kiepura has modern air-conditioned Polish sleeping-cars, with 1, 2 & 3 bed compartments, either standard with washbasin or deluxe with shower & toilet.  More info about this train.

 

A cosy standard sleeper seen with all 3 beds folded out & the  washbasin visible.

 

A standard sleeper with the beds folded away and seats folded out.  There's a socket for laptops & mobiles.

4-berth couchettes on the Jan Kiepura sleeper train to Warsaw

4-berth couchettes:  Ideal for families.  Much more space per person than 6-berth couchettes.

    6-berth couchettes on the Jan Kiepura EuroNight train to Warsaw

6-berth couchettes:  A very economical option, far better than a seat for just a few euros more...

    A couchette car on the Jan Kiepura sleeper train to Warsaw

Above: The Jan Kiepura also has two couchette cars, with 4 & 6 berth compartments.  There are toilets & washrooms at the end of the corridor. 

More pictures & info about this train

...and the Polonez sleeper train from Warsaw to Moscow.

The 'Polonez' overnight train to Moscow about to leave Warsaw Centralna   A newly-refurbished sleeper compartment on the Polonez train from Warsaw to Moscow.

The sleeper train Polonez from Warsaw to Moscow uses Russian sleeping-cars one day and Polish sleeping-cars the next, so you've a 50:50 chance of getting the Polish train or the Russian train.  The Polish train is pictured above, about to leave Warsaw Centralna for Moscow.  Freshly repainted in the new PKP InterCity colours, each compartment (above right) has been smartly refurbished and can be used for single, double or triple occupancy, and features a washbasin, comfortable beds which convert to a seat for daytime use (as shown here).  Each car is in the charge of an immaculately-uniformed attendant from 'Wars', the Polish railways sleeper & dining car company.  An excellent train!

How much does it cost?

1. London to Amsterdam

by Dutch Flyer...

Dutch Flyer tickets from London to Amsterdam start at £45 one-way, plus the cost of a cabin, (from £30 for a single-berth).  See the Netherlands page for full details of prices and cabins.  This price covers the British train, Stena Line ferry and Dutch train between London and Amsterdam.

  

2. Amsterdam to Warsaw

by Jan Kiepura, per person

In a

seat

In a couchette

In the sleeping-car

Deluxe sleeper

6-berth

4-berth

3-berth

2-berth

single

2-berth

single

Savings fare one-way from:

€43 (£38)

€59 (£51)

€64 (£55)

€71 (£61)

€91 (£79)

€151 (£131)

€124 (£107)

€184 (£160)

Savings fare return from:

€86 (£76)

€118 (£102)

€128 (£110)

€142 (£122)

€182 (£158)

€302 (£262)

€248 (£214)

€368 (£320)

Full price one-way:

£80

£84

£88

£96

£111

£199

£175

£221

Savings fare = cheap fare, price varies, book in advance, limited availability, no refunds, no changes to travel plans. 

Full price = fully flexible, refundable, buy any time.

 3. Warsaw to Moscow

 by sleeper Polonez...

 Booked in the UK by phone with German Railways or Erail:

 £109 off-peak or£120 peak in a 3-bed sleeper.

 £155 off-peak or £170 peak in a 2-bed sleeper.

 £195 off-peak or £214 peak in a single-berth sleeper.

 Peak = various dates around Easter, summer, Christmas, New Year.

 Ordered online through http://booking.polrail.com:

 598 zlotys (£22 or €140) in a 3-bed sleeper

 835 zlotys (£170 or €195) in a 2-bed sleeper

 1048 zlotys (£214 or €245) a single-bed sleeper

 All fares one-way per person per berth.

How to buy tickets...


Option 4, London to Moscow via Kiev or Budapest

London to Moscow avoiding Belarus...

If you want to avoid Belarus to escape the bureaucracy & cost of a Belarus transit visa, the cheapest and easiest way to do this is to go south of Belarus through Ukraine rather than north of Belarus via the Baltic states.   EU & UK citizens no longer need a visa for Ukraine and the trains work much better this way than via the disjointed rail networks through the Baltic States.  There are two good ways to divert yourself via Kiev:  (1) London-Budapest-Moscow (which can all be booked online, and gives you time in Budapest) or (2) London-Warsaw-Kiev-Moscow (which needs to be booked by phone, but allows stopovers in Kiev).  Either way, the journey takes 3 nights, assuming you don't want to stop off anywhere for longer, as opposed to just 2 nights on the direct route via Belarus, so although you save the cost of a Belarus transit visa it takes longer.  Going north of Belarus via Vilnius & Riga generally means an even longer 4 night journey, with yet more changes of train and at least one, possibly two nights in a hotel, although by all means do this if you want to see the Baltic capitals on the way to Russia.

London - Moscow via Warsaw & Kiev...

This route needs to be booked partly or completely by phone, as the Warsaw-Kiev train cannot be booked online anywhere.  However, it's easy to stop off in Kiev this way, and I'll explain who to call to book this route.

London Moscow via Warsaw & Kiev

Moscow London via Kiev

How much does it cost?

London - Moscow via Budapest...

This route can easily be booked online, and gives you a day to explore Budapest.  Although if you'd like to stop off in Kiev, I'd suggest the route via Warsaw instead.

London Moscow via Budapest

Moscow London via Budapest

How much does it cost?  How to buy tickets?

How to buy tickets the easy way, by email...

How to buy tickets online...


Other possible routes & options...

There are several other routes worth considering, especially if you want to stop off on the way in Scandinavia, the Baltic States or Ukraine, or to avoid travelling through Belarus and so avoid the cost and hassle of getting a Belarus transit visa (although this isn't really a problem, just an expense and a bit of extra bureaucracy).  All these routes take at least 3 nights compared with just 2 nights travelling on the direct route through Belarus, so the cost of an extra day or two's food and accommodation must be set against the cost of the Belarus visa for travel on a direct train to Moscow.  These alternative routes tend to involve a bit more legwork to book, too.  If you simply want to avoid Belarus, the quickest and easiest way to do this is to head south via Ukraine, see the section above.  You might not be saving much money by avoiding Belarus, but the opportunity to stop off in some fascinating places and countries makes these alternative routes worth considering.

London to Moscow via Warsaw, Vilnius & the Baltic States...

London to Moscow via Copenhagen, Stockholm & Helsinki...

London to Moscow via Copenhagen, Stockholm & either Tallinn or Riga...


London to St Petersburg

There are several good ways to travel from the UK to St Petersburg by train:

Option 1:  London to Moscow, then Moscow to St Petersburg...

This is the fastest and most frequent option, using daily direct trains from Cologne or Warsaw to Moscow, then one of many Moscow-St Petersburg trains.

Sapsan high-speed trains from Moscow to St Petersburg, in 3 hours 55 minutes...

Introduced in December 2009, the Sapsan (Peregrine Falcon) 250 km/h high-speed trains link Moscow & St Petersburg in just 3 hours 55 minutes.  The initial 3 services a day have now been increased to 5 trains each way every day.  The Sapsans have been very successful, with a 99% on-time performance and an average load factor of 80% (meaning each departure is on average 80% full).  Built by Siemens and based on the superb German ICE, they are set to revolutionise travel between Russia's two prime cities, with additional services and faster journey times to come as the line is progressively upgraded.  See the Russian railways' Sapsan video.

Traveller Ian Newberry reports:  "On May 19 [2010] I travelled from Moscow to St Petersburg on Sapsan train 156 leaving at 13:00.  Departure was punctual and the staff greeting passengers could not have been better - they all speak English as well as Russian.  The service on the train was extremely good and in business class a full 3 course meal was served with wines and spirits all included in the price of the ticket.  Information was supplied through screens and announcements in English as well as Russian. The train is very comfortable and arrived 5 minutes ahead of schedule at 17.40.  If one wants to avoid a night train then this is a very civilised way to travel, on a par with any equivalent TGV or ICE available in western Europe."

Sapsan train   2nd class seats on a Sapsan train.

A 150mph Sapsan train between Moscow and St Petersburg and (above right) 2nd class seats.  Photos courtesy of Mark Pascoe

Overnight sleeper trains from Moscow to St Petersburg... 

The best Russian Railways overnight train is the famous Krasnaya Strela (Red Arrow) leaving Moscow (Leningradski Vokzal) at 23:55 daily, arriving in St Petersburg (Moskovski Vokzal) at 07:55 next morning.  The Krasnaya Strela has 2-berth and 4-berth sleeping cars plus two luxury sleeping-cars with 1 & 2-bed rooms with private toilet shower and TV/DVD entertainment.  The fare is about 3,280 rubles (£70 or $110) in a kupι 4-berth sleeper, 5,895 rubles (£126 or $197) spalny vagon 2-berth sleeper or 16,250 rubles (£551 or $865) luxury sleeper with private shower and toilet - although there are less swish, cheaper sleeper trains.  The Krasnaya Strela has now been joined by a couple of other premium sleeper trains, train 3/4 Ekspres and train 5/6 Nicholaevsky Express.  Since 2005, there's also a privately-run luxury train, the Grand Express, with fares from 3,700 rubles.  Click for information & online booking for the Grand Express.

A 2-berth first class sleeper on the Krasnya Strela train from St Petersburg to Moscow   The most famous train from St Petersburg to Moscow:  The Krasnaya Strela or 'Red Arrow'

A first class 2-berth sleeper on the Krasnaya Strela between Moscow & St Petersburg.  Photo courtesy of Chris Sparks

 

Train number 1/2, the famous Krasnaya Strela (Red Arrow) between St Petersburg & Moscow.  Photo courtesy of Chris Sparks

Option 2:  London to St Petersburg via Warsaw & Vilnius...

This option takes longer (4 nights) but has two major plusses. First, it by-passes Belarus so no need for a Belarus visa.  Second, you get a day at leisure exploring Warsaw and a day at leisure exploring Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

London St Petersburg via Vilnius

St Petersburg London via Vilnius

Fares & how to buy tickets...

Option 3:  London to St Petersburg by train to Stockholm then direct cruise ferry...

Other options....

London to St Petersburg via Stockholm & Helsinki...

If you feel like seeing a bit of Scandinavia on the way to Russia, you could travel from London to St Petersburg via Stockholm and Helsinki.  This will take 3 nights / 4 days.  See the Finland page for information on the journey from London to Helsinki, then click here for trains between Helsinki, St Petersburg & Moscow.

London to St Petersburg via Stockholm & Tallinn...

Alternatively, you could travel from London to St Petersburg via Stockholm and Tallinn.  See the Estonia page for information on the journey from London to Tallinn, and the overnight sleeper train linking Tallinn and St Petersburg.


London to Minsk (Belarus)

The direct Belarusian sleeping-cars from Amsterdam & Cologne to Minsk were discontinued in December 2013.  However, it's still easy to get there via Warsaw, here's how...

London Minsk

Minsk London

How much does it cost?

 1. London to Cologne

 by Eurostar + Thalys or ICE

 Fares for Eurostar+ICE start at €59 (£49) each way.

 Fares for Eurostar+Thalys start at £56 one-way or £103 return

 Fares vary like air fares, so book in advance to get the cheapest prices.

 Child, youth, senior Eurostar fares

  

 2. Cologne to Warsaw

 by Jan Kiepura, per person

In a

seat

In a couchette

Standard sleeper

Deluxe sleeper

6-berth

4-berth

3-berth

2-berth

single

2-berth

single

 Savings fare one-way from:

€43 (£36)

€59 (£49)

€69 (£58)

€71 (£59)

€91 (£76)

€151 (£126)

€124 (£103)

€184 (£153)

 Savings fare return from:

€86 (£72)

€118 (£98)

€128 (£116)

€142 (£118)

€182 (£152)

€302 (£252)

€248 (£206)

€368 (£306)

 Full price one-way:

€147 (£122)

€163 (£136)

€173 (£144)

€175 (£146)

€195 (£163)

€255 (£213)

€294 (£245)

€354 (£295)

 Railpass supplement*

€4

€20

€30

€32

€52

€112

€65

€125

 Children under 15**

€4

€20

€30

€32

€52

€112

€65

€125

 Child under 6 without berth:

Child under 6 sharing a berth travels free

 
 3. Warsaw to Minsk

 Booked through Polrail.com, per person per berth:

 333 zlotys in a 3-bed sleeper

 450 zlotys in a 2-bed sleeper

 599 zlotys in a single-bed sleeper

How to buy tickets...


Buy Russian train tickets online...

 

What tickets can this system sell?  This system can sell tickets for any mainline train journey within Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Belarus, Lithuania, Kazakhstan and the other ex-Soviet states.  It will also sell tickets for journeys starting in those countries heading outwards, for example Moscow to Berlin or St Petersburg to Helsinki.  Reservations officially open 45 days before departure, but Real Russia allow you to request tickets up to 180 days ahead and they will contact you for payment when the price is confirmed.

Can anyone buy tickets using this system?  Yes, you can buy tickets online with a credit card whether you live in the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, or wherever.

How are tickets delivered?  Tickets can be collected free of charge at Real Russia's offices in Moscow or St Petersburg, or an e-ticket can be emailed to you so you can collect the ticket from most main stations in Russia.  For journeys starting in other ex-Soviet countries, tickets can be sent to UK or EU addresses for a £12-£15 charge, or couriered to any address worldwide, also for an extra charge.

Who run this service?  Is it reliable?  This service is provided by Real Russia, a reputable joint UK-Russian company which has got good reports from users.  Real Russia can also sort out your Russian visa.

Booking tips:  Look for a train marked 'Firm' if there is one. 'Firmeny' trains are the best 'quality' trains, with modern coaches and good on-board service.  'TBC' means the system cannot provide a price for that particular train automatically, but they'll contact you with a cost by phone or email.

Is it cheaper to buy at the ticket office?  Real Russia charge the normal Russian Railways fare plus a 15-23% mark-up to cover their costs (all agencies charge a mark-up, in fact Real Russia is one of the cheapest agencies).  There's a 2.5% charge for credit card payments, but you can easily avoid this by calling their UK office to pay by debit card when your tickets are confirmed.  The fares shown include the mark-up, but not the credit card charge.  By all means buy tickets at the ticket office if you're flexible, but Russian trains can get fully-booked so it's good to pre-book if you want a specific date and train.  Russian Railways offer online booking but it's only in Russian, so it can be worth the extra to quickly and simply organise your Russian rail tickets in English.


Visas...

To visit Russia, you'll need a tourist visa.  You'll may well need a Belarus transit visa, because the direct rail route from Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin & Warsaw to Moscow passes though Belarus.

How to arrange a Russian visa...

Always check the latest visa information, as it changes from time to time, but here's a quick run-down of the arrangements:

How to arrange a Belarus visa...

Sponsored links...

 

Holidays & tours to Russia by train

 

020 3327 0761

 

020 7619 1080

Please quote 'seat61'

Railbookers, www.railbookers.com, 020 3327 0761....

Tailor-made holidays to Russia by train!  Specialist travel company www.railbookers.com can tailor-make a flight-free holiday to Russia for you, with train travel & hotels, for however long you like, leaving on any date you like.  Tell them what you want and they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out for you.  They get a lot of repeat business!   As a guide, a one-way train journey from London to Moscow including daytime train travel from London to Berlin, 1 night hotel in Berlin, sleeper to Moscow and 1 night hotel in Moscow starts at around £459 per person one-way.  Double that price for a return trip.  See their Moscow page for details and give them a call...

Erail, www.erail.co.uk, 020 7619 1080.  Please quote 'Seat61.com' when you call...

Moscow, St Petersburg & Berlin:  A 12-day grand tour to the Russian capitals and back by Eurostar, high-speed ICE train and comfortable Russian sleeper train from London with no flights involved, with 4 star hotels from £1,380.  And a stay in Berlin is thrown in.  See www.erail.co.uk.


The European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team have set up a private venture and published the first edition of a reborn European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

A Traveller's Railway Map of Europe covers the whole of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  On the back are detailed maps of Switzerland, Benelux & Germany, plus city plans showing stations in major cities.  Scenic & high-speed routes highlighted.  Click to see sample.  Buy online for €13 + €5.50 postage worldwide at www.treinreiswinkel.nl/railway_map_of_europe.

 


Guidebooks

Definitely take a good guidebook, and a phrasebook may be a good idea too.  I think the Lonely Planets and Rough Guides are about the best out there for the independent traveller, and you will not regret buying one!  My own book, an essential handbook for train travel to Europe based on this website called "The Man in Seat 61", was published in June 2008, and is available from Amazon.co.uk with shipping worldwide.

Click the images to buy the book from Amazon.co.uk... 

Lonely Planet Russia - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Russia - click to buy onlineLonely Planet Russia - click to buy onlineThe Man in Seat 61 book - click to buy online


Find hotels in Moscow, St Petersburg & Russia...

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Tripadvisor hotel reviews...

www.tripadvisor.com is a good place to find independent travellers' reviews of the main hotels.  It also has the low-down on all the sights & attractions too.

Backpacker hostels:  www.hostelbookers.com

If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about the hostels.  For backpacker hostels in Amsterdam and most other European cities at budget prices (either a dorm bed or an ultra cheap private room) see www.hostelbookers.com.


Travel insurance & health card...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Get travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without insurance from a reliable travel insurer with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash (up to a limit) & belongings, and cancellation. An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year (I have an annual policy myself).  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, though, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65 (no age limit), see www.JustTravelCover.com.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from www.ehic.org.uk.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Get a spare credit card, designed for foreign travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

You can avoid ATM charges and expensive exchange rates with a Caxton FX euro currency Visa Card, or their multi-currency 'Global Traveller' Visa Card, see www.caxtonfx.com for info.

Get an international SIM card to save on mobile data and phone calls...

Mobile phones can cost a fortune to use abroad, and if you're not careful you can return home to find a huge bill.  Consider buying a global pre-paid SIM card for your mobile phone from www.Go-Sim.com, which can slash costs by up to 85%.  Go-Sim cuts call costs in 175 countries worldwide, and you can receive incoming calls and texts for free in 75 countries.  It's pay-as-you-go, so no nasty bills when you get home.  It also allows cheap data access for laptops & PDAs.  A Go-Sim account and any credit on it doesn't expire if it's not used between trips, unlike some others, so a Go-Sim phone number becomes your 'global phone number' for life.

 


Back to 'Rail travel to Europe' general page

Back to home page