|How to travel by Russian passenger trains?|
Each train consists of 7-18 sleeping-cars of different types (so-called 'sostav' or 'poezd') with additional cars (luggage van, restaurant car) and one train superintendent's car ('nachalnik poezda'). If you have any problem with tickets or service level, you should find superintendent to solve the problem. You can walk between cars through special gangways.
Tip: you can locate the superintendent's car by looking for the large loop aerial on the roof of the train. This car is usually found in the middle of the train.
Whichever class of travel you choose, each coach is looked after by a pair of attendants called a 'provodnik' (male) or 'provodnitsa' (female). The provodnik will check your ticket at the door to the sleeper when you board. Shortly after departure, the provodnik will come round to take your ticket and the small bedding fee (about 1 EUR).
You may be asked if you would like a glass of black Russian tea ('chai') - this costs about 0.2 EUR. Bedding (two sheets, pillowcase and towel) is then handed out in sealed packs - blankets and mattresses will already be stacked in your compartment. After a few journeys, you will become quite proficient at making up your bed!
A boiler with unlimited free hot water is available at the end of the corridor - pack some tea or coffee, sugar, cuppa soups or water-based drinking chocolate and bring your own mug.
Most long distance trains have a restaurant car serving drinks, snacks, and inexpensive full meals - reckon on less than 5 EUR for two courses and a couple of bottles of beer. Also you can use first aid kit in case of emergency free of charge.
Tip: Remember that most Russian trains aren't fitted with retention-toilets (as on planes) and the toilets discharge onto the track. For that reason, the toilets will be locked by the coach attendants about 30 min. before arriving at stations until about 30 min. after departure.
There is no particular need to worry about security on Russian trains, as long as you use common sense, lock your door at night and don't leave valuables unattended in your compartment. In addition to the normal lock on the compartment door, 'Spalny Wagon' and 'kupe' compartments have a security latch which stops the door opening more than an inch or two, and which cannot be released from outside.
There's also a safe place for your bags at night - if you have a bottom bunk, there is a metal box underneath the bunk which you can only get to by lifting up the bunk - in other words, for anyone to get to your bags, they will have to shift you off your bunk first! Your provodniks will probably also lock the access doors at each end of the corridor at night to prevent unwanted guests.
Tip: we recommend you keep your luggage safe in the box underneath the bottom bunk.
Special thanks to Mark Smith (1st,3d class trains photos, text fragments, help with translation)- site www.seat61.com
newspaper Magistral (2nd class, outdoor trains photos).