In this tutorial, I explain how you can shop online, without the middle-man, and purchase your own train tickets to travel in Russia through the official website of Russian Railways RZD, the state-owned Russian rail transport company.
In recent years, private intermediary companies have proliferated online, offering tickets for rail travel in Russia, from Moscow to St. Petersburg, Siberian, etc.
However, the cheapest way to do this is by avoiding intermediaries altogether and instead purchasing your own tickets through the official website of the national rail company Russian Railways (RZD).
Until recently, the website for RZD was only available in Russian, but it is now available in English as well.
In this post, I offer a simple tutorial on how to buy a roundtrip ticket between Moscow and St. Petersburg on the classic Red Arrow train. However, the reservation process is the same for whatever trip you choose throughout Russia’s extensive territory.
PRELIMINARY STEP: Registration
As a preliminary step, before beginning the process of purchasing tickets, you’ll need to register as a user on RZD’s website.
To do this, you must go to the website: https://pass.rzd.ru/selfcare/register/en and complete the form with your personal information. In this screenshot, you can see a simple example:
Once you submit the form and create your account, you will receive an email that will prompt you to confirm your registration in order to complete this process. Once your account is verified, you can log in to the RZD website with your username and password through the link: https://pass.rzd.ru/timetable/logon/en
STEP 1: Select your itinerary
Once you have an account and have accessed the website, the first step is to head to the English language search form, which is located here: http://pass.rzd.ru/main-pass/public/in.
On this form, under the”Departure” and “Arrival” fields, you can easily select from amongst the major Russian cities(Moscow, St-Petersburg, Petrozavodsk, Nizhny Novgorod, etc.) or other countries (Kiev, Minsk,etc.) listed with a single click.
Between the departure and arrival fields, there is a button with two arrows that can change the direction of your trip with a single click. Once you have selected the outbound trip and/or the return trip as well as the dates, you can click the button to purchase your tickets.
You will have to provide information on the number of passengers traveling with you and your own personal data later on in this process.
In the following example, I have chosen a round trip from Moscow to St. Petersburg:
STEP 2: Select your train
When you click “Buy ticket”, all available trains will appear for the selected route.
For example, to make the journey from Moscow to St. Petersburg, you can choose from a variety of different trains, among which are the high-speed day train “Sapsan” (“САПСАН”) that only takes about 4 hours, and the night train “Red Arrow” (“Красная стрела”), which has compartments with sleeping berths and makes the journey in about 8 hours (from 23:55 until 7:55 am).
In the following screenshot, I chose the “Red Arrow” train, which is train number 001A (for the journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow) and number 002A (for the return journey from Moscow to St. Petersburg):
STEP 3: Select your seat
On the next screen you can see the different types of train compartments.
The “Red Arrow” train has three types of compartments:
- Compartment (2nd class Kupe). This is a standard compartment for four people, including two lower and two upper berths, or beds. The compartments located at the beginning and end of each train car (next to the Water Closet) are for two people. This is the most economical option (see photo below).
- Soft (1st class). This compartment has a higher level of comfort for two people and has two bunk beds. This type of compartment is more expensive.
- Luxury. Luxury compartment with room for two people with a private bathroom, television,
You must select the type of compartment and click on “Car Plan” to select the location of the seats. In the screenshot below I chose four seats in a standard compartment for four people (17 to 20). They are marked in dark blue (the orange shape is the table in the compartment).
The squares marked in gray are already reserved. The white squares are the available seats. Once you have selected seats in the same compartment, click the “Save” button to continue with the booking process.
STEP 4: Passenger information
The next step is to enter the personal details of all passengers (name, passport number, place and date of birth, etc.) and the rate:
- Full The normal rate for an adult
- Child. The rate for a child (5-10 years old)
- Baby without seat. The rate for a child without a seat (up to 5 years and only 1 child per passenger)
Once you have completed all the data correctly, the message “Data For This Passenger Entered Correctly” appears. If you need to include more passengers you have to click “Add” (to add passenger).
You also have the option of purchasing cancellation insurance, but it is in Russian.
STEP 5: Confirm your information
Your origin and destination, date and time of your trip, and your personal data have all been entered and now it is almost time to pay; the next screen will summarize how your booking data will appear.
If everything is correct, you should tick the box to confirm that you agree with the conditions of the reservation (“I confirm that …”). If something appears to be incorrect, you can always go back in the booking process by clicking the “Back” button.
STEP 6: Pay for your reservation
The last step of the booking process is to pay for your reservation via credit card, which is the only payment method that is accepted. You must enter your credit card information and click the OK button
The system automatically generates electronic tickets and will forward them to your e-mail, ready to print. Your tickets are also available and accessible via your account on the RZD website.
An example of a Russian train ticket, with the personal data deleted, is below:
Web sites that sell tickets online with low commission rates
There are many websites that sell train tickets for the Red Arrow, Grand Express, Trans-Siberian, etc. Many of them apply abusive commissions so you have to pay attention to the prices they charge.
I always recommend buying tickets online on the RZD website, however, there are those that cannot complete the reservation process on RZD because their card does not work. In this case, I recommend two online services for buying tickets that charge a very low commission:
They are available in Russian and English. Through these web sites you are also buying tickets directly on RZD, but there is a small commission (350 – 550 rubles per ticket). Both web sites allow you to realize the payment not only with a credit card but also through other ways, such as WebMoney, Yandex Money or Quiwi Wallet.
If you want to pay via Paypal, then you can make your reservation through the website Russiantrain, although the commission with be a little higher, however:
- They can advise you in English on the purchase of tickets more complicated as the different routes of the Trans-Siberian
- You can purchase tickets with more than 45 days in advance (in RZD you can buy the tickets between 30 and 45 days in advance)
- You can purchase tickets for international trains (RZD not always allows purchasing international tickets coming out of the Russian border as the Trans-Siberian railway)
I hope this tutorial has helped you book your train tickets to travel in Russia online.