Whether it is your first time going to Russia or you simply want to make the most of your trip by saving as much time possible for actual sightseeing rather than traffic jams or other misfortunes which you might encounter when making your way from one Russian city to another, there are a couple of things you can make note of. To simplify the planning process and enhance your actual journey, here are some useful recommendations to make travel in Russia easier for you.
Fly on an airplane or a Sapsan?
First thing is first, it may seem obvious, but is surely worthy of mentioning that hundreds of travelers make one same, let us say, not the best choice when it comes to connections from Moscow to St. Petersburg. If you start searching easiest ways to travel between these two capitals, the alluring direct one hour twenty minutes flight seems like a great and fast option, so you fall for the deal and buy your ticket. However, is it really a great idea to take a plane?
Actually, it is not, and there is a far better alternative you should be considering that will cost you the same money, but will spare you some time, and it is a high-speed Sapsan train, carrying the name of a speedy bird and linking the cities in three and a half hours. The thing with flights that should be taken into consideration is airports, all three big ones in Moscow (Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, and Vnukovo), as well as the Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg are all located beyond city limits. And it is super fair to ask yourself a simple question: how big are Moscow and St. Petersburg? The answer is very, meaning traffic jams and distances between destinations are also large.
So, in the case of a seemingly great and quick airplane choice, do not forget to add on enough hours prior to and after the actual flight time for commuting to the airports with a high chance of getting stuck in massive jams, time for security checks and collecting your luggage, because whoa-la you can be wasting your vacation time that could be spent on Russia tours, exploring famous points of interest or dining in a central cafes or restaurants instead.
On your marks, get set, Sapsan!
Depending on the route of your upcoming journey and the cities you plan to visit when in Russia, it is wise to consider possible connection options prior to your trip. As such, it is good to know that bullet trains does not run on all Russian routes (not even on the quite popular Moscow – Kazan railway) yet there are plenty of regular and overnight trains. Regular trains aren’t the most comfortable variant out there, but sometimes are the only replacement for exhausting bus rides, whereas overnight trains can be a good affordable backup for those who want to save some cash on staying an extra night at the hotel.
As for high-speed trains, it is needless to say that they are designed for those who care about saving their time. The Sapsan bullet train is the most favored train in Russia, running from Moscow to St. Petersburg. One of the biggest perks apart from the super short time spent on the road (less than 4 hours on the average) is that travelers board and deboard the trains right in the city centers. The stations, Leningradsky Station in Moscow, and Moskovsky Station in St. Petersburg, are exactly the same looking buildings which can be reached very easily any time of the day even by public transport. Of course, for safety reasons, passengers go through security checks before boarding, similarly to those in airports. Nevertheless, bringing your own snacks and drinks on the train is allowed, unlike on flights.
Convenience does not stop at that, there are more than 10 daily departures starting from early morning to the last evening train at 9 p.m. in each of the routes, so you can easily tailor your travel plans when buying Sapsan tickets. On such trains there are several coach classes, ranging from Economy to premium First class, bathroom areas in every car, and even a restaurant coach where you can get beverages and meals.
Things to know before your Sapsan ride
As mentioned previously, make sure to arrive early to the train station, allowing yourself enough time to find the needed platform and going through the security procedure. In case you arrive minutes before train departure, this basically means that you missed your train as you will not have time for passing the security and documents check, plus boarding will be closed 20 minutes before the train is scheduled to leave. Speaking of documents, by the way, it is very advisable to have your ticket printed out (or at least available in electronic format on your phone or tablet) and you definitely need to have your ID with you as the information indicated in your ticket will be cross-checked with your documents.
There are not any super strict limitations in terms of how much luggage you can have with you. Usually, it all goes down to no more than 36 kilos per person (that is about 80 pounds). The Sapsan train has enough space for luggage storage, plus coat racks, and overhead shelves.
Electric sockets for charging appliances can be found in every train car, but you have to note that the voltage is 220v, so, if needed, make sure to bring an adaptor. Luckily, WiFi is free on Sapsan trains and different films are shown on the train screens.
Summing up, traveling to countries like Russia is always a memorable adventure, so to save some time and enjoy it to the fullest, remember that preparation in advance for a journey abroad is key to a well-organized and worry-free trip.