The Rossiya is a modern Russian ‘firmeny’ train, which means it is of a higher standard than many other trains on the same route. Generally the lower the number of the train, the better the service in train terms, and this is therefore a prestigious service. The team on board takes great personal pride in keeping everything clean and in working order. You can expect to see a vacuum cleaner in operation every day! The carriages are the modern RZD air conditioned type, and the train runs throughout the journey on electrically powered locomotives.
In first class you get a compartment with two lower berths. If you choose second class it has four berths, two lower and two upper, in the same amount of space.
There is also currently a third class (‘platzkart’), where 64 beds share an open plan layout. Here the beds are configured in groups of four across the train on one side, and two berths in the direction of travel opposite. This type of carriage is being slowly phased out.
The berths are comfortable with high quality cotton sheets and blankets. They are not overly wide, but you get used to them after a night or two on board. The ride is quite smooth compared to some trains on the same route owing to the modern rolling stock and regular stops to de-ice the train in winter.
Each compartment has a range of lighting, on board music via a headphone plug, and even a small television. There are a variety of small cupboards above the seats/beds and a table between the two lower berths. First and second class compartments have their own 230v sockets.
The compartments have luggage space beneath the berths and also up top over the corridor. You can slide in luggage approximately 40 cm high and 65 cm deep for the whole length of the bed. Up top there is room for smaller bags – up to 30 cm tall by 65 cm deep.
There is a menu of snacks and even souvenirs, and amenities like magazines and slippers are usually provided. I had a cardboard chess set and a complimentary shoe horn on my last trip!
The air conditioning on board is efficient and the train will normally be around 20-25 C, but it may be hotter at times, as is the Russian preference. Most of the windows in the compartments have a small skylight panel that can be opened in the summer, but this might be locked shut in the winter.
There are two toilets, both at one end of each of each coach. These contain a single wash basin and a vacuum toilet (similar to that found on an aircraft). The standard of cleanliness is normally high, but the class of accommodation you choose will determine the number of people whom you share these bathrooms with, and how busy they are.
Security is generally good with double locking doors, some with electric key cards.
Smoking is no longer permitted in any place on board this train, but is possible on the platform during the stops.
A standard Russian restaurant carriage that is often older than the other passenger coaches is normally positioned towards the middle of the train. These vary in style, but are often quite cozy and comfortable places to spend an hour or two each day. The restaurant can also provide meals and snacks in your compartment by arrangement. There is even an ice cream run up and down the train once or twice a day!
There are typically a lot of locals travelling on this train. Most will be on shorter journeys, maybe lasting a day or two. These are a mixture of people from all walks of Russian life – businessmen, soldiers, sailors, traders, students and holidaymakers. Some will be in hibernation and rarely seen outside their compartments, others will be the life and soul of the restaurant carriage. There are generally few non-Russian travellers on this train, especially between Irkutsk and Vladivostok.
Is the Rossiya good train to choose?
The Rossiya is a fantastic train and would be a great train to include in any itinerary. Of course if you are travelling to Vladivostok it is the obvious choice, but it would also be a good train to take for part of the journey, for example between Moscow and Irkutsk. This would allow you to combine it with other trains if you wanted to take the Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Manchurian routes. On this train you are able to combine relatively good standards of comfort with an opportunity to meet many local people. The service standards on this train are very high, and unless you travel by private luxury train, the best on any of the Trans-Siberian routes.
Rossiya, the Trans-Siberian railway, Russia
Matthew Woodward is a writer and train adventurer. He has completed several Trans-Siberian rail journeys, from his home in the UK to places including Shanghai, Singapore, Lhasa and Tokyo.
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