Trains from Moscow to St Petersburg | Tickets, time, how does it work?

Trains from Moscow to St Petersburg

The trains from Moscow to St Petersburg are the best way of transport between these two cities. If you are going to Russia for the first time, it is common to visit Moscow, but also to visit St. Petersburg during the same trip (one week in Moscow and St Petersburg). The trip by car is long, the one by plane offers less scenery. Taking the trains from Moscow to St Petersburg, or the trains from St Petersburg to Moscow is therefore the best option. Find out more how does it work, where to buy cheapest tickets, and what is the Moscow to St Petersburg train cost.

There are several trains from Moscow to St Petersburg: fast, night trains, luxury cars and simpler cars. Russia has a very extensive railway network. In fact, it is the second largest railway network in the world, after the United States. So let’s take a look together to help you make the choice!

What type of train to choose?

National. All trains in Russia are operated by the national railway company “RZD”. Commission-free tickets can be purchased on the official RZD website

There are three main categories of trains. Some trains from Moscow to St Petersburg, or from St Petersburg to Moscow, have a brand name, others do not. We will discuss the three main ones:

  • The Russian TGV, the Sapsan;
  • The Red Star, a famous train in operation since 1931;
  • The other more classic trains.

There are other branded trains, for example the “Grand Express” or the “Nevsky Express”. Moscow to St Petersburg train cost will depend on the trains, but also on the class that you choose. Find out more about prices below.

Sapsan, the fastest of the trains from Moscow to St Petersburg

The Sapsan (“Сапсан” in Cyrillic) is Russia’s high-speed train. It is, moreover, very recognizable visually among other Russian trains. On the other hand, it is more complex to identify it in front of a Velaro (in Spain) or an ICE (in Germany): this is normal because they are all German trains.

Comfort on board. The Sapsans are all very comfortable. For example, the spacing between the seats is more than enough for grown-ups, each car has a wardrobe to leave your coat and there is a restaurant car that sells everything: drinks, sandwiches, hot dishes.

Accessibility. The Sapsans are accessible to all, as there are no steps: the floor is flat throughout the train, there are no steps between the platform and the train and there is no floor. Moreover, some seats are reserved for wheelchair users.

  • Frequency. Every day you will find a little more than 10 Sapsans in each direction.
  • Time in the train. The journey from Moscow to St. Petersburg takes about 4 hours. The maximum speed of the train is 250km/h. The journey sometimes includes two or three stops of 2 minutes each.
  • Train cost. The cost of tickets is higher than other trains from Moscow to St. Petersburg. At the time of writing this article, ticket prices usually start at 2500 RUB, or about 35€.

Of all the trains from Moscow to St Petersburg, the Sapsan train is our favorite. Indeed, it is relatively cheap, fast, frequent and the daytime ride allows you to enjoy the scenery.

Nevsky Express?

The Nevsky Express is another train running between Moscow and St. Petersburg. It is quite fast with a time of 4h05 but it is not a Sapsan. It is often more economical but the service on board and the comfort is also more economical. In summary, if the Sapsan is like the TGV, the Nevsky Express is like an Intercity/Corail train.

The “Red Arrow”

The red arrow is a night train that has been connecting Moscow and St. Petersburg since 1931! It is the ideal train to get into a historical atmosphere. In fact, it starts on the platform with special music played at the departure and arrival:

The red arrow is a train… red! It’s a sleeper train with several classes. The “De Luxe” class transports you to a real hotel on wheels.

  • Frequency. There is only one Red Arrow in each direction per day.
  • Time in the train. You might think that the Red Arrow is the fastest, but count on a good 8 hours. Time to sleep then ;).
  • Train cost. The Red Arrow is a special train with a slightly higher price. For example, ticket prices start from 2700 RUB, or 40€.

Night trains from Moscow to St Petersburg

The Sapsan and the Red Arrow are the most famous trains from St Petersburg to Moscow. Nevertheless, there are many trains on the route: more than thirty in each direction! Some of them are special:

  • Artika: connecting Moscow to Murmansk in only 36 hours and making a 30-minute stop in St. Petersburg;
  • Baltic Express: linking Moscow to Tallinn in Estonia in 14h30 and makes a stop in St. Petersburg;
  • Lev Tolstoy: from Moscow to Helsinki in 13h20 and stops in St. Petersburg.
  • There are also a number of nameless trains that shuttle back and forth.

Night trains from Moscow to St Petersburg (or trains from St Petersburg to Moscow). Trains running at night are sleeper trains. However, during the day, the beds can be folded to take advantage of the bench seats. Then, for the night, the mattresses are unfolded, sheets and blankets provided by the conductor are installed (there is also a towel). At 10 pm, the lights are turned off.

We sleep well in the night trains, even in the “basic” classes. Besides, it is a very exciting experience. For example, I had the opportunity to make a trip of 13h in the cheapest class and it was really a lot of fun, a good memory! You dress like at home, put on your slippers, play cards and chat (yes, there were other French-speaking people in the car!).

  • Frequency. More than 20 trains from Moscow to St Petersburg and from St Petersburg to Moscow every day.
  • Time in the train. Between 7h and 9h to connect the two cities.
  • Train cost. Each train is different and the cheapest ones start at 600 RUB or 9€.

Which class to choose in the trains from Moscow to St Petersburg?

There is again a lot of choice, for all prices. Here are some examples of the classes you will encounter.

Classes of classic trains

  • Sitting or “сидячий” = Sitting. This class is found in night trains and in this case you will travel seated, at night. It is therefore usually the cheapest.
  • 3-cl. open sleeping or “плацкартный” = Platzkart = Open sleeping car. It is therefore an open sleeper wagon. Therefore everyone sleeps in the same room, dormitory atmosphere. It’s very cheap. There are only 2 beds. During the day, the upper bed is tidy and everyone sits on the bench.
  • 2-cl. sleeping compt. or “купе” = Compartmentalized sleeping car. It is a closed compartment wagon, each compartment contains 4 sleepers. Again, during the day, the upper bed is stowed away, so everyone sits on the lower bench seat.
  • 1-cl. sleeping compt. or “CB” = Deluxe Compartmentalized Sleeping Car. It is the same closed compartment wagon but they only contain 2 sleepers.
  • De Luxe sleeping = Sleeper car, where each compartment contains 2 sleepers, toilet, shower and air conditioning control in the compartment (i.e. one private bathroom per compartment).

Sapsan’s classes

  • Economy Class or “эконом” = classic high-speed train car. It is the equivalent of 2nd class in the TGV.
  • Economy+ Class or “эконом+” = the same with a meal included.
  • Bistro Car or “вагон бистро” = restaurant car. You will be seated in the restaurant car with a prepaid food credit to be consumed, usually 2000 RUB.
  • Business Class or “бизнес класс” = 1st class TGV coach, with a meal.
  • First Class or “первый класс” = Like the “Business” class, with a gourmet meal.

Practical information that you need to know

Find below some practical infos and tips about the trains between Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Through the train window

During your train trip from Moscow to St Petersburg, you will discover authentic landscapes. The train passes by typical small villages with picturesque wooden houses. It also passes through many lakes and forests where you feel as if you are on the edge of the world.

My favourite place is between Moscow and Tver, when the Sapsan runs on an arm of land that is only the width of the tracks. On either side of the train, you can see a very large lake, beautiful, lined with trees (pines, I think). See this place on a map.

Book your train ticket in Russia

Tickets go on sale up to 120 days in advance. Sapan tickets go on sale 90 days in advance. The easiest way is to buy directly from the Russian national company RZD, via the official website or the application.

From the official website, payment is made by credit card, in Roubles. To avoid exchange fees, I advise you to follow my good tips on payments in Russia.

Cancel / Modify your ticket

Generally, train tickets can be cancelled up to the time of departure. For example, I have already cancelled a ticket from Sapsan on the day of departure and was refunded about 90% of the original amount. The refund is made to the credit card used for the purchase.

Ticket modification is done by cancelling an existing ticket and purchasing a new one.

Special features: Moscow to St Petersburg train and in general in Russia

When you take the train for the first time in Russia, there are several details that are of interest:

  • The officers on the train. There are many company officers on the train. At least one per car. The conductor of the car is there to maintain order and safety on the train. For example, the conductor of the car will evacuate drunk passengers so that the others can travel across the train. When there is no dining car, the chef of the car will also be able to sell tea and chocolate bars. Convenient!
  • “Just like at home” style. The distances are long and you often take a night train, so you’ll do everything you can to make yourself comfortable. In the train, you put on your house clothes and slippers (that doesn’t apply to the Sapsan :)).
  • Tickets are checked at the entrance of the car, on the platform. The wagon conductor, officer, will first ask you for your passport. Then, with this information, he finds all the information on his smartphone. Thus, very often, the printing of the ticket is superfluous.

Punctuality of the trains between Moscow and St Petersburg

Train delays rarely exist in Russia. In fact, Moscow-St. Petersburg trains are among the most punctual. In the end, if your train is scheduled to arrive at 5:53 pm, you can plan a taxi for 6 pm, it won’t wait.

Russian trains are designed to run in -40°C. Including the Sapsan. So it’s not the snow in winter that will slow it down.

Technical detail: An antifreeze liquid is sprayed automatically on the bogies of the trains at the stations. You can see this on the videos that are shown in the Sapsan.

Leningrad station in Moscow

If you choose a train that leaves or arrives in Moscow, you will be at Leningrad or “Leningradsky” station. This station is also called “Oktiabrskaya”, referring to the October revolution of 1917 that took place in St. Petersburg.

In the station you will find several souvenir shops and restaurants. The station is very well served and you can reach it with several public transport (blog post about Public transport in Moscow): metro (1 and 5), tram (7, 13, 37, 50), buses and trolley buses. 

Please note. There are also other train stations in Moscow. For example, if you take the “Volga” train from Nizhny Novgorod to St. Petersburg via Moscow, the train will stop at the “Kurskaya” station. The station is always indicated before the reservation and on the ticket.

trains Moscow St Petersburg station

Moscow station in St. Petersburg

Trains with St. Petersburg as their departure or end point are usually at Moscow, or “Moskovsky” station. It is also called Saint-Petersburg GL, for the Russian word “Glavny” which means main.

There are souvenir shops here, but the restaurants are not very exciting. You can also go to the shopping center “Galleria” right next door to find a better choice of restaurants on the top floors. By the way, don’t forget my article about food and restaurants in St. Petersburg to help you find your way around.

The train station is very well located on Nevsky avenue and you will also find there several public transportation: subway (1 and 3), tram, buses and trolley buses. Everything has also been explained in a blog post about public transport in St. Petersburg.

Please note. There are also several train stations in St. Petersburg. For example, if you take the train “Artika” which connects Moscow to Murmansk via St. Petersburg, the train will stop at the “Ladojskaya” station. There too, you will find the relevant station before you book your ticket and also on the ticket.

Trains from Moscow to St Petersburg: in brief

We can finally classify the Moscow-St. Petersburg trains in 2 main categories: below is the comparison.

The fast onesThe slow ones
Travel time3h30 ~ 4h107h ~ 9h
Train costabove 30$above 15$
Frequency>10 a day>20 a day
TypeSittingSleeping
Station in MoscowLeningradskySeveral stations
Station in St PetersburgMoskovsky ou LadojskySeveral stations

I hope this article has been useful for you! By the way, which Moscow to St Petersburg train will you take?

Find out below other blog posts about Moscow and St Petersburg.

Moscow travel tips:

St Petersburg travel tips:

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