Tickets on all trains traveling within the Russian territory can be booked directly through the online platform of the Russian Railways. The process is easy, straightforward, and provides you with detailed information about the available facilities on each train and wagon. You will just need to set up your personal user account and you are ready to… book and go!
Important Note: The Russian Railways open their ticket sales from 90 to 45 days prior to departure (depending on the route).
For the Trans-Manchurian and Trans-Mongolian trains, you can refer to the following websites that offer online ticket sales under the minimum commission in the market:
Train Classes Explained
Before booking your train ticket, you need to familiarize yourself with the main differences between the train classes you can choose from while traveling on the Trans-Siberian / Trans-Mongolian / Trans-Manchurian routes.
First Class (also referred to as “SV”, which stands for Spalny Vagon = Sleeping Wagon)
Clearly the most comfortable option with two lower beds, a folding table, storage space, personal reading light, charging sockets, and a sliding door that locks from the inside for extra safety. Each compartment has 9 separate cabins and 2 toilets that are shared among its passengers. Each compartment can accommodate a maximum of 18 persons. In a few trains, first class might also offer the luxury of a shower!
Second Class (also referred to as “Coupe”)
Each cabin includes 4 beds (two lower and two upper ones), a folding table, storage space, personal reading light, charging sockets, and a sliding door that locks from the inside for extra safety. Each compartment has 9 separate cabins and 2 toilets that are shared among its passengers. Each compartment can accommodate a maximum of 36 persons.
Third Class (also referred to as “Platskart”)
It is actually an open air compartment with each “virtual” cabin space including 4 beds on the one side (two upper and two lower ones) and 2 beds along the aisle (one upper and one lower one). There is one table on the 4-bed section, while the lower bed of the side/aisle bunk can be transformed into a table and two seats during the day-time. Overall, there are no sliding doors in Platskart, yet each bed comes with its own storage space (above or under the bed), personal reading light, and some charging sockets. There are also 2 toilets to be shared among the passengers. Each compartment can accommodate a maximum of 54 persons.
Upper vs Lower Bed
It might seem that the lower bed is the best option to choose from (that’s why it is usually charged extra), but it ain’t necessarily like this.
Storage Space: Lower beds indeed offer larger storage space and are more convenient especially if you travel with oversized luggage. However, you should avoid by all means the lower bed of the side/aisle bunk in the 3rd class, as it has the smallest (if not nonexistent) storage space.
Safety: In lower beds, your luggage is stored underneath the bed itself, which guarantees safety while sitting or sleeping, however, I consider the upper beds to be equally safe as people will need to climb up to reach your stuff. And speaking about safety, it worth mentioning that Platskard (3rd class) is, in fact, the safest class as through an informal agreement everyone is kindly taking care of his/her neighbors’ personal belongings throughout the entire journey!
View: People tend to say that upper beds do not offer such great views compared to the lower ones, but believe me this is totally untrue. In the one case that I was assigned to an upper bed, I enjoyed the views way more and I was also able to get my camera out of the window for some great shots, while from the lower beds you can only take pictures through the window.
Comfort: When traveling on a long-distance train, the people occupying the upper beds will need to get down and sit somewhere during the daytime. That been said, lower beds are meant to serve as seating space for passengers unless the people who “officially” occupy them decide to lay down and sleep the whole day! And since you can be either this or that person, you’d better be prepared for both scenarios!
Take-away Tip: As a general rule, the lower beds are assigned to odd numbers (1, 3, 5…), while the upper beds are assigned to even numbers (2, 4, 6…).