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Travelled Moscow - Vladivostok?


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#21 v v

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Posted 20 December 2016 - 06:39 AM

In truth compared to UK long distance or many UK train fares the Polrail prices are quite reasonable, but...

 

I initially ran a comparison between Deutsche Bahn and Polrail for the journey between Berlin and Warsaw, in GBP the prices were for the same train   DB - £100     and     Polrail - £208. I accept that DB have special offers at the opening of the ticket window and these offers may be very special, also that the Polrail website is very simple to use and in good English, plus the price for 4 adults in 2 x 2 berth sleepers on a 16 1/2 hour journey for 460 € is a good price, but my initial reaction to the Polrail price being more than double of the DB price for the same journey on the same day on the same train was how expensive they were as a company. Think I must not jump to too many conclusions in future and just research more. 

 

Barciur, thank you for pointing out the issue with RZD and E Tickets, I hadn't picked that up as I started with RZD looking at their offerings on the Trans Siberian trains where E Tickets are the norm, and then went back to the Kiev - Moscow train as an after thought. I was hoping to use the Ukraine website to book Kiev - Moscow but found navigating around that not so straight forward. Again made an assumption that RZD had the same policy for international trains as for their domestic ones, more research needed.

 

Thanks to everybody for their input, will be back later with more questions.



#22 Barciur

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Posted 20 December 2016 - 01:23 PM

Right. I e-mailed PolRail out of curiousity and they quoted me for Kiev - Warsaw single ticket as the same as the official price + 16 PLN for shipping. BUt I did e-mail them in Polish, maybe there is a difference.

 

As for DB and Polish difference, yes, differences are large - DB has different promos than do DB and maybe PolRail are just quoting the full price which is exchangable and refundable, whereas the promo fares are not. And the Promo fares are only available through Deutsche Bahn if coming from Germany and not a round trip.

 

As for the Ukrainian train, here's what you will find useful.

 

https://e-kvytok.kiev.ua/en/gd

 

On this website you can buy a ticket from Kiev to Moscow. This site is in good English and will provide you with Ukrainian tickets. Once you buy them, you get an e-mail confirmation and you have to exchange the e-mail you receive for actual tickets at the train station. This is not a problem, however, or not a big one - you have up until 15 minutes before departure to exchange them, but I wouldn't wait that long ;) Usually takes me 30-45 minutes to do this because often the ticket agent windows aren't market well, some have a break, you get stuck in line etc. But I bought tickets for Ukrainian trains through this website and I can definitely recommend this.



#23 v v

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Posted 20 December 2016 - 04:12 PM

Barciur, you just beat me to it although with another company, UZ the national rail Co. Must thank you for taking the trouble, the Kvytok website is very easy to use and has some extra pieces of information too.

 

Earlier went back to Ukraine Rail (UZ), persevered but couldn't find a method of entering Moscow into the destination box even though I used 4 different spellings of Moscow. Contacted the email address given and after a bit of helpful to-ing and fro-ing got the correct spelling 'Moskva' for their website. It still didn't work as it needs either 4 letters to self fill the box or you type in the entire station name ' Moskva Kievskaia ' and then delete the last one or sometimes 2 letters and the self filling box will appear for you to click.

 

The UZ tried very hard to help and was very impressed, most but not all of the information shown on the Kvytok site is shown too and the tickets are just under 2€ cheaper so absolutely nothing in it. It appears that both companies need the tickets to be collected at Kiev Pass station but we have nearly 10 hours in Kiev so that is no problem at all.

 

Tickets for our departure date are available in 21 days time, can't wait.



#24 Barciur

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Posted 20 December 2016 - 07:16 PM

Great. Glad that you got this figured out now!

 

On a side note, this might be the last time to travel on the Warsaw - Kiev train, as there are talks of getting rid of those sleeper cars as early as June. So glad you're still getting into it - make sure you take some pictures ;)

 

You will also be passing through my home town, Lublin, which you may or may not recall from some of my trip reports that I have done in the past. Wave for me ;)



#25 v v

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 05:24 AM

Have now booked the Warszawa to Kyiv journey for the 28 February using Polrail, very simple but no e-tickets so having to courier them to us. I'll do my best with photos of the Kiev Express sleeper and have noted that we pass Lublin at 7:20 pm so all set.

Do you know if there are any food shops directly outside Warszawa Centralna station as the 16 1/2 hour sleeper journey has no catering at all.

 

Thanks for all your help, very much appreciated



#26 Barciur

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Posted 21 December 2016 - 07:43 AM

Yes. As you get off the train, you are on a platform underground. Escalators take you into passages of stores - cafes, bars, restaurants etc. There is also a large shopping mall adjacent to the station. Just check on one of the departures boards which platform you are getting back to so there is no stress and hassling later on. But there is plenty of things, also there is a supermarket upstairs in the main hall - there are steps leading to it and then once you're on ground level there are still steps and you should see a name BIEDRONKA somewhere - that's the supermarket, if that is what you want. It is a discount supermarket so they might not have a lot like a normal Tesco etc. would, but that should suffice. ;)

 

Enjoy your trips! Can't wait for your report and you are welcome for the help - if you have any further questions hit us up, somebody will probably know.



#27 v v

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Posted 22 December 2016 - 08:33 PM

Biedronka is perfect, have 1 h 50 min between arriving from Berlin to leaving for Kiev so a supermarket in the station is just what we need, thank you again.



#28 v v

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 08:28 AM

Questions for Gemuser and Ziv (or anyone else who has travelled the Trans Sib)

 

What class did you travel?

 

Was it a good choice?

 

Would you travel the same class again?

 

Did you travel end to end without getting off for a layover somewhere?

 

What time of year did you travel?

 

 

Thank you



#29 ScouseAndy

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 10:36 AM

I did trans Mongolia in Kupe class ~ I broke my journey in Irkutsk and Ulan Bator before ending in Beijing

If I was doing it again I'd still stop in Irkutsk but the only think I'd change would be that I'd swerve Ulan Bator and Mongolia full stop and save the additional visa costs etc.

Kupe class was fine I shared the journey to Irkutsk with a Russian submariner based in the Artic Circle who was going to see family in Irkutsk all the way, the other berths had a 2 Russian on the 1st night who kept them selves to themselves travelling on business. When they got off an English couple in their 60s took there berth who had sold everything they owned and where travelling to Australia overland to live with their son.

I travelled in September and autumn had just started.

Edited by ScouseAndy, 29 December 2016 - 10:38 AM.


#30 v v

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Posted 29 December 2016 - 06:45 PM

Enjoyed your story about your travelling companions Andy, that's what it's about for us, meeting people while watching the world go by from a train window.

 

Have read up a little about meals and how the dining car is rarely used by most, how did you get on with it? Are the babushkas on the station platforms frequent enough to supplement the dining car and whatever you take with you?

 

Last question for now. We are packing very light indeed and haven't as yet seen whether there are towels supplied in Kupe class, what was your experience?

 

Thanks for the info it's all appreciated, believe there's a big game on tomorrow (Saturday) somewhere.



#31 Ziv

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 03:10 AM

v v, I took the Trans-Sib in late fall and January, and January was stunning. The snow and the woods were just un-ending. Late fall was ok but I missed the leaves changing color. (I think it was late fall because I can't remember the exact date and I can't remember green trees. I don't remember the month but I would bet that every month has something going for it.)

I don't think there was a towel in my compartment. There is no shower for 2nd Class cars/kupes, so the towel would be a bit less needed. I used a medium sized travel towel and washed up at the common sink every morning. It dried pretty quickly both winter and fall, the air in the train is fairly dry but not bone dry.

I went 2nd Class Hard Sleeper, which is a form of Kupe like Scouse Andy mentions. It is a 4 berth room with nice sized beds and a table that can be set up. 2nd Class Soft Sleeper costs more but is only slightly larger. I don't think hard or soft mean anything about the beds just about the level of space that you get. In kupe you usually have 4 people to start with and then frequently you end up with just 2 or 3 people for the part of the trip from Irkutsk to Moscow.

Deluxe 1st Class in really cool, it has just 2 beds, one up, one down, a table and a little seat PLUS it has en suite sink, shower and if memory serves, a toilet. But I am not sure about the toilet. But I really lusted after that shower on day 4 and day 5! 1st Class is worth the extra money! The share toilet was always clean for the short time we were in China, but shortly after we got to Russia it got kind of bad the first trip and the second trip it was really filthy.

The cafe car was good in China, and not that expensive. In Russian the soups and the borscht were pretty good, the other meals were kind of hit or miss. It seems like each of us found a dish we liked but they ran out of those dishes 2 days out of Moscow. Maybe we were supposed to tip/bribe them more? Not sure.

Tip the provodnik to lock your compartment when you are out shopping for food and beer during the stops. I never lost anything but the people I traveled with said that theft was fairly common if you didn't lock up. 

We ate a lot of smoked fish and sausage, and drank a decent amount of beer. I brought about 4 Japanese ramen containers, 2 little red gouda cheeses and 2 dehydrated chile meals I got at a hiking store in Beijing. I cut small bits of sausage or smoked fish into the ramen containers before I hit the samovar/hot water machine. I don't think it was an actual tea samovar, it was just nearly boiling water which was really handy. The chile meals were supposedly enough for 2 people but they were small and cost about $9US each, which seemed larcenous, but I wished I had had more of them after they ran out. The gouda cheeses were a great change of pace.

I brought a 3 piece tea container with a tea leaf mesh container on top so I could pour the hot water over the tea leaves and then fill it so the leaves were steeping. Then I unscrewed and removed the part of the container with the tea leaves in it, leaving a half liter of brewed tea. These tea containers were really popular in China but I haven't seen them/noticed them anywhere else. Tea is huge in China, obviously, and every friendly traveler seems to have a special blend that they think is the perfect tea. 

My first time on the Trans-Sib was during the winter and I traveled with a Canadian guy and a Nordic couple that were traveling 1st Class. The Canadian guy and I ran into the "business men" who were traveling from Beijing to the Russian Border. I don't think they all deal drugs, I think they carry stuff that is only marginally illegal, but there were a lot of them. That trip was kind of cool for the people we traveled with. In my kupe there was a woman that ran an orphanage in Ulaan Bataar and a Russian "business man". We also met 6 Russian commercial models, which was very cool! The funny thing is that they boarded wearing their make up and I didn't recognize them later that day when I saw them without the make up. And we met a couple Russian young men who were traveling to Israel to be security guys outside Israeli cafes in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. This was back in the really bad days, and the idea was that these bouncers would be trained to identify potential suicide bombers and they were to do their best (I am not sure if they were armed or not) to keep the terrorists from getting the bombs into the cafes or near the outside seating areas. I don't know if they were pulling our leg, but the other Russians seemed to take them at their word and it was apparently a relatively common way to work for a year or two and save a lot of money. The Russians that didn't like the idea called them a word they translated as "catchers". Which kind of gives you an idea of why they didn't like the job. If you catch a bomber just before the bomb goes off... 

I got to help the lady that ran the orphanage carry 24 boxes of fruit from the last stop in China to the train. That was kind of cool. Apparently fruit is super expensive in Mongolia.

The second trip I traveled with a couple from Germany, and we were three in the kupe after a Russian guy left at the border of Russia. That trip I stopped off at Irkutsk, the trip to Lake Baikal took about an hour, but it was well worth it! Very cool stay, the Buryat people are very nice hosts, and they love to talk about Lake Baikal and their own history!

On the Trans-Sib, food was really important, booze nearly as important and books/kindles were right up there as well. We played cards a lot, we took unending photos, almost none of which are worth a hoot, and we drank a LOT of tea.


Edited by Ziv, 31 December 2016 - 05:09 AM.


#32 v v

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 01:37 PM

Well Ziv, what to say, in total admiration of your descriptions of living on the Tans Sib.

 

You have now created a problem for us, the draw of meeting all those people by travelling Kupe class is enormous, it's our kind of travelling. The fact that you swooned over 1st class travel makes us think, decisions, decisions. If you were to make a 3rd Trans Sib journey what class would you pick?

 

After reading the info and descriptions we can't wait, any more reflections on journeys taken or basic info on using these trains gratefully received.

 

Hope we all have a very happy New Year in 2017, and thank you AU forum  



#33 Gemuser

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 10:57 PM

We travelled in a tour group. I don't know the name of the class but it was the 4 berth compartment coach, not the dormitory style coach on regular everyday trains.

We had no problems with it, although we shared it with an english speaking couple so didn't have language problems that some fellow travellers did.

I'd do it again

We stoped only at Irkutsk and spent one night there and one night in a small village on the shores of Lake Baikal.

That was our only complaint, we did not make enough stops nor & the Irkutsk stop was not long enough to ride the Port Baikal Railway.

We traveled in August 2010 and were 6-7 days on the train [some train times were all over the clock as trains run on Moscow time]. 

One point to note, especially for the ladies, there are no washing facilities on the trains other than the hand basin in the toilets. The cars were not always in top mechanical condition and we ran out of toilet paper 2 days out of Vladivostok, but we never ran out of tea!



#34 v v

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Posted 02 January 2017 - 06:47 AM

Thanks Allen, interesting to hear of the priorities, tea or toilet paper. All good information and best of all from paying customers too.

 

Our choice of which class to use has been made up for us as our friend from Taiwan wants to make this journey too so she is flying to Berlin to join us there. We decided to use the 2nd class 4 berth Kupe car to travel together so we'll see who we get as a 4th travelling companion.

Tickets for our Trans Sib travel dates are released later this week and having noticed there is a 10% +/- discount on the first few days/weeks of the tickets being on sale so will book immediately they are available. We are going to use the Russian Railways English language ticket booking system (RZD) as it is substantially less than any of the agencies, but of course if we get a problem we wont have the back up of an agency with good English speakers. But there again if travel was all about having everything under control there wouldn't be any surprises... 



#35 v v

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Posted 08 January 2017 - 07:51 PM

An update on purchasing tickets for the Trans Siberian online.

 

We have our tickets in 2 parts, they are both in English and the ticket that will get us on board is in Russian with some (enough) English translations. Buying turned out to be a saga though as all through the ticket buying process for the whole journey we have tried to buy directly from the train company and not agents, in the main it was successful but not always.

 

RZD the Russian Railways operating company have a good English language website, with a little practice it was very useable. They were priced the lowest and had the most up to the minute information on availability of tickets. At the end of the purchase section there is a page for paying for the tickets with regular credit or debit cards, it only needs translating as it's all in Russian. Over 2 days we tried 14 times with 4 different cards to buy these tickets but to no avail, 14 times we were told our bank had refused payment, now the 4 cards are with 3 different banks and all have more than enough funds to buy these tickets several times over.

 

We phoned our banks 5 times, two conversations were very long as interested agents also wanted to understand what was happening too. It turns out that the clearing house Visa okayed all the payments but the payments were never taken. More than this we don't know or understand. I also wrote to RZD on 4 occasions and they tried very hard to explain that they understood the system and described how payment was taken but had no idea either.

 

At this point we are desperate as the GBP is falling in value by the day (tickets were priced in Roubles) and these tickets are quite popular, we also wanted to get the 3 of us travelling into the same compartment. So took a look at the ticket selling agencies, the mark-up is very varied indeed. There are 3 companies who may be one and the same, Russian Rail, Russian Train, and Trans Siberian Express, all are based in St Petersburg.  There is also Real Russia among others who are based in London (along with our banks) but their mark-up was nearly the highest but had to say they appear to operate a very efficient service, at a price.

We went for Trans Siberian Express only because on asking the 3 companies the same simple question they gave the answer that made most sense.

 

Went through their ticket purchase procedure which is quite straight forward, used the card we had used most and had failed most with RZD, bingo, payment made and all documentation sent to us within minutes. There were explanations with the documents and directions of what to do. Asking a further question after purchase their response was fast and complete with good information. We are happy and relieved ticket buyers and can on our experience heavily recommend Trans Sib Express.

 

Hope this helps others in the future.  

 

28/01/2017 Update on ticket purchase problems - The company Trans Siberian Express have an office in St Petersburg, Russia, but payment was taken in euros to Riga, Latvia where they may have their head office? This has allowed them to ease the problem of making a card payment of any sort directly into Russia it appears.


Edited by v v, 27 January 2017 - 10:26 PM.


#36 ScouseAndy

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 02:06 AM

1st time I booked I used Real Russia agency as they also arranged my visa's.

Subsequently now I have contacts in Russia they buy tickets for me and I wire the money over.

Some hotels (and perhaps hostels) in Irkutsk will arrange tickets for a smaller mark up then the main agencies.

#37 v v

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 04:54 AM

Thanks Andy, that's good to know for the future.



#38 v v

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 09:35 PM

Today have completed the ticket jigsaw of what has morphed from a Moscow to Vladivostok train journey to a round the world set of travels, the last piece was the Kiev to Moscow sleeper train.

 

As we had a lot of difficulty trying to pay for the Trans Sib tickets from RZD (Russia State Rail) I wanted to use the Ukraine State Railway website as there are similarities in the way they operate. The Ukraine Railways have an English language website at   www.uz.gov.ua   click on the English tab at the top, then on Passengers which will bring up all the options. It's a very easy site to use but it's best using their version of town and city names, for example Kiev = Kyiv   and    Moscow = Moskva. Have to say the Russian RZD site was also easy to use too.

 

Booked the sleepers we required, went to the payment page and dreading clicking the PAY button after the experience with RZD. Clicked pay, completion of the transaction was super fast and we had our ticket collection document, this is not a ticket.

We can either present this document in Kyiv Pas station at a ticket collection window or find an automat and print our tickets ourselves. We have 9 1/2 hours between trains in Kyiv so plenty of time to use the system we want.

 

The Ukraine English language ticket purchase website was as slick as any other we have used, loved the little boxes you can tick when buying the tickets to order 1 tea or 2 teas per person, let you know later how that works.

 

We are using 9 sets of tickets on 11 main line train journeys in various countries, the most difficult train for us to catch is the first one from our home in Essex, England to St Pancras International, London! For 10 weeks there are major works on this line every weekend for 10 weeks, in effect the line is closed. The works frequently over-run on Monday mornings and we have to catch the first train on Monday morning! That is for a 40 mile train ride into Liverpool Street before catching the London Tube round to St Pancras. We decided that we will travel late the night before and hope we can sit in Starbucks at the station until our Eurostar leaves early 06:55 on Monday 27 February, only 26 days away.

 

We have brought this journey forward 1 year as having seen the rapid changes in the UK, the USA and soon to come France, Holland and Germany we are not sure how easy it will be to move around the world as it is at the present. This has led to us taking only about 2 1/2 months to put all arrangements in place of the more leisurely 6-8 months we would usually take, and it does all feel a bit rushed have to say.

 

That said, all tickets are bought and paid for, friends have invited us if we were passing near, and we are excited. We shall travel in some very different cultures and climates zones in one trip that have no connection to each other and for the first time for us, we do feel very fortunate being able to make this journey. 


Edited by v v, 31 January 2017 - 09:39 PM.


#39 Barciur

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Posted 31 January 2017 - 09:52 PM

This is fantastic! Also, thanks to you I have found out that you are now able to book a ticket to Russia from UZ website, which was not the case as recently as the summer. This is clearly new so good stuff. However, there is no automats in Ukraine (at least as of this past summer) so in Kyiv you will have to go to the ticket office. Let us know how all that works! And let me know if they do in fact have ticket machines now that you can change your paper ticket into! That'd be great.

 

Anyway, very excited for you as well and looking forward to your detailed trip report! If you have pictures of any of the tickets, do post them! Always looking for tickets!

 

So what is your full itienary? Would you care to tell us exact trains/times you are taking them? :)



#40 v v

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Posted 01 February 2017 - 07:57 AM

Thanks for your encouragement Barciur, I'll publish our detailed route a little later.

 

Most of the tickets we have are e-tickets but a few are physical tickets. Is it the schedule you want to see or the look of the ticket?






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