Day three of my train adventure from Edinburgh to Hong Kong, and today was another early start to catch the train to Moscow!
This train is run by Russian Railways (RZD) and the route originates in Paris as the “Paris to Moscow Express”. I joined part way along the route, from Berlin Hauptbahnhof. The train was due to leave at 7.16am but was running slightly late (around 25 mins) due to “construction works”.
A friendly conductor (provodnitsa) checked our tickets before we boarded the train and with a combination of Russian, a few words of English and sign language, made sure that we had the correct visas before boarding — travellers from the UK need a transit visa for Belarus and a visa for Russia. I hadn’t realised this initially when I booked the tickets but luckily I found out with enough time to apply for the visa and to send my passport off to the embassy in London.
First class on the Paris-Moscow Express
The train may be the nicest sleeper train I’ve ever been on! It’s full of thoughtful and useful details that make travelling easier and the trains are absolutely spotless. The provodnista even came round to our compartment around 6pm to hoover it!
The first class compartments are the same as second class, except each compartment is two-berth in first class (two beds) and four-berth in second class (more like a bunk bed arrangement).
Some of the useful details on the train:
- Each compartment on the Paris-Moscow Express has a little table with a tablecloth, RZD-branded teapot, teacups and fancy teaspoons
- The table flips up to reveal a sink underneath, you can change the water temperature
- There’s a 230V power socket either side of the table
- Four wooden coat hangers (with trouser/skirt clips), two either side of the door
- Controls in the compartment adjust the temperature, announcement sound volume, and lighting options (on/off or night-time blue light)
- An electronic key card for each person to unlock the compartment door (it locks automatically when you close the door)
- Two small towels, two pillows and a warm blanket (in a duvet cover) are provided for each bed
- Lots of space under the bed for luggage
- There are two toilets at the end of each carriage, one of them even has a shower (what luxury!) — the toilets are checked and cleaned every single hour by the provodnista and are spotless
- There’s an extensive brochure listing snacks/food/drinks and souvenirs that can be purchased on the train (prices in roubles)
The compartments are very clean and look in excellent condition. The door of the compartment opens outwards so if you have a lot of stuff on the floor you can still get out of your compartment, which is always useful!
Dining on the Paris-Moscow Express
Up until the Belarus border there’s a Polish dining car attached, it has a more retro feel than the rest of the train. I enjoyed an interesting lunch, if slightly lacking in vegetables!
The prices aren’t cheap but it was worth it for the experience of eating strange unidentifiable meat dumplings watching the unfamiliar Polish landscape go by through the window.
Back to the compartment after lunch to relax and watch the world go by.
I’m posting this before I lose internet at the border with Belarus (I don’t have a Belarus SIM), where I’ll experience border control —the first since I left London St Pancras — and the wheels will be changed on the train, as Belarus runs on a different gauge from Poland and the rest of Europe.
The journey continues onwards to Moscow! To be continued…