Moscow – St Petersburg Night Train vs Day Train

What’s Better, a Moscow-St Petersburg Day Train or Night Train?

If you’ve read our article about the different methods of travel between Russia’s two capitals and would like to go by train, then you’ll know that there are a multitude of options available. From high-speed bullet train to a luxurious and leisurely sleeper, we’re here to advise on whether a night train or day train would be the best for you.

Travelling between Moscow and St Petersburg: the basics

There are dozens of Moscow St. Petersburg trains running every day, with departures all around the clock. When travelling during the daytime, most passengers prefer to buy tickets for high-speed trains, which race between the two capitals in an average of 4 hours. There’s no sense in wasting your day aboard a train when there’s so much to see at the other end! On the other hand, a night train between Russia’s capital and the Northern Venice will take between 7 and 10 hours. You can enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep on the road, and wake up fresh for a brand new day in a brand new city. What the night train lacks in speed it makes up for in a romantic, adventurous and authentically Russian experience. Whichever option you choose, there is a day or night train to suit your comfort, budget and itinerary.

The day train

The majority of daytime trains between Moscow and St Petersburg are high-speed and provide the most efficient service for businessmen and tourists alike. Of these trains, the best by far is the Sapsan. Its name suitably means ‘peregrine falcon’ in Russian: Sapsan is the fastest high-speed train in the country. With an average speed of 250 km/h it can make the journey in as little as three-and-a-half hours, or around four hours with a handful of stops along the way. Sapsan’s multiple daily departures make this the ideal method of transport for any schedule.

Not only is Sapsan Russia’s fastest train, but it also offers the highest level of service. Here is every on-board facility you could possibly desire (plug sockets at every seat, free films, a souvenir shop and office) and six carriage classes with various levels of luxury (culminating in the First Class Conference Suite equipped with minibar and PlayStation). All this luxury does come at a price. Tickets on Sapsan generally start from 2,500 roubles for Economy Class, 5,700 roubles for Business Class, and 16,000 roubles for First Class.

The night train

While choosing a day train is pretty straightforward, selecting a night train is more complex due to the sheer number of services on offer. They can be divided into two categories: branded (firmenniy) and non-branded.

·       Branded night trains

Branded night trains have a name and a number (starting with a 0 followed by two numbers and a letter) – for example, the No. 001A Red Arrow train. These privately-owned trains offer a higher class of service, decent restaurant car, complimentary meals and more comfortable beds, and have their own design and décor. You can usually expect a quicker journey of around 7 – 8 hours. The range of night trains includes the famous Red Arrow and the luxury Grand Express train, which evoke a special mood among their lucky passengers.

All branded night trains have first class (spalny vagon) and second class (kupé) carriages, sleeping two and four passengers respectively in each compartment. Some trains also include third class (platskart) wagons with dormitory-style beds in an open-plan carriage. On the most luxurious trains you can stay in VIP compartments, boasting amenities such as private bathrooms and TVs. Ticket prices and on-board amenities vary significantly depending on the train and carriage class you choose. A second class ticket (the most popular among Western travellers) usually starts from 2,400 roubles.

·       Non-branded night trains

Non-branded trains are the slower cousin of the branded trains, typically taking 9 – 10 hours to complete their journey. They are indicated by a three-digit number and a letter (such as the No. 145A) instead of a name. Non-branded trains are older than their fancier counterparts, sometimes without air conditioning or a restaurant car, although the service typically includes a samovar (large kettle) in each carriage offering free hot water for the duration of the journey.

Some non-branded trains have first and second class carriages, whereas others are only equipped with third class and seated cars (although a 10-hour overnight journey in a seat is rarely preferred by tourists). As with branded trains, ticket prices vary based on the service and carriage class. Second class tickets generally start from 1,500 roubles.

Now we will look at two of the most popular Moscow – St Petersburg night trains.

·       The Red Arrow (Krasnaya Strela)

This is Russia’s most famous and historic night train, founded to shuttle the Communist Party elite between Moscow and Leningrad. The service has run non-stop since Soviet times although today it has opened up to a much wider clientele. With grand furnishings and distinct red colour throughout the train, a convenient 8-hour journey leaving just before midnight and arriving at 8am, and a special song played upon departure and arrival, the Red Arrow is a novel experience beloved by tourists. You can travel in second, first and VIP class, and tickets start from 2,400 roubles, 6,000 roubles and 15,000 roubles (price for the entire cabin).

·       The Grand Express

If you prefer the luxury of a 5* hotel then the Grand Express is the Russian night train for you. Characterising itself as a ‘hotel on wheels’, the Grand Express is the only private luxury train company in the country and offers an unparalleled level of comfort and service. Each cabin is equipped with high-quality furniture, entertainment system and internet access. Standard and Business Class cabins offer the same amenities as typical second and first class cabins, but the extravagance really begins in the Grand Imperial Class cabins, which boast extra-wide beds, private air conditioners, your choice of delicious hot breakfast and dinner, business-class transfers, and a private bar in the carriage. Standard Class tickets start from 2,400 roubles, Business Class from 5,000 roubles, and Grand Class from 20,000 roubles (price for the entire cabin).


Sapsan high-speed train is the most efficient way to travel between Moscow and St Petersburg, ideal for those on a tight schedule who prefer not to sleep on the train. However, if you’d like to experience the journey as well as the destination, then a night train would be a great option. You can tailor your sleeper train experience to your desired level of comfort, service and atmosphere – if you’re on a budget then a non-branded train will serve you well, and if you’re looking for something special then the Grand Express would be perfect. Whether you choose a day train or night train, it’s sure to be an unforgettable experience! All the above also applies to St. Petersburg Moscow trains