Travelling by Train within Ukraine
Trains are Ukrainians' favored mode of long-distance transportation.
Prices are low, and sleeper cars make it possible to sleep at night in reasonable comfort. In addition to long-distance trains, there are short-distance "elektrichki" (electric) that connect regional capitals with outlying towns and villages. An overnight rail journey in Ukraine can be a fun and an adventure (especially if others travelling in your compartment befriend you and offer you vodka, which is known to happen!.
Ukrainian railway stations
Large cities generally have two raiway stations located next to each other — one for long-distance trains ("вокзал" or "ж/д вокзал") and another for local electric trains ("пригородный вокзал" - Russ.; "приміський вокзал" - Ukr.).
Buying rail tickets
In large cities, there are railway ticket offices ("залізнична каса" - Ukr., "ж/д касса" - Russ.) scattered around town in addition to the central train station ("вокзал" - Russ. and Ukr.) where you can buy train tickets (but not for "elektrichki"). You no longer need ANY picture I.D. to buy train tickets to destinations within Ukraine OR to board trains!
Buy tickets ahead of time!
You need to buy tickets in advance, because often they run out several days before departure. This is especially true of the summer months and weekends.
Ticket office hours
Be prepared for lines at the ticket office and waits of as much as 30 minutes. Some offices tend to be busier, others faster. Try going early in the morning to avoid a long.
Ticket office hours
Be prepared for lines at the ticket office and waits of as much as 30 minutes. Some offices tend to be busier, others faster. Try going early in the morning to avoid a long. Usually even better is about half an hour after opening. Hours are typically 8 or 9 am to 7 pm with an hour-long lunch break from either 12 to 1 pm or 1 to 2 pm and two or more "technical breaks" of a 20-minute duration during the day. In Kiev and other big cities, expect ticket offices at the central train station to work round the clock. In all stations there is a 'special' service desk or office. Here you will pay an extra 'surcharge' for a ticket, but believe me the 1,50$ is worth paying to avoid the waiting
Here is what you'll need to tell the ticket lady (in Ukraine this is considered a woman's job):
* your destination
* the date of departure
* class of carriage (SV, kupé, or platzkart. Explanation's below)
* the number of passengers
* your preferred train number or time of departure, if necessary the same information for your return ticket!
There are three classes of rail carriages in Ukraine today
"SV" This is the best type of carriages in Ukraine. Every carriage has 9 cabins, 2 berths in each cabin. Beneath the lower berth(s) there is a box for luggage, which can accommodate 1-2 medium bags
There is a larger storage area for luggage in the niche above the door. There is a small unfolding table by the window. Every cabin has a door lock and can be locked from inside. There are two models of 1st class cabins: - with horizontal berths (two berths on the same level) - with vertical berths (one berth is above another, those cabins usually have a wash-stand under unfolding table lid) Each carriage has WCs with wash-stands, 2 per each carriage. Air-conditioning is functioning only while the train engine is working. Therefore it might be rather hot in the first hour or so of the trip and when the train is making stopovers. One or two stewards serve every carriage.
2nd class, (kupé/coupe), sleeper
2nd class is usually the acceptable type of carriage. The quality depends on a train. Each carriage has 9 cabins, each cabin has 4 berths - 2 lower and 2 upper ones. There are boxes for luggage below lower berths, with a bigger storage area for luggage in the niche above the door. There is a small unfolding table by the window. Every cabin has a door lock and can be locked from inside. 2nd class cabins in Express trains are usually air-conditioned but not always. Each carriage has WCs with washing-stands, 2 per each carriage. One or two stewards serve every carriage.
Platskartny" (3rd class) is an open-plan dormitory car for 54 people. There are 54 berths , arranged in bays of 6: 4 on one side of the aisle (seats # from 1 to 36) and two on the other side along the coach (seats # from 37 to 54). Very cheap, as long as you don't mind to socialize with people but not recommended by us
Which class should I get?
In my opinion, there is little difference in the "quality of sleep" between 1st and second class, both compartments are enclosed and usually comfortably air conditioned or heated and the bunks are the same length (about 190 cm). 3rd class is harder to sleep in since there is more noise from everyone else in the carriage, the lights are turned low but not completely off, the bunks are slightly shorter (about 180 cm), and there is no air conditioning (but there is heating).
While on board and travelling.
First of all don’t be late. You will still need to find a platform and a car to which you are assigned. At the door to the car, attendant (“provod’nik” -male, provod’nitsa - female) will check your ticket. About 20 - 30 minutes after departure the attendant will come around to take your ticket and to bring your bedding (two sheets, pillowcase and towel) if you travel “SV" first-class compartment you will find that the bed has already been made. You will be offered coffee or tea (you must pay but its is minimal) You can bring your own cup and a few bags of tea or coffee. Hot water is available for free in the boiler at the end of the corridor. Also pre buy food for the journey! Bring your own toilet paper, just in case there is none in the toilet. Infact I have never known there to be any, so you have been warned!
.It is quite a common situation when people in your compartment invite you to join them for a meal.
Travelling by rail in Ukraine is secure, as long as you use the common sense that you would use anywhere:
Keep your luggage in a safe place under a bottom bunk. Keep money, documents and valuables on yourself. Try not to leave your compartment for a long time. Lock the compartment door during the night.
You can also travel alone if you wish - just book a full compartment for your private usage. But it might be smarter to exchange some privacy for possible increased safety when there are other people in your compartment.
Whichever way of travelling by rail you choose, try to accept it as a fun adventure. After a few journeys you will become an expert at Ukraine railway travel.
My final advice is!
1) Buy tickets for the 1st and 2nd class cars only. This way you will avoid many problems and travel in comfort. Please enjoy the experience
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