How to get here
Saratov is situated in the South-East of European part of Russia, in about 850 km (530 miles) from Moscow.
Most of the international visitors come to Saratov via Moscow. From Moscow, you can fly to Saratov (1 hour 20 minutes), go by train (around 16 hours) or go by coach. The coach is the cheapest option, but the most tiring one, and we would not recommend it.
Getting to Saratov by Train
The easiest and the most popular way to get to Saratov is by train. For most people a 16-hour train journey sounds like a doubtful experience and an extremely long one. But in fact, it is not that long compared to 6 days on Trans-Siberian Railway travelling from Moscow to Vladivostok.
In fact, your train journey can be quite entertaining, depending, of course, on who you travel with. At the end of the day, you can just go to sleep tired by your intense day in Moscow, waking up when you are nearly in Saratov. This long train journey could be a memorable part of your experience of Russia. Just make sure you purchase the right ticket fitting your lifestyle and budget.
There are about 7 trains departing from Moscow to Saratov every day (and the same number goes back to Moscow). It will take you 15 – 17,5 hours to get Saratov from Moscow depending on the train, as some trains are more comfortable and faster than others.
Most of the trains depart from Paveletsky railway station and only one (№ 086В) departs from Kazansky railway station.
First of all, you need to figure out your way to the train station. If you landed at Domodedovo airport you are lucky as there is an Aeroexpress train connecting the Domodedovo airport with the train station. It departs every half an hour and gets you there in 50 minutes.
There are also Aeroexpress trains from:
Sheremetyevo airport to Belorussky railway station
Vnukovo airport to Kievsky railway station.
You can travel between railway stations by taking the circle line on the underground (The underground train system is called “Metro” in Russia).
But remember that Aeroexpress doesn’t run from 1am till 6 am. You can buy tickets to Aeroexpress online which is cheaper than buying them at airports or train stations. Also, see the Links to Airports.
You can also take a taxi, but traffic jams are quite severe in Moscow, even at night time, so this can make your journey quite unpredictable, not to mention their exorbitant prices.
At the moment, the most comfortable trains from Moscow to Saratov are № 009Г and № 017М. They travel overnight, so passengers can sleep most of their journey. Some people can find that is not easy to sleep because of continuous clickety-clack of the wheels, but others sleep even better being lulled.
This is an example route from London:
Gatwick Airport London to Domodedovo Airport in Moscow (EasyJet) (around 4 hours)
From Domodedovo take an Aeroexpress train to Paveletsky Station (50 minutes)
From Paveletsky take a long-haul train to Saratov (16 hours)
Types of train tickets (seats)
Here are different types of seats in long-haul trains:
- Reserved seat (known in Russian as “platzcart”) – is a berth fit to sleep in a carriage with an open layout. The sleeping berths are divided with only light dividers. Two toilets are available at both ends (or both at the same end) of a carriage. Boiling water is available throughout the whole journey for free. There are 54 seats in such carriages. Thirty six of them are in cabins (without doors) and 18 are lateral – the latter is less comfortable because people pass by them all the time. Lateral seats are the cheapest, though. Lots of Russian people prefer buying reserved seats, especially youths traveling in a group.
- Compartment (known in Russian as “Coupe”) – is a seat in a separate lockable cabin for four people. You will share the cabin with other people if you’ve reserved fewer than four seats. It’s not unusual that people of different genders travel in one cabin. There are some men only or women only compartments in some carriages. But, probably, you will have problems with tickets availability if you want to choose a seat in such a compartment, especially during the summer.
- Luxury (known in Russian as “SV”) – is a comfortable berth in a private, lockable 2-person compartment. There are 9 compartments in a carriage. If you go alone, then, probably, you will share the compartment with somebody else and your compartment-mate can be of the opposite gender. Price is twice more expensive than that for an ordinary compartment seat. Sometimes, especially if you have a lot of big suitcases, it’s more practical to buy 2 (or even 4) seats in an ordinary compartment rather than one seat in a luxury compartment. In this case, you will have more space for your stuff.
- Soft – is the most comfortable type of seats (and the most expensive – four or five times more expensive than an ordinary compartment seat). There are 4 or 6 compartments in a carriage. They can have different layouts. Each compartment has its own toilet with a shower. Some can have a desk with chairs. The berth can be transformed into a bed 120cm wide. Even if you go alone, you must buy the whole compartment.
Where to get your train tickets?
You can buy a train ticket online at the official site of Russian Railways Company or at a ticket office (they can be found at any railway terminal). You can also buy tickets from ticket machines, but this can be quite sophisticated, considering the number of options you have. There are no discounts online, and no discounts for return tickets.
There are also some third-party websites and travel agents, but they might charge additional fees for their service.
Choose “MOSCOW” in the “Departure” field and “SARATOV 1 PASS” in the “Arrival” field.
Then choose a date, time and press the “Buy a ticket” button. Then you will be able to choose a train from the available list, and after that, you should choose a carriage.
At this time you can choose a location of seats in a carriage, the layout of the carriage will be displayed on the screen.
It’s cheaper and safer to buy a ticket in advance. You can have problems with ticket availability, especially at peak travel times. The earliest tickets go on sale 45 days before the desired departure date. On some trains (for example, № 009) it’s possible to buy a ticket 60 days in advance.
Ticket prices depend on the season and in some cases on the number of tickets sold: cheaper tickets are available on a first come first served basis. So you can save up to 50% buying a ticket 45 days in advance.
A passenger can take one child up to 5 years old free of charge if the child doesn’t occupy a separate berth (You must get a valid ticket for your child, but it will be free). You can also buy separate seats for some children. Discounts are available for children up to 10 years old.
On the train, you can read Terms and Conditions for travellers on Russian Railways website. Depending on the train and seat class your might have different facilities. On all trains, you can order tea or coffee, or get a free boiling water and make your own. In some tickets, a packed lunch is included, but its quality can vary. There is also a restaurant cart, where you can have a choice of foods, but you will find that many people just pack and use their own snacks.
Getting out in Saratov
If you take the train where Saratov is not a final destination you will need to watch out for your stop. Normally trains are very timely, and you can set your alarm at arriving time. A train can arrive a bit early at the station but it will always leave it according to a timetable. An alternative option is to ask car attendant (provodniza/providnik) to let you know about your station approaching.
There is only one main Train Station in Saratov and it is called… “a train station”. Hopefully, someone is meeting you there, as you will find much fewer people speak English in Saratov, compared to Moscow. From the train station, you can get anywhere in Saratov by public transport. Taxi is pretty cheap (compared to Europe or even Moscow), especially if it is pre-booked. Taxi drivers greeting you at the airport or at the station are much more expensive. Language can be a problem with taxi drivers. You can book online using this service.
Quite a cheap way to get to Saratov is traveling by coach. For additional information see Moscow-Saratov buses. There are more than 10 rounds per day. The price is similar to a reserved seat price in a train, but a journey made by bus is definitely less comfortable than mad by train. It takes about 14 hours to get from Moscow to Saratov by coach. Most of the buses depart from Paveletsky train station; the others, from bus stations (‘Kantemirovskaya’, ‘Orehovo’). You can buy a ticket online or at a ticket office.
The fastest way to get Saratov from Moscow is by plane. Three airlines service this route – SarAvia, Aeroflot and Red Wings. They all depart from the Domodedovo airport in Moscow but Aeroflot which does that from the Sheremetyevo airport. Also, the flight Moscow (Vnukovo) – Saratov is available with SarAvia. 10 flights happen during the day. The flight is about one hour and a half. The ticket price is the same as for the train if booked in advance, but if you do it at the last second, prices are about 2-3 times more expensive than a compartment seat in a train.
The last option we will consider is going from Moscow to Saratov by car. Google maps suggest several routes. Drivers advise choosing a route through М5 and Р158 (through Penza). You can try to hire a car in Moscow. Some international car hire companies are present in Moscow and their websites have English interfaces. It might be a bit more expensive to hire a car in Russia compared to the United States and most European destinations, due to risks involved in driving in Russia. It takes usually about 11-12 hours to get to Saratov (if you drive without long breaks and unexpected delays). We think that this way is not too safe for people who are not absolutely confident with Russian driving manners and the culture (or its absence) on roads.
Getting to Saratov from other places
You can also get to Saratov by train from lots of other big cities of Russia by plane (Mineralnye Vody, Kazan, Samara, Volgograd, Sochi and many others) or train; for example, there is a direct train from Saint Petersburg which reaches Saratov in about 25 hours.
Have a safe journey!