The Trans-Siberian Railway has three different classes of railway car. Your travel experience will depend completely on which of these you choose. One aspect is, of course, the vastly differing prices. Even more important is personal preference. Do you want to get to know the country and people or do you prefer a peaceful journey? What are the hygienic standards?
Platzkartny – The 3rd Class of the Trans-Siberian Railway
In the cheap 3rd Class, there are no separate compartments, just an open carriage. In the picture on the right you can see what it looks like inside.
There are always two beds, one above the other. On each side of the aisle are two bunk beds side by side, with a small table by the window between the beds. The lower beds can be folded up and have luggage lockers underneath. One side is like an open compartment. On the other side of the corridor, the beds are parallel to the passage. The lower bed can be folded up during the day and turned into a table. Altogether there are around nine combinations with a total of 54 beds in a railway car.
Spending the night so close to so many strangers is not everyone’s cup of tea. On the other hand these tickets, the so-called “Platznykarty” are much cheaper. It is also the best way to get to know the country and people playing a round of Durak. Most Russians are very friendly and interested in foreigners and constantly offer us food and drink. If you need your rest and don’t want to chat continuously, this is not the place for you. If you decide to use this class of car try, if possible, to get the compartment-side bed. There you have some peace because you sleep with your head to the window. Moreover, one can leave the bed down during the day and snooze in comfort. The beds on the compartment side have the numbers 1-36. The beds on the corridor side, the numbers 37-54.
Kupe and Lux – the better railcar classes of the Trans-Siberian Railway
The second Class (Kupe) is considerably more private. There are four beds in a lockable compartment. The allocation of bunks is similar to that in the open 3rd Class compartment. No distinction is made between men and women, bunks are assigned randomly. You have more peace of mind here but also no contact with the locals. The 2nd Class is used by tourists mainly.
In the first Class (Lux) there are only two beds in a compartment, the upper bunks are absent. These are supposedly cleaner and better maintained.
No definite recommendation can be given. Those who want a real Trans-Siberian adventure should choose the 3rd class. If you feel you might be overwhelmed, the 2nd Class is the better choice. The 1st Class is probably suitable for only few readers here. To get a feel about how the prices differ, I recommend my page on Trans-Siberian Railway Prices.
Remember that tickets for the 3rd Class are not available everywhere. You will find more information about this on my page on Trans-Siberian Railway Ticket Booking.