Buying train tickets, the Ukraine way


As part of our upcoming trip to Ukraine I’ve been spending a lot of time learning how the Ukrainian train system operates. Well, trying to anyways. The train network covers the country well and the overnight trains are a reasonably priced way to hop between cities, so long as you’re willing to spend the 10-12 hours the trip requires.

Until recently booking trains in Ukraine from abroad was somewhere between ridiculously annoying and impossible. A number of agencies set up operations with a local in country and a shipping account to handle the demand. This was effective, to be sure, but the shipping costs often exceeded the price of the rail fares. Ouch.

The good news is that the Ukraine railroad has recently adopted an online booking interface which is actually pretty slick. It allows for selecting not only the train that you want to take but also reserving a specific car and seats on the train.

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Of course, there are still some challenges in the process. In the few weeks since I made the initial bookings it seems that they’ve resolved the issue whereby multiple stations would show up for each city, a huge problem when you don’t know which of the five "Kyiv" options to choose.

There are still a few places in the process where an outsider can run in to trouble, however, notably when it comes time to pay.

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It wasn’t really all that hard to get through the process; the data they’re looking for is pretty clear.image

And, for those who aren’t so comfortable conducting transactions in Ukrainian, the final page does have an option to change the language. I was quite happy to buy my tickets in Ukrainian instead. I feel like I’m already on vacation.

Oh, and the tickets are delivered by email now. Not quite as awesome as hand-written forms collected from the train station, but I know that I have these already. That’s a big plus for me.

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We now have trips booked in 1st, 2nd and 3rd class cars so that we can experience all the different options available. Plenty more to come on that front once we actually start riding the trains.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

8 Comments

  1. I assume you’ve visited http://seat61.com/Ukraine.htm, but if not Seat 61 is an amazing resource for train travel. It proved essential in booking my Trans-Mongolian trip and train travel through India.

    Enjoy it – train is truly the best way to travel. Make sure to grab a bottle of Russian Standard, some tomatoes, and cucumbers before departing, and you’ll make friends in no time.

    1. I use Seat61 all the time, David. It is my go-to resource for train-related information around the world. I was quite disappointed in this case that the information provided was out of date and none of the contact avenues I saw online were working so I couldn’t provide corrections to him. 🙁

      And I will definitely be packing a bottle of booze to help smooth the ride. 😀

  2. Seth,

    Just finished a trip to Ukraine where we also purchased train tickets prior to. Couple of things to note: the email ticket is NOT your final ticket as you need to present it to a “pilot” office where they will print a real ticket for you. We went first class from Kiev to Simferopol and, although a nice throwback to yesteryear, was glad I got flights for just a little more on the return trip. Great country- enjoy.

  3. Well, screenshot where you enter payment details is actually in Russian, not Ukranian. Also it seems you selected 2 upper beds for your 2nd class ticket while lower beds were available. Finally I wouldvrecomend to avoid 3rd class for night trains as there is no rooms – you basically sleep in the same room with 51 more passengers

    1. The pair of upper beds there was just to grab the screen-shot; we have better seats for our actual booked trip. And we’re only doing 3rd class on the short trip from Simferopol to Bakhchisaray. Enough time to see what the cabin is like but during the day where we don’t have to worry about sleeping.

      Thanks, john, for the note about getting the tickets exchanged at the station. I probably would’ve skipped that.

  4. Seth,

    If I’m not mistaken, the train from Simferopol to Bakchisaray is a commuter train or “elektrichka,” which has only one class of service. It is a car with rows or wooden benches, very different from the third class ‘platzkart’ on long distance sleeper trains.

    1. There are some through trains from Kyiv, too, which is what I’m looking at booking on. I was having trouble buying those tickets the other day when I was posting about this so maybe it isn’t meant to be and we’ll be on the commuter ride instead, but both seem to be options.

  5. Also, Bakchisaray is amazing. One of the coolest places I’ve visited. Hope you enjoy it.

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