Day 12: Traveling Platskartny

by Jessica Marsden on July 14, 2010

THE BORDER BETWEEN ASIA AND EUROPE — Today is our last full day on the train — hurrah! — and since I’ve already told you about what we do and what we eat onboard, I thought today I’d tackle the question of what the digs are like.

For all of our train rides within Russia, we’ve been traveling platskartny, the lowest of three levels of sleeper car. There are two upper and two lower berths in each compartment, plus two more berths stacked along the opposite wall. There are no doors in platskartny — the corridor runs through the compartments.

Platskartny compartment on a Russian train

Sitting pretty in platskartny.

In other respects, the service is just as good as it is in the higher classes. You get a package of clean sheets when you get on board, and each berth is equipped with a pillow and thick wool blanket. The provodnitsas — carriage attendants — are vigilant about cleanliness, regularly vacuuming the floors and using generous doses of bleach on the toilets. Plus, the openness of the carriages gives you a certain amount of safety through publicity.

Yet somehow, both of our guidebooks warn strenuously against the discomforts of platskartny. They recommend traveling kupe (coupe), which for twice the price gets you a four-berth compartment and a door that shuts.

We rode kupe for our two international legs, with mixed results. The seemingly brand-new kupe compartment that we occupied from China to Mongolia was admittedly a step up, with very effective air-conditioning and an electric . But our Mongolia-to-Russia compartment was stuffy, and as far as decor and comfort go, no better than platskartny.

I’ve traveled sleeper class in India and hard sleeper in Vietnam, and platskartny is nicer than either of those. If you’re on a budget or enjoy mingling with the locals, platskartny is your best bet — no matter what the guidebooks say.

I’m posting every day during my journey along the Trans-Mongolian Railway! See previous posts in my Trans-Mongolian Diary or subscribe to my RSS feed to follow along.

Related posts:

  1. Day 20: Trans-Mongolian Finale
  2. Trans-Mongolian Diary: Introduction
  3. Day 5: How to Spend 33 Hours on a Train
  4. Day 1: The Romance of Place Names
  5. Day 10: A Non-Zagat Guide to Trans-Mongolian Dining

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy aka mytimetotravel July 14, 2010 at 10:38 am

Thanks for the info and the photo. I traveled kupe, which was reasonably comfortable, but a bit isolated. How noisy was platskartny at night?

Jessica Marsden July 14, 2010 at 11:14 am

I didn’t find it very noisy at all, actually. Everyone went right to sleep, pretty early. (On the other hand, snoring is the only sound that really keeps me awake.) The car was pretty light, though – the blinds weren’t very good and we were so far north that “night” was actually pretty short. They also leave some of the car lights on all night. That said, I slept very well compared to past overnight train experiences.

Kathy aka mytimetotravel July 14, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Thanks – the all-night lights would be a big problem for me. Guess I’ll stick to kupe, although I mostly met other foreigners, or Russians who just wanted to sleep!

arb July 14, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Thanks for the info, and especially the photo. :-}

Andrew Murray July 22, 2010 at 7:35 am

Plats is the best way to go for that all authentic train ride through Mongolia or Russia. I don’t understand why the guidebooks recommend against it. The only benefit I can see, comes from 1st class, where you obtain a toilet, but this comes at the price of being surrounded by other tourists. 3rd class all the way!

Jessica Marsden July 22, 2010 at 9:48 am

Agreed! There are so many better ways to spend your money – namely, food! And museums, of course.

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