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For many travellers, visiting Russia is a journey of a lifetime. Therefore, if you do make it to Russia and are arriving in Moscow or St Petersburg, it would be a pity to see one and not the other. These two major cities are well connected, and both have something unique to share.
Moscow may well be the contemporary capital of Russia, but historically St Petersburg also held the position of capital in the 18th and 19th centuries. These were the two centuries of imperial rule, when the Russian empire was at its height of power and wealth. As memories of its historic past, St Petersburg has many lavish palaces, museums and beautiful works of architecture. Moscow provides the vibe of a modern capital, but when you feel exhausted with it all, head over to St Petersburg for a change of scenery and a whole new city to discover.
Trains run on a regular basis, during the day and overnight, connecting the Moskovsky station in St Petersburg and the Leningrad station in Moscow. The fastest way to travel is by the Sapsan train, which is a comfortable, modern train that takes just under four hours of journey time. Prices for standard seats hover around 2,500-3,000 rubles (US$39-47). Overnight trains are also an option, although the cheaper ones are not very luxurious. A berth in a sleeper compartment is around 1,500-2,500 rubles (US$24-39) depending on the class of travel. There are also luxury trains: the Grand Express and Red Arrow. Prices for these are the highest, ranging from 3,500-15,000 rubles (US$55-235). To book train tickets on your own, use the official website of the Russian railway network, which has an interface in English.
Despite the short distance, there are frequent flights between Moscow and St Petersburg. The travel time is around 1.5 hours. Prices vary depending on the airline and how far in advance you book. The price range can be as big as US$65-200. Usually, these flights are taken by business travellers or passengers in transit. The overall journey time, including getting to and from the airports, will likely be longer than taking the high-speed train. On the other hand, planes are obviously a better option for night travel, when the high-speed trains are not running.
It is definitely possible to travel by car between Moscow and St Petersburg. Depending on which route you take, the total distance between the cities is around 650-700 km (400-435 mi.). Travel time is strongly dependent on how long you are willing to drive without stopping and the inter-city traffic conditions. Driving on your own in Russia can require some getting used to, especially on high-speed highways. In case you decide to rent or borrow a car, make sure to read carefully through all the information and make sure you are eligible to drive overseas.
Whichever way you decide to travel, there aren’t too many complications to consider. If you require a Russian visa, it needs to be valid for the whole duration of your stay, encompassing visits to both cities. It is advisable to think about these two journeys in advance. The Russian visa application asks for information about all the cities you intend to visit on your journey. If you are taking a day trip, then don’t forget to take your passport. There will be a check before boarding the train, and the passport details should match those written on the ticket.