Travelling across Russia: Sochi to St Petersburg by train

On our travels through Europe at the end of 2012, the longest rail journey we made was the 2300 kilometre, 45 hour long ride across Russia, from sunny Sochi on the shores of the Black Sea to snow covered Saint Petersburg beside the Gulf of Finland.

Day one started at 1pm in the afternoon. The train itself originated at Adler, the next city along the line, but we boarded at the Sochi’s Stalinist-style railway station, opened back in 1952 and renovated for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Hoards of passengers board a northbound train from Sochi

Among the standard grey and red РЖД liveried carriages, our twenty carriage long train also featured a number of special Sochi liveried cars.

'Со́чи' (Sochi) liveried railway carriages on our train

We climbed aboard, and soon after departure we were passing a changing city skyline.

Apartment blocks in Sochi

Eventually we left the city proper, where smaller houses lined the hillsides.

Houses at Нижнее Учдере (Nizhnee Uchdere) looks down on the Black Sea

Out the other side of the train we could see the Black Sea, where the beaches lay empty.

Empty for winter: the Black Sea shoreline at Нижнее Учдере (Nizhnee Uchdere)

Even the boats were packed away for winter.

Boats parked on trailers for winter beside the Black Sea

However the railway staff were still busy, maintaining the tracks our train was passing over.

Another railway work crew waits for our train to pass

Eventually the scenery changed to farmland.

Russian farm houses outside the town of Головинка (Golovinka)

With scattered townships along the way, filled with luxurious holiday houses.

Some fancy houses in the Russian town of Головинка (Golovinka)

Our train continued hugging the Black Sea.

Our 20 carriage long train snaking along the Black Sea coast at Вишнёвка (Vishnevka)

Until we reached the industrial city of Tuapse.

Heavy industry in the Russian city of Tuapse

There the railway turned inland, with small villages popping up at regular intervals.

Speeding past the Russian village of Кирпичное (Kirpichniy)

As did abandoned industries.

Abandoned mine outside the Russian village of Кривенковское (Krivenkovskaya)

But eventually the railway left civilisation behind, entering the nothingness of the Caucasus Mountains.

Train through the Caucasus, out in the middle of nowhere

The temperature also started to fall, with ice visible on the ground below.

Heading away from the Black Sea, and ice covers the tracks as the temperature starts to drop

One wonders how these isolated villages survive.

Blue roofs in the village of Безымянное (Bezymyannoye)

Shadows started to grow longer.

Houses backing onto the railway line in the Russian village of Безымянное (Bezymyannoye)

With the end of day one bringing us as far as Krasnodar.

Temperature of -3 degrees at Краснодар-2 railway station

The morning of day two greeted me with a cold and grey view of a railway freight yard.

Waking up to a railway yard - passing through the Russian town of Лиски (Liski)

With the train now deep in the interior of Russia.

Russian Railways safety posters at a station

Railway safety messages don’t seem to have much of an impact here.

Crossing the tracks, but more interested in his phone call

We were now in the land of goat herding.

Russian man herds goats beside the railway tracks

And timber collection.

Tractor and trailer out collecting fire wood in Russia

Beside forests, we rolled through tiny villages.

Dirt tracks in the Russian countryside - village of Совхоз Ударник, Ли́пецкая о́бласть (Svkh Udarnik, Lipetsk Oblast)

As well as open fields.

Open Russian fields beside the railway tracks in Ли́пецкая о́бласть (Lipetsk Oblast)

Every hour or so heavy industry would greet us.

Heavy industry on the outskirts of the Russian city of Липецк (Lipetsk)

As we approached larger cities.

Mix of older houses and apartment blocks in the Russian city of Липецк (Lipetsk)

To pick up more passengers.

Crossing the tracks at Казинка (Kazinka) railway station

At busier stations platform kiosks sold snacks to passing passengers.

Another snack kiosk on the platform at Еле́ц (Yelets) railway station

Rivers passed beneath us as darkness fell.

Ice fishing on the Быстрая Сосна (Bystraya Sosna River) at Еле́ц (Yelets)

With day two ending with our train arriving at the city of Tula, south of Moscow.

Our train changing direction at Тула (Tula), due to the dead end station

Here our train swapped locomotives, with another unit being attached at the opposite end to lead the train out of the dead end station.

Russian Railways class ЧС7 electric locomotive ЧС7 141 awaiting departure time from Тула (Tula)

Into the night we continued, passing through Moscow at midnight, until we arrived into a snow covered Saint Petersburg at 9 am, where the sun yet to rise.

Crossing the Moika River at the Green Bridge

It might’t be the iconic Trans-Siberian Railway, but those 45 hours on the train still crossed Russia, from the sunny Black Sea to the ice covered Baltic.


For the entire journey I had my GPS datalogger running – the resulting track can be found below.

Our route from Sochi to St Petersburg by train

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4 Responses to Travelling across Russia: Sochi to St Petersburg by train

  1. Simon says:

    Great post, thanks. I’m about to do a similar trip.
    I noticed that you took a GPS logger with you across Russia. I’m planning on doing the same (so as to reference any photos I take), but I noticed this peculiar statement on the Australian Travel Advisory site:
    “The importation of electrical and some high technology equipment, for example Global Positioning Systems (GPS), is strictly controlled. Russian Customs have advised that all visitors may import terminal GPS devices upon their declaration on arrival. You should however obtain a special customs permit where you intend to import a GPS peripheral device connected to a computer or to an antenna. This extends to the importation of equipment in accompanied baggage, including by business people as samples. The penalty for using a GPS device in a way that is determined to compromise Russian national security can result in detention.”
    (under the ‘Entry and Exit’ tab on
    Did you have any problems bringing your GPS logger in? Did you have to get one of the permits mentioned above?
    Please let me know.

    • Hi Simon,

      I didn’t have any trouble with using my GPS data logger, but I never knew that Russia had such a restriction – I’m guessing I got lucky! I was carrying a lot of gear – DSLR and a few lenses, laptop computer, smartphone, various chargers, external hard drive, etc.

      In addition, I didn’t just import a GPS device, but I brought a replacement unit in Saint Petersburg after my original device stopped working! No problems there either.

      I entered Russia by train via Ukraine, and flew out via Moscow Domodedovo Airport. In the first case the border guards only checked my travel documents, and didn’t look at my bags. On the way out, presumably my bags were screened before being loaded into the plane.

      Hope that helps.

      • Simon says:

        Ah, thanks so much for the info. That makes me feel better.
        I’ve bookmarked your site, and will use it as a reference as I go across my travels.
        Thanks again for your help and information.
        All the best.

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