During my recent holiday in the Ukraine, I had the opportunity to take a couple of overnight train journeys, using the national passenger rail service, Ukrainian Railways, which was founded since independence in 1991. This company built on the railway infrastructure initially laid under Austro-Hungarian Empire, and subsequently the Soviets. The vastness of the country means this is covers some long distances, and transfers many thousands of people, both nationally and internationally.
We travelled in 4 berth cabins, but you can also get two berth one and open ‘plaskart’ compartments which sleep 8-10. The tickets were booked in advance by our tour company and we were fortunate to have two people per 4-berth cabin. Normally you wold share with whoever else the rail company booked you in with, male or female. Each cabin could be locked from the inside and had two lower berths with storage underneath for your luggage (accessed by lifting the bench up) whilst for those on the top bunk, you have storage at one end (over the corridor). There is also a window and a small table. Above each ‘bed’ is a little pocket and a few hooks for items you may need nearby or in the night, and there are individual reading lights. A towel, pillow, sheet and duvet are provided.
Lavatories and sinks were at each end of the carriage, they were fairly basic but loo roll, hot water and soap was provided. They would be locked just before and during each station stop. There is an attendant in each carriage, who makes (free) tea if she is not on the phone, snogging her boyfriend or chatting to her mate in the next carriage. There were about 10-12 cabins per carriage.
Our first journey was Odessa to Simferopol (Crimea) which was about 12 hours (midnight to just before noon) and we made sure we bought our breakfast before we left Odessa (although you can purchase from ladies on the platforms if the stop is long enough). It took me a while to get comfy and ‘switch off’ enough to sleep, as the train was quite juddery and used to brake suddenly. Somehow or other I did manage to sleep eventually.
Our second journey was Simferopol to Kiev which was 14 hours and left about 5pm. The train had sat in 34 degree Celsius heat all day, so was very unpleasant as the air-con doesn’t come on until the train is ready to go. It also turns off at station stops. I hadn’t noticed that on our first journey, but the train may have been cooler to start with.
The cost was included within my holiday, but if you have the time, then this is a good way to get around the country.