This review details an overnight journey in Platzkart (3rd class) on a Ukrainian Railways train between Mariupol and Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine.
From Mariupol back home
After my visit to Mariupol it was time to return to my home in Romania, again travelling by train all the way.
As I don’t like to backtrack the exact same way I came, I had decided to take an entirely different route home.
First up would be a train ride from Mariupol to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, which is listed under its official Ukrainian name of Kyiv (Київ) in railway timetables.
To spice things up even further, I would travel in what is called “platzkart” on trains in Ukraine.
This would certainly be quite a difference from my comfortable first class Spalny Vagon (SV) compartment in which I travelled on the Rakhiv-Mariupol train, Ukraine’s longest train route before the Russian invasion.
The trip began at Mariupol’s modern railway station.
At the station you can find ticket booking offices, a left luggage office and clean public toilets.
Although there are no shops inside the station, there is a kiosk on the platform and some small supermarkets at the other side of the road to stock up on supplies.
Ukrzaliznytsia Train Mariupol to Kiev
Train 010 ДА – Departure: 5.15pm – Arrival: 7.11am (+1 day)
Duration: 13h56m – Distance: 1,030 kilometres
Third Class (Platzkart), Wagon 10, Seat 16 – Costs: 13 EUR
The Mariupol-Kiev train
For the journey from Mariupol to Kiev, I was booked on Ukrainian Railways (Ukrzaliznytsia) train number 10Д.
The train, which departs Mariupol at 5.15pm and arrives almost 14 hours later in Kiev at 7.11am the next morning, is a branded fast train named “Приазовье” (Pryazovia), the name for the north coast of the Sea of Azov.
When I arrived at Mariupol’s railway station, the train was already waiting at platform number one.
The Pryazovia Train was running with 1st, 2nd and 3rd class carriages.
In Ukraine, first class on sleeper trains is referred to as “Spalny Vagon” or SV, which denotes a 2-bed compartment.
Second class is known as Kupé and refers to a 4-bed compartment.
Third class on trains in Ukraine is known as Platzkart or Platskartny, which is an open-plan carriage with 54 bunk beds in them.
The terms of Spalny Vagon, Kupé and Platzkart are universally known throughout the former Soviet Union, with these being the travel classes as well on sleeper trains in Russia, Belarus and Uzbekistan to name a few countries.
Platzkart in Ukraine
The quality of Platzkart can differ between trains in Ukraine, with the faster, more premium services using renovated Platzkart coaches while less important services often use older carriages.
As a rule of thumb, the lower your train number is the better quality it will be – with train services having a number of 100 or higher being considered as inferior in quality using older rolling stock.
Fortunately for me, the Mariupol to Kiev train had nice-looking Platzkart wagons which seemed to be well taken care of.
I had a berth in wagon number 10 on the Mariupol-Kiev train and was one of the first passengers to board.
There are 54 bunks in each Ukrainian Railways Platzkart carriage.
These are divided into bays of four at one side of the aisle and two berths opposite them along the coach wall at the other side of the aisle.
It’s best to store your bags inside the enclosed compartment underneath the bottom berths, although you can also lift up your bags and put them on one of the overhead shelves.
Pros and cons of Platzkart
The main advantage of Platzkart is the price as you pay very little while still having a place to sleep.
For the 14-hour-long train ride to Kiev I paid just €13 for my berth in Platzkart – travelling one class up in Kupé would have been twice as expensive.
However, as Platzkart is one giant open-plan train carriage, there is limited privacy.
There are no such things as curtains at each individual berth to shield yourself from prying eyes.
The best way to describe Platzkart is therefore as a giant hostel room on wheels.
Although Kupé (2nd class) would certainly be more comfortable and private, there are a couple of reasons why some people actually prefer Platzkart.
It being an open-plan carriage, there is more social control in Platzkart than inside a 4-berth Kupé compartment, where you can be locked up with some annoying strangers if you happen to have some bad luck when it comes to your fellow passengers.
Because of the different scale, it is also much easier to socialise with other passengers as you will always find some friendly passengers somewhere down the Platzkart coach.
Which seat in Platzkart is best?
It is possible to specify your exact berth in the Platzkart wagon when you book your ticket online at the Ukrainian Railways website or buy it at the counter.
Most people prefer the bottom berths as they don’t require any effort to get in and out of.
Especially for the elderly or those who are disabled might find it tricky to climb into the top bunks.
Unsurprisingly, the lower bunks are the ones that get booked the fastest as you can see at the seating plan below.
The only minor disadvantage to the lower bunks is that it is used as a shared seating bench during daytime hours with the passenger in the top bunk above you, so you can’t really use it to sleep during the day.
It’s an entirely personal matter whether you prefer a berth in the bays of four or the two berths alongside the coach wall at the opposite side of the aisle as both options have pros and cons.
Although you will be more exposed to people walking up and down the aisle when you select one of the two berths along the coach wall, there will be only one fellow passenger here instead of three others when you select a berth in one of the bays of four.
When I booked my ticket, the Platzkart carriage was almost fully booked and I had no choice but to take one of the top bunks in the bays of four.
Making your bed
When you travel in Platzkart on a train in Ukraine you will have to make your own bed.
Shortly after departure, the provodnik (male train carriage attendant, you use the word provodnitsa instead if the attendant is a woman) will come by to hand out the bed linen.
Alternatively, you have to walk to the far end of the carriage to pick up the bed linen yourself from the carriage attendant’s compartment.
The bed linen is freshly washed and will be pre-packed in plastic wrapping.
You simply take one of the mattresses which you will find on the top bunks, roll it out and put the linen over it.
Similarly, you wrap the pillowcase around the pillow and use another set of linen to cover the blanket.
It’s a process that can easily be done in under 60 seconds by experienced Platzkart travellers.
As I have travelled quite a lot in Platzkart around Ukraine and Russia in my backpacking days as an university student, I still had it in me to make my bed at lightning speed.
The train departs
While I was already making my bed, the Platzkart carriage slowly filled up with other passengers.
My Platzkart wagon ended up being fully booked for the ride to Kiev with a curious mix of passengers ranging from students to couples with children and quite a few babushkas (older women the age of an average grandmother).
We departed from Mariupol on time as we made our way north.
Although I had already made by bed in the upper bunk, it was still way to early to go to sleep it only being 5.15pm.
I therefore took a seat on the lower berth and took out my laptop on the table to get some work done while enjoying a cold beer.
Do note that there are no restaurant wagons on Ukrainian night trains, so do take your own food and drinks with you.
There is a samovar at the end of each carriage where you pour yourself some steaming hot water to make a cup of tea, coffee or some noodles if you have brought some supplies along.
If you haven’t, you can always buy a cup of tea from the provodnitsa for a minor fee.
Route to Kiev
The Mariupol-Kiev train had just four intermediate stops in the cities of Volnovakha, Polohy, Zaporizhzhia and Dnipro, from where it would ride non-stop to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.
Before the start of the War in the Donbas in 2014, the most direct route to Kiev was through Donetsk.
However, with that railway line being severed, the Ukrainian Railways trains to and from Mariupol had to make a detour over a branch line from Volnovakha to Zaporizhzhia.
I was enjoying my third class train experience in Platzkart, although given that it was already dark there weren’t really any views of rural Ukraine from the window.
Fortunately the Platzkart carriage had power sockets, which allowed me to charge my phone and get some work done on my laptop as we made our way to Volnovakha.
Unfortunately, things went south after we departed Volnovakha.
I suddenly got very sick on board the train in what must have been a bad case of food poisoning from some mussels I had eaten in a Mariupol restaurant that afternoon.
It was a small miracle that each time when I felt I had to puke, I did manage to reach an unoccupied toilet in time.
The entire evening I spent running up and down to the toilet and trying to get some sleep in my bunk while sweating heavily and having the disgusting flavour of some foul-tasting mussels in my mouth.
Fortunately, you can always rely on old Eastern European women to travel with an entire pharmacy in their bag.
I managed to get some activated charcoal from one of the babushkas in my Platzkart carriage, which made the situation a bit more controllable.
However, I still had a horrible night of sleep feeling quite ill, although this had everything to do with the food poisoning and nothing with my Platzkart berth.
After a broken night of sleep, the train pulled into Kiev’s main railway station (Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi, often simply called Kiev-Pass in railway timetables) on the dot.
Even though the main set of escalators and stairs was boarded up and there was some construction work going on, the main station hall was still as beautiful as I remembered.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t much in a mood to enjoy the opulence of Kiev’s railway station.
Still feeling ill, I ditched my plans to explore the city and went in search for a day room in a hotel to catch up on sleep and recuperate.
Travelling in Platzkart (third class) on a Ukrainian Railways night train is an economical way to get around the country.
For a little over 10 euro, you will have a berth in an open-plan coach with 54 bunks.
Although you obviously won’t have much privacy, it’s perfectly acceptable for a night of sleep.
Platzkart is also a safe way to travel through Ukraine as there is a lot of social control inside the coach from fellow passengers, which is why some even prefer it above the enclosed 4-berth compartments in Kupé (2nd class).
Moreover, travelling in Platzkart is a great opportunity to socialise a bit with fellow passengers and to get a better insight into Ukrainian culture.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Mail From Mariupol: A Pre-War Trip to Ukraine by Train‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Night Train Bucharest to Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania
2. At the Sighet-Solotvyno Border: From Romania Into Ukraine
3. Review: Solotvyno to Rakhiv by Bus
4. Review: Hotel Europa, Rakhiv, Ukraine
5. In the Land of the Hutsuls: A Visit to the Town of Rakhiv
6. Rakhiv to Mariupol: Riding Ukraine’s Longest Train Route
7. A Tribute to Mariupol: Memories of a Pre-War Visit
8. Ukrainian Railways Mariupol to Kiev Train in Platzkart (current chapter)
9. Review: Ibis Kyiv Railway Station Hotel
10. Review: Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi Station First Class Lounge
11. Ukraine Night Train: Over the Mountains to Mukachevo
12. Review: Latorca InterCity Train Mukachevo to Budapest
13. A Short Stopover in Szolnok, Hungary
14. Review: Ister Night Train Budapest to Bucharest
15. Epilogue: Witnessing the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis at the Border