How To Get A Free Commuter Train (Suburban Train) Ride On The Way To/From Moscow Suburbs

Updated: Apr 11, 2019

This can work on the way back to the city or in any situation where you can board a train avoiding going through turnstiles. Which, if it's not one of the major central Moscow train terminals, is, usually, much easier than it might sound.

It's very important to read this article if you're planning to use those trains at all because it will explain a lot of commotion inside the train along the way. As well as because, otherwise, you'll be missing one of the most amazing parts of the whole suburban train experience and just an incredible part of Russian suburban life in general.

I won't exactly try to encourage you to do it. Officially, what's described below is supposed to be illegal and penalized somehow. But I'm just saying that if seeing how little people actually care about it, and how happy it makes them doing it, makes you want to join the action at some point even if you actually have a ticket - this is absolutely normal, and no one can stop you from trying.

Basically, not all the platforms have any turnstiles or even any buildings there. Many platforms are just concrete, flat platforms in the middle of a field or forest. People boarding there are supposed to have their tickets already or later buy them inside the train itself with a 50 RUB margin on top of the original price from special controller-ladies.

Those controller-ladies are supposed to be the only stimulus for you to pay in that case. But first, they don't always show up only checking about every second train somewhere in the middle of its route. And second, even when they do, there's an ingenious way to avoid confronting them. You just run.

You see them coming from one side checking everyone along the way. You get to the end of the car that they are currently checking. And when the train stops at the next platform, you just step outside and run along the train as fast as you can in the opposite direction of which they are moving in, eventually jumping into a car that they've already checked. If you brazenly run alone, they'll see you through the windows. In which case, if you run only one train car back, they might bother returning for you. But if you run all two or three cars, consider your free ride earned.

The reason why you usually don't need to run that far is because there's about 95% chance you won't be doing it alone. If there's no way to physically catch everyone, they'll just let it be.

And that, whether you're running yourself or not, I guarantee it, is and should be the most joyful part of your suburban train trip.

Think about it. What other country in the world has an activity so energizing and so uniting that it brings together in one relentless push forces of ALL generations of people? In their 10s, 20s, 30s, 40s - as long a person can run fast enough, no one is excluded or discriminated against. Everyone is welcome to try.

Seeing that diverse, relentless crowd running past your windows with nothing but pure joy and excitement on their faces, somehow always makes you feel better for a moment, regardless of how horrible you ride might've been so far. Otherwise complete strangers joining together once a day for this collective burst of freedom, in which they come together and all at the same instance gleefully show that big middle finger to the system. Some running faster and farther than others, setting higher bars and encouraging everyone to try harder and burn those calories together as one. Just like in a Soul Cycle class... but with an actual purpose.

And of course, for those, who don't want to go test the tram system themselves there's a video of that incredible phenomenon.

It is one of the most honest, telling videos about real life in Russia that anyone ever shot.

It is filmed from the perspective of two security men that travel together with those controller-ladies and are supposed to catch the ticketless.

One guy films himself going through a couple of train cars showing people's faces and reactions upon seeing him. How everyone just jumps off their seats and starts walking away to the closest exit where they prepare to run out on the next stop.

And the other guy is filming at the previous entrance, where they're supposed to be running to catching them off-guard and making them pay for their tickets.

You can see how the majority of all 'runners' actually make it past the trap and run further to the next car. Which is exactly the situation I described above as truly 'earning your free ride'.

The video has Russian subs, but they mostly just describe everything I just said about it.

Now, it lasts about 3:23. And if you don't want to watch the whole thing the 'runthroughs' themselves, three of them, are at 1:15; 2:12 and 3:02.

But I'm telling you, it is absolutely worth watching every single second of it when you understand what's happening there. Because no matter how hard you've been try to visualize how it actually looks like, in reality it looks sooo much better :)))

With that, I'll just leave you watching it. Enjoy!