I am planning to visit two different girls in just one trip. One of them lives in Kharkov, Ukraine and the other one lives in Astrakhan, Russia. I saw that going by plane is quite difficult as I would need to take several flights. Do you know if it is possible to travel by train?
I have also though that it may be conveniant to take a bus (gazelka) to Lugansk or Donetsk and then a train to Astrakhan.
I try to research this ... unfortunately, I haven't found a decent web resource for Ukraine railway schedules. But if you make your way to Debaltsevo (also spelt Debaltseve; neither large nor famous, but seemingly a useful rail hub), there is a late evening train (departs after 10 PM) destined for Baku, that arrives to Astrakhan before 10 the next evening.
Getting to Devaltseve from Kharkov is probably not difficult -- there may be an afternoon train (but it's hard for me to find Ukraine timetable info), and I'm sure it's a practical (maybe 5 or 6 hours?) bus trip. The distance is about 275 km, and the two towns are directly connected by a major highway.
The Baku train has two numbers, 638SH and 090P. My surmise is that two trains (one from Odessa, the other from Crimea) join up at Dnipropetrovsk, because after that their timetables are identical.
This is the most direct rail route you could take, and steers you clear of the sometimes tumultous Caucasus.
ARJM- don't know your origination. gotorussia has lots of info and are very helpful with information. My guess would be to fly into kiev, bus to kharkov, train to Astrakhan, train back to kiev. If I was traveling from america I would consider this. One way plane tickets cost a lot, but you have to do your homework then decide if time or money is more important. I got stuck in Moscow for over 8 hours flying at the end of december - SNOW DELAYS. My destination was Krasnodar. I nixed previous a trip that took me all over the place in the past. Don't know how much time you have but mini is right - if you take the train count it as two days of travel - one each way. I did take a train from Kras to Tuapse. It was a winter wonderland going through the mountains. But when I arrived in Tuapse it was like spring time. It will be the same if you take the train east. Very cool experience. Get off and have a cup of coffee and a pastry. Or if it's past 10:00 AM you can have a beer with everyone else.
My lady took the adler/kiev train and made it in 24 hours (Kras-Kiev). I think it cost $65.
Just be mindful of what durak hints about. There is a lot of restlessness between the natives. Check embassy travel alerts - they are amazingly accurate - be sure to register with embassy! Remember if you are from america, six days of your trip will be getting from point A to point B. Also keep in mind your entry and departure. You shouldn't be hassled too much - but it's 50/50 that you will get questions at the border. Suggest you carry small bills for a border fine - haha. And since you are traveling a lot while there, I would leave the laptop at home. There are internet cafes everywhere.
Ralph's post reminded me, of something I forgot to mention -- I always enter Russia by plane, and haven't yet experienced migration procedures at a land crossing. I expect it will be no problem, but the officials probably don't see as many foreigners from outside the Russian-speaking world, as at airports.
Possibly, the migration officers will board the train soon after crossing the Russian frontier, asking to see every traveler's passport -- this will be in the middle of the night ;) It will be necessary to fill out a migration card, probably the conductors will hand them out at some point -- be sure to get one and fill it out, otherwise you'll "hold up the show."
Probably some of the seasoned travelers here have entered Russia by train, maybe one of them will describe the migration procedures.
If you're not in a hurry, making the trip by rail could be very cool. You would pass through the large city of Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad), and see a lot of Russian territory. When you set out from a city without major airline service, it's going to a fairly long trip however you go.
A long surface trip is probably more comfortable, if you know some very basic Russian language. But if you don't, you can probably find someone in your car who knows a little English, and will be willing to assist.
yes, I have discovered that russians who speak english are more than willing to help and make you feel welcomed. every place I've been in russia when they found out I was american they were very cool, as in extremely helpful. but do not - DO NOT - proclaim yourself as an american. let them find out casually. secretly they are still cautious and reserved. but once they find out they want to talk about all kinds of things or at least let you know there is no ill feelings because of the red, white and blue. I know this to be a fact. still beware that, as I have learned from russians, it is better to keep a low profile. I found it almost amusing that everyone traveling by train had suspicious behavior. it goes with the territory.
Check the Aeroflot and S7 websites. There are inexpensive flights from Kharkov to Moscow and then on to your destination. I just took the train from Kiev to Simferopol and that was enough for me. The cabin was hot and stuffy. I tried to book the whole cabin for myself and lady, but the train was full. It was cheap, but the time away from your interest is more costly. Be certain you have the correct Visa for Russia. The cost of the visa is higher than to any other country I am familiar with as an American.