We returned from a trip to Moscow, Saratov and St. Petersburg in Sept, 2009. We traveled by train between the cities (16 hours Moscow to Saratov, 24 hours to St. Petersburg, 8 hours back to Moscow). I highly recommend that mode of travel - it's a relaxing and interesting way to get around! The trains we took were overnight, so we avoided a hotel cost for 3 of our 14 nights in Russia.
We used a 1st class cabin from Moscow to Saratov (2 beds in our cabin), and business class from Saratov to St. Pete (4 beds in the cabin - we shared beer and vodka with the 2 very polite Russians in our cabin. One of them even saved my bacon when a policeman was having a stern discussion with me about taking a picture in a train station).
It's less expensive if you have a trustworthy Russian friend who can buy the train tickets for you - here is what we paid:
$550 for two 1st class tickets from Moscow to Saratov - purchased from the US.
$300 for two sets of business class tickets from Saratov to St. Petersburg and then to Moscow a couple of days later - purchased by my Russian friend!
On the train, you meet interesting people in your train car (I know 5 Russian words, but many of the passengers spoke a some English), you see interesting scenery, you sleep with the comforting click-clack, click-clack through the night, and the train stations are always right in the middle of each city, so you depart from and arrive at a convenient location. The cabins are very well outfitted with comfortable beds (the upper two fold down in a cabin with 4 beds), a light for each bed, storage room, and we even had a TV on one trip! Something you may want to know - although the cabins are very comfortable, the bathrooms - not so much. Russian bathrooms in general are not as nicely outfitted and clean as those in the US, and the train bathrooms fit the pattern. They close the bathrooms when you get near a station because when you flush it goes straight outside to the track!
Saratov is a wonderful city to visit - completely different from the showplace cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, but the people are warm and helpful and worth visiting. I highly recommend riding trains between cities - that added a rich and fascinating set of experiences to our trip!
By the way, we also visited the nearby village of Frank (now Medveditsa) where my ancestors lived, spent time with a wonderful German woman there who moved back to Frank from Siberia after being driven out in 1941. There’s much more information about the Volga Germans here: http://www.ahsgr.org/
Flying to Saratov is not as easy as most westerners would imagine. There is only one airline that seems to service Saratov from Moscow and that is Saratov Airlines. And it uses Domodedovo Airport which is a long way outside of Moscow. One can take a 16-hour train from Moscow to Saratov but that was not for me. I used what seems to be the airline travel agency, OptimaTours, to book a reservation on Saratov Airline. There were guarantees that had to be made and they had to plan ahead to fit me on flights. So keep all of this in mind you decide you want to visit this nice city yourself. Their web site is:
The small Saratov airport is on the high ground bluffs adjacent to the city. There are few flights into and out of the airport. Therefore there are few taxis to take you into town. If you wait, all of the taxis will disappear and then you will be stuck trying to get someone to help you into town. My hotel did not have an airport transfer and it was probably the best hotel, by western standards, in town. Very few of the taxi drivers speak English so it helps to have your hotel name and address printed out in Russian to show to them.
You will also need to have Russian Rubles if possible. There is a currency exchange office in the building near the highway (which is away from the terminal itself) but do not expect to get a great rate of exchange.
Saratov is an important railway junction, connecting the center of Russia with the Urals, Siberia and Asia. The Saratov international train connects the city with Warsaw and Berlin. Every day 200,00 tons of goods and 30,000 passengers use Saratov's transportation facilities.
The Volga river connects the city with Russia's main industrial centers, as well as with the Western Urals, the Black Sea, the Baltic Sea and the White Sea. In summer five ships an hour arrive at the Saratov port.
One of the longest bridges in Europe crosses the Volga, connecting Saratov and its neighboring city, Engels
Saratov has a well developed public transportation network: buses, trams, trolleys and taxis service the city daily.