Do not be discouraged by the chaos of St. Petersburg's train stations, for traveling by elektrichka (commuter train) is not only to a certain extent a convenient way to get to the suburbs, it also provides a slice of authentic Russian life all on its own. Given the astonishingly low fares, the less than 45-minute journey time to most suburbs, and infrequent delays, train travel is well worth the minor discomforts of the press of humanity and hard wooden seats.
Check with a local travel agent or at the station for schedules. With the exception of traveling by elektrichka at busy times (Friday evening and weekends), you should not have trouble getting a ticket on the same day you wish to travel. For the most part, ticket booths are easy to find; if you don't speak Russian, just say the name of your destination and hold up as many fingers as there are passengers. Bear in mind that there's a lull in departures between 10 am and noon.
The elektrichka to Gatchina leaves from Baltic station (42R); the trip lasts around 45 minutes. For Lomonosov, catch the elektrichka from Baltic station to Oranienbaum-I (not II), approximately one hour from St. Petersburg (60R). For Pavlovsk (28R) and Pushkin (36R), take the elektrichka from Vitebsk station to Detskoye Selo; the trip to Pavlovsk lasts approximately 30 minutes, and it's another 5 minutes to Pushkin (from which you'll have to walk 15-20 minutes to the palace). For Peterhof, take the elektrichka from Baltic station to Novy Peterhof (48R) station, approximately 40 minutes from St. Petersburg; from the station take one of the many buses (number 350, 351, 351a, 352, 353, 354, or 356) to the palace.
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