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I'm basically sitting beside the Volga river at present looking at the ferry terminal, and wondering if ferries or buses run instead of a train to Astrakhan - having just spent 34 hours on a train, I'd be interested in another option if reasonable.

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up vote 9 down vote accepted

You really should not use the bus for this trip - if you don't like Russian trains, you'll definitely will not like the buses on our roads.
There are a lot of ferry companies serving this route and I recommend you to visit the Ferry station on Volgograd and choose appropriate (Volga-tour, for example).
Main problem for you is to get the ticket only one-way - all companies generally sell roundtrip.

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Oh I don't MIND Russian trains, they're very interesting. It's just that if there's another option it could be fun to do something different. –  Mark Mayo Jun 22 '11 at 6:14
    
Many thanks, am at the ferry terminal now, will hunt out Volga-tour. –  Mark Mayo Jun 22 '11 at 6:15
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Good luck with that, Volga is beauty now. And never use the roads - they are awful between the cities, unfortunately. –  VMAtm Jun 22 '11 at 6:20
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