Moscow and St Petersburg are served by direct flights from most European capitals, and Moscow also has direct flights from many cities in East Asia, South Asia, Africa, the Middle East and North America. Non-stop flights from the USA to Russia are offered by Singapore (Houston to Moscow, Domodedovo), Delta (New York and Atlanta to Moscow, Sheremeriyevo), United Airlines (Washington to Moscow, Domodedovo) and Aeroflot (New York, Washington and Los Angeles to Moscow, Sheremeriyevo).
There are three international airports in Moscow: IATA Sheremetyevo: SVO in the northwest, IATA Domodedovo: DME in the south and IATA Vnukovo: VKO in the southwest. Each of them has an express train connection (RUB470) to a central railway station in the city, but the stations are quite far apart, which makes travelling between the airports quite difficult. It is therefore necessary to allow several hours between flights from different airports. A taxi between airports should cost around 1,500 roubles (be prepared to negotiate). The cost of public transport ranges from about 200 roubles for buses to just under 700 roubles for air express trains. The system is not very user-friendly, so don’t expect easy, convenient or fast transfers.
Sheremetyevo Airport, which grew significantly in 2010, has five terminals divided into two groups. Terminals B (the former Sheremetyevo-1) and C form the northern group and mainly offer domestic and charter services. The new Terminals D and E, together with the former Terminal F (the former Sheremetyevo-2, built for the 1980 Moscow Olympics), form the southern group and serve international flights, mainly for the SkyTeam Alliance, and Terminal D also serves Aeroflot’s domestic flights .
Domodedovo is a modern, high-quality airport with a single spacious terminal. It serves both domestic and international flights of most Russian and international airlines. It is therefore advisable to choose flights to this airport.
Vnukovo is a smaller airport and is usually served by low-cost airlines. Since March 2012, it has been undergoing a major renovation with the construction of a spacious new terminal.
There are airports in all major cities in Russia. Some international services can be found in: Novosibirsk, Sochi, Vladivostok, Kaliningrad, Ekaterinburg. International connections to other destinations are much more limited.
Low-cost airlines from Europe :
- NIKI flies to Moscow (Domodedovo International Airport [www]) from Vienna (Vienna International Airport). Approximate price for a single ticket – €99.
- Air Berlin flies to Moscow (Domodedovo International Airport) from Berlin (Berlin Tegel), Düsseldorf (Düsseldorf International), Munich (Franz Josef Strauß Airport) and Stuttgart (Stuttgart Airport). There is also a connection between Berlin (Berlin Tegel) and St. Petersburg (Pulkovo Airport). Approximate price for a single ticket: 110
- Germanwings flies to Moscow (Vnukovo International Airport) from Berlin (Berlin Schönefeld), Cologne (Cologne Bonn Airport), Hamburg (Hamburg Airport) and Stuttgart (Stuttgart Airport). There are also connections between Berlin (Berlin Schönefeld) and Cologne (Köln Bonn Airport) and St. Petersburg (Pulkovo Airport). Approximate price for an outbound ticket: USD 100.
- Aegean Airlines flies to Moscow (Domodedovo International Airport) from Athens (Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport) [www] from €155 return, Thessaloniki (Macedonia Airport) [www] from €177 return.
- Evolavia flies from Ancona (Raffaello Sanzio Airport) to Moscow (Domodedovo International Airport) on Wednesday. Approximate price for a single ticket – €140.
- Meridiana flies to Moscow (Domodedovo International Airport) from Catania, Milan, Naples, Olbia and Verona.
- The Norwegian citizen flies from Oslo (Oslo Airport) to St. Petersburg (Pulkovo Airport [www]). Approximate one-way fare: €94.
- vueling also flies to Moscow (Domodedovo International Airport) from Barcelona (Barcelona Airport). One-way fare €110-180 when booked in advance.
From the United Kingdom:
- British Airways offers a one-way flight to Moscow (Domodedovo) from London Heathrow for around £300.
Cheaper ways to get to Moscow from the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia and Australia:
From/via United Arab Emirates
- Emirates flies from Dubai to Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow and Pulkovo Airport in St Petersburg (from 1 November 2011). New, high-quality, somewhat expensive, but sometimes very cheap jets. A good connection option if you are coming from India, Southeast Asia or Australia.
- Etihad flies from Abu Dhabi to Domodedovo International Airport. Relatively new entrant in the highly competitive market for routes between Europe and Asia/Australia. Offers one-way fares that are only slightly more than half the return fare (and the return fare does not usually get higher for longer stays of up to a year), a strategy also used almost exclusively by low-cost airlines. It also offers very competitive fares, especially for connecting flights.
- Qatar Airways, another player in the Middle East intercontinental route market, has a presence at Doha’s [Domodedovo International] airport. It is one of only five airlines in the world to be rated 5 stars by Skytrax. Nevertheless, connecting fares from Asia are often quite modest.
The Russian Railways RZhD (РЖД) provides reliable services over dizzying distances. Central and Eastern Europe is well connected to Moscow and, to a lesser extent, St Petersburg. Moscow is also connected to surprising destinations in Western Europe and Asia.
With the exception of the new carriages connecting Moscow with Nice and Paris, the international trains generally offer the same compartment quality as the national trains.
The Russian word for railway station (Vokzal, Вокзал) is derived from Vauxhall Railway Station in London. In the early days of the railway, a group of visiting Russian entrepreneurs were shown the new London railways and were constantly going in and out of Vauxhall station. A misunderstanding led them to think that Vauxhall was the word for station. The toilets at Voczal are free if you have a ticket for the next train (unlike Vauxhall).
Belarus, Moldova and Ukraine are very well connected to Russia, with many daily trains from cities in each country. Helsinki (Finland) has four daily high-speed trains to St. Petersburg and one night train to Moscow. Riga (Latvia), Vilnius (Lithuania) and Tallinn (Estonia) each have at least one daily or overnight train to Moscow and St. Petersburg.
Kaliningrad has a short rail connection with Gdynia and Gdańsk in Poland only in summer. Trains from Kaliningrad to Moscow and St. Petersburg pass through Vilnius in the afternoon.
In addition to Russia’s immediate neighbours and the former Soviet dominions, direct trains connect Moscow with Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Monaco, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Switzerland. If you are travelling by train from Central Europe to Moscow, you should know that most train routes pass through Belarus and that citizens of most countries (including some who can enter Russia without a visa) require a Belarus visa.
Western Europe has a different gauge than Russia, Finland and the CIS, so the bogies have to be changed when the train passes through the countries of the former Soviet Union (usually Ukraine or Belarus). This adds a few hours to the already long waiting time at immigration. You can stay on the train while the wheels are being changed so as not to disturb your sleep too much.
Moscow is connected with all the countries of the former Soviet Central Asia: (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) at least 2-3 times a week. The trips are long (3.5 to 5 days). For the Caucasus, there is a connection from Moscow to Baku, Azerbaijan (3 days); however, the Azerbaijani-Russian border is only open to CIS passport holders. There is also a connection from Moscow to Sukhumi in the disputed territory of Abkhazia. The Trans-Siberian Railway runs throughout the country, connecting Chinese cities such as Beijing and Harbin, as well as the Mongolian city of Ulaanbaatar. There is also a bi-weekly connection between Moscow and Pyongyang, North Korea (mainly with the Trans-Siberian Railway and a short connection between Vladivostok and Pyongyang), but this line is not accessible to Western tourists.
Travelling in Russia by car can be difficult. Roads can be poorly marked or not marked at all and poorly maintained, especially outside cities and towns. Road numbers are not well marked and signposts are usually only in Russian. Car rental services are only emerging and expensive in large cities such as Moscow or St. Petersburg.
Crossing the border by car is a special kind of entertainment.
There is no doubt that the car is the best way to see the country, but it is a risky venture that is only recommended to brave and capable people.
Most federal roads (M-1, M-2, etc.) are monitored by automated systems, but secondary roads are patrolled by the State Motor Inspection (SMI). GAI roadblocks are located within each federal district boundary (approximately every 200 km). It is very useful to have a radar detector and a video recorder. A video recorder is your ultimate defence in case of GAI problems. According to a cliché, GAI inspectors can be bribed with US$10 or US$20; in 2005, corrupt inspectors charged about US$90 per hit.
Not all motorways in Russia are free: on some of them toll booths block the passage, so the traveller needs 20-60 roubles per toll (it is better to have 10 rouble coins).
In some areas, petrol can be extremely poor; it is always best to find a branded petrol station.
The service is poor or expensive, but high prices are not always synonymous with quality. Without experience and mastery of the Russian language, the campaign can be very dangerous.
If you are a driver involved in a collision, the main rule is that you must not move your car or leave the scene of an accident until a GAI investigator has drawn up an accident plan and you have signed it. Breaking this rule can cost you 15 days of freedom. Any other questions should be directed to your insurance company.
It is possible to travel safely by car in Russia with a licensed private guide. Independent travel is not recommended, especially for people who do not speak Russian. Guides usually provide their own car or van and are familiar with the roads, customs and landscape so you can see small towns and historic sites.
Some bus companies, especially Eurolines, offer international bus connections from various destinations to Moscow and St. Petersburg. Tallinn, Helsinki, Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw and Berlin all have regular connections to Russia.
In summer, ferries run between Sochi and Trabzon in Turkey. In Vladivostok there is a regular RoRo ferry to Busan and many lines to various Japanese ports, but these are mainly focused on importing Japanese used cars rather than on tourism. There is also a weekly summer service between Korsakow on Sakhalin and Wakkanai on the Japanese island of Hokkaido. Cruise ships also call frequently at Russian ports. There is a ship connection between Lappeenranta in Finland and Vyborg. There is now a daily (night) connection between Helsinki and St. Petersburg on the St. Petersburg route, which does not require a visa for stays of less than 3 days.
There are two international Eurovelo routes that pass through Russia, namely the EV2 Capital City Route (Ireland to Moscow) and the EV10 Baltic Sea Cycle Route (Hansa Circuit), which connects St. Petersburg with Estonia and Finland.