Your Moscow tour is about to begin and you just landed in the city. How will you go to the city centre without relying on anyone or getting ripped off by taxi drivers? Or, probably, you are in a hurry to take a connection flight from another airport or head to the railway station to catch the train on the Trans-Siberian route. Students are likely to take the next train to the university in another city in Russia.
Know all the options to travel to and from the airport beforehand if you have not engaged a tour company for the hotel transfer or city tour.
Premier airport shuttle train, named Aeroexpress, is the fastest and most convenient option. There are express bus service as well apart from taxis. No doubt, these three options are comfortable.
If you are not in a hurry and with only a backpack, hop onto a city bus; but most buses won't go to the heart of the city. The bus ride is the cheapest, but not comfortable for a tourist.
Choose one mode of transport that suits you well in terms of convenience, money, time and safety.
Knowing about the city airports and their location will help you take the right call. Also some knowledge of the main railway stations and the metro railway too will help as you explore the city or criss-cross it for travelling out.
Befitting its status as a megacity and a major transportation hub, Moscow has four international airports — Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo, Vnukovo and the newest, Zhukovsky — located in different locations away from the downtown but often closer to the nearest flight paths of regions/destinations served by the airports.
Any domestic or international tourist is likely to arrive at one of these four commercial airports and most likely in either of the first two — Sheremetyevo or Domodedovo — which are located at the opposite ends of the city.
A fifth one — Ostafyevo International Business Airport — is not for civil aviation, but, as the name suggests, for business aviation. (The airport is for private aircraft, charter services, aircraft maintenance, refuelling and parking and the like apart from the dedicated use by Russian energy giant Gazprom.)
All these airports lie around the city in all the directions and travel between the two nearest ones requires an hour or more by road.
There are a few more airports in and around the city but they are either for military or cargo aircraft.
1. Sheremetyevo International Airport
Sheremetyevo (SVO) is the busiest airport in Russia itself and the second-busiest in Europe. It is to the northwest of Moscow, about 35 km from the centre of the city, viz. the Red Square.
SVO is the best option for domestic flights too. Being the base of the Russian national carrier Aeroflot, flights to all corners of the vast country are easily available.
The formal name is Sheremetyevo Alexander S Pushkin International Airport.
2. Domodedovo International Airport
Domodedovo (DME), the second busiest airport in Russia, is just behind Sheremetyevo in terms of passenger traffic. It is about 45 km southeast of Moscow.
The formal name is Domodedovo Mikhail Lomonosov International Airport.
Travellers intending to take connection flight from SVO or DME after arriving at either of the two should book a flight with a gap of at least 4 hours. A taxi ride between these two airports — 70 km apart — will take about 2 hours and 15 minutes: more with a major traffic block on the way; however, from Domodedovo to Vnukovo Airport the taxi can take you in 1 hour 30 minutes.
From Domodedovo the taxi ride to major railway stations will be between 1 hour 30 minutes and 2 hours.
At the Domodedovo airport a treat awaits cargeeks: a collection of vintage cars is on display.
1. A transit visa is required for international travellers boarding flight from a different airport or even to visit the city after first arriving at another one. Please try to get the connection flight that departs from the arrival airport in less than 24 hours to avoid the hassle of obtaining a transit visa.
2. Transit visa is valid for 72 hours if travelling by air. The validity is 10 days if you intend a road journey to another country.
3. To apply for a transit visa at the Russian Embassy/Consulate you only need 1) a copy of the visa of the destination country, if at all that is required, 2) DEFINITELY the copy of fight tickets for arriving and departing from airports in Russia. On your return if you intend to transit again, please don't forget to mention Double Entry as you apply for the transit visa, 3) and a cover letter stating the purpose and itinerary.
3. Vnukovo International Airport
Vnukovo Andrei Tupolev International Airport (VKO) is closer to the city than the other airports. It is just 28 km southwest of the city centre. It is the oldest airport in operation in Moscow. It is smaller than SVO and DME and trails them in terms of traffic. The airport primarily serves flights to and from the North Caucasus and destinations near the Black Sea. Destinations south of Moscow too has connectivity from here. The domestic and overseas destinations include Grozny, Tashkent, Astana, Bukhara, St Petersburg, Baku, Sochi, Yeravan, Dushanbe, Samara, Dubai and Istanbul. Flights to even a few Far East destinations in Russia are also available. Flights to Ukraine stand cancelled with the outbreak of hostilities in early 2021.
4. Zhukovsky International Airport
Zhukovksy (ZIA) airport commenced commercial services in 2016. It is 43 km southeast of the city centre and close to the defunct Bykovo Airport. Domodedovo airport too is nearly of the same distance from Zhukovksy but to its southwest. Destinations served from Zhukovksy include Antalya, İstanbul, Almaty, Dushanbe, Bishkek, Sabetta (on the Yamal Peninsula).
B) Major Railway Stations
Moscow has rail connectivity to all parts of Russia. International trains link Moscow to cities in Europe and Asia (in China and Mongolia.)
(Trains to Europe stand cancelled with the imposition of sanctions by the West following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in early 2022.)
Trains depart from 10 railway terminals in Moscow. These are: Belorussky, Kazansky, Kievsky, Kursky, Leningradsky, Paveletsky, Rizhsky, Savyolovsky, Yaroslavsky and Vostochny, the latter being the newest that opened in May 2021.
The stations of the Moscow Metro, though mostly underground, are close to these railway terminals. You have to follow the signs to flit between the railway stations and the nearest metro station; at some places you may have to just cross the road - but don't worry a metro station is always near!
For tourists there is scope for confusion regarding the name of the railway station and the nearest metro station. For instance the metro station closest to Paveletsky railway station is called Paveletskaya.
Metro stations can be identified with the distinct sign 'M'.
Do you know the Moscow Metro themselves are tourist attractions?
Suburban trains and monrail too are there, but none as important as the legendary and century-old Moscow Metro — "one of the most beautiful underground systems in the world."
You may download the interactive Yandex Moscow Metro app to identify stations and lines as well as to plan your trip.
During your Moscow tour you are unlikely to miss the Russian Railways' logo stylised in Cyrillic as PZD - the Russian acronym of Rossiyskie Sheleznye Dorogi.
1. No long-distance trains run from Savyolovsky.
2. No suburban trains are operated from Vostochny.
3. 'Vostochny' means 'Eastern'. Vostochny terminal came up at the site of the Cherkizovo railway station. It is the first to be built in ther last 100 years; Kievsky, the last one, was inaugurated in 1918.
4. Leningradsky, which is in operation since 1851, is the oldest railway station in Moscow.
C) Aeroexpress Trains
New-generation double- and single-decker high-speed trains, named Aeroexpress, provide the most comfortable and the fastest connectivity between the main airports in Moscow and the major railway stations in the city.
The rail link to Moscow city by way of Aeroexpress is available at Sheremetyevo, Domodedovo and Vnukovo airports.
The trains also stop at a few stations in between their terminals at airports and the downtown railway stations.
Main routes and travel time
1. Sheremetyevo Airport-Belorussky Railway Station. (65 minutes from/till SVO Terminals B and C.)
2. Sheremetyevo Airport-Savyolovsky Rail Terminal (of suburban trains). (60 min from/till SVO Terminals B and C.
3. Domodedovo Airport-Paveletsky Railway Station. 45 minutes
4. Vnukovo Airport-Kievsky Rail Terminal. 35 minutes
Where else to board/alight?
• At Sheremetyevo Airport the Aeroexpress train starts from Terminals B and C. It can be boarded from Terminals D, E, F too where the train arrives 10 min after departing.
• In the city, the Sheremetyevo Aeroexpress train can be boarded from a special platform near the Okruzhnaya station on the Moscow Central Circle (MCC) metro line. To reach the platform you need to cross the road after exiting the MCC Okruzhnaya. Don't worry: just follow the directions. (Okruzhnaya is 10 km north of Belorussky Railway Station.)
• The Domodedovo Aeroexpress train stops at Domodedovo town railway station on Platform 3.
• In downtown Moscow, you may also board or alight from the Domodedovo Aeroexpress train at a separate platform built at a short distance from the MCC Verkhny Kotly metro station. This is near the Paveletsky Rail Terminal where the Aeroexpress to Domodedovo begins or ends journey. Nagatinskaya metro station is also near Verkhny Kotly.
• Non-Aeroexpress trains taking the line between Domodedovo town and Paveletsky too stop at the beforementioned Verkhny Kotly Aeroexpress platform.
Tickets and fare
Aeroexpress has two classes of coaches: Standard and Business.
Tickets can be bought at the Aeroexpress terminal at airports and railway stations. You may even buy them online in advance: 90 days ahead.
At airports you may even come across sales personnel in distinct uniform as you proceed to the Aeroexpress terminal. They may even guide you.
Ticket vending machine is another option as long as you can make out the instructions or know to operate it. Also, using your card you may buy a digital ticket at the turnstiles using the Pay@Gate service.
The lowest fare for one ride is 450 Roubles (for Standard class); for round-trip it is 450 RUB. The fare for Business class is 1,000 and 1,900 RUB for single and round trips, respectively. A family pack too is available - roundtrip ticket for two adults and two children costs 1,400 RUB; it's free for children below 5 years. (NB: The prices as of Nov, 2022.)
Aeroexpress trains run from morning (by six o'clock) to midnight every 30 minutes. The travel time is 45 to 60 minutes.
On the train there is ample space to place your luggage. Bulky ones, if any, you may keep it on the shelf close to the door. In other words you don't have to drag them to place them near or above your seat. Save your energy for the city tour! Your luggage is safe: cameras are keeping an eye everywhere in Moscow. Never mind casting an occasional glance on the goods.
Light refreshments are served on the Aeroexpress trains. Buy.
For Aeroexpress seat bookings and to know about the exact fare, timings and intermediate stoppages please check the official website.
1. It is easy to spot the directions to Aeroexpress terminal at airports. Just follow the signs spotted at the arrival terminals. At railway stations and at metro stations the directions for the Aeroexpress terminal may not be that conspicuous.
2. You have to press the RED button on the door to open it for alighting from the train. Tourists are likely to wait for the door to open automatically; at intermediate stations the delay may prove costly as the train will depart with you still on board!
D) Aeroexpress Express Bus
Aeroexpress express buses too are in operation from Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo airports. Look for the Aeroexpress logo on red buses. Tickets can be bought from the driver if you could not purchase at the counter or online or through the vending machines or as mentioned above.
The buses to Sheremetyevo Airport Terminals B and C are available from Khovrino metro station at exit no: 2. They are available every 15-30 minutes from morning to midnight (05:50 to 00:05). Route No: 1195.
At the airport you can board the bus near the exit from the Terminals B and C.
The travel time is about 20 minutes. The fare is 250 RUB.
The Aeroexpress express bus to Domodedovo Airport runs from the Domodedovskaya metro station. The travel time is about 40 minutes and the fare is 80 RUB. The frequency is 20 minutes. Route No: 1185.
At the Domodedovskaya metro station the bus is parked near exit No.10. At the airport it is stationed on the forecourt opposite Exit No.3.
The bus service on this route too is available from early morning to midnight.
E) City Bus and Marshrutka Shuttle
Regular non-express city buses and vans (marshrutka) that ply to nearest metro stations are also available outside the airports. After getting down from the bus/van, take the metro train to head to your destination in the downtown or any other part of the city.
As buses and vans are the cheapest option backpackers and those on a shoe-string budget may try them for reaching the hostel or other accommodation. Often non-tourists who have visited the city earlier take the bus to reach educational and industrial centres or even to visit friends, relatives, business contacts etc.
The bus and van fares are less than 100 RUB. Expect extra luggage fee.
Journey time on buses and shuttle vans running to and fro airports ranges from 30 min to 1 hour. Before your arrival, refer to the airport website for exact timings, cancellations, new routes and fares.
Bus journeys offer an immersive experience and familiarise you with the intracies of city life.
From Sheremetyevo Airport
Route Nos: 817 and 948 go to Planernaya metro station which is on the metro line No. 7 or Tagansko–Krasnopresnenskaya line — the busiest. The journey time is about 40 minutes. (817 is a bus and 948 a van.)
Route Nos: 851 and 949 go to Rechnoy Vokzal metro Station which is on metro line No.2 or the Zamoskvoretskaya line. (851 is a bus and 949 a van.)
Route No. Н1 has a night bus going to Kitay-gorod metro station which is on metro line Nos 6 and 7. Journey time: upto 1 hour.
This late-night service is very helpful for those landing at night at Sheremetyevo and have a hotel booking in the heart of the city, close to the Kremlin and Red Square. The frequency is every 30 minutes from 23:45 to 04:45. It is about midnight the Aeroexpress runs its last train of the day before resuming trips around the daybreak.
There are also buses to the towns of Khimki and Lobnya from morning to night from the Sheremetyevo Airport.
(Planernaya and Rechnoy Vokzal are to the north of the city and Kitay-gorod is at the centre.)
From Domodedovo Airport
Buses and shuttle buses depart from the forecourt (Exit No. 3).
Route No.308 goes to Domodedovskaya metro station which is on the metro line No.2 or Zamoskvoretskaya metro. Journey time: about 45 minutes.
Route No.30 is to Domodedovo town. Journey time: about 55 minutes.
Route No.11 is to Novoye (New) Domodedovo. Journey time: about 35 minutes.
Route No. 26 is to Krasny Put. Journey time: about 45 minutes.
Route No. 999 is to Ryazan, via Kolomna and Lukhovitsy. This is comparatively a long-distance route further southeast of Domodedovo. Journey time to Ryazan is 3 to 3 1/2 hours; Lukhovitsy is a little more than 2 hours and Kolomna is a little more than 1/2 hours. For these destinations the fares are from 400 to 600 RUB.
Shuttle bus No. 52 goes to Vzletnaya. Journey time: 20-25 minutes.
Shuttle bus No. 17К goes to Rastunovo (Zarya). Journey time: 40 minutes.
(Krasny Put is near the centre of the city, about 6 km from Red Square. Novoye Domodedovo, a modern residential estate, is just 15 km west of the airport. Vzletnaya is famous for a hotel about 10 km from the Domodedovo Airport.)
From Vnukovo Airport
Buses displaying Route Nos.611, 611c and 611ф (ф = f) go to Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station which is on line no. 1. Travel time is 40 minutes or less.
Mini-bus (Route No. 45M) is also availble from morning to night between the airport and Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station. Find it in front of the terminal A.
From Zhukovsky Airport
At Zhukovsky Airport you don't get direct transport to the heart of Moscow. Of course, taxis do go and they will drop you in about 1 hour. Opt for taxis for your Zhukovsky Airport trips either way.
The other alternative, the cheapest, is a combo of bus and metro ride or bus, train and metro rides.
Here are the options:
• The bus on Route 441 goes to Kotelniki metro station which is on metro line No. 7. Journey time is 1 hour. The metro will take you to the Moscow city centre.
• Take the shuttle bus to Otdyh suburban railway station. Journey time: 20 minutes. At Otdyh take the Sputnik express train to Kazansky Station in the centre of Moscow. Journey time: 40 minutes. Now, go to the nearby metro station, Komsomolskaya, if you want to reach the downtown or other parts of the Moscow city.
Mini bus No. 2 or No. 6 also run between the Zhukovsky Airport and the Otdyh station.
(Kotelniki and Otdyh are to the southeast of the city as is Zhukovsky Airport. )
You will never be stuck in any Moscow airport at whatever time you may arrive. Taxis are available round the clock as in any other major airport the world over. Cab drivers may accost you as soon as you exit from the terminal, but book with an authorized taxi operator at the dedicated desk. First, ensure your safety in a distant land.
As is the global practice, the taxi fare depends on the distance, time of day, and demand. To avoid the risk of over-charging book the taxi online or at the airport taxi desk, but do so only after claiming your baggage.
Taxi stands are near the Arrival halls.
The approximate fare from Sheremetyevo Airport to the city centre is 1,250 RUB, states the SVO website. The downtown ride from Domodedovo Airport will cost about 2,500 RUB, but it is about 1,500 RUB or little more if you are dropped much before (as on Nov 2022).
The fare for premier or luxury car, as to be expected, is higher. You will be charged extra for oversized baggage on taxis.
The authorised taxi operator at Sheremetyevo Airport is Yandex. At Moscow Domodedovo Airport the cab service is run by Domtrans.
Car rental too is available. Min-bus too can be hired if you are part of a large group.
NOTE: Most drivers speak only Russian. Lucky if you find one conversant in English. Use the Yandex Translate app — download it even before you take the flight to Moscow.
We wish you a nice trip.
(The airport websites have been referred to for preparing this tourist guide.)