Getting to Russia by Air
Getting to Russia by Air
When you travel to Russia from the United Kingdom, you are likely to start the trip with a journey by air (unless you choose to visit Russia by train – read more in a separate article). In this article, we’ll answer the most popular questions about air travel in Russia to help you enjoy the experience.
(Moscow-Yakutsk flight: by Galina Korzhova, moya-planeta.ru)
Can I fly to ‘X’ city in Russia by air?
Russia has a well-developed network of aviation routes and there are international airports in all major cities across Russia's regions. The busiest airline hubs are Moscow’s Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo airports, each welcoming more than 30,000,000 passengers per year, and St Petersburg’s modern Pulkovo airport.
These Russian cities have the largest international airports in the country:
- Moscow: Sheremetyevo airport (IATA code: SVO), Domodedovo (DME), Vnukovo (VKO)
- St Petersburg: Pulkovo (LED)
- Ekaterinburg: Koltsovo (SVX)
- Sochi: Sochi Adler (AER)
- Novosibirsk: Tolmachevo (OVB)
- Krasnodar: Pashkovsky (KRR)
- Samara: Kurumoch (KUF)
Brush up on your Russian geography and see all of them on the map below:
Is there a direct flight from the UK to Russia?
- London to Moscow
There is a direct flight from London to Moscow. The duration of your London-Moscow flight will be 3 hours and 45 minutes.
- London to St Petersburg
A non-stop journey from London to St Petersburg will last, on average, 3.5 hours.
How to book a cheap flight to Russia?
Use a price comparison website such as kayak.co.uk or skyscanner.net to find the best fare. You can secure a seat on a return flight from London or Edinburgh to Moscow for £200 or less, especially if you book in advance.
For example, in August the cheapest Edinburgh – Moscow return flight in the last week of September cost £173. And yes, September is a great time to visit Moscow – beautiful parks with trees in golden leaves and a good chance of sunny days.
Which airlines fly to Russia?
There is a range of international airlines carrying travellers from the UK to Russia. If you choose to fly direct, you will fly with British Airways or Aeroflot. You can see a full list of airlines providing flights to Russia here: https://www.skyscanner.net/flights-to/ru/airlines-that-fly-to-russia.html.
What are the Russian airlines?
The top 3 Russian airlines which are likely to operate your Russian flight are “Aeroflot”, its daughter company “Rossiya”, and Siberian Airlines, or “S7”. These airlines are members of the International Air Travel Association (IATA).
Is Aeroflot a safe airline?
The airline has consistently met international safety requirements in the last decade and has one of the most modern fleets in the world. Aeroflot uses Boeing, Airbus and Sukhoi Superjet-100 planes and the average age of its aircraft is 4 years (data for 01/08/2018). The airline was awarded 4 stars for the quality of its onboard service standards by SkyTrax, a UK-based consultancy agency which performs quality checks of airports and airlines. Our verdict: it is as safe to fly with Aeroflot as with other modern carriers.
How do I book my flight to Russia?
You can easily make a booking with the help of fare comparison websites such as sky-scanner. The website might redirect you to an airline’s own web pages to complete your registration. Don’t worry, everything has been translated into English.
You can use airlines’ web pages to personalise your journey. For example, when you confirm your preferred flight dates on Aeroflot's website, you will see fares for the rest of the week or the whole month so that you can choose the best price. The airline also has a flexible fare option if you wish to choose open dates of travel.
Note: Some travel websites use “St Petersburg” while others have the city name as “Saint-Petersburg” in their destinations database, so try both in case you do not see your destination among the suggestions.
Do I need a transit visa for a stopover at a Russian airport?
No, if you do not leave the airport and stay for less than 24 hours, you will not need a Russian visa.
What are Russian airports like?
- Customs formalities in Russian airports
When you get off the plane in Russia, your first step is to go through passport control. At this stage you will receive two immigration cards with your personal details: one copy is for the customs officer and another, exactly the same, is for you to keep. The card is needed for you to register at your accommodation (hotel, hostel) and you will be asked to present it at the airport when you leave Russia, so make sure you do not lose it. In Moscow and St Petersburg, customs officials will complete the form for you. At smaller airports, you might get this card on board the plane just before landing for you to fill in and present to a customs official.
At the airport, select lines with the “Passport control” sign (ignore the other ones for Russian citizens only).
(airlines-inform.ru: passport control hall at Sheremetyevo)
After passport control, passengers may proceed to the baggage claim area to collect their suitcases. When you leave this area to enter the arrivals hall, choose a “green corridor”, which has a green sign “Nothing to declare” on it. If you do have items for declaration, for example, if you wish to carry more than 3 litres of alcohol, more than 5 kg of food of animal origin or products worth more than 10,000 euros, you should proceed to the corridor marked in red to declare these goods.
Sometimes, customs officials might ask to check your luggage one more time before you enter the city.
- Facilities and services
At the arrival hall of most Russian airports, you will find free WiFi, tourist information desks, ATMs, currency exchange kiosks (see this article for currency exchange tips), car rental and taxi facilities and restaurants. You can also purchase a local SIM-card at MobileBox sales machines or local mobile service shops at the airport:
The following Russian airports have an English-language version of their website for you to check their flight timetables, maps and facilities:
St. Petersburg Pulkovo
Note: In Russia, unlike in the UK, we call the ground floor “the first floor”.
Arriving at Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport
- Getting around Sheremetyevo
All signs are translated into English; they will point you in the right direction throughout your time at the airport. Upon arrival, passengers for whom Sheremetyevo is the final destination or those who have a domestic transfer will be guided to turn left, while tourists who are flying on to other countries turn right.
- Connecting flights
Currently, there are four terminals in use for Sheremetyevo international flights: B, D, E and F. Terminal B is the new one, and FIFA World Cup 2018 guests were the first to arrive there. This summer (2018), most Aeroflot Russian domestic flights have been redirected to terminal B. D, E and F constitute the South Terminal Complex.
Travel between Moscow Sheremetyevo terminals has been made fairly straightforward. To get from one South Terminal (D, E or F) to another, it is fastest to walk. To get from the South terminals to the B Terminal, and vice versa, you will need to take an underground train which connects Sheremetyevo-1 station (Terminal B) and Sheremetyevo-2 station (South Terminals).
Sheremetyevo-1 station is accessed from the 1st floor of the B terminal. Sheremetyevo-2 station is located in the pedestrian gallery between terminals D and F. The trains run at 4-minute intervals 24/7.
The picture below shows the Sheremetyevo-2 station. Russian constructivism rules at the B terminal:
When you arrive at the new B terminal, you will see stairs and escalators. There are two lifts too, just behind the stairs. They will take you straight to the Departures zone.
If from Moscow you are flying on to another destination in Russia, make sure that you know whether your baggage was tagged through to the final stop or to Sheremetyevo airport. In the latter case, you will need to collect it and check-in for the next leg of your journey. If in doubt, it is best to ask a member of staff at the Transfer desks along the passenger route.
How to spend time on a long stopover at Sheremetyevo Airport?
- Choose cafes and restaurants before the customs zone – there are more places to sit down and relax, and the prices are better;
- Book a place in one of the lounges. Travellers have written positive reviews about the Space/Kosmos lounge, which is located in terminal E, inside the security zone, 2nd floor, opposite Gate 39. Three hours in the lounge cost around £40 per person; every additional hour will cost £12.50. There is a choice of lounges at Sheremetyevo, so you can compare and choose the best;
- If you have 8-10 hours before your next flight, we suggest to take an Aeroexpress train to the centre of Moscow (provided that you have a valid Russian visa, of course). A one-way Aeroexpress journey lasts 35 minutes. You can book tickets on the first floors of terminals B, D and F.
AeroExpress prices are below:
Standard one-way 500 RUB
Standard return 1,000 RUB
Group standard one-way* 950 RUB
Group standard return 1,700 RUB
Business one-way 1,000 RUB
Children aged 0-5 free**
Children aged 5-7 130 RUB** (one journey)
*Maximum 4 persons per group
**Documents to confirm age required
Note: Save money and buy tickets online or via a mobile app. Follow this link and select “Mobile Application and Website” >> https://aeroexpress.ru/en/aero/prices.html. Use the menu on the top-left corner on the webpage to select date and fare. Press “Fill All The Fields” button once it is green to get to the next stage. You will be asked to provide personal and contact details to get your e-ticket. Then, pay safely using your bank card.
- If you have a night before an early flight, you may want to stay at comfortable, quiet and good-value accommodation close to the airport. According to TripAdvisor and Booking.com reviews, Radisson Blue Hotel or Holiday Inn Express Moscow are the best picks.
(TripAdvisor: hotel management photos)
How to get to Moscow city centre from Sheremetyevo airport?
- Board an Aeroexpress train to arrive at Belorusskaya train station in 35 minutes, from where it is easy to take an underground Circle line which connects with other lines so that you can reach any Moscow destination. The first train leaves Sheremetyevo at 5.00am, and the last one departs at 12.30am.
- Rent a car - offices are located on the 1st floor of Terminal D.
- Get a taxi: use the yellow Yandex taxi service from terminals B, D, F, opening hours: 24/7.
Note: According to the airport website, a ride to Red Square will cost 1250 roubles or less, which includes transportation of standard-size luggage. You can order a minibus for families or passengers requiring special facilities at no extra cost. Every extra piece of oversized baggage will add 100 roubles to your fare.
The Yandex taxi fare is calculated as 300 roubles + 8 roubles/min and 8 roubles/km (data for August 2018).
- Take a local bus; this guide has all the routes and timetables listed >> https://www.rbth.com/travel/328449-how-get-from-sheremetyevo-to-moscow. By the way, we recommend this online journal as it has plenty of captivating stories about Russian lifestyle, culture and travel in different languages.
Arriving at Moscow Domodedovo Airport
- Getting around Domodedovo
Domodedovo has one (but large) terminal and, thanks to signs in English, you can find your way around easily.
- Connecting flights
The info graphic below was taken from Domodedovo Airport website. It shows where to go when you change to a domestic flight. You can skip the baggage collection step if you checked in to your final destination, just as in other Russian Airports.
How to spend time on a long stopover at Domodedovo Airport?
- Do not rush to your gate: there are many restaurants in the pre-security zone on the second floor.
- There is a DVD Cinema Bar on the second floor. You can rent a DVD from a library and then choose one of the 10 private booths to enjoy the film. One or two more people can fit in to keep you company.
(The Moodie Blog)
- Leave your bags at a luggage storage facility (0 Floor) and take an Aeroexpress train to the city. The non-stop journey will take about 45 minutes. Check above for fares (same as for Sheremetyevo Airport). The Aeroexpress will arrive at Paveltsky Railway Station, where you can take a short (about 5 minutes) metro ride to Teatralnaya station. Get off at this station and head up to street level: the Kremlin, Red Square and St Basil’s Cathedral are just a stone’s throw away. Note: realistically, it will take you about 90 minutes to travel from the airport to Red Square, given the time to descend into one of the deepest underground stations in the world.
- If you have a night there, check in at Domodedovo AirHotel with its restaurants, 24-hour gym and sauna and a complimentary airport shuttle. For a special experience in the city, a five-star Ararat Hyatt Park is the perfect place to marvel at Red Square one more time from your window before you fall asleep in a comfortable bed with crisp linen.
(Domodedovo AirHotel, from Expedia.com)
(Ararat Hyatt Park, from Hyatt.com
How to get to Moscow city centre from Domodedovo airport?
- By public transport from Exit 3, on buses 11, 26, 30 and 308. See the airport website for schedules and fares >> http://www.dme.ru/en/passengers/transport/bus/
- By taxi: order one via desks or self-service kiosks in arrivals halls. This way, you will get an authorised service provider – Gett or Domtrans (see http://www.dme.ru/en/passengers/transport/taxi/ for more information). Taking a random taxi waiting outside at the parking area is not a good idea, as these drivers will very likely charge you a lot more than the official airport taxi companies.
- By Aeroexpress to Paveletskaya train station and metro.
- By local commuter train, the journey time is 1 hour and 10 minutes. The picture from the airport website shows the location of the commuter train ticket office.
Arrival at Vnukovo Airport, Moscow
- Getting around Vnukovo
Vnukovo has three main terminals: A, B and D (strangely, there is no C terminal, the same as in Sheremetyevo). Terminal D is only used for domestic flights from North Caucasus.
The terminals are adjacent to each other. The entrance to Terminal B is located on the ground floor.
- Connecting flights
The signage is clear; there is a special corridor for transfer passengers who do not have to check in luggage.
How to spend time on a long stopover at Vnukovo Airport?
- There are cinema booths on the second floor of Terminal A, just like in Domodedovo.
- The Aeroexpress train to Moscow is definitely a great idea! Check the prices and booking tips at the description of Sheremetyevo airport. Your journey will take 35 minutes and you will arrive at Kievsky Train Station/Kievskaya Underground station. Then use the metro to get to the centre of Moscow in about 20 minutes. From Kievskaya station, you can get directly to “Ploshchad Revolyutsii” station, which is conveniently located close to Moscow’s Kremlin and its museums.
(Irina Belaya Fotokto.ru)
- For a hotel to rest before your morning flight, consider Double Tree by Hilton: fantastic location next to the airport, air-conditioned rooms with flat screen TVs and comfortable beds. There are many positive reviews on Booking.com about its restaurant, so check it out.
Alternatively, Alexandriya Vnukovo Hotel represents family-like, good-value accommodation with cosy rooms, a free shuttle to the airport and a grocery store nearby. (Look at the pictures below; it does look like someone’s home!)
(Booking.com, TripAdvisor traveller photo)
How to get to Moscow city centre from Vnukovo airport?
- Take an Aeroexpress ride to Kievsky train station (metro Kievskaya, circle and blue lines).
It operates every hour between 6.00am and 12.00am with additional services at 9.38, 16.38 and 18.35.
- Take a bus.
- 611 to Yugo-Zapadnaya metro station (red line), at least two buses every hour from 5.49am to 1.56am every day, average travel time 35 minutes.
- 911 to Salarievo metro (red line), at least 4 buses every hour from 6.06am to 0.58am every day, travel time around 20 minutes.
- Book a taxi on the 1st floor of the airport or at the trans-free.ru website.
Arrival at Pulkovo, St Petersburg
- Getting around Pulkovo
Modern Pulkovo airport is compact and has clear signage in Russian, English and even Chinese, so getting to the right place at the right time will be hassle-free.
- Connecting flights
As there is only one terminal, checking in to a domestic flight including a security check should not take you more than 30 minutes.
How to spend time on a long stopover at Pulkovo Airport?
- Relax at a spacious business lounge on the third floor. Book for 3500 RUB if you plan to arrive any time between 06.00 and 23.00, while night hours (23.00 – 06.00) at the lounge will cost you 2500 RUB per person. The lounge serves hot meals and snacks, there are showers, printing and work facilities. (CONTACT THEM TO CHECK THIS)
- (Some excursions from Intourist? – contact them to check if available in Eng)
- Take a taxi to St Petersburg centre. A one-way trip takes 40 minutes and should cost no more than 1100 RUB. As always, we advise you to use an official taxi from the airport kiosk. Consider going to Petergof park as it is geographically closer to the airport than to the city centre. A one-way journey to Petergof will cost 1250 RUB;
- According to popular opinion, the seats in Pulkovo are soft and comfortable to relax in.
- Stay overnight at one of the hotels near the airport with continental breakfast and free shuttle service to the airport, such as Park Inn by Radisson Pulkovo Airport or Crowne Plaza St Petersburg Airport.
How to get to St Petersburg city centre from Pulkovo airport?
- By taxi – book an official airport taxi at one of the desks on the 1st floor, and not outside the airport as the drivers there may cheat and take twice the price.
- By bus – the local bus stop is located opposite the arrivals hall, and you can take the following buses:
- 39 to metro “Moskovskaya” (blue line), from 5.10 to 00.49 at frequent intervals, journey time about 35 minutes;
- 39 Express (non-stop) to metro “Moskovskaya” from 5.20 to 00.15, journey time about 20 minutes.
Getting around Russia by air
(Russian North from air: by Sergey Dolya)
In general, domestic Russian flights are inexpensive and offer a nice alternative to train journeys. You will be given a meal even on short-distance planes, which is standard on Russian domestic flights. Be prepared with warm clothes because, most likely, you will have a bus transfer to and from the aircraft.
To sum up, air travel is a convenient and fast way to explore Russia, the largest country in the world. The modern aircraft of Russian and international airlines operating your flight across a wide, developed network of routes, local airport facilities and convenient transport options, as well as a choice of travellers’ facilities – these are the elements of a memorable journey to Russia.
Hopefully, this guide will be helpful; do check out other articles on our website to get more inspiration and practical advice to plan you trip to Russia.
Other Destinations in Getting to Russia
- Flight + Hotel
- Tours & Packages