Moscow has many airports.  How many?  No one really knows.

But there are the three main airports:  Sheremyetovo, Domodedovo, and Vnukovo.  This Transportation Triumvirate, which has caused more than a Trifle of Travelers their share of Transit Travails, were bequeathed their respective monikers during the KGB sponsored Tretyakovskiy Tongue Twister Tournament, and were subsequently placed at nearly opposite ends of Russia’s 9 time zones.

“Ah, yes,” you say, “but you jest”.  Indeed I do, but only slightly.  For the Moscow airports have set themselves apart not just by their unpronouncable names, but also their geographic locations.

It’s absolutely the worst when someone has to transit between the airports, especially if there is no time to enjoy the great city of Moscow.

One time I had a stingy thrifty Dutch friend write me and say that he was flying into Domodedovo (domestic flight) and would then have a departure from Sheremyetovo (International) only 4 hours later.  This was to happen during the day.  And when I inquired as to his logic, he answered that doing it this way would save him TEN EUROS.  Also, he was asking me to pick him up.

I’m a nice guy.  But I didn’t have 8 free hours or a car that day,  and also, I only gave him a 50% chance of success.  Making it in time to check-in for his departure from Sheremyetovo would require the Perfect Storm of an on-time arrival, quick baggage claim time, and, most importantly NO TRAFFIC in Moscow (!).  I ordered him a taxi that cost him about $80 (a very competitive price at the time).  In the end, there was a true Moscow Miracle, and he made it on time.  I might have found myself repeatedly congratulating him for saving TEN EUROS.

Moscow Airport Transfer Infographic
Moscow Airport Transfer Infographic

So, perhaps you have an itinerary that requires you to transfer between two of the three airports.  For example, maybe you just had a messy divorce with your travel agent and then hired him/her to organize your journey through Russia’s capital city.

If that happens, here are your options:

  1. The “Time Has No Value” Option:  You can take a bus from the airport to the Moscow Metro.  From Sheremyetovo, you will go to Rechnoi Vokzal.  From Domodedovo, you will go to the (I do hope you are taking notes) Domodedovskaya Station.  And Vnukovo will take you to Yugo-Zapadnaya, among others.  You will run through about half the term of your visa doing it this way, especially if you are taking a bus from Sheremyetovo, but no problem, because you can save as much as TEN EUROS.
  2. The “Exact Timing Option:  You can take the Aeroexpress train from any of the airports to the Moscow city center.  You will then transfer via the metro to another train station where you will take another Aeroexpress train out to your airport of departure.  This option will cost you about 870 rubles total (two trains plus one metro ride) and will take roughly two hours (depending on departure/arrival times of your Aeroexpress train(s)).  The nice thing about it is you won’t need to sweat in traffic, wondering if your Yakutia vacation plans will have been spoiled.
  3. The “I Own A Smartphone” Option:  If it’s not rush hour and there are two or more of you, this is a great option.  Use the taxi apps of Uber, Gettaxi, or Yandex taxi.  It is 6:14 p.m. on a Friday.  Right now, Yandex taxi says that the ride would cost roughly 1900 rubles, and Yandex Maps is telling me that the trip would take 3 hours and 20 minutes…or 1 hour and 8 minutes if there was no traffic.
  4. The “Money Has No Meaning” Option:  Talk to the “Official” taxi drivers at the airport.  Cut a deal.  2500 rubles absolute minimum, I think, but probably much more.  Convince yourself that’s how the locals do business.
  5. The “White Hair” Option:  I had a taxi driver tell me this week he got a passenger from Sheremyetovo to Vnukovo in 25 minutes in Friday evening traffic.  He told me the passenger’s hair turned white during the experience. Personally, I would prefer the “miss the connecting flight” option over this most reckless experience.

BONUS ADVICE:

  1. Can’t pronounce the airports’ names?  That’s okay.  It just means you’re a foreigner.  Now, just learn the airport code and mumble out something like “It’s the SVO one”, while awkwardly shifting your weight from one foot to another.
  2. Have a choice between airports?  That’s easy.  Choose Sheremyetovo.  Since Terminal 1, consisting of Terminals A, B, and C, Terminal 2, consisting of Terminal F and Terminal 3, consisting of Terminals, D and E extend from the northwest suburbs of Russia’s capital city to just short of the Lithuanian border, there is plenty of space to stretch your legs, or just sit back. Vnukovo’s terminal is also not bad. Domodedovo, on the other hand, has rented out all of its seating space to Duty Free, restaurants, etc.  I’m not bitter about that at all.

If you’re in a hurry, do whatever possible to make your connection in one Moscow airport.  But if you want to live a little, use the layover to your advantage.  Slow down your life a little, and come see one of the world’s most amazing cities.  If you aren’t sweating the traffic on your way to a flight, you will find the transit to be well worth your while.

3 thoughts on “Moscow Transfer Travel Travail

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