As the most important transportation hub in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, a quasi-confederation of states that includes most of the former Soviet Union), Moscow has several airports. Most international flights from the United States arrive at Sheremetyevo, about 29 km (18 miles) north of the city center. One of the most modern airports in Russia when it was built in 1979, Sheremetyevo’s terminals have undergone a huge upgrade. There are five passenger terminals, known by letters B through F; most international flights are served by terminals E and F. (There’s a terminal A as well, used for business air traffic.) The Russian carrier Aeroflot operates flights from Sheremeyevo to just about every capital of Europe, as well as to Canada and the United States, and codeshares with Delta Airlines. The airline also serves numerous domestic destinations.
Domodedovo, one of the largest airports in the world by passenger volume and Russia’s busiest, is some 48 km (30 miles) southeast of Moscow. British Airways, Swiss, and Lufthansa fly in and out of Domodedovo. Flights also depart from Domodedovo to the republics of Central Asia and other parts of Russia.
Vnukovo, 29 km (18 miles) southwest of the city center, has become more popular in the last several years after an extensive upgrade. Several international carriers, including Turkish Airlines, Virgin, and Lufthansa, use the airport. Vnukovo also serves regional flights to Georgia, the southern republics, and Ukraine.
For general information on arriving international flights, call the airline directly or check the airports’ websites—all three airports have made theirs more user friendly. Calling the airports usually takes longer and fewer people speak English.
It’s necessary to pass through metal detectors and bag scanners at the entrances to terminals at all three airports. As a result, you should budget extra time when departing (up to three hours for international flights), as the lines to enter the buildings, as well as those at ticket counters, passport control, and security, can be long.
Domodedovo. This easy-to-use airport is located about 48 km (30 miles) south of the city center. The Aeroexpress train from Paveletsky train station gets you to the airport terminal in 40 minutes, allowing you to avoid the heavy traffic on the shosse Kashirskoe. Several major international carriers fly into Domodedova (DME), including British Airways, Swiss Air, and Lufthansa. Flights to other parts of Russia and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia also depart from here. The website has up-to-date arrival and departure information. Domodedovo, Moscow, Moscow, 142015. 495/933–6666; www.domodedovo.ru/en.
Sheremetyevo. Most direct flights from the U.S. arrive at Russia's second busiest airport (after Domodedovo), including those on Delta and its codeshare partner, Aeroflot. Sheremetyevo (SVO) is also the main hub for Aeroflot's domestic destinations, most of which leave from the new Terminal D. The Aeroexpress train connects the airport with Belorussky train station and takes about 35 minutes each way. Khimki, Moscow, Moscow, 141400. 495/578–6565; 800/100–6565; www.svo.aero/en.
Vnukovo. More international carriers, such as Virgin and Turkish Airlines, have begun flying into Vnukovo (VKO), and some of Luftahansa's flights now use the airport. With less passenger travel than the other two major Moscow airports, the facilities can seem a bit more user-friendly. It's easy to reach via the Aeroexpress train to and from Kievsky train station. 12 ul. 1st Reysovaya, Moscow, Moscow, 119027. 495/937–5555; www.vnukovo.ru/eng.
You can make arrival a lot easier by arranging in advance for your transfer from the airport. Most hotels will provide airport transfers (for a fee, usually about 4,500R) upon advance request by a phone call or fax (which you should confirm). Various private taxi companies charge considerably less (1,500R to 2,000R, depending on the airport), usually have English-speaking drivers available, and can be booked online ahead of time.
If you don't have many bags and feel comfortable navigating public transport straight off the plane, consider using the airports' newly spiffed-up Aeroexpress trains to get into the city. You’ll see arrows pointing to the small stations from which they leave when you exit customs at each airport. A regular ticket (320R) takes you to one of the city's central train stations—Belorussky station from Sheremetyevo, Paveletsky station from Domodedovo, and Kievsky station from Vnukovo—from which you can take a cab or the metro to wherever you're staying. When heading to the airport on these trains, you can sometimes check into your flight at the train station (it depends on which airline you're using) and even hand off any baggage you want to check.
There are plenty of unofficial gypsy cabs available at the airports, but there's always a risk of being swindled. (If you do take one, be sure to bargain, bargain, bargain.) It's better to use the services offered on the airports' ground floors. These private firms are less risky, they can provide you with a receipt, and you may find their prices more reasonable than those of the gypsy cabs. The prices are still not cheap, however, ranging from 1,500–2,000R depending on your destination. Traveling to the airport from the city is cheaper. It's best to book a taxi in advance to do this. The rate is typically 1,000R–1,500R.
The cheapest options for getting to and from the city's airports are buses and marshrutka (minibuses), which shuttle back and forth from various outlying metro stations. Those going to Sheremetyevo leave from metro station Rechnoy Vokzal (at the northern end of the green line); and those going to Domodedovo leave from metro station Domodedovskaya (also on the green line but in the south). Those headed to Vnukovo leave from metro station Yugo-Zapadnaya, a name that translates as South-West, as it’s at the southwestern end of the red metro line. It can be confusing trying to find the next bus leaving, but you can usually just follow someone else carrying luggage once you’re outside the metro station. The buses each take about 30 minutes to get to the different airports. Traffic is unpredictable, though, and it can take longer, sometimes significantly so. The road to Sheremetyevo is particularly notorious for traffic, often becoming gridlocked for hours during the commuter rushes in morning and early evening.
Aeroexpress. The website provide schedules and ticket information for this handy service that links Paveletsky train station with Domodedovo airport, Belorussky station with Sheremetyevo airport, and Kievsky station with Vnukovo airport. www.aeroexpress.ru.