Russia - 7 hour layover in MOW - worth going to city center?
Mar 25, 10, 5:32 pm
a friend of mine is flying to Dubai through SVO on Aeroflot and has about 7-8 hours to kill between her flights. She wants to go out into the city for 2 hours and just see the Kremlin. I'm from Moscow, but I never transited through it before like this. It doesn't seem like it's worth her time to try and attempt this, but she thinks otherwise. She thinks that if she can get into the city in 2 hours, and then spend 2 hours and get back in 2 hours, she'd be OK. Thoughts?
If she were to go, what would you recommend? Hiring a cab to take her and pick her up? She speaks no English, so even though AeroExpress is cheaper, once she gets to Belorussky station, she may have a hard time making it to the Red Square on her own.
Mar 26, 10, 9:15 am
That Aeroexpress train runs every 1/2 hour and takes just under an hour. I did waste a little time stumbling about under jet-lag trying to find just how to get rubles and buy the ticket. It looks like it might be possible to buy tickets on-line ahead of time?? The trains are really nice though. Possibly the nicest airport trains I've seen.
At the Belorussky station, the transition from the airport train to the metro was well marked with big black footprints painted on the walkway.
Buying the metro tickets again took me a little while as it is pretty wild there and I was very unsure (and still jet-lagged).
If you have access to Russian currency, maybe you could mail her the necessary rubles so it would save her the money changing step. There were a lot of different machines there and it took me a while to figure out just which ones were the ATMs, and then how to use them. I don't know whether the Aeroexpress would have accepted a credit card.
When one is down in the metro lower level, the signs are only in the Cyrillic script so she will have to know the Red Square stop in that format. Before she plunges down in there she needs to know what she is doing. One of the travel guides - Insight I think - has really good pictures of just how the metro signage looks.
And when I got there, I was sort of awe-struck and ended up forgetting just how I'd walked from the metro. Since I was staying in Moscow for a week it wasn't a problem and eventually I found my way back, but with your friend having a plane to catch it would be more difficult. She needs to be really careful keeping track of her routing for doing the reverse.
I think if she has it totally plotted out, maps in hand, and each step worked out, she could do it successfully. Lots of research, and a sound Plan B (you probably can advise her on the feasibility/workability of cabs?).
And I also think it worth the effort.
Mar 27, 10, 7:36 am
It can be done, but as Romelle says, if your friend does not read Russian then she had better have a very solid plan in advance, with guidance on exactly where she's going and how those names look in Cyrillic.
Absolutely do not use cabs. Driving between SVO and the center will eat up most of the 7-8 hours. Moscow traffic is unbelievably nightmarish these days. The Aeroexpress/metro is your friend.
The whole visa question is another big complication. I don't know the difference in documentation/cost for a transit visa vs. a normal tourist visa, but the tourist visa is enough of a PITA and expense that I wouldn't bother with it just to see Red Square. If a transit visa is cheaper and simpler, it could be worthwhile.
Mar 28, 10, 1:30 am
Unless this trip is the only chance your friend foresees having to see Moscow, I would suggest your friend save the money for a longer trip in the future.
I think even 36 hours would be enough, in a pinch, to justify stopping over. I did that last year and had a day and the Golden Ring for a day. If your friend is DXB-based, maybe he/she could fly SU the next time and get a longer layover.
I believe I was entitled to apply for a transit visa, but the NYC consulate chose not to grant me one. I ended up using one of the visa expediting services. Throwing in the visa costs, this would be an expensive way to spend just a couple of hours.