I have been having some writers block lately and had a hard time starting a new airline review (I have taken plenty of trips, too). So I thought I would do something a little different (hopefully informative and beneficial as well) and review the Express train from Moscow’s Domodedovo (DME) Airport and central Moscow Paveletsky Station (also Paveletskaya). This review will be as much advice once arriving into Moscow as it is a review of the actual service on the Aeroexpress Train.
Moscow has changed tremendously since my first visit in December of 1998. My friend and I used to negotiate with taxi drivers thinking we were getting a deal with a $50 fare into the Center (they stated the fare at $100). However, I later learned if you were Russian or booked a taxi thru an official company, the fare could be as low as $20. At that time half the cars on the road would provide taxi service (and to a lesser extent, still do now). But also by that time I was comfortable enough and knew the city & Metro well enough I would take the #48 bus from SVO (in the early 2000’s most Int’l flights arrived at Sheremetyevo) to Rechnoy Vokzal (station) and the Green Line. From there to a stop very near whatever hotel I was staying. This cut the fare down to less than $3 at the time. The problem was the bus was very uncomfortable and Moscow’s traffic was starting to get bad (much worse now). So it was a long journey to the center (but still faster than a taxi). Then, I think in 2007, many of the International flights not operated by Aeroflot or their Skyteam partners moved to DME and the Aeroexpress train started operation. This was a real game changer as far as arriving and departing Moscow. My first Aeroexpress trip was on a very hot June day and was extremely uncomfortable (no air conditioning). But for this review I will just reference my last two trips which were in October of 2013 and May of 2014.
In October of 2013 I arrived into DME on a Friday and was staying at the Leningradskaya Hilton. The Hilton is located across the street from Komsomolskaya Metro Station’s. At Domodedovo the Aeroexpress trains depart at the opposite end of the terminal from baggage claim and customs. I had printed out a timetable (http://www.aeroexpress.ru/en/domodedovo.html) and after a
relatively quick trip through passport control and customs (more likely to happen at DME than SVO) I had 5 minutes to make the next train. DME is a long Airport and even with walking very fast I did not make it. At that time of the day trains departed every 30 minutes (on top and bottom of the hour) so I did not have too long to wait for the next train. I did not miss the train by much as I was able to get in a very short line to purchase my ticket. The cost is 400 Rubles and I had Rubles on me so was able to pay cash. However, if you purchase your ticket via an electronic channel (Aeroexpress website, Mobile App, and somehow at the turnstile) the cost is only 340 Rubles (self-serve kiosks are also 400 Rubles). I believe this discounted rate was not available at that time. I even heard they now have agents in baggage claim that can sell you a ticket (but better to buy online and save 60 Rubles -$2). This cost is only from DME to Paveletsky Station. You can also purchase a ticket with onward Metro ticket to your final stop. I opted to buy a Metro card when I arrived at Paveletsky. The next train arrived about 10 minutes after the earlier train had left. You need to scan your ticket to enter the platform. It is easy to find the train as it is the only train that leaves from the platform (and only one direction). The faster on the train the better selection of seats (seats not assigned). It is also better to walk as far away from the airport to get into the train as you will be much closer to the station when you arrive. The trains have improved since that first train I took in 2007. They are modern trains with plenty of leg room, space for your luggage in racks overhead, as well as some space for larger bags in the front of each cabin (no racks, just space on the floor), and a beverage and food cart that comes thru the train. My only complaint is the cabin is warm (I think still no air-conditioning), and it wasn’t a warm day. Luckily, the seat next to me stayed vacant and we left on-time. There are no stops along the way and the travel time from DME to Paveletsky is 45-50 minutes. Once we arrived at the station you have to scan your ticket again to leave the platform and enter the Station/Metro. There are two Metro lines at Paveletsky. The Brown Line #5 (circle line) and the Green Line #2 (Zamoskvoretskaya). Many of the major hotels in Moscow are not far from the Green Line Stations. Ararat Hyatt, Royal Aurora Marriott, Hotel National, Metropol Hotel, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott Tverskaya & Grand, as well as the Sheraton. All a short walk from a station along the Green Line. The Swissotel is very near Paveltskaya itself (5 minute walk) and Komsomolskaya (Hilton) is three stops on the Brown Line. I luckily arrived a little before the late afternoon crush (it can be a crush!!) and was able to get a Metro ticket (I bought 5 trips for 150 Rubles – a small savings from the 40 Ruble per ride) without too much wait. After a long walk to the Circle Line station (easiest way to tell what line you want is to look at # or color. The Moscow Metro is very well designed – just not a lot of signs in Latin script), I was at the Hilton in under two hours of my flight arriving (that compares with a little over two hours in May on a Saturday when my Sister-in-Law picked me up at DME and was late because of bad traffic).
Last Month I left Moscow on a Monday and didn’t want to inconvenience my Sister-in-Law, so I again took the Aeroexpress from the Hilton Leningradskaya to DME. Again, taking the Brown Line at Komsomolskaya. My flight to Vienna did not leave until 3:45 pm so I knew I would not have to deal with the morning rush. A few years earlier I had a late morning flight from DME and made the mistake of not having a valid Metro ticket. When I arrived at Komsomolskaya Metro, the line was out the door to purchase tickets. So make sure you have at least one ride left on your Metro card before heading to your station. Komsomolskaya has three Train Stations besides two Metro Lines. The Red line is to the right as you walk away from the Hilton and the Brown (Circle) to the left. On this occasion I gave myself some extra time to get to Paveletsky, and as luck would have it there is no 12:30 departure to DME (one of the few times during the day the train does not leave on the half hour) so I could not afford to miss the 1 pm train. Of course the main entrance to the Metro was under repair and closed and it took asking a few people in broken Russian to find another entrance. I made it to Paveletsky Metro Station 20 minutes before the 1 pm train, but had difficulty finding signs for the Aeroexpress. To my astonishment I saw two people at the top of the escalators that appeared to be talking to people and giving information. I asked one girl for directions and in perfect English she told me I needed to go down the adjacent station’s escalators (Green Line) and come up the other side for the Aeroexpress. I do not remember doing this in the past (may have been on Green Line)and without her help it would have taken me a while to find the Aeroexpress. I still thought I would be pressed for time, but it only took a few minutes to make my way thru the station and back upstairs. Upon coming up those escalator’s there were many signs for the Aeroexpress to Domodedovo. Luckily the line was short and I purchased my ticket from a cashier (I was unaware of the online savings then). There are many self-serve kiosks, but remember 400 Rubles at the vending machine. I believe Mastercard and Visa are accepted besides Rubles. After purchasing my ticket there are many signs for the train. I arrived 5 minutes before departure. I had to take an extra bag for my wife so I was a little overheated with taking that, as well as all the walking. I walked as far up as I could (farther up the front of the train – closer to the airport) and found a seat with the middle seat free. I read where there is a Deluxe Carriage that has assigned seats and is available for 900 Rubles one-way. I never saw this carriage on any of my trips. The train left exactly on time and again the cabin was warm (plus I was hot from hurrying). We stopped or slowed down a few times along the route, but arrived at DME 50 minutes after our departure. The check-in area at DME is much closer to the trains than baggage claim. They are doing construction to that entrance so you’re detoured to an entrance right at the check-in area.
The first thing to keep in mind if trying to decide whether to take the Aeroexpress or a taxi. If it is your first trip to Moscow (or even second or third) and you do not have an understanding of the Cyrillic Alphabet it is probably better to forego the time and money savings and take a taxi from DME (or SVO). While the Moscow Metro has made improvements in their signage and become a little more tourist friendly (only a little), once you leave Paveletsky Station to find the Metro it would be very helpful to have some understanding of the Cyrillic letter’s. That said, the station is easy enough to reach from the Airport itself. Therefore, you could take the Aeroexpress Train and catch a taxi at Paveletsky (again, you should have some familiarity with Russian). I will admit that this latest trip from the Hilton to DME was harder than I expected and if I was with my wife we could not have taken the metro to the Paveletskaya. We would have needed to take a taxi there, or to DME. The key is not having much luggage. The Metro can be very crowded at morning and evening rush hours. So taking any cumbersome luggage would make your journey very difficult. I usually only have a briefcase and a small rollerboard, which are manageable. The additional bag made the commute more difficult. Also, weather is a factor. On almost all the trips I have used the Aeroexpress, the weather has been fine. If it is raining or snowing it would be difficult to schlep a bag in those conditions from the Metro (although I have done it) to your hotel.
Lastly, while the money savings is significant (cost can be less than $11 one-way) in taking the Aeroexpress, the time savings may be it’s best benefit. The traffic in Moscow can be atrocious. At certain times of the day it can easily take well over 3 hours to drive from either DME or SVO to/from the Center. That said, if you are traveling on business or money is no object and you are nervous about what to do when you arrive, have the hotel arrange for your pick-up or drop-off. It will cost a lot more than a taxi, but will give you piece of mind. As I said, Moscow has changed tremendously the last 12 years and for the most part for the better, but it is still intimating, even for the seasoned traveler.
In addition to Domodedovo’s Aeroexpress, Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport also has added an Aeroexpress with the completion of the new terminal (about three or four years ago). Aeroflot flies out of Sheremetyevo (as does Delta) and like Domodedovo’s Aeroexpress, Sheremetyevo also connects to the Green and Brown Lines. But it arrives at the opposite end of town at Beloruskky (or Beloruskaya) Station. Fare is also 340 Rubles if bought online or mobile app or 400 at ticket office or kiosk. Trains typically leave on the top and bottom of the hour, but during peak time every 20 minutes (http://www.aeroexpress.ru/en/sheremetyevo.html). Travel time is a quick 35 minutes.
** A quick update for the fares on the Aeroexpress. I flew into Moscow DME last week (Nov. 2015) and purchased an Aeroexpress ticket from a machine at baggage claim after clearing customs. The fare has increased since I wrote this review. It is now 470 Rubles one-way if purchased at the airport and only 420 Rubles if purchased online. However, I tried several times to purchase a one-way ticket online at; https://www.aeroexpress.ru/en/domodedovo.html before departing to Moscow and unfortunately I was unable to purchase a ticket using my US credit card. As a side note; I was also unable to purchase a ticket for the high-speed (Sapsan) train from Moscow to St. Petersburg (review to follow) using my US credit card. The ironic thing was after I exited the baggage claim/customs area, my in-laws were waiting for me and I never needed to purchase the Aeroexpress ticket in the first place (at that time I was happy I couldn’t purchase my ticket online and wished there was not a kiosk in the baggage claim area 😉 ). I tried to get a refund from the ticket counter near the station, but that was met with a glum look and a strong NET from the agent!!!
If you have any questions feel free to ask in the comment section.