Last Updated on November 20, 2023 by Irena Domingo
If you are looking for a way to fly to Russia after the international sanctions due to the conflict with Ukraine, in this article I explain the different ways to get to Moscow, St. Petersburg or other cities in Russia, either by plane or by bus, in a cost-effective way.
I'm going to talk about ...
- 1. Is it possible to travel to Russia by plane nowadays?
- 2. Flights with stopovers to Moscow and other Russian cities
- 3. Flights near the Russian border and bus to St. Petersburg
- 4. In summary
1. Is it possible to travel to Russia by plane nowadays?
Of course. It is currently possible to travel to Russia by plane, although due to international sanctions there are no direct connections between Russia and the European Union, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan or South Korea, among others. Russian companies such as Aeroflot or S7 Airlines do not fly from the United States, Spain, France, Italy, German, etc.
For this reason, there are two options for travel to Russia:
- Use air connections through third countries that do have direct connections with Russia, such as Turkey, Serbia, Morocco, Armenia, or Uzbekistan.
- First take a flight close to the Russian border (e.g., Finland, Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania) and then take a direct bus to St. Petersburg.
Whether you are traveling on a traditional visa or an e-visa, there are many airlines and bus companies that allow travel to Russia in which you can pay with Western debit or credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, JCB or American Express.
Before getting into the subject, it is convenient to make some previous recommendations to get the best price:
- Book your ticket at least 2-3 months in advance. I have always found the cheapest tickets booking more than 2 or 3 months in advance. If you rush until the last few weeks, the prices go up. I have never found a good price booking a few days before, on the contrary, they are much more expensive.
- If you can, travel outside the high season and during the week. As a rule, prices in high season are higher (July and August). If you travel outside these months, you can find cheaper prices. Also, prices are usually better if you take flights during the week or on Saturday since flights on Friday or Sunday are usually more in demand.
- Use a flight comparator. The options to travel to Russia with stopovers are very varied. For this reason, I recommend checking connections using a flight comparator. The most popular Western flight comparators, such as Momondo or Skyscanner, have eliminated flights to Russia. However, the Asian flight comparator WeGo and the Russian flight comparator OneTwoTrip do work.
2. Flights with stopovers to Moscow and other Russian cities
It is possible to travel to Moscow by making stopovers in countries with direct connections to Russia. Many countries, as I will explain below, have direct connections to Russia.
- Try to avoid flights that involve long stopovers. They are usually cheaper, but the problem is that many times they involve having to stay overnight and this implies an additional cost. Unless you are going to visit the city where you are going to make a stopover (for example, Istanbul), look for flights with short stopovers (WeGo flight comparator allows you to filter by stopover time).
- Also try to avoid flights with very short layovers (e.g., 1 hour), since if your plane arrives late, you will miss the next one. Also consider the time it takes to disembark from one plane and take the next flight.
- Also avoid flights with more than 1 stopover, they may be cheaper, but they can be very long and boring, I say this from my own experience.
Let’s look at the different options.
Warning: the prices I indicate below are only an approximate reference since they depend on many factors. It is best to check the prices (in euros, dollars, or pounds) on the airline’s website or with a flight comparator.
Option 1: Flights from Europe
While the European Union has closed its airspace to Russia, there is one European country, Serbia, which does not belong to the European Union or the Schengen Area, that has direct flights to Moscow. It is the only option I know of to fly to Russia from Europe.
The company operating the flights is Air Serbia through Belgrade airport. It offers probably the closest flights to Russia from the West. It has flights to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Sochi from Belgrade and flights from major European capitals (Paris, London, Amsterdam, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome, Zurich and many more…) to Belgrade.
Thus, with Air Serbia you can book a flight to Moscow with a stopover in Belgrade, without having to go through Serbian immigration.
Of course, prices are usually expensive. A round-trip flight from a European city (Madrid, Paris, etc.) to Moscow with a stopover in Belgrade can cost more than 900 euros.
Option 2: Flights from Turkey
Turkish Airlines offers by far the most flights to Russian cities. Turkey can be easily reached from practically anywhere in the world, not only from Europe but also from the United States, Canada, Australia, etc. It has flights to Moscow, St. Petersburg, Sochi, Kazan, Sochi, Irkutsk, etc.
They are not cheap flights either. A round-trip flight from a European city to Moscow with a stopover in Istanbul can cost a minimum of 750 euros if you travel with Turkish Airlines.
Pegasus Airlines is Turkey’s low-cost airline and has flights to different destinations in Russia: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Grozny, Kazan, Krasnodar, Makhachkala and Mineralnye Vody. It should be noted that this company flies from Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, which is smaller than Istanbul’s main airport and does not have the same services.
Being a low-cost airline, prices are a little cheaper than with Turkish Airlines. A round trip to Moscow with a stopover in Istanbul can be around 600 euros.
Option 3: Flights from the Caucasus
From Italy, Germany, Austria or Bulgaria there is also the option of traveling with the low-cost company Wizz Air, which flies to Yerevan (Armenia). Flights are quite cheap, from about 100 euros round trip.
Wizz Air does not fly to Moscow so you have to take a flight from Yerevan with Fly Arna (Armenian national airline) or Fly One (Moldovan low-cost airline). The cost of a round-trip flight with one of these companies is about 300 euros.
In short, you can fly with Wizz Air to Yerevan from Italy (Milan, Rome or Venice), Germany (Dortmund), Austria (Vienna) or Bulgaria (Sofia), and from there take a flight to Moscow, for a total cost of about 400 euros.
Already in Asian territory and further away from the Caucasus, there is also the connection to Russia via Tashkent (Uzbekistan) with Uzbekistan Airways.
Option 4: Flights from North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, etc.)
A fourth option is to fly through a North African country such as Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, or Algeria.
Option 5: Flights from the Persian Gulf
There are also flights through the Persian Gulf. This is a more distant and more expensive connection route.
Here prices soar and can cost a minimum of 1,500-2,000 euros.
Option 6: Flights from Asia
Of course, it is also possible to fly to Russia via Asia. In fact, it is currently cheaper to fly from Beijing to Moscow than to fly to Moscow from anywhere else in the world.
3. Flights near the Russian border and bus to St. Petersburg
Update: The Finnish Government announced on November 16, 2023 the closure of its four main border crossings (Vaalimaa, Nuijamaa, Imatra and Niirala) until February 18, 2024, so buses currently do not circulate between Finland and Saint Petersburg . This means that, at the moment, to go by bus to Saint Petersburg you have to do it from Tallinn or Riga.
If you travel on tourism to Russia to visit Moscow and St. Petersburg, the best option, in my opinion, is to take a direct flight to a country bordering Russia (such as Finland, Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania) and from there take a bus to go to St. Petersburg, a city very close to the Finnish border and to the border of Estonia, Latvia or Lithuania.
Although the airspace from the European Union to Russia is closed, the bus connection operates normally. However, the train connection still does not work.
This option is usually cheaper than the previous one. In addition, you avoid airport stopovers.
You can visit first St. Petersburg and then Moscow by high-speed or night train.
This option involves two steps:
Step 1: Take a flight to Finland, Estonia, Latvia, or Lithuania
A round-trip flight to Helsinki from major European capitals can cost around 200 euros, while from the United States or Canada it costs around 600 euros.
Also, the low-cost airline Ryanair offers flights to Helsinki, Lappeenranta, Tampere, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Kaunas, etc. For example, from Milan, Ryanair offers flights to Lappeenranta for about 50 euros, a city about three hours away from St. Petersburg.
Step 2: Take a bus to St. Petersburg (or Vyborg)
Traveling by bus from Finland or the Baltic republics to Saint Petersburg is not excessively expensive, between 30 and 90 euros each way depending on the company and the city of departure.
The approximate duration of the trips is as follows:
- Helsinki – St. Petersburg: about 7 hours.
- Tallinn – St. Petersburg: about 6.5 hours.
- Riga – St. Petersburg: about 10.5 hours.
Bus companies travel mainly through the following border crossings:
- Vaalimaa and Nuijamaa border crossings (on the Finnish- Russian border), the former from Helsinki and the latter from Lappeenranta.
- Border crossing Narva – Ivangorod (Estonia – Russia), if you come from Tallinn.
Buses run day and night, and on their website, you can check schedules, prices, travel time and buy tickets online.
The companies operating routes through these border crossings and traveling to St. Petersburg are as follows:
LuxExpress is an Estonian company based in Tallinn. It offers multiple daily departures to St. Petersburg from Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, and other Baltic cities.
You can buy the ticket on their website with foreign Visa or MasterCard cards or at the bus station.
They are modern, comfortable, and quite spacious buses. Wi-Fi connection is available. A one-way ticket from Helsinki to St. Petersburg costs about 90 euros.
Ecolines is a Latvian company based in Riga. Do not confuse this company with Eurolines. It offers similar connections to LuxExpress. It also operates from Tallinn to Minsk in Belarus.
The buses are also good, and their cost is similar to LuxExpress.
Baltic Shuttle is an Estonian company. It offers routes between Estonia and Russia (St. Petersburg, Pskov, etc.).
It is cheaper. Travel from Tallinn to St. Petersburg costs about 30 euros.
Sovavto is a St. Petersburg company offering daily routes between Finland and Russia (St. Petersburg and Vyborg). They have 7 destinations to Finland, including Helsinki, Lappeenranta and Vaalimaa.
Their website is only in Russian (there is no English version). You can pay with Russian MIR cards or also by foreign Visa or MasterCard through the Finnish platform Matkahulto.
Tickets are cheaper than with LuxExpress or Ecolines, so the buses are usually fuller. A ticket from Helsinki to St. Petersburg costs about 48 euros.
Finally, it should be noted that first because of the Covid pandemic and then because of international sanctions, there is no rail service with the Allegro train and no ferry service between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. However, trains operate in the Russian hinterland normally.
4. In summary
If you are traveling for tourism to Russia and you are going to visit both Moscow and St. Petersburg, my recommendation would be to take a direct flight to Finland or one of the Baltic republics and from there take a bus to St. Petersburg.
Once you have visited St. Petersburg, take a high-speed or overnight train to Moscow. After the visit to Moscow make the reverse journey home. This I think is the most economical, comfortable and without the need to make plane stopovers.
If you only travel to Moscow or other Russian cities, the options are to take a flight with a stopover in Serbia, Turkey, Morocco or Armenia. In this case try to avoid long stopovers, book flights 2 or 3 months in advance to get the best price and use a flight comparator to check the best connections and prices.
If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions, you can leave them below in the comments area