Transiting and the Transit Hotel at Sheremetyevo (SVO)

i just left the “Capsule Hotel” at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow and since i posted that tweet last night, a couple people asked me about transiting in Moscow so i figure i should write a blog post about it.

transiting in russia

you can transit without a visa at Sheremetyevo (the hub for Aeroflot) as long as you don’t leave the airport and your next flight is within 24 hours of your arrival. i can’t speak for the other airports in the Moscow area (there’s also Vnukovo and Domodedovo) but if you’re doing an international to international connection with Aeroflot or Skyteam at SVO you probably fall in this category (with a couple notable exceptions like Minsk). see the Transit Without Visa (TWOV) section of this page for more info. note that if you need to check which terminal your flight arrives and departs from. if you need to leave terminals D/E/F (which are connected) you will need a visa because you have to exit into Russia.

the actual transiting in Russia is the easy part as everyone here knows the 24-hour rule. i had problems (well, not problems, but a long HUH WHAT’S GOING ON) at both San Francisco where i started my journey and Paris (where i connected) because they were not aware of the 24 hour rule and had to look it up and/or ask someone else.

when you arrive

  • follow the signs to international connections. this may mean going up a floor or two.
  • you will need to show your paper boarding pass to someone who will verify you are in the right location. yes, paper. they don’t like mobile boarding passes in Russia (still — this has been going on for years now). they will accept home-printed boarding passes from other airlines (mine was an Air France boarding pass that i printed at home after checking in for my flight at home, for an Aeroflot flight). i didn’t see a transfer desk so i don’t know if it’s possible to get a boarding pass here on arrival.
  • you will then go through a passport check (it looks like you’re going to exit into Russia but you’re not) although the person doesn’t really do anything to your passport except look at it and your boarding pass. no stamp, no nothing.
  • then a standard security screening, although they didn’t ask me to remove my liquids or electronics.
  • ta-da! you’re in the departures area.
  • follow the signs to the capsule hotel which is located on the left end of Terminal E if you’re facing the planes.

so yeah, the employees at the airport were quite friendly and the whole process was super easy. like i said, the only hard part will likely be at your origin and connection airports. again, know the rules for transiting without a visa, make sure you’re following the rules for transiting without a visa, and you should have no problems. (some people advocate printing out the rules; you may wish to do this.)

it was much easier when i had a Russian visa (it has since expired) because you can just point to that — plus it gives you more options because you can leave the airport to a cheaper and nicer hotel, but nothing beats the ease of a transit hotel. in terms of hotels in the area (that require a visa), at SVO i stayed at the Park Inn and it was about $20 cheaper for a nicer room, and it’s only a short walk away from the terminal.

the transit hotel

i booked and paid for my room beforehand using their site. note that there are two hotels run by the same company here. you want the one that’s Terminal E, as that’s the one that’s inside the secure area of the airport. the Aeroexpress hotel is located “in Russia” (so you will need a visa) in an adjoining building, but again, you don’t want that one.

like the pictures above show, it’s a “capsule hotel” in name only; it’s really just a basic hotel with small rooms. you have your own bed and your own bathroom. there is wifi but it’s not speedy, and there’s no desk (at least not in my room). you do get a bottle of water and there is hair/bodywash in the shower. the bed was comfy if not a bit short, and the duvet was nice and fluffy and warm.

some drawbacks that may or may not affect you:

  • the walls are super thin so you will hear alarms from the next room, doors opening and closing, etc.
  • there are no blackout curtains and sunrise this morning was around 4:30 AM. guess when i woke up? (i booked a windowless room because it was the cheapest and got upgraded at check-in to a room with windows. who knew it would be problematic!) bring your eye shades!
  • the shower is your typical compact European size; larger folks may find these difficult to use, i’d imagine.
  • tons of TV channels, but none in English

you do pay by the hour — 8 hours was around $6 more than 7 hours so i decided to splurge; depending on your layover and lounge access you may or may not want more time in the hotel, but you’ll have to weigh that against the cost.

remember this is a transit hotel so you will not be allowed to go out and fetch your checked baggage. if you will check a bag be sure to pack a change of clothes and your toiletries. i had a carry-on but was prepared in the event of a forced baggage check (if it was too heavy or too large or whatever) and had these things easily accessible so i could pull them out if necessary, which luckily it wasn’t. this may also be problematic if you are on separate tickets since you will not be able to recheck your bag and you will need to get a printed boarding pass for your connection before they let you back in the terminal. 

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