Sheremetyevo airport was kind of a legend back in Soviet times. To get there meant to belong to the elite, because it was the only airport in Moscow that could handle international flights. In fact, Sheremetyevo was not an airport, but more of a club, where privileged members of the society met before boarding the flights to Paris, Rome and New-York.
We couldn’t even dream about getting on international flight then. Common Russian folks like my mom and dad could neither afford the ticket – nor get all the permissions. Did you know we had a thing called “departure visa”?
It was basically a permit to leave the country of victorious Communism (that’s how Soviet Union was called in the newspapers) for the sake of distant, foreign lands. In fact, one had to get this visa even to visit other Communist countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia or Estonia.
There was a whole procedure to get it – first, you had to have a really good reason, like if you were a famous scientist attending international symposium. Second, you had to go through thorough checks by the KGB before you were granted the permit, so now you get the idea how unreliable we were in the eyes of the state. Needless to say, some of your close relatives had to stay in USSR as hostages in case you were planning to defect.
Phew. Let’s just say I’m glad those times are gone…
Anyways, Sheremetyevo airport was designed to look like a modern, futuristic building that would differ drastically from the general Soviet architecture. Well, maybe it was – but frankly it’s not much right now.
Yes, times have changed. The old idols have fallen, and this days Sheremetyevo 2 airport doesn’t look that well compared to, say, Domodedovo. It’s sure is big, but it’s also really outdated, both in terms of design and comfort. Plus, the place is heavily overloaded, and often it’s really hard to find a place to sit, which is a pain if your flight was delayed for a couple of hours.
Frankly, I don’t understand why it's such a big problem to add a couple more benches – there’s enough space for sure. I guess the management doesn’t care that much when there are so many commercial stands you can squeeze in!
Another lack of Sheremetyevo airport is absence of decent parking. Unlike in Domodedovo, where parking lots are always a plenty, Sheremetyevo parking is not that well-organized. However, despite its low quality, the parking will still cost you – and that, frankly, is outrageous.
Yeah, yeah, I know that Sheremetyevo official site tells you about multiple parking spots around the airport, but in reality you will park a mile away and will have to walk through dirt, snow and car jams for quite a while. Plus,if you're carrying a couple of heavy bags, well...you get the idea!
Even if you only have to drop someone off, or if you know for sure the person is already waiting at the exit – the process is going to be painful. As I said before, Sheremetyevo airport was not built to handle lots of cars and people – and that's exactly what it's going through now.
Once you approach the terminal entrance, you will be stuck in a one big mess of cars and people. I'm not trying to say it's impossible to make your way there at all, but be ready for a tough ride.
Again, if you're picking someone up right from the terminal – make sure the person is waiting for you already. Otherwise you will get stuck in a narrow passage with dozens of enraged Moscow drivers on your tail. The thing is you almost won't have a chance to park aside and let the other cars through, so you will either have to delay everyone for a moment – or just go with the flow.
Thanks God there's another solution now that's called "AeroExpress". These are nice, comfortable trains that run between the airport and "Belorussky" train station every 30-40 minutes. This idea was adopted from "Domodedovo" airport that was the first to introduce such service, and boy was it missed in Sheremetyevo!
That's how AeroExpress looks like...
Before, you could only get to Sheremetyevo airport by car (and get into all the parking and driving mess), or you had to ride a terribly uncomfortable bus all the way from "Aeroport" metro station.
Now, all you have to do is get to "Belorussky", buy a ticket – and enjoy the ride! Plus, you can even check in your luggage before you get on the train, and we all know what a big pain the bags can be! Once you've got rid of them, you can enjoy all the duty free shops you can find (although there aren't that many in the airport).
I wouldn't advise you to shop there, because the prices are through the roof. You should only shop in Sheremetyevo airport duty free when you didn't have the chance to buy gifts in Moscow, otherwise you'll just waste money.
By the way, did you know that Russian goods in duty free stores are actually MORE expensive than in Moscow? It seems really weird, but the thing is – since the goods had to pass customs, additional fees are applied. Technically, you're buying exported stuff, but the whole thing still doesn't seem right. Is it the same in your country as well?
However, even if you aren't planning to buy anything and just want a cup of coffee, get ready to pay a lot! I remember a couple of years ago me and my wife were flying through SVO and were too hungry to wait for the lunch on board. So, we sat down at some cafe.
We only ordered a tea, a coffee and a couple of small sandwiches. Guess what – the entire thing cost us around 1,000 rubles! For that money, we could've ordered four times more if we were in Moscow – and note that when the entire thing happened, the prices weren't as high as they are today!
Speaking of airport cafes, here comes another invaluable piece of advice. When in Sheremetyevo, avoid using your credit card to pay for anything, especially in restaurants. I've heard several stories of people credit card numbers being stolen, and the traces always led to the airport. Note there aren't such stories about, say, Domodedovo. Think for yourself...
OK, so I guess you've heard enough about Sheremetyevo. Bad service, too many people – not a very nice place to visit. Recently, however, there was a slight improvement, as a new "Terminal C" was opened that we unofficially call "Sheremetyevo 3". Well, as they say in the movies – "now we're talkin'!"
Terminal C is much more comfortable than the old Sheremetyevo 2. Built by the latest standards, it's well-equipped to deal with large amounts of people and luggage. Or is it?
People usually have mixed feelings. Sure, the terminal is clean and tidy, but on the other hand you can easily wait there for many hours if you're on the charter flight. Not long after the terminal was opened, people reported not being able to get their luggage fast, not being able to use the elevators – and many others "not being able to...".
The situation improved recently, but it's still far from perfect. For example, lack of good conditioning can easily bring the temperature inside up to 30 degrees in Summer. Plus, despite all the new shops and boutiques around, the prices are still way too high. Again – avoid using your credit card there, because you'll probably be dealing with the same staff.
In my opinion, you should choose Domodedovo if you can. Sheremetyevo airport is problematic, and if you add to that its ongoing conflict with "Aeroflot" personnel that's far from being over, well...
...you do the math.
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