Photo from SkyExpress.ruSince there aren’t many direct flights from non-CIS countries (also called “far-abroad countries” in Russia) to Sochi, and most foreign travelers today visiting Sochi are probably getting there through Moscow, or another city, I think this information will be useful to people who are planing a trip to Russia this year.

Russia is a big country. Biggest in the World, in fact. Just that alone has a lot of benefits, such as availability of vast amounts of natural resources, multicultural wealth, and many others. But it also creates certain problems and inconveniences, one of which I will talk about today – travel.

2007 – The formation of low-cost air carriers’ market.

For the longest time air travel in Russia was an expensive way to get around. And it still is, however, it can change dramatically in 2007. That is because for the first time ever Russia may see new, low-cost airlines. In fact three companies may be created next year which will provide airfares at discount prices. Past couple of years, news about European low-cost carriers’s plans to start operations in Russia were constantly hitting online news sites. However it never happened. Not yet, anyway. So, the first low-cost carrier, SkyExpress, will start operating in the beginning of 2007. And its first route is Moscow-Sochi. The introductory price of around $19 (500 rubles) is unheard of in Russia. Compare this to the current one-way rates from other air carriers: Sibir Airlines – $105 (2 755 rubles), Aeroflot – $96 (rates taken from their official websites, and will vary depending on dates and availability). And these are only 2 hours flights, now think how expensive are flights to Siberia and Russia’s Far East, to which there’s less competition and a lot longer distances. This September I visited Krasnoyarsk (Siberian city, 4-5 hours flight), and round-way tickets cost me $600 for the economy-class seats. I thought it was a lot. I hope now, with new low-cost airlines around, these prices will drop.

Railroad rides are a different story, and probably are not of much interest to most foreign travelers. It takes over 48 hours to get from Moscow to Sochi, and if you only have a week or two, you probably don’t want to spend 4 days in a train. These rides can be convenient, however, if you want to visit another city, up to 8 hours away. For example i find it convenient to go by train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, just book a late night train – get on at 11pm, get some sleep, start a new day in new city early morning :)

Train tickets are often as expensive (or higher priced) as airline tickets, if you travel in four-berth compartment or better. And train tickets will most likely only go up, since railroad is a natural monopoly, not much you can do with that. In addition, train rides in Russia today are subsidized by federal government. This year we only paid 65% of a real railroad ticket price, according to the information published in, and this number will gradually go up.

Note: $-prices mentioned in this article are in US dollars.

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