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Q:     How do I get to Yoshkar-Ola?

A:      There are several possible ways to travel to Yoshkar-Ola (YO). The method you choose depends on your starting location, your travel ambitions, and your sensitivity to the travel cost. Yoshkar-Ola can reached directly by plane, train, and car. Traditionally, YO visitors are from western countries such as the USA, Western Europe, Scandinavia, Australia, or New Zealand.


     Your travel from such countries will first be by plane and the traditional entry point into Russia is Moscow from which travel radiates by all possible methods to any area of Russia. Outside of visa costs the cost to fly to Moscow will consist of solely of the plane ticket. Of course you are then faced with taking a plane, train or car from Moscow to YO!

      It is possible to fly from Moscow directly to YO. The flights are limited and now occur only on Tuesday or Thursday but you should check the latest flight schedule with your travel agency before deciding on this route.  This web site is based on personal opinion so even if you don't agree with it I will frequently interject it.  I strongly advise against flying any domestic Russian airlines. Although the cost is surprising almost the same as the train cost from Moscow to YO, there is a downside. Aeroflot, under the USSR, had a reasonably good flying record. After the alleged breakup of the USSR, many industries and endeavors fragmented. Common examples are: Military assets such as ICBM's came under the control of the sovereign nation such as in Ukraine.  Intourist offices became the property of local entities with no central command. And finally Aeroflot dissolved into a host of regional and national carriers depending on who had which planes at the time.

     Due to such disintegration in maintenance of planes, like virtually every mechanical device in Russia, mishaps increased dramatically. If a "stray" Ukrainian missile doesn't down your plane horrible maintenance of the Tupelov series plane will increase your chances of not reaching your destination. I must note that some of the "new" domestic carriers have good flight records. If this makes you more inclined to fly you should consider one point. How well informed are you about your own national airlines. Do you know which planes it flies, the safest place to sit on the planes, the maintenance record for the airline. The information may be easy or difficult to obtain depending on your country. If you obtain it you will be able to read it in your native language. Now consider obtaining this information about Russian airlines. Do you reach Russian fluently? Do you want to spend the time to track down all necessary information about flights and airplanes you will be using? If you have all the time and fluency in Russian and the necessary Russian contacts then consider than other travel methods will cost virtually the same money if saving money is your real objective.

     Taking a car From Moscow to YO is possible. If you are in the affluent class in your country and can easily afford three times the cost of a plane ticket from Moscow to YO then this private but bumpy and long ride may be for you. There is however a better way to travel.

     If you are determined to make Moscow your point of entry into Russia then train travel is the most economical and safe method. Traveling by train adds the cost of the train ticket, the cost of incidentals such as tea during the ride, and the cost of transfer both from the Moscow airport to the Kasansky train station and from the YO train station to your apartment.

     The cost of the airline ticket is variable. Some people love living dangerously and fly Aeroflot and blissfully recommend it for such silly reasons as getting an early view at Russian women. In any case tickets should cost between 500 and 800 dollars roundtrip from the United States to Moscow depending on the season, airline, level of service, and length of advance purchase. Tickets from other countries will be based on the same criteria.

     The cost of transfer from the Shermenotov II airport in Moscow to the Kazansky train station will be approximately 50.00 USD. Of course you can take a private car if you have relatives in Moscow in which case you probably wouldn't be reading this information to begin with. Also, you can choose a taxi driver from the crowd that always waits at the airport just outside the arrivals exit inside. If you have little regard for your life and enjoy overpaying then this route may be for you. If you have no arrangements made before you arrive you can go to the Intourist desk and they will arrange transport in a taxi but expect to pay 60.00 USD or more. Most savvy travelers arrange private transport in advance.

     There are reliable drivers that transport tourists from the airport to the train station. I advise you to arrange such transport with your travel agent BEFORE you buy your plane ticket. If you arrive too late in the day you can't catch the one daily train from Moscow to YO. It would mean paying for the cost of a hotel in Moscow, plus transport from the airport to the hotel and the hotel to the train station. In addition you would have a meal cost.


     If you want to both minimize your cost and minimize your travel time then you should consider making Kazan your port of entry into Russia. Kazan is the capital of the semi-autonomous region of Tartarstan. It's not an independent country but a landlocked region that has it's own constitution and shares common military defense with Russia. You can be driven from Kazan to YO in about 3 1/2 hours. Currently, if you plan to fly to Kazan you will have to first fly to Germany and then to Kazan if your original departure point is in the USA. Aside from the plane ticket it will cost no more than 25.00 USD for the private car. Contrast that to near 100.00 USD for the Moscow to YO train ride in a private compartment plus the Airport to Train station transfer costs.


     It's possible to enter Russia at several points by rail. Two such points are in St. Petersburg and far to the south at Rostov. If you already live in a country bordering Russia this might be your best option. Also, if you are visiting a bordering country this might be a good option. Remember to consider the complexity of transit and tourist visas, the number of train switches in your route, the cost of the various train tickets, and the length of time you will be traveling before deciding on this method. The class of train service you choose is a very important factor. For trips under 4 1/2 hours (my arbitrary comfort index) I like the lowest class that is basically a wooden bench. For longer trips I would choose a berth. Berths can be either in an open area (you will have one assigned on your ticket that no one can take), semiprivate with 3 other patrons in a cramped room (a bottom and top bunk on both sides), and private with a bottom and top bunk. The private can be completely private if you buy both berths but it costs a considerable amount and requires purchase far in advance. I like the open berths because it is difficult to fit some luggage through the private and semi-private compartment doors. Also, I like an area open for all eyes rather than being cramped with 1 - 3 individuals I don't know. They may be friendly or they may have sticky fingers. At least in any open area with kids running, some men drinking, and families traveling, there are more eyes to detect thieves.


     I appreciate any comments on this article and will endeavor to correct any errors in price or logistics. The opinions of course remain firm and are based on my own real travel experience in Russia.

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Last updated: June 10, 2003.