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Railroad travel in Russia

First part of this series of articles on railroad travel in Russia is here

Buying Russian railroad tickets.

Primary website for buying rail tickets in Russia is Russian Railroads (RZD) website This link gets you to the search form where you pick travel destination and dates. The website is Russian/English. You need to register on RZD website to buy tickets. Payment is by plastic card of almost any type. Their system gives you train options with tickets available on the date of search for a chosen destination. If tickets or specific type of ticket not available at a time of search, go not give up, as ticket availability is dynamic.

You will need photo ID to buy a ticket (normally passport). ID number, name and type will be requited for buying a ticket. Exactly the same ID will be required for boarding the train. If you do not have an ID you used to buy ticket, you will not be allowed onto the train.

Tickets go on sale 90 days before train departure (45 and 60 days for some trains). Prices are dynamic, reflecting popularity, demand and availability. This means buying in advance gives you more chances of cheaper tickets. All railroad tickets now are electronic (paper tickets are still available if you buy from a ticket office). If for whatever reason you need a paper ticket, you can print standard paper ticket from the ticketing machine on any major rail station in larger cities. When you buy a ticket on RZD website, they will email you e-ticket in PDF format. Russian railroad tickets are Russian/English.

You can buy one-way or return ticket and sometimes you get some discount on two-way ticket.

Alternatively to electronic tickets you can buy regular paper tickets from ticket offices on any of nine major rail stations in Moscow. Difference is that buying from ticket office you will have no options of choosing specific seat on a train. There will be lines. There are many resellers online and offline. When buying from a reseller you will pay commissions and availability of tickets might be limited. Also, not every reseller provides seat choice and other Russian Railroad services. All tickets are returnable, you get fraction of a price if returned on the day of travel. There was an idea of cheaper non-returnable tickets, but I am unsure if it is implemented yet.

Types of railroad tickets and service

When you get list of train options available, each train has different types of cars and services included in a ticket price. There will be indication of number of seats of each type available in each car. If you click on a specific car on the list, you will get car map with occupied and available seats (beds for sleepers).

By the level of service, there are two types of trains: “firmenniy” (branded) or “ne firmenniy” (regular). “Firmenniy” train consists tend to have newer cars, better maintenance and passenger service. “Firmenniy” trains always have a brand name, which is written next to the train number on the online ticketing RZD website. They are also pricier. Regular trains are not necessarily worth. They can have older or newer cars in consist and good service. It depends on a number of factors, and I believe the most important one is where the train originates. Each RZD division that builds and maintains train consists have their own specifics.

Regardless of branded or regular all rail Russian railroads cars come in four major types.

Seater cars.

Type of seater car depends on destination and train that service the destination. Each seater has its own class system. Each seater train service is unique because they have train consists and car layouts built for specific rout and service. Each seater worth separate article. I will outline some of the most popular seater train services below.

Railroad travel in Russia

Sapsan (on above picture), “branded” train that runs between Moscow and St.Petersburg has tickets of seven classes. Sapsan trains are built by Siemens and provide excellent travel quality and comfort that comes with very good passenger service. Each of seven classes of Sapsan provides different accommodation or services included.

Nevsky Express (below picture) en rout between Moscow and St.Petersburg has been in operation long before Sapsan. Nevsky Express consist is built by a Russian manufacturer and runs almost with the same speed as Sapsan. Nevsky Express cars have separate compartments for six passengers each. That is 3 seats in two rows facing each other. The compartments have glass doors, luggage shelves, small table, and TV sets. Nevsky Express has only one class of service, and it comes with food included in a ticket price. All passengers get lunch delivered to their seat.

Railroad travel in Russia

Moscow — Nizhniy Novgorod route is serviced by Sapsan and Strizh. Photo below has 2nd class of Strizh train.

Railroad travel in Russia

Strizh consist is a Talgo train, provides three classes of service. One class is seater and two classes are sleepers, completely different from regular RZD sleeper cars explained below.

Many destinations are services by Lastochka trains. Lastochka is built by Siemens and it’s a very comfortable simpler type of seater that provides accommodation similar to airline economy seats (wider seats and more room for legs though).

Other seaters are Russian built and provide airline type of seating arrangement, 3+3, 3+2, 1+2 or 2+2 seats in one row. Some seaters serve regional destinations like Tula or Kaluga and have only seaters in their consist. Some long distance trains have 1-2 seater cars in their consist to serve regional passenger traffic.

Seater train options have less availability compared to sleeper cars as they serve less destinations. Sleeper cars come in 4 classes, explained below. International train services may have completely different accommodation and class system. Also, there are few deluxe trains operating on some routs by private companies, not RZD, and their class system can be different. Bellow class system is found on 99% of Russian long distance trains.

All long distance sleeping cars have small compartments called kupe (купе). Kupe or compartments come in 4 types, explained below.

DeLuxe.

Modern cars that have fewer compartments for 1-2 passengers each with private toilet and shower. Available on a very few trains and they are very pricey.

Railroad travel in Russia

Mostly seen on trains between Moscow and St.Petersburg and obviously targeted to business use or private use for passengers who can afford them. I understand this type of carriage comes with multitude of services included in ticket price. Suffice it to say, if you can afford this type of ticket — go for it. If you travel in DeLuxe type of carriage you can skip all below reading, because DeLuxe cars are different in every way from “mass” type of rail car accommodations.

Railroad travel in Russia

1st class sleeper (Russian — “spalniy vagon” — “спальный вагон” or “СВ”).

Railroad travel in Russia

Each first and second class car has small kupe, compartments with sliding door. In 1st class, each compartment has two lower bunk beds. 2nd class cars have four bunk beds — two upper, two lower, and this is the main and the only principal difference between 1st and 2nd class.

Each bed in kupe is sold separately on RZD website. This means if you travel alone, you will have company of a total stranger, of whoever buys second bed in the same kupe with you. You can buy both beds on separate tickets to your name and occupy the whole compartment, but this is pricey as you have to pay for two full tickets. This is an option though, and this is the only way to get maximum privacy and safety. If you are lucky and no one buys second bed, you will travel by yourself. You might get company of a passenger, getting on the train on some of the stops though.

Your kupe bed serves as a couch at daytime and for sleeping it turns into bed. In older cars the bed linen is provided separately and car attendant makes your bed on request before sleep. For trains departing late at night, kupe comes with bed already made, so when you board the train your bed is ready to sleep. In newer cars, the bed linen stored inside the back of the couch. The back of the couch collapses and turns into a bed, that’s been pre-made already. You do not need car attendant, just flip the back of the bed and your bed is ready. Bed linen include one or two pillows (depending on service), mattress (slim) blankets and cover.

Railroad travel in Russia

Other kupe amenities include: mirror, foldable table, TV set (in some cars), individual reading light, storage space for luggage, hooks and hangers for clothes, electric outlets (only in newer cars!). Normally each passenger provided small cloth towel. There are individual smaller shelves for keeping small personal items for each bed. Windows have shades. There can be other service options and amenities, I will discuss them later in part three.

A bit more about 1st class cars. First class is not available in every train, and where it is available, it’s usually only one car, perhaps two on some trains. This means first class tickets will sell quicker, despite they are priced more than double compared to 2nd class.

Since 1st class cars have less passengers, it’s more quiet. 1st class passengers get more attention from attendants and better overall service. There will be less morning lines to the toilet in the 1st class carriage.

Although Russian Railroads are making big effort in rebuilding or replacing old soviet rail cars, a big bunch of older cars is still in operation. This means even if you buy a first class ticket, you might travel in an older car.

Each 1st class ticket comes with different options and additional services and we will discuss them later in part three. Again, the main difference between 1st and 2nd class is number of passengers in one compartment — kupe.

2nd class sleeper (Russian — “kupe”).

In Russian, second class is just called “kupe (купе)”. Technically it is the same type of accommodation as 1st class, with only one difference — kupe, or compartment, has 4 bunk beds. Two upper beds and two lower beds. Again, similar to 1st class, all 4 beds sold separately and when traveling alone you get company of three strangers. It is good to travel with family or company, you can buy all 4 beds and have maximum privacy.

Railroad travel in Russia

Second class sleepers have the same bed system as first class. Bed linen is either stored in a collapsible back of a couch type seat or bed is provided separately. Train attendant will make bed for you upon request or you can make it yourself.

Second class has absolutely the same amenities as 1st class, including mirror, foldable table, TV set (in some cars), individual reading light, storage space for luggage, hooks and hangers for clothes, electric outlets (only in newer cars!). Normally each passenger provided small cloth towel. There are individual smaller shelves for keeping small personal items for each bed. Windows have shades.

Since 2nd class has upper beds, there is foldable ladder to help passengers get to their upper bed.

If you are traveling for more than one night, normally lower beds (turned into a couch with bed linen removed) and table by the window are shared with upper bed passengers during day time.

Tickets for upper beds are cheaper, but because of inconvenience to some passengers getting to/from upper bed, lower beds are sold much quicker. When you get list of available beds on RZD website, there will be clear indication which bed is upper which is lower. Upper beds has its individual reading light and smaller shelf for keeping personal items.

Railroad travel in Russia

Most 2nd class kupes are mixed sex. On some trains, there are female only kupes. This is indicated on the list of available beds on RZD website when you search for tickets. Male passengers can’t buy ticket to a female kupe.

Each train consists would have 1-3 2nd class cars and they are less popular as they are pricier. This means on a busy destination 2nd class tickets are sold quicker.

Trick for making your overnight train travel more comfortable.

When choosing kupe, aim at those located in the middle of the car. Soundproofing is not that good in Russian rail cars. Kupe close to sides of the car get lots of noice from wheels, car coupling mechanism that makes loud banging noise, doors opening and closing all the time, people gettin on and off the train at stops, talking at the platform, toilet that makes loud noise when flushed. This applies to all four classes of sleeper cars.

Railroad travel in Russia

3rd class sleeper (Russian — platskart).

Same thing as 2nd class, except that compartments have no doors. This is a communal type of sleeper, cheapest and for that reason most demanded. Compartments are open and you get company of 50+ passengers for the entire trip.

In addition to open compartments with four bunk beds, there are two bunk beds on the side of the corridor. Lower side bunk bed folds and turns into two seats and a table for the day time, so both passengers (from upper and lower beds) can sit during day time.

Beds in 3rd class are shorter compared to 1st and 2nd class. This means if you are tall, your feel will hang in the corridor when you’re sleeping. 3rd class has less luggage storage space and 3rd class passengers get less of additional services and amenities. There will be no TV, no mirror (except toilet), in most cases no extra amenities like toiletry kits. I understand 3rd class never comes with food included in a ticket price.

Railroad travel in Russia

In this type of car you get no privacy at all. It is noisy, smells with body odors, bad breath of drunk people, food people eat.

Generally speaking 3rd class is not recommended, unless you are on a very tight budget or for whatever reason you wanna be around Russians, socializing with them. Socializing is an inevitable part of Russian rail travel and we will talk about this in further articles.

3rd class is convenient in absence of seater service on chosen destination, when you travel long distance during day time and do not need to sleep on a train. This gets you very cheap and comfortable seater. Picks lower side bed (боковое место or боковушка), it will be a wide chair during the day with table, at the window.

Good thing is that almost all third class sleepers were renewed in the past years, so chances of getting an old car is much less (almost none) compared to 1st and 2nd class. 3rd class has less luggage storage space and 3rd class passengers get less of additional services and amenities, that will be discussed on the next article.

Railroad travel in Russia

Finalizing ticket purchase.

Choose travel dates, destination. Check available train options and car options. Select preferred seat or bed. Finalize purchase by entering each passenger data. Pay for the ticket using plastic card. Ones the ticket is purchased, you receive confirmation e-mail with e-ticket in PDF format. You can always access your tickets through RZD website logging into your account.

Rail tickets are returnable and you get full refund if you return them before the day of travel. For tickets purchased from RZD website, returns can be made from your account.

Railroad travel in Russia

This post begins series of articles on railroad travel in Russia.

Russia has extensive railroad system and railroad is a primary mode of long distance travel. Most places in Russia have railroad connection. Trains are affordable, timely and, for the most part, convenient and comfortable.

Speaking of comfort, in soviet times little attention was paid to the comfort of travel. Bringing people to places was more important and train travel was simple and not sophisticated in terms of passenger experience. Nowadays Russian Railways makes notable effort in making rail travel more comfortable, enhancing customer experience and service. However upgrading (for the most part rebuilding) a big system, like Russian railways, requires effort and time. In practice this means, when you become a passenger, along with examples of immaculate customer service, you can easily run into disappointing experiences like bad treatment of passengers from staff, old carriages, faulty equipment and so on. Likelihood of really bad experiences is quite slim though, but if something happens not up to your expectations, be patient, your emotional reactions will not change the system, but will hurt you only.

Russian Railways (РЖД) with its multitude subsidiaries is the only company running Russian railroad system. The company is 100% owned by Russian government. Russian Railroads provide roughly 1% of all jobs in Russia, this is to demonstrate how huge the company is.

Let’s get into practicalities of railroad travel in Russia.

Types of trains in Russia.

Sleepers. Trains in Russia are slow. Most trains cover routes of thousands of kilometers, making multiple stops. Passenger trains share tracks with freight trains. Train traffic is quite heavy on most destinations. Railroad infrastructure dates back to soviet era and despite all renewals is not suited for speed travel. Distances and slow train speed combined, require overnight travel or perhaps several days and nights of travel to most destinations. Thus, most long distance trains in Russia are sleepers. Seating trains are very few and most of the trains have just sleeper cars. Some long-distance trains have one or two seating carriages in consist to service regional destinations, but this is very few.

Express train service is on the rise in Russia, however express trains cover mostly regional or inter-regional destinations where travel time is, roughly, within one day. Express trains normally have seating carriages. Good example of express train destination is between Moscow and St.Petersburg with Sapsan train servicing the rout. It takes roughly four hours of comfortable non-stop travel to cover roughly 700 kilometers between two largest cities in Russia. Other express destinations from Moscow include Nizhniy Novgorod, Tula, Kaluga and others. There are express seating trains originating from other cities, servicing local destinations.

International trains. Aside from local destinations, Russian Railroads run trains to many European cities. International trains from Moscow service destinations to Paris, Berlin, Helsinki, Nice, Prague, Warsaw, Tallinn, Beijing. There is an express train between St.Petersburg and Helsinki called Allegro. In this and following articles on Russian rail travel we will talk about domestic rail service only. Types of trains and services vary per international destination, some are one of its kind.

Good things about railroad travel in Russia.

Cheaper. Ticket prices are regulated by government to ensure regular Russian passenger with average income can afford train travel. We will talk about ticket pricing in a later article. Ticket prices for each destination vary from very affordable, simpler type of service to pricier, more comfortable options. In general, train tickets are cheaper compared to airline travel options.

Better coverage. Very few places in Russia have airports and some areas are only accessible by train. Car travel sometimes is not an option due to limited road coverage and road quality.

Convenience. Coverage, frequency of trains and its timeliness, variety of service options, central location if train stations are just few of multitude of factors making train travel convenient. Trains do not require lengthy security checks, do not impose luggage restrictions, provide more space compared to say, airlines.

Scenery. If you are on a long distance train for a day or more, it’s like a sightseeing tour. You don’t get to see places where train stops (except stations), but looking out the window, gives you unparalleled experience of seeing huge territory of Russia in a relatively short period of time. This is I understand one the primary reasons, expats take trains from Moscow to Siberia and Far East. In several days of travel you see areas of the country that otherwise would require years to visit one by one.

Time consuming. If you are on a train, you don’t have much to do, so this is an excellent time to read a book, watch some movie or work on a project. Aside from scenery, it’s very few distractions on a train, so you can focus on something important.

Downsides of long distance trains in Russia.

Time consuming. In today’s world, spending days on a train is a real luxury. For business travel most people seek faster options, that might combine airline and car. If the only travel option you have is train, you will have to spend days on the road, for the most part completely out of reach.

Hot. Long distance trains are heated by burning coal. Each carriage has independent heating system and in practice, all carriages are overheated and you suffocate in the heat and lack of fresh air. Windows on newer carriages do not open. Most newer passenger rail cars come with climate control with air conditioning. In reality train attendants either do not know how to operate them properly or equipment is faulty. Uncomfortably hot temperatures in summer is one of the most frequent complaints from train passengers.

Noisy and shaky. Rails can be bumpy as they are used by heavy freight trains. Passenger carriages can be shaky, especially when train starts to move or stops. Trains make many stops at night, so you will hear station loudspeaker announcements, people talking on platforms, getting on and off the train. Soundproofing is not a main thing in carriages, so you can also hear your neighbors. At night if someone is snoring, all passengers know. Sleeping on a sleeper train paradoxically can be quite difficult especially for those sensitive to disruptions.

Unpleasant passengers. Long distance sleeper trains provide communal type of accommodation. Unless you can afford 1st class or DeLuxe service, you will be traveling with a bunch of total strangers. Other passengers can annoy you in different ways, like talking too much or too loud, eating smelly food and drinking. Some people travel for days and smell bad. Most Russian trains have no showers.

The story about Russian railroad travel will continue.

Where to find organic, natural food in Moscow.

First off, what is organic food? Here is my definition — organic food is a type of food grown in a natural way, not using genetical modifications, fertilizers, chemicals, hormones or other methods to artificially speed up growth or to enhance taste and other qualities.

Almost all of the food produced in Russia or sold in stores and “farmer’s” markets is not organic.

Russia has no standards, no certification on organic food. Therefore when you see labels like “organic”, “farm produced” it’s just marketing (reads “lie”).

There is no one single place to buy all organic. Where you can spot “organic” or “natural” food in Moscow?

“Farmer’s” markets. Almost all of sellers on farmers markets are just re-sellers, merchants. They have nothing to do with producing of what they sell. They are not real farmers. They buy products from variety of sources: wholesale warehouses, small and large farms and retail them on those markets. You never know exactly where the product comes from, how it was produced and to what degree it is “natural” or “organic”. Very few products sold on “farmer’s” markets can be truly called “organic”.

To understand what to buy, you have to be a food expert yourself. Try everything, talk to sellers, question them on the origin of products and how the product was made or grown. Learn how to identify organic food. All the sellers speak only Russian and will lie to you, so be suspicious and picky. Look where other people line to buy specific products. Research, try, check, compare, ask recommendations from people you can trust.

As a side note, all the food sold in “farmer’s markets” is safe to consume. All the markets control safety very strictly. Thus if what you buy is not 100% organic, but at least it is in compliance with safety regulations, quite strict in Russia.

Street “farmer’s markets” on summer weekends. Again, there is no real farmers on those markets. In summer farmers have no time to stand under those tents in Moscow, they have to take care of the crop. People selling on those markets are re-sellers, buying products from wholesalers and retailing them. Origin of food can be import or local (meaning produced in Russia), can be organic, but most likely it is not. If you ask about where the food comes from, they will lie to you in most cases. The only way to find out is to request quality certificate on a specific product they sell. They must have those certificates, but reluctant to show them. Again, safety is strictly controlled and not an issue, even if those “farmer’s” tomatoes you buy is an imported product from, say, Morocco.

“Organic” and “natural food” shops (including internet shops). Some shops name themselves organic and they claim to have their own selection and certification processes. They take responsibility to ensure all of their products are of organic origin. Again, no one can really verify those statements. It is up to you whether you believe them. In my experience those natural food stores are double fold. On one hand I see they stock products (especially fruits and vegetables) of the same origin and quality sold by large retailers. Those organic shops definitely do stock lots of import from different parts of the world and I doubt they have checked all of the food suppliers for “organic” compliance. On the other hand, they sell food that is (at least according to labels) has more healthy and more natural ingredients compared to regular grocery store food. Examples are: sausages and burgers made of meat; no-yeast, no-sugar bread; real milk that actually spoils in a few days, real smoked fish, urbech, unusual types of vegetables like kale and so on. With internet shops you have to be even more cautious, because you only see pictures and some information. “What you see is what you get” is not necessarily the case.

Organic farms. There are few businesses in Moscow area and more in neighboring areas claiming their production to be organic. All of them are smaller types of businesses scattered everywhere. Their volume of produce is not enough to satisfy demands of large retail networks. Some of them have direct sales (website and delivery), some supply their produce to shops in Moscow. To find their organic produce you need to understand exactly which farm produces what, where and how you can get their products. To find such farms, ask recommendations, do internet research, look for events where real farmers come to sell and advertise their products. Those events are advertised in social networks — all in Russian.

Apply common sense in your pursuits of organic or just quality food in Moscow.

Consider prices. Real organic food takes much more time and effort to produce and that is always reflected in a price. If someone sells product labelled “organic” or “natural” at a price comparable with retail prices, it’s a fake.

Try products from different places. If you find a place that is good for you in terms of price and quality, keep buying from there. Seller will remember you, and if you can exchange some phrases with them in Russian, sort of relationships will start to build. Ones they recognize you as a regular customer, you will get real information on their products and they will give trustworthy recommendations. This is proven by experience. Every seller is interested in keeping regular customers, so being honest, not cheating on weights becomes a thing for them.

Consider seasonality. Real fruits and vegetables are always seasonal. When it’s winter, produce does not grow organically. It has to be imported or grown in greenhouses. There is limited number of crops you can have in greenhouses unless you use modern agricultural technologies and those almost always involve fertilizers. You need to understand what comes when — naturally.

For example, in May, early June, tomatoes start to come from Azerbaijan. Not sure if they are fully organic, but they are real tasty and of a good quality. In June we get strawberries, grown in Moscow area, they are sold in limited season mostly from specialized tents on streets. Cherries grown in Russia are not that tasty, but those from Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan (pricey) and Moldavia are excellent. Peaches are all imported and almost never good. July and August is a season for Russian grown tomatoes and cucumbers. End of August and September are for watermelons, grown in Russian South. The list is endless, examples here for you to have an idea of how it works.

Non-organic food is not necessarily bad. Although some fertilizers can be used in conventional agricultural businesses, they are not that harmful. Of course, this is questionable, but considering effort needed to locate, identify and buy real organic food, just quality but not 100% organic food can be an option to consider. Especially seasonal, local produce can be of a very good quality, albeit their non-organic origin.

Final thoughts. In absence of “organic” standards, limited availability, lack of honesty from sellers, the only real reliable source of food is — dacha. If you have time, willing to put effort in growing your own produce — rent or buy dacha. Along with fresh, guaranteed natural food it will bring you many more delights, spring through late fall.

If you subscribe to Russia Simplified mailing list, I will send you a list of all farmer’s markets in Moscow along with some recommendations on shops to buy organic food.

Gender roles in Russian business environment

Russian culture embraces gender inequality and expects all members of society to follow well defined, for the most part unwritten, gender roles. Those roles have profound effect on everyday life and business. In this article I will explain how gender roles affect women in business.

It all starts with hiring. Despite the law, there is a very strong belief that some jobs are more suitable for men than women and vise versa. It also can be a personal idea of company management to have employee of a specific gender in a certain position. As a result of these mindsets, almost all job ads specify prospective candidate’s gender. Resumes from candidates of a different gender would be rejected.

When hiring, women are not considered just professionals. This does not happen very often, but it’s a notable trend in many Russian businesses. Many businesses consider women as sort of a beautiful object, making office attractive for employees and visitors. This is why when hiring for public positions, female candidate looks is always in consideration. Not very often, but often enough, women in some business positions are expected to provide extra services of a sexual nature. Again, not very common, but this is a brutal truth that it happens. When company advertises job opening like a secretary or personal assistant, half of the resumes come with a photograph attached. Those photographs have female candidates, some just nice looking, some in sexually provocative poses, some semi-naked. Candidates know, their appearance will be in consideration, so they demonstrate their assets upfront as a competitive advantage.

In Russia, to be successful in a corporate career, being professional is not enough. There are many factors in play and gender is one of them. In a typical Russian company most managerial positions are taken by men. The belief is that men have qualities to rule, while women are much less capable of management and leadership. Culturally, there is strong connection to family concept in Russia, which translates into business. Women are supposed to be good housewives, mothers and raise children. Running business is a men’s job. Women officially called “weak gender” in Russia. (Real life often proves it quite contrary, but nonetheless this notion of “weak” is still there). Getting promotions can be very difficult for women in a typical Russian company. When a woman receives good position or some benefits, the question everyone quietly asks is — “Who she slept with?”.

To build career, especially in management, she has to exhibit male qualities, male attitudes, behaviors and abilities to rule men. Being on a par with men in terms of behavior, being strong and assertive (to a degree of being aggressive at times) is an essential prerequisite for a woman for getting any managerial position in Russian business. It’s a hard job, to remain feminine as culture demands, at the same time being butch.

Another thing is that many (if not majority) of woman willingly accept and follow this stereotyped role of women as mother and household keeper, and rarely put any effort in career development. Many woman see their jobs as temporary before “successful” marriage and maternity leave. For many, their job is just for having salary for family budget, if their spouse is not making enough money for a family to have a good living. Some woman take jobs for the sake of just spending time in a workplace. This group of employees usually have spouses financially supporting them and family, and she works just to socialize and make some pocket money.

One of the roles, imposed by society on women and again, voluntarily accepted by majority of female population is to be beautiful. Whatever your definition of beauty is, for women in Russia it has to do with dressing up, stylish, jewelry, high heels, makeup. This is unspoken, unwritten rule every woman has to follow to a certain extent. In most Russian offices, female employees look like they just came from the podium. Speaking of the unwritten, some Russian companies have dress codes where requirements for outfits, accessories, haircuts, makeup described in detail. Women not following this rule might be labelled as not being a “real woman”. As a result she will never be accepted in a workplace, in spite of her professional knowledge and expertise. Interestingly, this mindset is so strong, that Russian women moved to other countries where looks are totally unimportant, continue to follow this “beautiful Russian woman” role, putting on lots of makeup, wearing fashionable outfits and accessories.

Another society expectation is about behavior patterns toward women. It also affects daily interactions in business — big time. Women expect certain behavior and male population supposed to act up to that expectation. This type of behavior manifests in various forms. Being gallant and gentle with women, opening a door for them, letting them first in an elevator, making flirtatious compliments on her looks. Helping them with things that require physical power, like carrying heavy items for her, hanging that picture on the wall. And don’t you forget that March 8th — woman’s day or her birthday.

And since in Russian business environment gender differences emphasized and articulated in any way possible, relationships between employees often get intimate. In Russian offices romances are not uncommon. Those romances either go nowhere or end up as sexual relationships or marriages.

Above picture of how gender differences work for women is somewhat exaggerated, but with all the niceness and politeness stripped off this is the way it is.

Many of you, especially those coming from “western” countries, reading this article, may think something like: “This is disgusting, sexism, discrimination, harassment” and so on. Think again. What is not working in your culture, works quite nicely in Russia and other cultures, where gender differences are in its core.

Moscow Vnukovo airport

Vnukovo, VKO is the oldest, smallest (Zhukovsky does not count as airport yet) and closest to Moscow airport. Vnukovo has three terminals: one for commercial airlines, one for private and business jets and one for official delegations. Vnukovo handles government flights, so that official delegations terminal serves that purpose and it is closed for general public. Terminal for private and business jets(called Vnukovo-3) is located on the far end of Vnukovo airfield. It’s a small terminal designed for handling relatively small number of flights and passengers. All further information is about main Vnukovo terminal — Terminal A, that takes all commercial airline flights. There is old terminal D that is adjacent to terminal A, it serves only few domestic flights.

Vnukovo is one of the first Moscow airports, built in soviet times. In the past ten years or so, the airport went through a major rebuild, including airfield infrastructure extension and renewal, building of the new passenger terminal.

Design of Vnukovo terminal is nothing very special. It’s a practical piece of airport architecture, new, spacious, convenient, very clean. Vnukovo terminal A offers all usual airport amenities: food, shops, toilets, business lounges and other passenger services.

Vnukovo has capsule hotel inside terminal A (third floor, nearby VIP lounge), opened in 2018. Across the street from terminal A, there is DoubleTree hotel, also opened in 2018.

In my experience flying through Vnukovo airport, it has less passenger traffic compared to Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo. This means less crowded terminal and quicker security checks.

Transportation to Vnukovo airport:

Vnukovo is connected with Moscow by rail; aeroexpress train runs from Kievskaya station. Unlike trains to other airports, that run twice an hour, trains to Vnukovo run ones every hour. Train station in Vnukovo is underground and connected with terminal by a short walkway.

If you travel to Vnukovo by car you have a choice of two freeways: Kievskoe or Borovskoe. The airport is located in between these freeways. For drop-offs Vnukovo has elevated ramp and a separate drive for arrival pick-ups. It is very convenient and since passenger traffic through Vnukovo is less compared to other Moscow airports, ramps and driveways in Vnukovo never seem to be congested. Vnukovo also has parking, located next to the terminal.

Vnukovo is the only airport that is easily accessible by city bus, due to its proximity to Moscow. Sheremetyevo (SVO) also has city bus routs, but because of distance and traffic they are not that convenient. For Vnukovo you have two city bus options — from Yugo-Zapadnaya or Salaryevo subways stations. Salaryevo is closer to the airport and also it avoids traffic bottleneck on Kievskoe shosse. This option is good if you are on budget, have enough time and no bulky luggage. Same bus will take you from the airport, back to subway.

Bus number 911 gets you to Vnukovo from Salaryevo subway, running every 15-25 minutes and 611 runs from Yugo-Zapadnaya every 25-40 minutes. The bus 611 from Yugo-Zapadnaya takes about 30-40 minutes if traffic is good. The bus takes you to Vnukovo in 20 minutes almost for sure as it avoids most traffic bottlenecks. From Yugo-Zapadnaya you also have an option of marshrutka, paid in cash only.

As usual, taxi is also a good option traveling to/from Vnukovo airport. Beware of traffic congestions on the intersection of Kievskoe shosse and MKAD. It’s a good idea to check traffic situation when traveling to airport, especially in the late afternoon and evening.

Official website of Vnukovo airport

Check out Russia Simplified article on Domodedovo DME airport in Moscow.

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