Today, I am going to tell you a little story. It’s about our layover in Moscow with Aeroflot.
Why you wonder?
Why would I waste your time telling you about a layover? Well, simply put, it is our most memorable layover to date. So I will start from the beginning and hopefully, by the end, you will understand why this particular layover deserved an entire blog post.
After arriving on time to the Beijing airport, the Aeroflot attendant quickly altered us to the fact that our flight would be four hours delayed and we would miss our connection in Moscow to Split, Croatia. We were rebooked for the flight the following day out of Moscow and promised a hotel room in Moscow on Aeroflot’s dime. After a moment’s disappointment, we quickly became excited for our nearly 24 hour layover in Moscow. We looked up attaining a Russian transit visa and began plotting our layover adventures.
Word to the wise – or in this case the naive – transit visas upon arrival are not an option in Russia.
However, we ignorantly spent a pleasant flight from Beijing to Moscow, watching movies and gorging ourselves on a travel size bag of Haribo Gummy Bears. We landed safely, and de-boarded the plane. Then chaos erupted. Fellow passengers rushed the Aeroflot counters. I pushed my way to the front, and quickly asked the Russian attendant where I could apply for a transit visa.
Her response, “NO.”
I turned to Ryan, who was separated from me and yelled over the crowd, “this doesn’t look good.” We locked eyes and just knew we were in for a long night.
After arriving in Moscow around 6:30pm, and waiting in line for a hotel voucher for two and a half hours, we were then herded into an airport shuttle, and driven to a no man’s land hotel for travelers without visas. When we arrived at the hotel around 9pm, we were met by guards galore. Guards waiting outside the shuttle door, guards lining the walkway to the hotel back door, guards inside the back hallway where we lined up to board an elevator which led to a windowless hallway flanked with, you guessed it, guards.
By midnight, the line for hotel rooms dwindled, dinner still had not been provided, and the guards were getting frustrated.
Then we received disappointing news- the hotel had run out of rooms. The remaining twenty of us would go back to the airport to wait for our flights. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 5:30pm the following day. We resigned to our current predicament, and camped out on the floor until the shuttle came back to get us.
12:30am….1am…passed without any further information.
Then finally the shuttle arrived around 1:20am to take us back to what we thought was the airport. Instead, we were shuttled to another hotel. We lined up yet again, except this time, it was a little more unnerving. We were assigned a windowless hotel room, with a guard posted in the hallway, our passports taken away and very little information was provided. We sat in our somewhat depressing room and stared at each other for a split second too long in disbelief that we had been shuttled around, treated like criminals and then locked in a blank, windowless hotel room with no direction of when we would leave for the airport.
The following morning we got a phone call. I answered. The woman asked me a question, “meat or veggie?” I began to answer but the electricity shorted out and our call was dropped. She called again, I answered and our food was delivered on a tray. Lunch was handled a similar way.
When it was finally time for us to go to the airport, I asked the Aeroflot flight attendant, “how often does this happen?”
Her response, “everyday.”