Nizhny Novgorod Airport

On my previous trips to Russia, I traveled either by rail or via Moscow's airports (SVO, DME). I have always wanted to try flying via Nizhny Novgorod Strigino (GOJ), because most of my destinations are in the area, but never had a chance, as there are fairly few direct international flights to GOJ, and booking a desirable itinerary often is a lot more expensive than flying to Moscow and then taking a train.

Fortunately, United Airlines Mileage Plus miles can be used to book tickets including segments on Lufthansa, and this time I managed to book a through ticket from North America to Nizhny Nvgorod (IND-FRA-GOJ). The experience of flying into and out of GOJ turned out to be surprisingly agreeable. The least pleasant part of flying to Nizhny from FRankfurt was that both the departure to, and arrival from, GOJ are in the middle of the night: GOJ is truly a "peripheral" destination for Lufthansa, and they have only one plane a day going there... and not every day, either. The Lufthansa plane leaves FRA in the evening, spends just over an hour on the ground in GOJ around 3-4 am, and is back in Frankfurt early the next morning. I guess they use the same plane for some European flight(s) during the day. While the obvious disadvantage of such a schedule is that you won't get normal sleep on either of the nights of arrival or departure, the advantage is that you have enough time to make any of the day's connections in FRA - and may even have some time left for city sightseeing.

Nizhny Novgorod's Strigino Airport itself is pleasant enough. It's quite small (just one terminal - about the size of a train station in a middle-sized European or Chinese city), much smaller than you'd expect for a city of this size. But I guess Nizhny Novgorod residents don't fly out of their hometown airport all that much: as Moscow's airports, with much larger selection of destinations are only a night away by train. But seating is adequate, and there is even free Wi-Fi (most of the time.. throughout most of the terminal). There are several ATMs, and even an agent selling train tickets round the clock (at a 200 RUR commission).

The transportation connections to the city is fairly decent... lots better than in, say, Halifax. Several bus (or marshrutka, maybe... I don't know how to tell the difference anymore) lines run to the city starting some time before 6 am. The fare is 20 RUR, and, theoretically speaking, if you board the right bus and stay on the bus long enough, you can get to a variety of destination throughout the city. (In particular, no. 46 runs all the way to Kuznechikha, on the opposite side of the city - a 1.5 hr trip, I was told). In practice, it may be easier to get off as soon as the bus gets to a subway station (they all seem to stop at Park Kultury, which is Nizhny Novgorod Metro's southernmost station; about 20 m ), and go from there to anywhere the subway goes. (Now, at present the subway in Nizhny does not go too many places, but they are going to finally open a station in Gorky Square in November 2012, and this will somewhat change the situation).

Going back, the buses run until pretty late as well. The last airport-bound trip of the same no. 46 passes at Park Kultury quite a bit after 11 pm. I turned out to be the only passenger on that bus actually going all the way to the airport, and as the conductor said, if not for me, the driver probably would have just terminated the trip at Monchegorskaya St and go home to sleep. In any event, taking a taxi from Park Kultury to the airport probably would have been much cheaper than doing a similar thing in Moscow or most any major cities, as it is only a few kilometers.

The Lufthansa FRA-GOJ and GOJ-FRA flights were both fairly full, and there seemed to be a lot of activity in the airport, even throughout the night. They have direct flights not only to major Russian cities (as well as charters to some foreign resort destinations), but also to places like Turkey, Armenia, Uzbekistan, and Tadjikistan - some space for further travel adventures, I guess. So I certainly will try to book another ticket to GOJ if/when I need to go that way.

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