Just returned from a trip to Zapolarny on an interpreting assignment. Here are some useful bits pertaining to the logistics of travelling from Kandalaksha to Zapolarny cheap and easy.
The annoying thing is that there is no direct link, either by bus or railroad, between Kandalaksha and Zapolarny. You’ll have to travel through Murmansk. But it turned out easier than anticipated.
To get to Murmansk fast and cheap hop on a minibus that leaves at 5:30 am and 6:30 am off the train station parking lot. To reserve a seat call 8 911 349 9000. The trip will take about 4 hours and as of the moment, it costs 700 roubles ($12US). The train is slightly slower and considerably more expensive ($20-35) but there are several during the day. See tutu.ru for the train schedule.
Another option of getting to Murmansk is by arranging a ride through blablacar.ru. My first experience with the system was highly positive. Lots of traffic between Kandalaksha and Murmansk, and the “standard” cost is 500 roubles (under $10) per passenger.
The other day I’ve noticed a poster by Orenburzhye Airlines at the local supermarket announcing direct daily Murmansk to Arkhangelsk flights. The cost of the ticket is ~8000 roubles (about $130) one way according to their site. Before this offer became available one would either have to fly via Moscow (that would take pretty much the whole day) or spend one and a half or two days on the train.
They ordered me to translate their site into English, and immediately uploaded these translations to snowtracker.ru/en/. Last March we ourselves took part in one of their 3-4 hour tours, were impressed, and can recommend Kola Expeditions to travellers looking for the “local spirit”.
Starts in Varzuga, total distance 700km, with the final destination at the village of Ponoy in the far-eastern end of the poninsula. The expedition is expected to last 7-10 days, which is not surprising given complete lack of roads beyond Varzuga.
B-port reports that in January-February of 2016 the value of goods transported across the Finnish-Russian border dropped by 35.2% in value compared to the same period last year. The reason is mutual sanctions. For an average non-commercial traveller that means fewer lineups at the border-crossing points. For us, making a living off traveller support, on the other hand, that explains why clients are few and far between these days.. Guess it could be a good time to announce a “beginning of the season” special at $100/day for my humble services, back to the mid-90s rate.
(1) The Karelia part of the St. Petersburg to Murmansk road has been fully repaired, and travelling through Karelia, unlike it was even 2-3 years ago, is now a breeze.
(2) Nordavia.ru flies Moscow to Apatity (next door to Kirovsk) twice a week, Friday and Sunday, with tickets starting at 3780 roubles ($55 at the current exchange rate) one way, which is not much more expensive than train tickets.
Lights at the distance are Korovsk. Yellowish loop on the right is the skiiing track. A white spot left from the track is the Snow Village and Snowmobiling Center. Photo by Alexander Yenaleyev, borrowed from Ulitkiny Livejournal.
Kandalaksha leaders and those of Finnish municipalities that border with Russia have met last week to discuss joint projects, including setting up a major snowmobile route across Norway, Sweden,Finland, and Russia. Another project discussed was expanding the capacity of the transportation network of the Murmansk region and including it into the trans-European road system.
Less than $20 will take you from St. Petersburg to Moscow, and under $40 will drag you all the way from Murmansk to the capital. Check out www.blablacar.ru/. Rides are often available even to destinations that don’t have a good train connection. Based on my impression of their site and the hearsay I’d recommend this service fully, and will be personally testing it at the first opportunity.