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.
There are two mini-bus companies running the Murmansk to Zapolarye route, and with 18 buses running each way daily I will not bother giving you the schedule. Their telephone numbers are 8 921 173 5747 and 8 921 511 0045 if you insist on reserving the ticket in advance although in all cases I took these minibusses they were far from full.
In Zapolarny you can stay in the Pechenga hotel (8 81554 36500) at about 2600 roubles ($40), or rent an apartment from Natalia (8 953 303 8121) or Svetlana (8 921 151 5207) at half the price, or 1200 roubles/night.
If you have to stay in Murmansk overnight, the cheapest place in the vicinity of the bus and train station that has come to my attention was a hostel at Leningradskaya ul. 29/5, tel. 8 953 303 0178. They had a rather big room for 1800 roubles ($30) a night and an apartment within a few minutes’ walk for 1500 roubles. The place’s telephone number is 8 953 303 0178.
If you need to stay in Nikel, the hotel is at Gvardeysky prospekt 5, tel. 8 964 681 8626. Their site is www.buktopu-hotel.ru
While waiting in Murmansk (I had to wait for the blablacar.ru ride for three hours) you can visit the Lenin Icebreaker museum that’s behind the train station.
While waiting for the car ride back to Kandalaksha I have also stumbled into the train engine monument of which I wrote in May 2016
The total cost of the three day and two night trip for one was around 7000 roubles, or $120, including snacks.