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  #1  
Old 11 Mar 2015
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Mobile SIM deals in Russia

Just to update for travellers to Russia this year. A combination of a fall in the FX value of the ruble plus increasing access due to technological advances has deals that European users will consider mind-blowingly cheap.

MEGAFON

Above is the mobile internet tariffs (paid monthly in advance) for mobile internet access for company Megafon (these days its often 4G in the cities and 3G in the countryside).

The "Internet L" package (for example) includes a whopping 36GB of internet per month, for 890 rubles (about 9 GBP). When you are used to the piddly 1 or 2 GB a month you get in the UK, being able to get nationwide 36 GB a month for less than a tenner a month puts the mobile phone ripoff in the UK into perspective.

There are 3 nationwide networks in Russia, Beeline, MTS and Megafon (listed above)

BEELINE

MTS
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Old 11 Mar 2015
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It can be a issue to buy an Russian sim-card if you are not resident of Russia. But, anyway we managed to buy one in Altai region, in a small village. As I later saw in my account info, the sales girl put my address the village name, and my name was of course changed, to the one which sounded more Russian))
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Old 11 Mar 2015
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Originally Posted by VirginiaC View Post
It can be a issue to buy an Russian sim-card if you are not resident of Russia. But, anyway we managed to buy one in Altai region, in a small village. As I later saw in my account info, the sales girl put my address the village name, and my name was of course changed, to the one which sounded more Russian))
I've never heard of a foreigner having a problem buying a Russian SIM. To the extent that a problem arises, it is presumably due to the fact that the sales person in some remote part of Russia has never had to deal with inputting foreign passport numbers and all that complicated stuff, and it takes them a while to figure it out.
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Old 11 Mar 2015
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I checked MTS operator. Indeed, foreigners just have to present their passport to get an sim-card.
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Old 11 Mar 2015
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I am also a foreigner who has been buying assorted Russian SIM cards for 16 years now, 14 of them as a non resident. Without a problem.
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Old 12 Mar 2015
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As Virginia says, you have to have your passport with you. Previously, it used to be easy to buy them on the street from "unofficial" vendors, but you don't seem them as often anymore, and official dealers are practically on every corner, so it is easier just to go to a shop with your passport.
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Old 12 Mar 2015
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If I want to get a Russian USB Internet stick, how do they work?

in 2013 I tried to buy one in Ulan Ude at MTS, but the dealer told me that it just works in Buriatya Rayon, in the rest of Russia it has roaming and is very expensive.

So what do I ask for to get a Internet USB stick that will work in all of Russia?
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Old 12 Mar 2015
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Originally Posted by klausmong1 View Post
If I want to get a Russian USB Internet stick, how do they work?

in 2013 I tried to buy one in Ulan Ude at MTS, but the dealer told me that it just works in Buriatya Rayon, in the rest of Russia it has roaming and is very expensive.

So what do I ask for to get a Internet USB stick that will work in all of Russia?
Generally speaking, everyone offers roaming these days. only the cheapest packages are local region only.

If you look at the Megafon page I listed you will see the XS package is for locale region only (in this case Moscow). All other packages are for "all of Russia" (without roaming charges). Obviously you need to buy a modem too, but the 4G USB modem costs just 1190 rubles (£13) and includes 2 weeks and 18 GB of data Megafon 4G Modem

The old days of regionalised data are largely history these days.
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Old 12 Mar 2015
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Thanks, that is a very usefull information this days.

And how does it work to upload extra deposit? Or can they do that in the store right away ?

I am asking stupid because I never use prepaid usually
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Old 12 Mar 2015
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Thanks colebatch. Great info. Was wondering about data so I can keep in touch with home. This was what I needed


No man is truly married until he understands every word his wife is NOT saying.
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Old 12 Mar 2015
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Originally Posted by klausmong1 View Post
Thanks, that is a very usefull information this days.

And how does it work to upload extra deposit? Or can they do that in the store right away ?

I am asking stupid because I never use prepaid usually
Every little general store in every little village across Russia has what they call a "Terminal" or "Terminal Platezhei" (Payment Terminal). These are an internet connected money munching machine (like a mini ATM but with a big flat screen) with which local people pay bills and top up their (or anyone elses) mobile phone balance. You feed cash notes into the terminals and the terminals credit your phone account.

The terminals take a commission .... sometimes as high as 10% ... so if you feed in 1000 rubles, your account may be credited with 900 for example. If you go to a megafon shop, then obviously you can top up your megafon account without commission. But those stores will probably only exist in larger towns and cities. The Terminals exist everywhere.

Most Bank ATMs in Russia also give you the option to top up your mobile phone balance via your plastic card too.
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Old 12 Mar 2015
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Thanx.

I have seen this Mini ATM all over.

I was just afraid that it is only in Russian.
I can read and speak ( very little ) but is it enough for the ATM?

But anyway, I can also top it up when buying the USB Internet device.


Thanks for the help.
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Old 12 Mar 2015
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Never had a problem buying a SIM card as a foreigner. Just present your passport.
Topping up at the terminals is easy. You just select your operator, enter phone number, feed the bills, and confirm.
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Old 12 Mar 2015
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Smile Wifi in Russia?

Hello there,

I know it is a bit off topic, but as I traveled thru Eastern Europe ... Estonia down to Poland in the last weeks ... i found Wifi connections everywhere ... petrol stations, junk food places, hotels, cafes, restaurants, toilets .... so what do I have to expect in Russia now (May 2015)? I will carry a laptop, but wont buy a sim card as I dont use a cell phone.

Greetings from Weil der Stadt Germany
mika
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Old 13 Mar 2015
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WiFi is quite common in Moscow, and it is not rare to find it in other regions, although I wouldn't say that you can count on finding it. However, a few problems:
1) the connections can be quite slow;
2) many of cafes, hotels, etc. with WiFi require a password; and
3) they passed a law here a couple of years ago that says that users have to register for all WiFi connections, even free ones, which involves entering your passport data, etc. Not all places comply with the law, but generally WiFI is enough of a pain that I've found myself using it less and less here.

Maybe someone else has had different experiences with Russian WiFi, hopefully they'll speak up.

On the other hand, as Colebatch points out, it is easy and cheap to get a SIM card with decent wireless internet access; I've gotten wireless internet access in all kinds of places--a turbaza on the shores of Lake Baikal, in a run-down village along the Road of Bones, etc. Sure, the connection isn't great, but it is good enough to check e-mail, etc. If you don't use a phone, you can either put the SIM in a USB stick or, more convenient in my view, stick it in a cheap tablet.

Last edited by motoreiter; 13 Mar 2015 at 12:48.
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