How to buy a local SIM card in Russia

BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN RUSSIA
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Mobile network in Russia
Even if you are making a short trip to Russia, we recommend to buy a local SIM card, as roaming in Russia is very expensive. It's very cheap - for just 300-500 roubles (~5-8 USD), you can purchase a SIM with few hundred minutes of domestic calls and 5-10 Gb Internet connection.

Russian cellular operators uses European frequencies throughout its country - 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE (mainly in the cities). The quality of communication is, mainly, good. However, the mobile network may not be present at a distance from population centers.

If your device is not compatible with networks used by Russian operators or locked by its original carrier, purchase an inexpensive smartphone (costing in the range of 2 000-3 000 roubles / 30-50 USD). Of course, this phone is not a high quality, but it is enough for working with the Internet.
Also, for access to the Internet is possible purchasing a Wi-Fi router to act as a mobile hotspot. But these are typically locked to a specific carrier.

Ordinary mobile phone cost ~1 000 roubles (15-20 USD).

Cellular operators
In Russia are several mobile operators active, but we recommend the three most common carriers, between which there are no differences in the quality of of sound, internet connection and the rates is also similar. They are called as "The Big Three".

MegaFon (in Russian - МегаФон, green logo at the top) has the nationwide coverage and good speeds in cities. Many Russians consider this network to be the best in the country. MegaFon covered almost all regions, except Crimea.

MTS (in Russian - МТС, red logo with egg). The biggest carrier in Russia - about 110 mln customers. It`s present in all regions of the country. It`s the only Russian operator that can be used in Crimea.

Beeline (in Russian - Билайн, logo is black-and-yellow striped circle) is Russia's third-largest mobile operator. Working in most regions of the country.

All carriers of "Big Three" have free english-speaking support for foreign customers.

where and how to buy a russian sim card
Rates - how to choose the best
Almost all mobile plans in Russia are prepaid, so try no need to worry about possible damages.

Carriers offer special packages for foreign citizens, but we do not recommend buying them, because they are not profitable. It's best to buy a SIM card with a package aimed at the resident population - for a small fee you will get a lot of local minutes and SMS and also 5-10 GB of traffic.

Below we present the most interesting tariff plans of the "Big Three" operators. All offers of any of the operators can be found by clicking on the carrier name above
Note! For every region of the country, each of the providers has different prices for even the same plan. In Moscow they are the highest, in other cities you can to pay less.
Note! In presented packages only monthly prices for domestic calls and SMS are indicated!

For international calls and messages use the Internet connection and one of the instant messaging apps (Viber, WhatsApp, Skype and others). Calls and SMS abroad in usual way are very expensive!
Note! In presented packages only monthly prices for domestic calls and SMS are indicated!

For international calls and messages use the Internet connection and one of the instant messaging apps (Viber, WhatsApp, Skype and others). Calls and SMS abroad in usual way are very expensive!
Moscow
St Petersburg
Note! The information is actual for October 2018. The digit 0 in the SMS packages means that all these tariff plans there is a package of free SMS. However, it is valid when sending messages only to the phones of the province in which the sim card was purchased.
*
-
1) Megafon Govori and Megafon Obshaysa - unlimited Facebook, FB Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat for free
2) Prices of the Megafon carrier are valid for all Russia, except regions of Crimea, Magadan, Sakhalin, Yakutia, Chukotka, Kamchatka, Norilsk, Taimyr.

** -
1) MTS Smart - unlimited Facebook, FB Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Snapchat, Snapchat (Youtube, Google/Apple Music) for 4 rouble (~0.07 USD) per day.
2) MTS X - unlimited Facebook, FB Messenger, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Snapchat, Google Music, Apple Music for free.
Subscription fee in the first month - 17 roubles (~0.25 USD) per day. From the second month, the price is 500 roubles (~8 USD) a month.
3) MTS Tarifishche - package of free SMS is valid when sending messages to all mobile numbers of Russia


*** -
1) Subscription fee is - 20 roubles (Beeline VsoMoyo2) / 50 roubles (Beeline VsoMoyo4) per day (~0.3 / 0.8 USD).
2) Prices of the Beeline carrier are valid for all Russia except regions of Crimea and Chukotka.

Note! The information is actual for October 2018. The digit 0 in the SMS packages means that all these tariff plans there is a package of free SMS. However, it is valid when sending messages only to the phones of the province in which the sim card was purchased.
*
-
1) Megafon Govori and Megafon Obshaysa - unlimited Facebook, FB Messenger, WhatsApp, Viber, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat for free
2) Prices of the Megafon carrier are valid for all Russia, except regions of Crimea, Magadan, Sakhalin, Yakutia, Chukotka, Kamchatka, Norilsk, Taimyr.

** -
1) MTS Smart - unlimited Facebook, FB Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Snapchat, Snapchat (Youtube, Google/Apple Music) for 4 rouble (~0.07 USD) per day.
2) MTS X - unlimited Facebook, FB Messenger, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Snapchat, Google Music, Apple Music for free.
Subscription fee in the first month - 17 roubles (~0.25 USD) per day. From the second month, the price is 500 roubles (~8 USD) a month.
3) MTS Tarifishche - package of free SMS is valid when sending messages to all mobile numbers of Russia


*** -
1) Subscription fee is - 21.7 roubles (Beeline VsoMoyo2) / 50 roubles (Beeline VsoMoyo4) per day (~0.3 / 0.8 USD).
2) Prices of the Beeline carrier are valid for all Russia except regions of Crimea and Chukotka.

Where to buy a domestic SIM card

Moscow, St Petersburg, other cities
where to buy a russian sim card
The "Big Three" companies have their own sales networks. Find the store nearest you by clicking on the link (select your city in Russia) -
MegaFon | MTS | Beeline

Besides, there are many others stores of mobile networks. The two most widespread of them are called:
Evroset` (in Russian - Евросеть / in English - Euronetwork) - store and logo at the top, and
Svyaznoy (in Russian - Связной / in English - Messenger) - store and logos at the bottom.
There you can buy a SIM card of any operator, except for MTS, which sells sim-cards in its own offices only.

Everywhere are many cell communication sale offices, so you can find them very easy - at the airport and railway stations, near subway, in shopping centers and just on the street. Prices, within the same city, are the same and no matter where you buy a contract. Choose the first store that you see.

Do not forget that the types of SIM cards are different (standard, micro, nano for Apple devices). If you are not sure, show your phone to the staff and / or ask the seller to put the SIM card in your device and activate it. Russian phrases here.

Note! In order to purchase a SIM card, one has to produce your passport. This is dictated on the Russian law. Do not buy SIM cards in random places! Only purchase from official mobile and operator shops and stalls are recommended.
Adding / Topping up
adding topping up russian sim card
Almost all mobile plans in Russia are prepaid - service stops when the phone account balance reaches zero. A SIM card which has not been used for 2 to 6 months, depending on the operator, is blocked automatically.

All mobile operators offer USSD commands for customers to check the balance for free, and also 24/7 support (all numbers are free), including in English language:

MegaFon
Balance check USSD: *100#
Support: 8800 550 0500

MTS
Balance check USSD: *100#
Support: 8800 250 0890

Beeline
Balance check USSD: *102#
Support: 8800 700 0611

How to top up a account

  • By credit card or by cash at carrier-specific or general mobile stores
  • By card in ATMs of almost every bank (typically do not charge commission or small fee)
  • Directly through the carrier's website by card: MegaFon | MTS | Beeline
  • By cash in private payment terminals (e.g. via cashbox like on a picture). Not recommended. Although they are located almost everywhere, they charge a high commission - from 15 to 50 percent (in airports)
Useful phrases in Russian
| Note - Pronunciation
Want to know more? All basic phrases in Russian
Transliteration & pronunciation
Please note!

The following transliteration and pronunciation is given for the classical Latin alphabet and does not match with the rules of orthography and pronunciation of English.

Therefore do not pronounce Russian words how to you like represent sounds in English.

For example:
The Latin letter U should not be pronounced as the English word you.
U = YOU = OO

If you doubt the correct pronunciation, click on the live audio link in Russian
(Link to sound )
CLICK TO OPEN
Goog morning / good afternoon / good evening!
[ DOBRAYE UTRA / DOBRYI DEN / DOBRYI VECHER ! ]

Доброе утро / добрый день / добрый вечер!

Link to sound
Hi / Hello!
[ PRIVET ! ]

Привет!

Link to sound
Do you speak English?
[ VY GAVARITE PA ANGLIYSKI ? ]

Вы говорите по английски?

Link to sound
I don't speak Russian
[ YA NE GAVARYU PA RUSSKI ]

Я не говорю по русски

Link to sound
Please help me
[ PAMAGITE MNE, PAZHALUSTA ]

Помогите мне, пожалуйста

Link to sound
I want to buy a SIM card
[ YA KHACHU KUPIT SIM KARTU ]

Я хочу купить сим карту

Link to sound
I need a tariff plan... (name of carrier / plan)
[ MNE NUZHEN TARIFNYI PLAN... (name of carrier / plan) ]

all tariff plans here

Мне нужен тарифный план... (название оператора / плана)

Link to sound
I need a standard (micro / nano) SIM card
[ MNE NUZHNA STANDARTNAYA ( MIKRA / NANA) SIM KARTA ]

Мне нужна стандартная (микро / нано) сим карта

Link to sound
I don`t know the type of SIM card
[ YA NE ZNAYU TIP SIM KARTY ]

Я не знаю тип сим карты

Link to sound
Put the SIM card in my device and activate it (please)
[ VSTAFTE I AKTIVIRUITE SIMKU (pazhalusta) ]

Вставьте и активируйте симку (пожалуйста)

Link to sound
I want to buy a - cheap smartphone / ordinary mobile phone
[ YA KHACHU KUPIT - DESHOVYI SMARTFON / KNOPOCHNYI MOBILNIK ]

Я хочу купить дешёвый смартфон / кнопочный мобильник

Link to sound
How much it this?
[ SKOLKA ETA STOIT ? ]

Сколько это стоит?

Link to sound

additional info
Figures are here, and the currency converter is here

Very expensive! Too expensive!
Very expensive -
[ OCHEN` DORAGA ]

Too expensive -
[ SLISHKAM` DORAGA ]


Очень дорого / Слишком дорого

Link to sound
I`m buying it!
[ YA ETA PAKUPAYU ! ]

Я это покупаю !

Link to sound
I will pay - in cash / by credit card
[ YA ZAPLACHU - NALICHNYMI / KARTOY ]

Я заплачу - наличными / картой

Link to sound
Yes / No
[ DA / NET ]

Да / нет

Link to sound
Ok! / Good!
[ KHARASHO ]

Хорошо

Link to sound
Thank you (very much) !
[ (Balshoye) SPASIBA ! ]

(Большое) спасибо!

Link to sound
Goodbye!
[ DASVIDANIYA ! ]

До свидания!

Link to sound
Bye (bye-bye) / So long !
[ PAKA (paka-paka) ! ]

Пока (пока-пока)!

Link to sound
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