Buying a Russian SIM card to connect to Internet or to make calls in or from Russia is very economical. You can do it online before your trip or in Russia going to one of the many Russian mobile stores. In this article I explain how to do it both ways and what is the cost.
Article updated on August 22, 2019. Published on January 4, 2016
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. Is it worth buying a Russian SIM?
If you are spending a stay in Russia, surely you’re set to buy a Russian mobile phone SIM card to get internet connection anywhere and make cheap calls.
If you use your mobile phone line in Russia, the invoice can be very expensive, which is why it may be interesting to purchase a SIM card from any Russian mobile phone providers.
For about 500-1.000 rubles (just over 5 dollars), you can purchase a Russian SIM with 400 minutes of calls and 10 Gb Internet connection. In addition, they are easy to acquire and you only need your passport.
If you’re making a short trip of a few days to Moscow or St. Petersburg, it is likely that you don’t need a mobile phone SIM card because hotels usually have Wi-Fi and many cafes, restaurants and public areas have free Wi-Fi.
Now if you are spending a long stay in Russia or if you are going to make a longer trip on the Trans-Siberian trip or you simply want to be permanently connected with your phone, then it is worth acquiring a Russian SIM card as they are cheap and easy to acquire.
Also, you can buy online a Russian SIM card before traveling to Russia with the company Simcorner that ships worldwide.
2. What does it cost to buy a Russian SIM card and which companies offer it?
I can’t say which one is the best and the less expensive since they are constantly changing their rates. MTS is a bit more expensive and MegaFon is perhaps the most popular. Beeline is usually the cheapest. In any case, the price difference is not very significant.
To my knowledge there is no fee especially aimed at tourists by the Russian companies. I guess they don’t consider it an interesting market.
But this is not a problem when purchasing a SIM card with any of the prepaid rates aimed at the resident population and you pay only for what you anticipate you’ll consume.
To my knowledge only Beeline has a rate for foreign tourists that costs 700 rubles with unlimited Internet and even 30 minutes for calls abroad. The rest of the companies have rates for the resident population and which you can also receive with prices between 500 and 1,000 rubles and Internet during your stay in Russia (between 5 and 15 Gb).
3. Where to buy a Russian mobile phone SIM card?
Mobile phone companies have an extensive network of offices that are easily recognizable on the street. You can find them at the airport, near metro stations, in shopping streets or in large shopping centers. Choose the first that you see. You will find many. You can also find them integrated into other businesses or even down the street in summer.
You have to make the payment in the office itself, according to the package you’re hiring, and then you can recharge it at any office or through their websites by credit card.
Acquiring a SIM card via the web is only possible for the local population, since only ships within Russia. However, if you live in Russia you can also get it.
I have also seen that there are some websites in English selling Russian SIM cards and they act as intermediaries. I haven’t found anything trustworthy so far. The prices they charge are very expensive.
4. What documents do you need to buy a Russian SIM card?
All you need is your passport or registration certificate in Russia. With your passport you should have no problems in acquiring a SIM. It is rare for stores to negate the sale to a foreigner, but if you have problems, just go to another store and problem solved.
Finally, you must take into account the size of the SIM card that you will need (standard, micro or nano for iPhone). I recommend that you ask the vendor to put the SIM in your device and activate it.
5. Can I buy a Russian SIM card before traveling to Russia?
If you want to buy a Russian SIM card before traveling to Russia, you have the option to buy it at an online store to have it sent to your home. It has the advantage that you will arrive in Russia with the SIM card (without having to find a store) and the disadvantage that it will cost you a little more expensive.
The best option currently available is Simcorner, a company with which you can buy a Russian SIM card with 4 Gb, a duration of 15 days and coverage throughout Russia. You can buy it with a 5% discount with the code AFL-IZNF (offered by this company to the readers of this blog).
They ship worldwide: United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc.
This Russian SIM card can be used in Mobile Phones, Apple iPads, Tablets, Dongles and Mifi devices.
If you are spending a long stay in Russia or if it’s a short stay but you will make an intensive use of your mobile phone, it’s worth buying a Russian SIM card, as they are cheap and easy to acquire in any mobile store. You only need your passport. If you want to buy it in advance before your trip, you can purchase a Russian SIM card in an online store with Simcorner.