Mobile Phones

Mobile Providers in Russia

One of the most important things to remember when you arrive in Russia is a mobile phone. Be careful about using your existing mobile from your native country- often service is faulty and roaming fees can be really expensive.

Ask your service provider about international roaming rates and hidden charges before you go. If you don't need your old number in Russia, you can save money by getting a local SIM card. A pay-as-you-go SIM costs about US$10 with a Russian mobile number.

Using your mobile phone from home in Russia

Russian mobile companies use two standards GSM (European standard) and CDMA (American standard). To use your existing cell phone in Russia, check out which standard it is operating in.

GSM is far more popular in Russia and all the leading national operators use it in their networks. CDMA is used only by several local providers (in Moscow and St.Petersburg), so your phone will not work outside of these cities.

Besides the problems you might find with your phone standard, your existing mobile might also be locked by your service provider. This will prevent you from being able to replace your old phone number with a new Russian SIM card. However, some telecoms shops can unlock it for a $10-20 fee.

Russian Mobile Providers

The major mobile providers in Russia are Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), BeeLine, MegaFon, Tele2Russia and Skylink. Their services and prices are rather similar in major cities. However tariffs change from region to region.

MTS, Megafon and Beeline are operators with a nationwide coverage. Tele2Russia is currently expanding but presently its service is only available in a few regions, such as Leningrad and the Black Sea.

Both MTS and Megafon and feature an English version of their websites.

Mobile rates

Major mobile operators have a nationwide network. The price for phone calls depends on what region you’re in.

One of the main differences with mobile charges in Russia is that you will be charged for incoming calls. However some calling plans and service providers allow free incoming calls from within their own networks.

Standards charges include all outgoing calls and text messages and additional services, such as voice mail, number identification, call diverting.

The price of your phone calls depends on where you are calling from and where you are calling to. Rates for local calls (i.e. from Moscow to Moscow) are standard, whereas calling another city will increase the price per minute.

One important factor to consider when choosing a mobile plan in Russia is your ‘home city’, e.g. the city that your plan is based on. To save money, you should get your phone in the city you will be spending the most time. If you buy your phone in St. Petersburg, but you make most of your calls from Moscow, you will be receive higher charges for making calls outside of your ‘home city’.

Paying for your mobile in Russia

You can pay your bell phone bills in cash through bank branches, retail stores and service centres. You can also use top-up cards which can be purchased at mobile operators´ offices.

Another payment method is using your credit cards. Some operators allow cusTomers to establish a credit account for your phone calls. You can also make payment through Internet or by phone.

Further reading

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Other comments

  • Beaver, 30 September 2008 Reply

    Incoming calls are NOT charged for

    "One of the main differences with mobile charges in Russia is that you will be charged for incoming calls"

    This statement is completely outdated, at least a year-old info

    • Serge 16 Feb 2013, 09:55

      Incoming calls fees

      Exactly. Several years ago all operators were obliged legally to make all incoming calls free