Buy a local SIM card to reduce your phone bills.
The Crimean Peninsula, or Crimea as it’s more commonly known, is on the northern coast of the Black Sea and one of Eastern Europe’s most remote countries. Be aware that nearly everything is written and communicated in Russian and the Russian rouble has been the official currency since 2014.
Although Crimea is tucked away, it has some amazing local SIM card deals that can reduce the cost of your phone charges while you’re travelling. You can buy 1GB of data from Crimea’s leading telco provider for as little as RUB45 (AUD$1.30). So, whether you’re planning a holiday or a long-term trip, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.au.
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There are four main operators on the Crimean Peninsula: Win Mobile, Volna Mobile, Crimea telecom and Sevmobile. All providers go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate in the country and each one competes with the others to offer the best deals. They have all been tried, tested and trusted by locals and international travelers and their deals are among the best in world.
Crimean Peninsula operators offer great coverage for a country that’s so remote and they provide good 2G, 3G and 4G wireless services. All four operators sell prepaid credit, which allows users to take advantage of cheap offers and deals. The locals call their SIM cards “kartes” and these can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers by using your passport. Credit can be purchased online, from official payment terminals, at the supermarket and at the airport. Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your visit to Crimea.
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Win Mobile is the largest operator in Crimea, offering customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. It also offers the fastest speeds and some of the best prices. Its standard prepaid SIM card is called "Свобода общения" and can be purchased from official stores. Credit can be purchased online or at a payment terminal.
The standard default data rate is RUB10 per MB and the following packs can be added:
- Online Day: RUB15 for 10MB per day. To activate text *805#, to deactivate text *796#.
- Online Freedom: RUB30 for 50MB per day + RUB30 for connection. To activate text *809#, to deactivate text *792#.
- Online Month: RUB150 for 1.5GB per month. To activate text *806#, to deactivate text *798#.
- Online Maxi: RUB200 for 4GB per month. To activate text *818#, to deactivate text *797#.
Please note, packages will auto-renew unless deactivated.
Win Mobile also offers the "Форсаж" data-only pack which contains 15GB data per month for RUB400. The "На море" plans also allow data to be debited in 100MB blocks for RUB10 per block.
Volna is the second largest operator in Crimea and offers roaming in Russia through MTS. It has 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE networks that are reasonably well priced. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from Volna stores and most retailers. Credit can be purchased from official payment terminals. Dial *101# to check your balance.
There are currently three prepaid SIM card plans on offer (each is valid for one month):
- Sun (Солнце): RUB5 per MB or 2GB for RUB90.
- Sea (Mope): RUB150 for basic Internet at 32Kbps and RUB50 for 1GB of high-speed Internet.
- Wind (Ветер): RUB300 for 10GB of high-speed Internet.
The data coverage rate is RUB5 per MB. Speed improvement add-ons can be added for RUB50 for 1GB. Dial *502*1# to activate.
Crimea telecom is a state-owned network that offers 2G and 3G services. It has some of the best prices and the network coverage is solid. This provider often offers the best deals, with low rates and frequent promotions. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for RUB200 and they come with a monthly package of your choice. The packages change regularly so check stores for the latest offers. The standard data rate is RUB5 per MB.
The following data packs can be added to a plan:
- Интернет S: RUB5 for 100MB for 1 day. To activate text *111*003#.
- Интернет M: RUB300 for 15GB for 1 month. To activate text *111*004#.
- Интернет L: RUB500 for 25GB for 1 month. To activate text *111*005#.
- Интернет XL: RUB650 for 50GB for 1 month. To activate text *111*006#.
Sevmobile offers good 2G and 3G services at competitive prices. This is the smallest operator with a limited compatibility range. Check whether your device will operate Sevmobile services before purchasing. This provider can work out to be very cost effective. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for RUB80 at official stores or approved resellers. The main bulk of the coverage tends to be in the main towns and cities and the signal can dwindle the further out you go.
The following data packs can be added to the basic SIM cards:
- My Choice: RUB100 for 50MB data per day, 300 minutes and 100 SMS within the network.
- My Internet 5: RUB200 for 5GB data.
- My Internet 15: RUB400 for 15GB data.
- My Internet Unlimited: RUB900 for unlimited data.
Overuse is charged at RUB100 per 2GB, in one block.
Some top tips from finder.com.au staff
- Russian is the official language of the Crimean Peninsula. To make things easier, download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel.
- Locals call a SIM card a “karte”.
- Ask the retailer to set up your SIM card for you, they should know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we’ve highlighted above or go to the official operator website to seek advice.
- Remember, it’s always better to get to stores early to beat the crowds.
TripAdvisor is well known for its reviews and for booking hotels, flights and holidays, but it also has many user comments that can guide you through which of the SIM cards have been tried and tested in the Crimean Peninsula. Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “There’s a kiosk where you can buy SIM cards to the left side of the terminal just before you exit the airport at Simferopol. I had no troubles.”
- “Your best bet is to try a local SIM card. It's true that on occasion you cannot use any ATMs or Visa, Mastercard or AMEX to pay for anything due to sanctions.”
- “There are lots of SIM card places, particularly in the underpasses under big streets and near metro stations.”
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM-compatible international phone. To double check whether you have this phone, or to find out whether it’s possible to unlock your device, contact your phone provider before you leave.
- Good value for money
- Prepaid credit available when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- No devices offered with the SIM card packages
- SIMS can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Rules and regulations could hamper purchases
Although there are other providers, they operate as MVNOs through the four main operators we have mentioned above. It’s always better to go through the main operator, but if you do manage to find a better deal or promotion through an MVNO, then go ahead and take it.