Reduce your rates by using a local SIM.
Using your home phone network in Russia can be expensive, so consider switching over to a local SIM card to take advantage of better deals and plans. Russia has some of the best prepaid SIM cards available, with deals that could reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data from Russia’s leading telco provider for as little as RUB350 (AUD$7.77). So, whether you’re planning a short trip, longer stay or tour of the country, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.au.
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Telco providers in Russia
There are five main operators in Russia: MegaFon, MTS, Beeline, Tele2 and Yota. All five go through a strict approval process before being allowed to operate, and each one competes with the others to offer the best deals. Their services have all been tried and tested by both locals and travellers, and can be trusted. Most of the country is covered by a good network signal. Some of the northern regions can suffer from poor reception, but that will happen on whichever phone or provider you use there. Be aware, there is still censorship over content appearing in Russia, so we advise you to download a VPN onto your device before you travel.
All five operators offer prepaid SIM cards, and you can buy them from stores, supermarkets, kiosks, drug stores and official outlets, as well as at most international airports. 2G, 3G and 4G plans are available on all networks for unlocked GSM phones. You can buy a SIM card by showing your passport, and your telephone number is already active when you purchase it. To add credit, there are several prepaid card machines around various towns and cities, and vouchers are stocked in stores and supermarkets. Please note, the Russian Federation is split up into 85 federal states, which sometimes use different plans and packages, therefore it’s almost impossible to list all of these deals. We have selected the best offers that can be purchased in Moscow and the main cities, and have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Russia.
MegaFon is the main provider in Russia and offers the best network coverage and competitive rates. It offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores or approved resellers, and it’s a legal requirement for stores to ask for ID to officially register the number. Credit can also be purchased from the same retailers and convenience stores across the country.
MegaFon SIM cards can be picked up for free, but packages must be added for use. Each is valid for 90 days after your last credit upload. International roaming is automatically activated on your SIM when purchased, which means that when you receive incoming international calls, the rates are lower. You can also use roaming when travelling to other countries. Dial *100# to check your balance. Dial *558# to check data usage.
Prepaid plans come in the following types:
- Switch to ZERO ("Переходи на НОЛЬ") or Everything is easy ("Всё просто"): Heavily discounted call rates to other MegaFon users in the same region. Data discounts are also available on this plan. Check the latest promotions for the best deals. Dial *105*1005*1# (Switch to ZERO) or *105*0041*1# to activate.
- Around the world ("Вокруг света"): This is the best prepaid SIM card for tourists. All incoming international calls are free, and all outgoing calls are charged at RUB3 per minute. Data is also heavily discounted. Dial *105*678*1# and select the "Around the World" plan.
- Warm Welcome ("Тёплый приём"): The best option if you are looking for discounted international calls from the Moscow area. This SIM card will cost RUB200. The SIM card includes the following options:
- Calls to MegaFon numbers in same region – 100 minutes per day
- To other numbers in Moscow – RUB2 per minute
- MegaFon numbers in other regions – RUB2.5 per minute
- Calls to other Russian numbers – RUB10 per minute
- Calls to China, India, Vietnam, Turkey and Japan – RUB27 per minute
The following combo packs are also available:
- Warm Welcome S: RUB300 monthly: 150 minutes to MegaFon nationwide, 150 SMS and 2GB data. Activation: *105*1082#
- Warm Welcome M: RUB500 monthly: 500 minutes to MegaFon nationwide and all networks in the home region, 300 SMS and 3GB data. Activation: *105*1082#
- MegaFon Online data-only plan ("МегаФон-Онлайн"). This data-only SIM card is perfect for tablets, modems, routers and laptops. For RUB200, you will receive a discounted data rate of RUB2.5 per MB. The following data packs can also be added:
|Pack||Price||Data (month)||Nighttime data||Validity||Activation|
Dial *558# to check your balance.
The following data add-ons can also be purchased:
- RUB19: 70MB for a day. Activation: *372#
- RUB175: 1GB. Activation: *370*1*1#
- RUB400: 5GB. Activation: *370*2*1#
- All-inclusive combo plan ("Всё включено"): The following combo plans are also available:
MegaFon’s APN: internet, and website: www.megafon.ru
MTS (or MTC)
MTS (or MTC) is the second-largest operator in Russia and also offers SIM cards at reasonable rates, in all sizes. It offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores or approved resellers, and it’s a legal requirement for stores to ask for ID to officially register the number. Credit can also be purchased from the same retailers and convenience stores across the country.
The following prepaid plans are available, and each is charged at a monthly fee:
- Super MTS (Супер МТС): RUB100 – 20 minutes of free outgoing calls to other MTS numbers in the same region per day.
- Your country (Твоя Страна): RUB100 – Discounted calls to other Russian regions, China and Vietnam.
- Red Energy: RUB1.6 per minute for all calls inside the same region. RUB150 for the starter pack, which can change from time to time. Check stores at the time of purchase.
- Per second (Посекундный): RUB0.05 per second to all calls inside the same region.
The following Connect-4 data packs are also available:
- Internet per day (Интернет на день): RUB50, 500MB per day nationwide. Activation and deactivation: *111*67#
- RUB5,000: 100GB per day nationwide. Activation: *111*1824*1#, deactivation *111*1824*2#.
The following data packs are also available for prepaid SIM cards:
APN: internet.mts.ks, and website: http://www.mtsgsm.com/
Beeline is the third-largest operator in Russia, and it offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores or approved resellers, and it’s a legal requirement for stores to ask for ID to officially register the number. Credit can also be purchased from the same retailers and convenience stores across the country.
Dial*102# to check your balance. The following prepaid packs are available:
Zero doubts ("Ноль сомнений"): RUB50 – Calling other Beeline numbers across Russia, with discounted data rates. Data is charged at RUB9.95 per MB. Dial 0674000999 to activate.
Internet forever (Интернет навсегда): Data-only SIM card packages for tablets and modems with 200MB data per month. Dial*110*999# to activate.
The following data packs can be used on all Beeline prepaid SIM cards:
The following data add-ons can also be purchased:
Beeline also offers a selection of combo packs:
Beeline’s APN: internet.beeline.ru, and website: www.beeline.ru
Tele2 offers some great packages, and its signal is also quite good. Tele2 offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards must be registered properly by showing your passport, and credit can be purchased from almost anywhere across the country.
Dial*105# and press "call" to check your balance. The following prepaid plans are available:
|Plan name||Monthly fee||National allowances||Activation|
|Free||None, basic data|
RUB7 per day)
|5GB (per month)|
200 minutes, 50 SMS
|RUB399||12GB, social media|
500 minutes, 50 SMS
|My Online +|
Мой онлайн +
|RUB799||30GB, social media|
1,500 minutes, 50 SMS
|Internet for devices|
(Интернет для устройств)
The following data packs can also be added:
- Internet from Phone ("Интернет с телефона"):
o RUB7: 100MB per day
Dial*155*151# to activate, and *155*150# to deactivate.
- Network day ("День в сети"):
o RUB20: 300MB per day
Dial*155*161# to activate, and*155*160# to deactivate.
The following data packs are also available, each valid for one month:
|15GB||Free social media||RUB499||*155*671#||*155*670#|
|20GB||Unlimited nighttime use||RUB699||*155*691#||*155*690#|
|50GB||Unlimited nighttime use||RUB999||*155*701#||*155*700#|
To add more data, the following packs are available:
Tele2’s APN: internet.tele2.ru, and website: www.tele2.ru
Yota is the smallest provider in Russia, with average network coverage and Internet speeds. It's more known for providing prepaid data SIM cards, as opposed to voice. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services on a GSM platform. Prepaid SIM cards must be registered upon purchase, and credit can be found almost anywhere across the country or by using a credit card online. The following data-only SIM packs are available for tablets, modems and routers:
The following data packs can be used nationwide:
- RUB50: 2 hours at maximum speed
- RUB150: 24 hours at maximum speed
Yota’s APN: internet.yota, and website: http://www.yota.ru
- The official language is Russian. If you don’t know the language, download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. People who speak English are mostly aged 30 or younger, and many of the older generation will struggle to speak it.
- Locals call a SIM card a “SIM” or “karte”.
- Ask the sellers to set up the SIM for you, because they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to get advice.
- Remember, it’s always better to get things done early, before the shops get too busy. That way, you are more likely to receive better assistance and avoid the crowds!
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
While it’s well known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in Russia.
“Purchasing a 4G/LTE modem SIM may only be needed if you are planning to take your laptop with you and also planning to avoid free Wi-Fi hotspots, which should cover most of Russia. Local SIM cards will save you some money on phone calls and mobile Internet.”
“You will get access to 4G/LTE if your smartphone supports Russian 4G/LTE frequencies, which are different to USA. The only issue that I know for sure is that US models of iPhone will NOT work with Russian high-speed mobile Internet. Most of Android smartphones as well as international iPhone models will work OK.”
“If you are willing to get yourself a local SIM card I recommend "Warm welcome" (the name of the plan) plus extra "Internet L" option (for RUB790).”
Pros and cons of Russia’s top telco providers
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked, GSM-compatible international phone. To double check you have this phone, or whether it’s possible to unlock your device, contact your provider before you leave.
- Good value for money
- Russia has good coverage
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- Cheap handsets are sold in stores
- No devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Tough rules and regulations make buying a SIM card difficult
- Make sure the plans you purchase work in the region where you are situated
More questions about finding the best SIM?
Q: What about other SIM card providers in Russia?
A: There is only one mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in Russia called Sim, which runs through the base providers we have highlighted above. Although you may find slightly different deals and plans, we feel it’s always best to stick with the main providers.