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
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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?
In Russia there are dozens of mobile phone companies, but the three most common are MTS, MegaFon and Beeline, though there are many others: Tele 2, Yota, Rostelecom, etc).
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.
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.
Как купить много немецких сим-карт находясь в России?
If I take 7 day tourist troika card, can I use it on bus 949 from airport to down town and connecting Metros?
hi Irena, i would to travel on these june to moscow and st petersburg, may i know which company is more convenient and valuable to purchase for my modem for 4 devices, thank you
hi all, i am travelling Moscow and St Petersburg , may i know which company is more convenient to be use in these 2 places with a modem and the internet charges is cheap stable and unlimited, any advise ? thank you
How long will it take to activate the sim card if i buy one from a nearby store?
And what do I have to say to the person? (please recommend phrases in Russian). Any help will be appreciated.
Im from UAE and i want to buy Russian simcard can i do it online and they will send it to me on UAE?
No, but you can have a look to resellers in Amazon.
Cees van Koppen
Hi Irena, question, our stay is just 9 days in Moscow, is it possible with a temporary tourist visa to obtain a simcard at any Megafon store? Or do you need a permanent visa? We travel in Februrary ’18 and I read online that rules are also going to change on Jan 1st (no sale without passport check). Can you shed any light on this? Many thanks in advance! Cheers, Cees
My name is Irene. I will be heading that way in September. Thanks for the information.
Hi Irina we are going to Russia in 12 days I may get an important email. I was wondering if I can hotspot my I pad with a Russian sim card as I am not sure if I will be able to access my emails if I have a different simcard.
Yes, you can
I’m going to Russia 3 days in moscow and 5 days in st petersburg.
If I’m out of data its better to purchase a new sim card or to load my phone.
Can You help me what’s better for me for 3 days in moscow with my friend for transport is to buy a Troika card or to buy the unlimited ticket for 3 days (400 rubles).
Hi Irena. I will be visit Russia on the 10th of August and I would like to know what options do I have to buy a sim with mobile internet. Thank you in advance.
The options that you can see in the article: Beeline, MTS, Megafone…
Just about to head out on the Trans-Siberian and your blogs have just made it so much easier and better. Thanks so much for putting in the time and effort Irena!
Than you very Much Lashi!
I also came across this site: https://petersburgcard.com/… Can you shed some light on these cards? are they worth it… should we get those or what should we do for internal travel using public transport?
Thanks once again 🙂
Not sure. Depends on the visits you have planned. To know if it’s worth you can do calculations: https://petersburgcard.com/…
OMG Irena, you are amazing. Thank you so much for this blog too… just made my life easier again! So I just have one question here….
If I buy Megafon in St Petersburg, can I use the same number and plan when i go to Moscow and the rest of the country right up to Vladivostok?
Hi Raakhee, thanks 🙂 It depends on your plan. Probably you’ll need another SIM card. You have to visit Megafon sales point and ask
Ok thank you Irena.
We are going on the trans Siberian in a month but leaving from Beijing. Is it correct from reading your post that we would probably not be able to buy a Russian sim card at reasonable cost before leaving Australia or even in Beijing?
No, but you can buy it as soon as you get to Russia at the airport
Thank you for the article.
I just want to ask whether buying simcard in Moscow airport is pricier than buying it at city. I prefer buying at airport as I hope the staff can at least speak English and more helpful to activate it.
I’m thinking to buy MTS the 450rub plans seems suitable for my two weeks stay at Moscow and St Petersburg.
The price is the same
I am looking at getting the Megafone All inclusive VIP for 2000 rubles a month for when i go to Russia in August… I can’t tell though if it is prepaid without a contract or not….
I need to buy it in St Petersburg, and use it there, in Moscow, and in Sochi, for 12 days in total.. I don’t want an ongoing service? Is this suitable?
There are many prepaid plans, just ask in the store since these plans often change
love the way you are doing this service to help us. i am going to St.P, Moscow, Kazan, Samara and Sochi.
Firstly would a Beeline 600 cover all these cities on a phone sim, or would it be better using MegaFon or MTS-effectively which company covers all these cities?
Can you also inform me whether there is a 12 year old child’s Troika pass or does she need to use my adult one with my wife? So 3 people on one card?
really appreciate your help.
PS Also we are in the Domododevo region of south Moscow, near Donscogo metro station, 14 stops from Red square, can we use the Troika daily from here to the city and back for 2 adults and a 12 year old, so 4 days of travel would need a big top up of rubles to cover us, no? thank you.