How to Phone and Send Post from Moscow
To be omnipresent in Moscow you’ll need wi-fi or cellular phone capabilities. It’s better to get a local SIM card to avoid high roaming costs. The best one is from Megafon, who offers “Mezhdunarodny” tarif with cheap calls abroad and inexpensive fast speed LTE (4G) internet (get a prepaid 3 gig pack for 10 eur). They also have lots of additional options you’d need to switch on to save money, so check out their English-language website. One thing to keep in mind is that all Russian cell phone operators have slightly higher tariffs if you travel outside of the city where you bought your SIM. So check out their roaming tariffs and buy the SIM in the region you’ll spend most of your time in or switch on the cheaper roaming options.
How to phone from Moscow
The phone code of Moscow is 495. If you phone inside Moscow, you should just dial the 7-digit number. If you phone to another country, dial 8, wait for a long tone, dial 10 (for international access), then the code of the country, of the city, and the phone number you need. If you phone to another town in Russia, dial 8, wait for a long tone, and then dial the code of the city, followed by the local phone number. If you phone to a mobile phone, which doesn't have a direct Moscow number, dial 8, wait for a long tone, and then dial the number (for example, 910 555-5555).
Using Public Phones
Most of the pay phones require a phonecard, which you can buy at any metro station's ticket office. Each phone has an instruction in English on the display and you can change the language of it by pressing the button "L".
The telephone card - Tele`fonnaya `Karta - can be for 20 units (minutes) - 60 R ($2) or 50 units (one hour) - 105 R ($4).
The public phones are usually located near or inside all metro stations and at the other popular places.
It's possible to use those public phones for international calls too, but it's very expensive, better consider the options below.
How to communicate with the outside world?
First, you can phone from the hotel or hostel you're staying in. Usually hotels charge much more than it really costs, so it's not a very good idea.
If you live in an apartment, the price would be around 20R ($0.7) a minute if the call goes through MGTS local provider (it will, in most cases).
You can also go to the Tverskaya ulitsa, 7 (central telegraph, opened 24 hours) or to another telegraph office. You can order a telephone call or send a fax anywhere. A call to Western Europe is around 20 roubles (0.7$) a minute. For some reason, there are no special 'budget call centers' in Moscow as in some other countries.
Another way to phone abroad is to make a collect phone call. In this case, you will not pay for the phone call, but the party you're phoning to will. You can do it by dialing AT&T access number in Moscow
(755-5042 or 747-3323), dialing the number you wish to reach, waiting for an operator to answer (English-speaking only) and telling him / her you'd like to make a free phone call to this number. You will need to repeat the number again to the operator, then you'll be connected, the person you're phoning to will be asked if he's willing to pay a phonecall from Russia, and voila.
The cheapest way to phone abroad, is to use a special telephone card for IP-telephoning. You can use these cards from any phone in Moscow, even public ones. Just dial the Moscow access number written on the card, switch to the tone mode (usually a * (star) button), dial your PIN and then the number you're calling.
There are many companies selling those cards, such as Comstar (Maxicard) or Rinotel, besides they have an English-language menu to explain you what to do while calling. Those cards can be bought either directly from the providers or easier from the telecom shops (sa`lon s`vyazi - usually next to metro stations -- the places where cell phones and accessories are sold).
Regarding the prices, IP-cards from MTU cost 150 R ($5) and one minute of speaking with US, Canada, Western Europe costs $0.2. Even if you're calling from a public phone, the phonecall will cost you the same $0.2, plus $0.07 a minute you'll have to pay for the payphone.
You can also buy phonecards online, this way you will be able to use your card instantly. WayToRussia.Net together with MasterBell offers this service to our readers through Way to Russia Budget Phonecards shop. The rates are $0.10 per minute if you call from Moscow abroad, and $0.02 per minute if you call from USA to Russia. The quality is perfect if you use the card from Russia or USA, but don't buy it if you intend to use it in a European country.
Here's a list of some IP telephony providers in Moscow.
Rinotel. Address: Sofiyskaya embankment, #30/3, (zamoskvorechie area, south center, metro Tretyakovskaya). Phone: 792-5404, fax 792-5405, internet: www.rinotel.ru e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org | Comstar. Address: Dmitrovsky pereulok, #3, build. 1. Contacts: tel 956-0000, fax 956-0707, internet: http://www.comstar.ru/
Using Mobile Phones in Moscow
The three main Moscow and Russian mobile operators are MTS (Mobile TeleSystems - http://www.mts.ru/), BeeLine (Vympelkom) (http://www.beeline.ru/), and Megafon (http://www.megafon.ru). All of them cover the biggest Russian cities as well as well populated rural areas. Megafon has the best coverage between Moscow and St. Petersburg and an English-language support menu. MTS is considered to have the best connection quality, but they are slightly more expensive. BeeLine has a good coverage in Siberia.
All the operators have the same level of service and about the same prices: about $0.20 for a minute of a local call (incoming or outcoming), and $0.15 mobile to a mobile. Megafon offers calls to Europe and USA for only $0.35 / minute if you subscribe to one of their contract plans (starts from $35 US / month with 200 minutes included).
Normally, you will be able to subscribe for a short period of time, because there are no 1-year minimum term contracts in Russia -- you can usually cancel with 1 month notice. To subscribe, you just can go to any telecom shop (there are many), pay a set-up fee ($30-$90) and a deposit $35-$40 which will directly go on your account, and you'll have a new SIM card and phone number. Just make sure your mobile isn't blocked by another provider. Once subscribed, if you want to add money to your account, you can buy a top-up card, which is sold in most shops.
If you want to know more about different mobile networks in Russia, their tariffs, coverage, and services, please, read our Expat Guide / Getting a Mobile Phone section.
Sending the Post in Russia
If you want to send something by post from Russia, you can do it either through the government post service or a courier service - the difference is the price and speed.
State post service. The government post system in the whole Russia is unexpensive, not quality enough and slow, either if you send it inside or outside of Russia. Besides, sometimes the letters don't come at all. It'll be ok in the most cases with the parcels though.
How to send it. You should buy the post stamps at a post office, which you can find by Pochta sign. Post offices usually work monday - friday from 9.00 to 19.00 and saturday - 9.00 to 17.00, sunday is day off. The stamps you need to send a letter to Western Europe will cost around 12 R ($0.5). For that price your letter will arrive in 2-4 weeks. You can send your letter or postcard by putting them at any of the light blue post boxes on the streets or directly at the post office (better). Sending an average (around 500gm) parcel costs around $15
A more secure option is to go directly to the main post office of Moscow - Tsentralny Telegraph (Central Telegraph), it's on Tverskaya ulitsa, #7. It'll cost around $3 to send a letter from there and it'll take 2 weeks for it to arrive.
Courier services. It costs about $50 US to send a letter with a major courier service (see contacts below) from Russia to Europe, and about $70 US to the USA. It should take about 1 to 3 business days to arrive.
DHL Express. Address: 8 Marta Ul., #14. Contacts: tel 956-1000, 961-1000, fax 974-2105 internet: http:// www.dhl.ru
Federal Express. Address: Aviatsionny pereulok, #8/17. Contacts: tel 234-3400, fax 234-9942. email: email@example.com internet: http://www.fedex.com
TNT. Address: Svobody Ul., #31. Contacts: tel 797-2777, fax 797-2778, email: firstname.lastname@example.org internet: http://www.tnt.com UPS. Address: Bolshoi Tishinsky pereulok, #8, build. 2. Contacts: tel 961-2211. fax 254-4015. internet: http://www.ups.com
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