Russian SIM Cards and Phonecards for Data Roaming and Calls

Author: waytorussia (on 20 Mar 2019)
If you are traveling to Russia your mobile operator will probably charge you exorbitant roaming fees. For example, scrolling a feed on Instagram for a minute uses about 15 Mb and even if you have a so-called "low rate" of 0.25c/Mb you already would pay about $4 for that. If you get to hotel and decide to make a phone call home they might charge you a whopping $2 per minute. The best way to avoid that is to get a SIM card from a local mobile network or an international roaming SIM (e.g. Drimsim has the lowest internet prices).
The good thing about getting a local SIM is that the internet prices are very low: you'll pay about $10 for 30 Gb of traffic valid for 1 month. You can also keep that SIM for your travels abroad: Russian operators have very low worldwide roaming fees. Worldwide 4G fast internet costs about €5 a day (outside of Russia), which is better than some international roaming SIMs. As a bonus you get a cool phone number that starts with 007 (yes, agent). If you don't want to get a new SIM, you could also buy or rent a special roaming modem from SkyRoam, which works worldwide (Including Russia) and costs about €9 per day (use WAYTORUSSIA coupon code to get 10% off). 



Russian Mobile Operators SIM Cards

We highly recommend to either get a local SIM card as soon as you arrive to Russia. If your phone is locked, you won't be able to put another SIM in it. In that case it makes sense to unlock it or to get a second smartphone, tablet, or a small mi-fi Cellular network router to put the local SIM card in , so at least you have the 3G / 4G internet on you at all times. You could rent a mi-fi router from companies like Skyroam, but they charge about €9 per day for the internet, while the same money will get you one month of unlimited internet anywhere in Russia (spend the savings on buying your own router at any telecom shop in Russia for €40 and keep it :) 
The best local SIM card to use in Russia is from BeeLine or Megafon (good coverage around the whole country although the quality may vary) or MTS (good coverage only in big cities, better quality) operators as they offer good data bundles (from $10 for 10 Gigs) but you need a passport to buy and activate the SIM. It's possible to do it at the airport train express terminal when you arrive. The SIM card itself will cost you another $5 and you would need to ask the seller to activate the data package and also any additional packages (for example, to enable you to call abroad for less money o). If you get Megafon, ask for their tarif plan "Vokrug Sveta" (Вокруг Света – "around the world") and ask the seller to activate the internet M option (16 gigs) and a calling abroad option (hopefully they will speak English). You can top it up later at any shop or ATM using your credit card. If you get a BeeLine SIM card, you can top up on their website online. Read more about Russian mobile networks in our Practicalities guide.

International Roaming Settings and Prices for Russian Mobile Operators

Russian mobile operators offer very competitive rates for international roaming (using the Russian SIM abroad), making it a great choice in comparison to the standard travel SIM cards. In general you'll pay about €5 per day for 4G / LTE browsing worldwide (not only in EU and US, but also in South America and South-East Asia), which is a much better deal than what you'd normally get on a travel SIM. You can use your Russian SIM card the first few days until you find the local operator who'll probably offer better deals (although in countries like Brazil you need to be a resident to purchase a local SIM card). Be careful: you will need to activate your roaming data as soon as you arrive using a short code number (specified below for each operator, but it's better to check again when you buy the SIM with the seller) or using the operator's smartphone App.

The most worry-free roaming option (but also the least traffic) is offered by BeeLine. Once you get their SIM you have an automatic roaming option connected, which activates once you use your phone outside of Russia. It'll charge you €5 and for that price you can have unlimited internet but only the first 100 Mb work in 3G / 4G fast speed, after you go above the threshold your speed will be capped to 128 Kbs, which is OK to check mails, send a WhatsApp message, or use basic Maps functionality, but not enough to browse, use social networks or watch videos. This option works in most countries, including USA, EU, Brazil, Japan, China, Indonesia, Thailand, Ukraine, CIS. If you want to make sure this option is switched on, dial *110*20171# Call on your phone or check your BeeLine App. If you've used up your internet traffic cap, you can get an extra 300 Mb of high speed internet for €8 each time. To do that, dial *110*122# Call on your phone. This option is only valid for the internet. If you want to make cheap phone calls in the country you're in you'll have to pay another €4 per day (this option is switched on automatically once you make / receive your first phone call. 
If you don't want to deal with the maths, you can also switch to another tariff called All for 1800 — for 1800 R / €25 a month you'll get 15 Gb of the internet and free incoming calls.

The most extensive (but also the most expensive) internet roaming plan is offered by Megafon: for 600 R / €8 a day you'll get 1Gb of traffic (which is pretty good — enough to watch a movie, use maps, and check social networks and e-mail) in most of the countries around the world (including USA, South America, all of EU, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, China, Brazil etc.) This option offers most traffic than any other Russian operator and is called Mir Online. To activate / deactivate this option dial *136# Call on your phone.
Their other option is called Roaming Goodbye, which allows you to use your standard Russian tariff (with unlimited internet traffic) and costs 299 R / €4 per day, but it works only in most of the EU countries, Thailand, South Korea, Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia, but not in the USA or South America. You'll need an internet pack activated in your home tariff in order for that to work (it costs about €10 per month for 32 Gb traffic, so it's pretty cheap in the end, cause you get unlimited internet for about €50 per month in this case. To activate / deactivate this option dial *171# Call on your phone. Be careful as this option does not allow you to make cheap phone calls in the country you're roaming in, so only use it for the internet. If you need ot make cheaper phone calls, you need to connect Vokrug Sveta option, which costs €0.15 per day and then you'll pay about €0.20 for incoming / outgoing calls to the country you're in. To turn it on dial *105*708# Call. To turn it off dial *105*708*0#. Call. 

Another good internet roaming option is offered by MTS: you can connect their Bezlimitische tariff for €5 a day and use 500 Mb of traffic in most countries. This option also offers free incoming calls for the first 10 minutes per day and then €0.30 per minute, but no discounts on outgoing calls to the country you're roaming in. To turn it on dial *111*771#  Call on your phone. You'll need a tariff activated in Russia to use this option (e.g. 500 R / €8 a month for the Smart tafiff).


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International Roaming SIM Card



International Roaming SIM Cards for Russia


Another option is to have an international roaming SIM card delivered to you before you travel to Russia, like this you can use it later anywhere in the world. We've tested various options available and found out that the best ones are Drimsim and OneWorldSim.

Drimsim has the lowest internet price in Russia: it costs about €10 per 1 Gb (which is basically enough for a week-long heavy social network usage), a phone call in Russia costs about €0.7 and about €0.5 / min abroad, which is pretty competitive. Also, their rates in other countries are at the same low level and we've used it both in Germany and in Thailand, so we can testify it works. Drimsim comes with a UK number and you can get it online on their website

OneWorldSim offers lower calling rates, but has a higher internet cost. WIth them, the incoming calls are free, calls to another OneWorldSim are $0.25 per minute, calls to Russia and other countries are $0.50 per minute. Of course, you can also use your data connection for phone calls and if you get a data bundle, you'd pay nothing for your phonecalls. You can check the prices for international SIM card with low roaming charges here, we recommend you to get their Plus card with a Giga Data Package for $29.95, which includes 5 Gigabytes at 4G speeds in Russia, China and other countries. 
Another service is SkyRoam, which offers a mi-fi modem that works in most countries around the world, including Russia. You don't have to put a SIM in it and you can have access to 4G internet almost anywhere. It costs about €9 per day if you rent it or you can buy it for about €150 and use it whenever you want. You can get it online from SkyRoam directly (use WAYTORUSSIA coupon code to get 10% off).





Prepaid International Calling Cards

Calling abroad to/from Russia can be expensive. Sure, you can use Skype but their rates are relatively high and the connection quality is not so good. Most popular messengers like Whatsapp and Telegram can work well, but you need to make sure there's internet, which is not always the case. That's why getting a phone card that has access numbers both in the country you're traveling from and in Russia can be a good long-term solution. You can compare different phonecards for calling to Russia on our website or check out the rates below to see what fits you best:

Some of the advantages:

• Lower Prices (from  1c/min)
• Local & Mobile Access Numbers in the US, Russia, and Europe
• Set Up a Direct Number in the US to forward anywhere else (free!)
• Save on roaming charges: trigger an incoming call with an SMS
• Web originated call – connect any two numbers in the world through your web browser!
• Online control panel to track your calls and balance
• All major credit cards and PayPal are accepted
• Connect any two phones using your iPhone or PDA



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