Visiting Russia soon and looking for the best SIM card to get on arrival ? There are plenty of mobile phone operators in the country and it can be confusing to choose which one to buy. They often come with lots of data and are fairly cheap but not all are good enough depending on where you plan to travel in Russia.
In this post I explain you which ones are the best for your travel in Russia, how much it costs and of course where to buy your Russia SIM card. (Listed in no particular order)
Which SIM card is best in Russia ?
There’s no universal answer to that. It actually depends on where you plan to travel in Russia. For example, if you only stay in Moscow, any mobile phone operator will do the job, but if you plan on travelling in smaller towns and villages away from the major cities, you need an appropriate one that will actually get signal.
What makes a mobile phone operator good for travelling in Russia (in my opinion) :
Here are the top 3 mobile phone operators in Russia (according to Roskomnadzor and myself) :
Мегафон – Megafon is the most popular mobile phone operator in Russia for data. You will find stores in every cities and towns and even international airports.
Note that being the most used operator has its cons. The speed can drop in major cities in the evening and week ends. (still good enough to scroll on social medias)
МТС – Pronounced MTS, is equally good to Megafon in terms of data, speed and quality, however it’s less popular because sightly more expensive.
It’s said to have the most phone coverage in the country, so it might be a good option if you are travelling far and wide.
Where to get a SIM card in Russia ?
Mobile phone operator stores can be find in airports, shopping centers, city and town centers everywhere across Russia. Megafon, MTS and Beeline are the most popular ones so you won’t have problem spotting them.
Like in any countries, I don’t recommend you to buy your SIM card on arrival at the airport, they might have plans special newbies to Russia or try to sell you more expensive ones (with things you basically don’t need) just because you’re a tourist.
Yes you will need your passport to buy a SIM card in Russia. No they won’t take your finger prints.
Note 1 : Just like anything else in the country, you can’t buy your SIM ard (nor top-up online) with a foreign bank card, so unless you own a MIR card, you will have to pay cash in rubles.
Note 2 : Even if you have a russian bank card, you will not be able to buy it online and ship it abroad to get it before your arrival in the country.
How much does it cost ?
The prices between all these mobile phone operators are roughly similar. I said previously MTS is slightly more expensive than Megafon but, at the time of writing the rate of the russian ruble is more or less 1€ = 100₽ so expect to pay between 7 to 10€ for 30GB for 30 days.
Many operators offer unlimited access to Telegram, Yandex maps and some other apps in their plans, so even if you have no more data you can still look for an address on the russian Google maps and text you mom via Telegram, which is very convenient if you ask me.
Example of prices :
|Megafon||30GB + 800 minutes + unlimited messengers & others||750₽|
|MTS||30GB + 700 minutes + unlimited messengers||790₽|
|Beeline||30GB + 700 minutes + unlimited Telegram & others social medias||790₽|
Important : make sure the plan you get will work everywhere you will travel to ! Some are just for Moscow region for example and others are for the whole Russia.
My personal preference
I always go for the first phone operator I see in the street unless I know I will go to smaller towns and villages I buy a Beeline one. (The SIM card doesn’t last more than 3 months if not topped-up, that’s why I always buy a new one every time I go to Russia)
In most of my travels in Russia I had a Megafon SIM card (I’m telling you, they are everywhere), which worked fine for what I needed (I’m not the most connected person). I had 2 SIM cards to travel the Caucasus because I wasn’t sure which one worked best and it turned out to be Beeline.
Is there 5g in Russia ?
Not yet, but according to local news, MTS started some test areas in Moscow.
Can foreigners buy SIM card in Russia ?
Yes foreigners can buy a SIM card in Russia, only a passport is needed.
Can I buy a SIM card at Moscow airport ?
Yes, there are kiosks and stores of Megafon and Beeline in Moscow’s airports, however I do not recommend you to buy one there as the “tourist plans” might not be as advantageous as they sound.
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