A Guide to Buying a SIM Card in Russia

A Guide to Buying a SIM Card in Russia
23 August 2021

Having the ability to gain access to the internet at any moment whilst abroad is extremely useful, especially in cities where many things, from looking at a menu in a restaurant or viewing a guide in a museum, rely on a good internet connection. Therefore, one of the first things that I did in Russia was buy a SIM card. Here are my top tips when buying a SIM card in Russia.

Choose your provider

There are many SIM card providers in Russia, with two of the biggest being MTC and Beeline. If you are travelling around a lot, it may be wise to choose one of these larger providers so that you can be sure that you can find one of their shops in the event that you run into problems with the SIM card.

Location matters

If you are not planning on staying in Moscow, try to buy a SIM card in another city. Moscow is notoriously expensive when compared to other cities in Russia, and this is also reflected in the price of a SIM. For example, I originally bought a SIM in Moscow when I first arrived for around 1,000 roubles (≈£10), but when buying a new SIM card in St. Petersburg, I could get the same package for just over half the price.

Consider unlimited internet

When compared to the UK, an unlimited data plan is very cheap to purchase here in Russia, and costs just a few pounds more than other tariffs. An unlimited data plan for one month purchased in St. Petersburg cost me around 600 roubles (≈£6). Having unlimited internet access has proved to be very useful, especially when using my phone to provide a hotspot to my laptop.

Use top-up machines

If you want to top up the balance on your SIM card with cash, consider using the top-up machines located in many internet provider stores for a quick solution. To this, all you need to do is have your mobile number to hand, input it into the machine and insert the amount of money that you wish to top-up. 

Bring your passport

When purchasing a SIM in Russia, you will have to bring your passport with you. Most providers require the original passport, and will not accept a copy. They will note down your passport details, which will be shown on the document which confirms your tariff conditions and your purchase.


Overall, I found that buying a SIM in Russia was a rather painless experience, resulting in much less confusion and requiring much less time than I thought it would. If you want more practical travel tips for Russia, read our article ‘Apps to Download before Travelling to Russia


Leila, currently studying at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg

Posted by Leila Shannon

Привет! I'm Leila, and I study Russian and Spanish at Durham University. I am currently studying with Liden & Denz in St. Petersburg. I have been studying Russian for almost 3 years, and I love learning about Russian history and culture.

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