Life without a cell phone plan in Russia – What if I cannot deal with this?

Life without a cell phone plan in Russia – What if I cannot deal with this?
23 November 2016

Today the increasing amount of social networks, apps to communicate with the family, friends and colleagues or even the traditional way of both calling somebody or writing short text messages are indispensable for many of us to stay connected. At home the cell phone plan provides everything necessary for oneself but what happens during a stay abroad?
For a longer stay abroad, you should ask yourself:

  • if the mobile phone and internet is necessary at all.
  • if free wifi, only available at certain places, is enough for your requirements.
  • if it is worthwhile to book a special rooming option at your operator at home.
  • if it is cheaper and easier to sign a contract with an operator of the visiting country.

In particular studying at a language school in Russia, many people decide in favor on the last option. They go for a cell phone plan and buy a prepaid card. It especially allows them to stay connected and easily communicate with their new friends from the language school. After having made a decision, another questions automatically appears: Which operator should be chosen and what is necessary to sign a contract in Russia?

Main Operators and Cell phone plans in Russia

The main operators in Russia are MTS, Beeline, MegaFon, Rostelecom and since a few years Tele2. Each operator offers different plans in a range from 150 RUB (~2 EUR) where you have just a few hours of talk inside the operator’s network and about 500 MB Data up to 1000 RUB for which you get a couple of hours in all Russian telecommunication networks, about 1000 SMS and 10 GB data.
Every operator sells different options adapted on the desires of the customers. Therefore you should clarify your requirements before you compare the offers. Besides the different options, most operators have a few things in common:

Prepaid Cards and Possible Restrictions

  • Most plans are available as prepaid cards. You pay an option for a desired time for one, two or more months and not for at least one or two years as it is usual in some countries.
  • It can be stated, that the cheaper the cell phone plans are, the more restrictions they have. For example:
    • “звонки на Санкт-Петербурга и Ленинградской области” means that the specified time is only valid for a special county (in this case in the county of Saint Petersburg)
    • “Звонки на OPERATOR других регионов России” expresses that the specified time is only valid in the network of the operator.

Once those points are thoughtfully respected, it remains to take the passport (obligatory) and ask to buy a prepaid card at a shop of your desire. A copy of your passport, a personal identity card or a driver license are not enough. You really need the passport. In case that the Russian language skills are not yet sufficiently developed, a shop in the city center is recommended. A comparison of the cell phone plans of the main operators in Russia will follow soon.

Maxim, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg

Posted by Maxim Germer

Maxim Germer is currently involved as an intern at Liden & Denz in Saint Petersburg. He has been learning Russian for a couple of weeks. Due to the success he noticed during a three weeks stay at the language School Liden and Denz he decided to come back where he is now for three months.

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