In Moscow there are three main GSM operators: MTS, Beeline, Megafon

pinterest button

They often have offers that give you a SIM card, including 3G internet, for free or at least very cheap.

Even if you are only staying for a short time in Russia, you should consider buying a local pay-as-you-go SIM card, as it may be cheaper than just a few minutes of roaming.

Almost any European phone, and those from the U.S. which work on a GSM network (T-Mobile, or AT&T), carry the «tri-band» or «World phone» designation and had been unlocked, should work on the Russian standard (if yours is not one of those, a basic new candybar will still run you considerably less than $50 without a contract).

If you buy a SIM card from a shop you'll need your passport for identification. It only takes five minutes to do the paperwork and it will cost less than $10. You will receive a number in the «mobile» area code, starting with 9, which has more expensive rates for calls to and from landlines (and from abroad; in compensation, the tariffs for calls to phones on the same network are usually reduced), and your card will be preloaded with a small initial minute allowance. Incoming calls are free (or at least are supposed to be, by law; some companies are trying to find ways around it).

Top off at the stores of your chosen company, at shops selling phones, or at newer automated kiosks which accept utility payments (they look like short, squat ATMs with large touchscreens, and display, among others, logos of the mobile operators); the latter charge a small commission fee and accept cash or (rarely) credit cards. Be careful when entering the number: it is possible to add airtime to any phone, not only your own.

For calls abroad there are different inexpensive pre-paid cards (e.g. Arktel), which you can find at many shops and kiosks throughout the city or in any post office.