Transportation: Phone and WiFi

Most flights entering Russia from the outside world come to Moscow, so our coverage will begin there.

Cell phones:

Russians call this a “mo-byle” phone. This is partly because of the way Russian Cyrillic letters are accented. Really it is a мобильный телефон (mo-byle-nee tyle-fon), but you are more likely to hear it as a “mo-byle fon.”

The good news is that the names of phones are generally in English: Apple is apple, LG is LG, Samsung is Samsung, and a smartphone is called a smartphone, etc. All are spoken with accents, of course.

It is very expensive to use your own phone plan/service when overseas, but there are ways to dramatically lower such costs:

– One way is to purchase a local SIM card. If your current phone card is quad band, and is “unlocked,” then you will simply buy a SIM card upon arrival, insert in into your existing phone, and start making calls with a local number.

– Another way is to buy a new phone upon arrival–but that strategy, while workable, has increased costs associated with it.

There are some tips to remember, too:

– Purchase a SIM card from the same company that your Russian friend uses. Service to service is free when local, but if you have MTC and he/she has Beeline, then those calls will not be free.

– Most Russians and Ukrainians use a prepaid system and must either “refill” when minutes are used, or leave a credit card on file for auto refills. Given the amount of corruption and fraud in the FSU, rarely do locals leave a credit card on file with anyone. That means that you need to be aware, and considerate of, how and when you call someone. Their plan is likely not “unlimited” like you may have in the West.

While there are several phone companies from which to choose, three large services dominate the landscape in Russia. Those are:

MTC, pronounced as M-Teh-S, which is exactly what those letters mean in Russian.

BeeLine, Билайн in Cyrillic.

MegaFon, МегаФон in Cyrillic.

The largest mobile phone services in Ukraine are:

Kyivstar, Київстар in Cyrillic.

MTC Ukraine, and is “M-teh-S” in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Life🙂 is the third largest, a division of Turkcell, the largest mobile company in Turkey.

Purchasing a SIM card is really easy. You can buy one at the airport upon arrival, or at thousands of locations across the country. You will need your passport and an address. Usually listing the hotel or apartment where you will stay is sufficient for the address. Don’t worry, the passport is a standard requirement, so no stress as to why they ask for it.

So, how easy it is to buy a SIM card?

Just watch this video with Sergei Baklykov of Real Russia:

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