Computers and Internet in Russia
laptops, blackberries, WiFi, and more
1. Safety Issues (back to top)
It is generally safe to bring your computer and electronics to Russia. Many of our students have done so and most of our employees carry laptops around Moscow and we have yet have any problems reported. We do, however, recommend that you store your laptop at the dorm or at your homestay in a concealed location (such as in a drawer) just to be safe. Be sure to turn the equipment off before storing it so it doesn't overheat.
2. Packing Your Computer (back to top)
Most modern computers have built-in, automatic converters. If the power block (the little black box that you plug your computer into and then plug into the wall) indicates it can handle an input of 100-240V, or if there is a sticker on your computer with the symbol "CCC," then your computer will work anywhere SRAS offers programs so long as you have a plug adapter. The link provided here is for an adapter with a fuse. If you use another adapter, make sure it indicates that it will work in Central/Eastern European areas and, if it does not already contain a fuse, purchase a separate surge protector.
If your computer does not indicate this symbol or this input range, you will likely need a full voltage converter. However, you should check and double check your computer's requirements. Plugging an unequipped computer into a foreign power source will damage your computer. Likewise, plugging your computer's voltage converter into a separate voltage converter creates a fire hazard and can also damage your computer. If you have any doubt, contact your computer's manufacturer and ask what you should do.
You should also check your computer's warranty (if it has one) before you go abroad. Warranties are not always serviceable in foreign countries.
If you have a computer or palm pilot, consider getting an electronic dictionary (like Abbyy Lingvo). Also, do not pack your computer into your checked baggage. Always carry it onto the plane.
3. Bringing Other Electronics To Russia (back to top)
Most other appliances and electronic devices do not have built in converters. You will need a currency converter, and make sure you check with the manufacturer to make sure that your device can work with a converter (the converter can catch fire or destroy your device if a non-compatible device is hooked up to it). Memory sticks, flash cards, and digital cameras (with USB cable) can all be used at most Internet cafes, you just have to ask the service desk for assistance and sometimes pay a small fee (less than $1).
4. Buying Electronics in Russia (back to top)
Students have often asked us if they should just buy electronics (computers, etc.) when they get to Russia to avoid any problems with amperage, etc. The one plus to doing this, besides slightly lighter luggage on the way over, is that your warranty will be serviced in Russia (see above). However, electronics here cost just as much as they do in the U.S. Also, if you take the computer back, you will have the same problems with amperage, warranties, etc.
5. Internet Cafés (back to top)
Moscow to St. Petersburg have plenty of these and even "provincial" areas like Yaroslavl, Rostov and Vladivostok have them readily available. Sometimes they can be a little hard to find as they are rarely located on prime real estate and are often run by people who apparently don't know the value of putting a sign on the door. Going rate at most locations: $2 an hour.
Moscow (click for more options)CafeMax
(a Russian chain) has a location on the MGU campus, a 5-minute walk from the sector "B" gate. Their connection is reliable and relatively fast and you can request WiFi access. Files may be downloaded and written to disk at the counter for a small fee. Address: Ulitsa Hohlova, 3. Open 24 hours. They also have decent food, though a bit overpriced. Near MGIMO is NetCity
, also reasonably priced with decent food and music. Address: 2 Paveletskaya Ploshchad, Building 2 (at Metro Paveletskaya). Open from 9:30 to Midnight. In the very center of Moscow, in the basement of the Okhotnyi Ryad shopping mall (the underground one just outside the Kremlin gates is Time OnLine
. Many McDonald's
locations are now offering WiFi access and free Internet kiosks as well.
Very near SPGU is Soyuz
, a very decent café with reasonable pricing and speed along Srenegavansky Prospekt. Akademia
is another option, just a little bit up the street from the Faculty of Philology, facing the statue of Lomonosov (still on the campus territory), it's in the building on the right, one or two doors down from the intersection. Cost is $1-2 per hour. In town, the best choice is Quo Vadis?
, which offers international internet calling (currently at about $.50 a minute – cheaper rates are to be had), a cafeteria, occasionally live music, and even a small library at Nevskiy Pr. 24. Just up the street is Russia’s most successful Internet chain, Café Max
, but we recommend the walk to Quo Vadis?
6. Internet Calling (back to top)
Many of these cafes are already equipped to host Internet calling or, if you have an equipped lap-top and a microphone, you may visit a WiFi hotspot (now fairly common in Moscow and Petersburg) and call from a service such as Skype. Many apartments and some dormitories are Internet-ready, although we do not recommend any dial-up service in Russia
7. WiFi (back to top)
Yandex, the leading Russian Internet search engine, now has a quickly expanding system of WiFi spots around Russia, based mostly in cafes, restaurants, and shopping centers. The connection is not always the greatest, and many locations are now charging for the service (you have to ask for a card with a password), but is kinda cool to be able to order dinner and a beer and answer your email in style. Find all WiFi locations listed on interactive maps here.
Another option is Golden Telecom, which is also quickly spreading WiFi around Russia. It now has about half of Moscow more-or-less covered in a blanket hotspot and several locations around St. Pete, Novorossiysk, Ufa, and Khaborovsk. You purchase an account with them and then can use the service anywhere the connection is available.
8. Blackberries (back to top)
If you have Blackberry service in the US (for example) you can use it in Russia (quite extensively actually). When you arrive in Russia you will need to switch your network selection (under "Options") to "Manual" and then do a network scan. Depending on your provider in the US (T-Mobile used here as an example) you will probably want to select either Beeline or MTS-RUS. Select, save, and check to make sure that it does eventually switch from GSM to GPRS on your network bar. Occasionally one of the providers might have a temporary problem, in which case go back into the network and switch over to the other option. Second we strongly recommend that you request an international roaming package in advance. Otherwise, it can get pretty expensive. T-Mobile's international roaming supplement is $20 per month for unlimited traffic and you can even pro-rate that if you do a lot of short trips. Simply call them and give them the start and stop dates of the international service.