Post and Phones in Russia
Mobiles, Shipping, Payphones, etc.
Calling to Russia
In Russia, area codes can be three or four digits long (see the brief list below) and numbers are usually written in the following format: 7-(111)-222-33-44 or 7-(1111)-22-33-44. So, to call from the US, the following format is used: 011-7-(city code)-(Russian number).
Some Area Codes: Moscow: (495); Moscow (outskirts): 499; St. Petersburg: (812); Sochi: (8622); Irkutsk: (3952); Nizhny Novgorod: (8312). Numbers to mobile phones usually begin with "9" (e.g. 921, 916, 905, 903).
There are several inexpensive options for calling to Russia offered by companies such as Skype.com (recomended), EnjoyPrepaid.com, PayTone.com, and SpeedyPin.com
Calling from Russia
We recommend cards from "Arktel" for the cheapest rate and ease of use (around 7-9 cents per minute). These cards can be bought at small kiosks which dot most Russian cities. We also recommend the Evroset-branded card, available in Evroset stores, Russia largest cell phone store chain. To call the US from Russia, you must dial 8-10-1-area code-number.
You may also place Internet calls very cheaply, if not for free. Visit Skype.com for details, and see our information on using the Internet in Russia.
Payphones ("taksofon" in Russian) are increasingly rare in Russia, and you will find that they generally require two phone cards for long distance calls. Both cards may generally be purchased from innumerable kiosks scattered throughout any Russian city. The first has a built-in microchip and is called a "karta taksafona;" this one will make the phone operate when inserted. Then, you can use your calling card number (on the second card, usually called a "telefonaya karta" or "telekarta") and follow the directions thereon. Most brands will offer upwards of two hours' talking time (Russia-US) for about 150 RUR ($6) These directions on the telekarta can be quirky, and are probably printed in Russian, so be prepared to try a few variations to get it right. On some phones, you will need to press the star key (or another) to begin speaking once your party has answered.
Calling home using a calling card
|Moscow access numbers
AT&T access: 755-5555
MCI access: 747-3322
Sprint access: 747-3324
|St Pete access numbers
AT&T access: 325-5042
MCI access: 346-8022
Sprint access: 8-10-800-110-2011
Access numbers elsewhere
AT&T access: 8-10-800-110-1011
MCI access: 7-812-747-3322 (call to Moscow, Russian long distance rates apply)
Sprint access: 8-10-800-110-2011
SRAS strongly recommends that you carry a cell phone in Russia. You can, in many cases, bring your phone from America (click here for important information on that) and use it with an international carrier or get a Russian SIM card to insert for local calls. You can also buy a cheap cell in Moscow, which can be worth it if you'll be staying a week or more. Cell phones are an excellent boon to one's social life, and it is always reassuring to know that you can always call the embassy from anywhere in the event of an emergency.
After an initial fee of approximately $30-40 for a (very cheap) phone, simcard, and an account, you pay for only the calls you make. Local calls are paid for by way of electronic terminals available throughout most Russian cities. Note that these terminals vary widely in the commissions they charge - 11% seems to be about average in Moscow, for instance, although we've seen 6-18% being charged. Some machines will charge no commission - so long as you add a large sum (like 1000 rubles - or about $30 - at once). Such machines are usually near metro entrances. Evroset stores, Russia's largest chain of cell phone stores, also offer commission-less transactions for most carriers. Most of the cell phone stores branded by carriers (see below), also offer commission-less transactions for those adding money to their accounts with those carriers.
Students on SRAS programs in some locations are issued a cell phone free of charge. For those who will need to chose their own service provider, BeeLine, MTS, and MegaFon. Coverage will vary depending on where you are - so you might want to check with any contacts you have or research online. Note as well that there are some regional carriers as well - like Tele2, which often offer lower rates, but which don't provide coverage across Russia (so if you leave your main host city, you may not have coverage).
-- More on bringing cell phones, smart phones, iPhones, Blackberries, etc. to Russia
Internet and IP Telephony (VoIP) in Russia
We recommend that you see our city guides for the location you intended to visit, for WiFi hotspot locations and specifics to Internet use in a particular city. Many apartments and some dormitories are Internet-ready (although students in most dorms have mentioned that service can be spotty. We do not recommend any dial-up service in Russia (or anywhere else). The market leader in Russia for wireless Internet, with the best coverage in locations across Russia is SkyLink. You buy a modem (at any Evroset location, for example) for $60-120 (depending on max speed) and then either pay about $25 per month for unlimited access inside Moscow (for example), or pay a few rubles per MB.
There are also several cheap options for mobile Internet. These includes the little flash-drive modems (dongles) sold by most of Russia's cell phone service providers (BeeLine, MTS, and MegaFon). While these minimize your initial investment (to about $30 in most cases), they can also minimize your maximum speeds especially if you are outside the center of a major city. Always ask the clerk to check the service coverage of any area you are likely to commonly use your mobile Internet. For more on bringing your laptop to Russia, click here.
Internet cafes are becoming rarer in Russia, especially in major cities where most Internet users can now afford their own computers and connections. However, these cafes are still much more common in Russia than in America, for instance. Most Internet cafes in Russia are equipped to host Internet calling (IP Telephony; VoIP) or if you have an equipped laptop and a microphone, you may visit a WiFi hotspot and call from a service such as Skype.
Every urban center in Russia has a Central Post Office (known in Russian as "Glavpochtamt"), which also sells stamps and envelopes, and usually fax services, Internet time, and telegraph services too. See our city guides for the location you intended to visit. For SRAS students, your SRAS Student Guide will also tell you the location and usually a location for a post office closer to campus.
There are several in Russia including DHL (tel: 7 (495) 956-1000) and FedEx (Tel: 7 (495) 788-8881). Moscow and St. Petersburg also now have several Mailboxes, etc. locations where you can send packages via all the major delivery services. There are also some less expensive ones established mainly for expats – usually they advertise in English-language papers. If you will be in Russia for several months and need to receive important documents it is worth opening an account. Otherwise, it's not, given the easy access to email these days. For sending things back home - such as postcards and letters and even larger packages like books - the Russian post is slow but acceptable.
We generally do not recommend having items shipped to you in Russia. If to use a private carrier - the cost is usually prohibitively high. If to use the postal service, it can be slow and unreliable. Often, packages arrive after students or travelers have left Russia. Note that if you use the US post, they will track the package only to the Russian border and after that, you will need to contact the Russian post (which doesn't speak English) to find more information about your package.
For finding postal codes for the Russian federation, try AddressDoctor.com. You can search in Russian or English (Cyrilic or Latin) for any address in Russia (and lots of other places too). However, if you search in English, note that it may not recognize your transliteration; try in Cyrilic or try multiple variations of the English spelling.
Find Out More!
History of Russian Holidays
Internships in Russia
Health and Safety in Russia
The SRAS Newsletter
The SRAS Library on Russia
Journal for Students
More Free Resources!
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