Local calls from homes and most hotels are free. To make a long-distance call or to call a mobile from most phones, first dial 8, wait for a second dial tone, then dial the area code and phone number. To make an international call dial 8, wait for a second dial tone, then dial 10, then the country code etc. Some phones are for local calls only and won’t give you that second dial tone.
To place an international call from a mobile phone, dial + and then the country code.
Prepaid SIM cards are readily available. International roaming possible.
Major phone networks offering pay-as-you-go deals include Beeline, Megafon, MTS and Tele2.
Reception is available right along the Trans-Siberian Railway and increasingly in rural areas. MTS probably has the widest network, but also the worst reputation for customer service. We found Beeline to be pretty reliable.
To call a mobile phone from a landline, the line must be enabled to make paid (ie nonlocal) calls. SIMs and phone-call-credit top-up cards costing as little as R300 are available at mobile phone shops and kiosks across cities and towns as well as at airport arrival areas and train stations. Call prices are very low within local networks, but charges for roaming larger regions can mount up; cost-conscious locals switch SIM cards when crossing regional boundaries.
Topping up your credit can be done either via prepaid credit cards bought from kiosks or mobile phone shops or, more commonly, via paypoint machines found in shopping centres, underground passes, at metro and train stations. Choose your network, input your telephone number and the amount of credit you’d like, insert the cash and it’s done, minus a 3% to 10% fee for the transaction. Confirmation of the top-up comes via a text message (in Russian) to your phone. You can also use the websites of mobile phone companies to top up your phone with a credit card.