Buy Mobile Internet SIM Card in Saint Petersburg Russia

If you have to pay roaming charges to use internet in Russia, please read this article.  Russia is almost always excluded from the European roaming packages, such that you may be covered in Finland or Estonia, but not in Russia.

Mobile internet is pretty cheap in Russia.  It may make a lot of sense to pay $5 to buy one month worth of Internet.

I am not endorsing any of the internet providers, nor I am an expert in the mobile internet market or applicable laws.  I just wanted to summarize my experience hoping it may be helpful.  

 

Step 1.  Choose Your Mobile Internet Provider

The main ones are MegaFon, MTS, Beeline, Tele2.  They all have offices in central Saint Petersburg.  

You will need to walk into the office in order to buy a SIM card.  

I would say there is not a lot of difference between the main internet companies, especially if you need your mobile internet for a short period of time.  

Just walk into any of their offices and inquire.  

MTS and Beeline offices

Step 2. Choose Your Plan

Depending on how long is your stay in Russia, chose your plan.  Typically, you can buy anything between 1Gb per month and unlimited internet.

Since the plans are pretty cheap, I would pick up something like 20Gb just to not worry about running out of the internet and to be able to watch YouTubes on a bus.

My MegaFon 20Gb plan costed me 450 rubles ($6) per month.  For reference 5Gb costs 350 rubles (or around $4.5). 

If you pre-pay for 6 months in advance, you typically get a discount.  Some minutes of calls to local numbers may be included, or charged separately, however, they are quite cheap – about 2.5 rubles ($0.03) per minute in my case.  

Check out various package options:

3. Buy a SIM Card

You will need your passport and that is it.  No credit card, address or contact phone number is needed. Foreign passport is fine.

The company will scan your passport and prepare a one-page agreement (in Russian).  Once you sign it, you will be given a SIM-card that fits all phones and your phone number.  You are ready to browse right away.

My company said they would charge me for the first 15 days of monthly service on a daily basis.  On the 15th day of the month, they charge the remaining balance for the month. I am not sure what the logic of this is.  Basically, you can put something like 300 rubles ($4) and use your mobile internet for 2 weeks. I went for the full monthly fee of 450 rubles as I was planning to use my SIM card for more than 2 week.

If you need more money on your account, just pay at one of the payment terminals, at the counter or through an app by bank card.  I think the payment terminal inside the cellphone company office in the center of Saint Petersburg is the easiest option for tourists.

4. Important!

You are signing the agreement for monthly service.  Although you don’t have to pre-pay or provide any payment guarantees or credit cards, sometimes the cellphone company will continue to try to invoice you for the balance owed, however to a certain maximum.

Why does this matter?  For example, if you come to Russia again and want to use your old SIM card, you may be asked to pay something like 800 rubles ($10) for some monthly charges and what not that have accrued.  Don’t ask me why.  However, if you don’t use it again, or go to a competitor, you should be fine.

I lost my SIM card one time when I left Russia, and on the next visit I just used a competitor and it was all good, except I got a new phone number.

However, to avoid any of that or to keep your number if you need it, I was advised by the MegaFon clerk to do one of the following before leaving Russia:
  • Drop by the office to close your account (I thought it was too much work)
  • Install an app on your phone or call the support line when you are at the airport and you no longer need internet, and ask to change your plan to zero monthly fee one.  This way they would only charge you for the data you used and the phone calls you made.  When you come back to Russia again and want to use your phone number switch back to a monthly plan.   
Other than that I thought the process of getting mobile internet was pretty straightforward and hassle-free.

Enjoy your stay in my city!
Saint Petersburg native and Travel Blogger