Russia is getting online right across its wide expanses. St. Petersburg has now wireless internet access across the city, including in cafes and restaurants and 4G mobile internet providers are offering some of the world's best mobile internet services.
You can buy a SIM card (make sure your mobile phone is unlocked) at many outlets in the city. The main companies are Megafon, MTS, and Beeline, and you will need your passport. The SIM cards come with a certain amount of money loaded on them, and there are a lot of places to top up your credit.
The postal system is still as unreliable as ever, but private courier firms have all moved into the market to guarantee service for those who need their mail to arrive within days not weeks.
Internet Cafes and WifiFree Wifi access in St. Petersburg
Russia is streets ahead of many places in the west in terms of its wireless internet cover - almost every cafe and bar now provides free wifi access and hotels generally provide access as standard.
It's also possible to connect to the internet in various parts of the city via a Russian mobile phone. The Beeline company has internet coverage in many parts of the city. To get online you usually need to provide details of your mobile phone. You will the receive an sms with a log-in and password and the fee for using the service will be charged to your phone.
If you don't have a laptop or phone the can access the internet, then you will need to head to an internet cafe. There are still many around with the 24hr Cafe Max at 90/92 Nevsky Pr. (metro Mayakovskaya) probably the most convenient and centrally located.
Making a CallCalling within St. Petersburg
To call any number within St. Petersburg from a private fixed line, just dial the local seven-digit number as it is, without any codes. Normally, all calls from fixed lines in St. Petersburg are free – it doesn’t matter if you’re calling to another fixed line or to a mobile phone (the owner of the mobile has to pay), a hangover from the good old days of the Soviet Union. Some hotels or business centres will charge you, but bars and coffee shops usually let you phone for free as long as you call within the city.
For a call to Moscow, Vladivostok or any other city in Russia, simply dial 8, wait for the tone (not necessary if you have a digital line), then dial the Russian city code that you need.
To phone home from St. Petersburg, dial 8, wait for the tone (not necessary if you have a digital line), then dial 10 and the country code, city code and the number as usual (without the first 00).
Thinking about getting a Russian number? Unless you’re planning to stick around long enough to make signing a contract with a local network worthwhile, the best way to get a number is to purchase a starter kit which gives you a pre-paid card account. Bee Line for example is a good option, but also Megafon, MTS and Tele2 have prepaid SIM cards. For circa 150Rbl you receive a Russian number, SIM card and 100Rbl deposit to make calls. For purchasing a Russian number you need to show your passport, visa and registration. (so that they can assign you another SIM card with the same number if you happen to lose it.)
Topping up your Russian mobile phone
You can top-up your Russian pay-as-you-go SIM card at any of the top-up machines that you will find in most shops, supermarkets and train stations. Just choose the provider you need on the machine's touch screen, type in your phone number (without the +7) and then insert the amount of money you want to top-up by.