This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Travel to Russia is currently not advisable due to the area's volatile political situation.
Keeping in touch in Russia is quite simple when living in large cities such as Moscow or St Petersburg. These modern cities offer most of the same amenities found in large Western European cities. Internet, mobile phones and media are widely available and easy to access, particularly if one can speak basic Russian. Many Russian people speak some English, but fluency shouldn't be expected.
Internet in Russia
In Russian cities, most apartment buildings are already wired for an internet connection, meaning expats will simply need to contact a service provider to attach the wiring from the hall to the apartment. Expats should speak to their landlord first to determine whether the connection has already been installed. If it has, one can simply call the previous internet provider and turn on the service.
In order to sign any new contract, expats should provide a passport with a valid Russian visa. Speaking Russian or having a Russian speaker present during this process will be helpful.
Most packages will include internet, television and landline telephone service, though it's possible for expats to pick and choose exactly what they need. Many expats in Russia are happy to opt out of a landline telephone and television, as mobile phones and internet television services can be cheaper and more convenient.
Free public WiFi is also available, especially in the bigger cities including Moscow and St Petersburg. Expats will find free public WiFi in parks, restaurants and the Moscow metro.
Mobile phones in Russia
Many of the main internet providers in Russia also supply mobile phone services. The four biggest companies are Beeline, MegaFon, Tele2 and MTS. There is not really much variation between the large service providers, as reception and cost of service will be roughly the same. Note that mobile phone contracts are usually separate from internet and landline contracts, even if choosing the same company for both.
International calls are very expensive on any plan. Therefore, online telephone services are generally a more cost-effective idea.
Postal services in Russia
The Russian postal service, called Pochta Rossii, is fairly cheap, but slow and unpredictable. Fortunately, there are many global courier services that operate efficiently for both in-country and international post.
Post sent through Pochta Rossii from within Russia can take several weeks to arrive at its destination. Post from abroad can take anywhere from one to four months to arrive, as getting through Russian customs is a lengthy process. It's also not unheard of for post to never arrive at its destination. It's therefore inadvisable to send or receive any important or time-sensitive documents through Pochta Rossii's services.
English-language media in Russia
English-language media is easily accessible in Russia's larger cities. The Moscow Times is a well-respected English newspaper, and most of the larger Russian newspapers have an English presence online.
Russian television is dominated by state-controlled media and offers a limited range of programmes. Some foreign channels are occasionally available with the most expensive television contracts. Most expats use streaming services from their home countries.
Social media and censorship in Russia
Social media sites and messaging services are widely accessible in Russia. Russian government has recently been pushing its campaign for stricter control of social media sites. Websites and platforms are facing hefty fines for not blocking posts and content that is banned by the Russian government.
Are you an expat living in Russia?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Russia. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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