Internet access, traveling with a laptop in Russia
Contents: wi-fi wireless internet - mobile internet access - internet cafes - ADSL broadband and LAN - dial-up internet access
Internet access is readily available either via dialup (from a hotel or an apartment) or through internet cafes. According to statistics, more than 14 Mln Russians are online (that is about 10% of the population), most of whom are from Moscow (30%) and St. Petersburg (20%). If you are interested to see what the Russian internet (also called RuNet) has to offer, take a look at our Useful Links section.
Wi-Fi Access (Wireless Internet Hotspots) in Russia
Wi-Fi enables people with their own computers to connect wirelessly on the internet. It is also known as wireless internet or 812.11.
To be able to use this standard you need special wireless network card installed in your computer. Most modern notebooks have it pre-installed (including all Apple PowerBooks equipped with Airport or PC computers equipped with Intel Centrino technology), if not, it can be purchased for about $50-$100 at any computer store.
A few months ago we wrote that this technology is not yet wide spread in Russia. Things have changed and there are now dozens wifi hotspots in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major cities in Russia. Many of them are free, some charge $5-$10 per hour.
Here's a list of some Wi-Fi access points in Moscow, the average access price is $10 / hour, however, many of them are free. For a more detailed list, see Moscow Guide / WiFi Hotspots in Moscow
TGI Friday's: A typical American restaurant famous for its cocktails. Lunchs for $10.
Tverskaya #18/2 (next to Kodak Cinema, metro Pushkinskaya or Tverskaya - center), Leninsky prospekt #1/2, 1 (metro Oktyabrskaya - center), Zemlyanoy Val, #33, Garibaldi, #23 (metro Novye Cheremushki - south Moscow). Opened 12.00 to 24.00 daily. Provider: Yandex, Price: Free
Boarhouse: A popular hang-out for expats. Zemlyanoy Val, 26A (opposite metro Kurskaya). Provider: EWi-Fi.Net, Price: Free
TGI Friday's restaurant at Shermetyevo 2 airport (2nd floor, departures hall), Opened 24 hours. Provider: Tascom, Price: $10 / hour
Domodedovo airport (international departures hall, 2nd floor, VIP hall), opened 24 hours. Provider: Tascom, Price: $10 / hour
Mariott Hotels (the access is purchased at the reservation desk, access available in all Mariott hotels, reception, lobby, rooms). Provider: Moscom
Coffee Shops Coffemania (trendy coffee-shops chain). Provider: Moscom Price: $10 / hour, $70 for 300Mb or $110 for 1.5Gb
1. Rozhdestvenka street, building 6/9/20
2. Bolshaya Nikitskaya street, building 13/6
3. Kudrinskaya Plozhad', building 46/54.
Scandinavia Restaurant (an upscale and expensive restaurant). Provider: Moscom, Price: $10 / hour, $70 for 300Mb or $110 for 1.5Gb.
Palashevsky per, #7. (metro Tverskaya)
See a list of all Moscow internet hotspots.
Here's a list of Wi-Fi access points in St. Petersburg, access cards can be bought online or on locations. For a more detailed list, please, see St. Petersburg Guide / WiFi Hotspots in St. Petersburg
Cafe Saigon (Nevsky Prospekt, #7). Provider: Quantum, Price: $5 / hour
PitStop entertainment club (Sadovaya st., #12). Provider: PeterStar, Price: n/a
Hotel St. Petersburg (Pirogovskaya emb., #2) Provider: Quantum, Price: $5 / hour
Hotel Grand Europe (Mikhailovskaya st., #1/7). Provider: PeterStar, Price: n/a
Grand Hotel Emerald (Suvorovsky lane, #18). Provider: PeterStar, Price: n/a
Pulkovo 1 & Pulkovo 2 Airports. Provider: PeterStar, Price: n/a
Morskoy Vokzal (Main Ferry Peer, Moskoy Slavy st., #1. Available on the 2nd and 7th floors, and in Morskoy Vokzal hotel) Provider: Quantum, Price: $5 / hour
Journalists House (St. Petersburg journalist press-centre: Nevsky Prospekt, #70). Provider: Quantum, Price: $5 / hour
See a list of all internet hotspots in St. Petersburg.
If you're interested in finding wi-fi hotspots in other Russian cities, please, see our Destinations guide. The hotspots are usually listed in Practicalities section of the city guides, if there are any in the city.
Mobile Internet Access (GPRS and 3G Networks) in Russia
Russian mobile operators offer very cheap GPRS internet access service with speeds up to 56 kbit, so it's better to get a Russian SIM -- you'll save loads of money on roaming charges. The main mobile operators in Russia are MTS, BeeLine and Megafon. Megafon has the best GPRS coverage throughout the country (however, not in all regions). In big cities, such as Moscow, St. Petersburg, or Novosibirsk, you can use GPRS with any mobile provider.
3G (UMTS) networks are not yet launched in Russia, but there are talks it's going to happen by 2006.
If you are in a region, which doesn't have GPRS, you can still use GSM dial-up service.
You might find the Mobile Connect software (for PC and Mac) by Novamedia quite useful, as it allows to connect on the internet with a mobile and a laptop easily in any country and we are using it ourselves.
Also, for higher connection speeds you can try the OnSpeed service, which claims to be able to make connections up to 8 times faster.
Internet Cafes in Russia
Internet cafes in Russia are usually opened 24 hours a day and offer many additional services like scanning, saving data (disks, cds, zips), business conferences etc. One hour of connection usually costs about 30R-60R ($1-$2 US), discounts are available during the night and for students.
Most of the bigger internet cafes will not allow you to connect your own laptop, however, if you find a smaller cafe that is not part of a chain, then you might be able to go online with your own computer.
There are many internet cafes in Moscow and St.Petersburg, especially in the center. There are internet cafes also almost in every other Russian city or town (Novgorod, Samara, Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, Irkutsk etc.), but they are harder to find. See a list of internet cafes in WayToRussia.Net city guides on the web, in "Practicalities" section.
Below is a list of the most popular internet cafes in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other major Russian cities.
Moscow: TIME ONLINE Internet café.
There are 200 computers and you can copy data to the disks, cdroms, zip drives, print out your things, scan pictures, take a photograph on digital camera, copy from a flash memory card to the web or cd rom. Time Online is located right in the city center, next to the Kremlin & Red Square. English speaking staff. Credit cards are accepted.
A small appliance store and an inexpensive cafe at the entrance.
Address: "Okhotny Ryad trade center" - Manezhnaya ploshchad. Phone: 363-0060. Internet: http://www.timeonline.ru
How to get: metro Okhotny Ryad (red line), just outside the e in Manezh underground shopping mall, ground floor.
Open: 24 hour a day
Saint Petersburg: QUO VADIS? Internet café.
Located in the very center of St.Petersburg, this café seems to be one of the best in the city. Services: internet access, printing, scanning, copying, CD recording, fax, IP telephony (US, Europe: $0.20 / min, Moscow: $0.05 / min). There's also a free library (opened 10.00-22.00) with Russian and international press and books.
Address: St. Petersburg, Nevsky Prospekt, #24, next to Griboedova channel on the opposite side from Kazansky cathedral, metro Nevsky Prospekt. Contact: 311-8011. Internet: http://www.quovadis.ru
Open: 24 hours
CafeMax internet cafes in Moscow and St. Petersburg offer special conference room and business services, such as video conferences, separate internet access rooms. http://www.cafemax.ru
NetCity internet cafes in Moscow offer special VIP rooms, where you can browse the internet in private. http://www.netcity.ru
Novosibirsk: 24h Internet Club.
Doesn't have any name, located in a pedestrian subway and usually there are many gamers inside. There's also a cafe with light snacks, drinks, and beer.
Address: Novosibirsk, Centrum, Trudovaya St., 1 (just behind the fishing equipment shop in the courtyard - along Vokzalnaya Magistral st). Tel.: +7 (3832) 22-55-96
Open: 24 hours, break from 7 till 9 in the morning.
Irkutsk: EPICENTER Internet Café.
This is a new internet cafe located at the crossing of Karla Marksa st. (main street in Irkutsk) and Sukhe-Batora st. The connection is quite fast. There's also a gaming hall, so kids are shouting a bit too loud, but it doesn't disturb much.
Address: Sukhe-Batora st., #18, Internet: http://www.epicentre.ru/
Open: 24 hours.
ADSL Broadband Internet and LAN Networks
High-speed (broadband) internet services are provided by LAN (local area networks) and ADSL providers almost in any Russian city. Moscow and St. Petersburg also have cable TV providers that offer internet connection.
To get connected to ADSL, you should contact the provider and give them your address. Russia is a big country, so different telecom companies will be providing connections in your area, depending on where you live. Within two weeks they're going to set up the connection (which usually costs about $50-$100 with equipment, if it is needed), and you will be able to start using the internet. The prices for traffic vary, but most ADSL providers offer 1Gb traffic with 512 Kbit speed for $30-$50 per month. There are no long-term contracts, in most cases you can cancel your subscription with 1-month notice.
Most LAN providers can set up the connection faster (they will just put the Ethernet cable through to your apartment), but the charges will be higher than ADSL and you will need an Ethernet card already installed in your computer. However, this may be a good option if you don't have a landline in your apartment or don't want to use ADSL for some reason.
The main ADSL provider in Moscow is Stream.Ru. They offer connections up to 8 Mbit/sec and the quality is quite good. Both USB and Ethernet modems can be used, but if you want it to be compatible with a Mac it's better to go for a slightly more expensive Ethernet version. For a list of other providers in Moscow, see Moscow Internet Access page.
For a list of ADSL providers in other cities, please, read the Practicalities section in the city guides.
Dial-Up Internet Access
The 5-pin telephone plugs are used in Russia. However, a lot of plugs have also a socket for standard RJ American plug. If not, the adaptor is available in any appliance store and costs not more than $1.
To have a dial up access (from a hotel or an apartment), the easiest way is to buy an internet card, which is sold in many telecom shops and supermarkets. You need to make sure that the card you buy has the local access number in the city you will be connecting from.
The most known internet providers are Russia-On-Line (modem access number in the main Russian cities) and MTU-Intel (in Moscow and St. Petersburg). One hour costs 30R ($1 US), the maximum connection speed you'll get is 33600 bps. Before connecting, be careful to set the dialling mode to pulse (NOT tone), and dial the ISP access number without any codes and prefixes (7 digits in Moscow and St. Pete). Also, it's quite likely that you'll need to dial more than once, because the lines are often busy.
After you bought the card, you should login (as a guest) on the server of the provider and type in the serial number and the code of your card. The servier will confirm your subscription and after you connect again, you will be able to start using the internet.
Please, go to our Russia Talk Lounge Forums.