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Travel Tips • Communication
How to Survive


Public calling offices can be found in virtually all settlements, from Moscow to remotest villages, but in the countryside they are really far from excellence. Connection is usually made through the operator and often takes a lot of time and patience. It is not clear if a particular location will be able to setup an international call either.

On the other hand, calling from within larger cities is fast, easy and reliable. There are quite a number of providers offering IP-telephony services for very affordable prices.


Public Internet access can be found in all major cities and large towns, but typically not in the countryside. Prices and connection quality may vary significantly, but generally situation is just like with voice calls - the more remote you go, the worse and the more expensive service you get.

Mobile phones

The nationwide cellular standard is GSM 900/1800. Three major mobile operators in Russia are MTS, Megafon and Beeline. All of them have roaming agreements with virtually all GSM providers worldwide, so you should remain connected everywhere within their coverage area. If you intend to use your mobile for more than just a couple of buzzes, you may choose to buy a local prepaid number to avoid outrageous roaming charges.

All three operators have GPRS service running in most major cities (and sometimes even in the countryside), giving you a convenient option to connect to the Internet from your laptop. Check who of them have GPRS at your location and purchase appropriate prepaid card - GPRS roaming is not a cheap thing either.

Two-way radios

Officially allowed license-free bands for private use are 27 MHz and 433 MHz. Note that GMRS/FRS transceivers (commonly used in the US) are NOT legal in Russia. To sum up different radio standards:

Band Range Allowed in
CB 27 MHz US, Canada, Europe, Russia
GMRS/FRS460 MHz US, Canada
PMR446 446 MHz Europe, UK
SRD433 433 MHz Some of Europe, Russia

But if you intend to use radios exclusively for communication on remote rivers, it is OK to use any stuff you may have - there's nobody there anyhow to apprehend you or to interfere with. The general rule is to pack the stations deep in your bags and to avoid using them in towns. In fact, even 27/433 MHz transceivers do require registration with Russian bureaucrats (which you will unlikely want to bother about), so it makes even less difference.


There are many sources of general maps of Russia available, but here we mention only true topographic maps suitable for orienteering. The absolute best are Soviet military maps printed in scales 1:500,000; 1:200,000, 1:100,000 and 1:50,000 (1:200K and 1:100K are most common). They are extremely precise (being made for gunnery) but you have to be able to deal with Cyrillic script to read them. Two large sources of Soviet military maps are:

UC Berkeley Library has many of them online, but some are only available from within university campus network. There are many more paper maps in their off-line collection.

Czech map server maintained by an enthusiast, has an invaluable collection of maps, many of which are not found anywhere else. The collection is updated from time to time by various contributors from all around the world.

Note that all military maps in scales 1:200,000 and better are still stamped "Classified" or "Secret" in Russia and you should NOT wave them in front of the officials. Several web sites in Russia hosting such map collections were closed recently by the FSB (formerly KGB) - quite stupid and useless action nowadays.

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