Connecting to the internet in Russia is much easier than what most international tourists think. While in Russia, you will be able to:
- Access free WiFi in public spaces
- Enjoy mobile internet connection (3G / 4G / LTE)
- Connect to ADSL and LAN networks.
Many travelers are worried that they will not be able to connect and work from abroad because of Russian internet censorship. In order to avoid the issue, international travelers wishing to access the internet without limits while in Russia can purchase a VPN subscription. Visitors may want to sort the VPN before traveling (just like they would do with their Russian visa) in order to leave for Russia with peace of mind.
Is there WiFi in Russia?
International travelers may be used to accessing the internet for free in big tourist cities. Visitors use the WiFi connection of museums, public transport networks, and city parks all around the world in order to get in touch with their loved ones at home, publish their latest travel pictures on social media, and even get some work done while on the go.
Russia is no different. Visitors will be glad to hear that free WiFi is available in Russia, especially in bigger cities that are popular with tourists, like St Petersburg, and Moscow (discover all abou how to travel to St. Petersburg). Free WiFi in Russia can be usually found at airports, Moscow metro, and big chain restaurants. Public parks and squares also often offer free WiFi — the Zaryadye Park in Moscow, for example, is popular with internet surfers because of the good quality of the signal and the convenient location right next to the Red Square.
In order to connect to the WiFi, you will be asked to provide a mobile phone number. You will then receive a confirmation code via text. Remember to have your phone with you when you connect to a public WiFi. Smaller restaurants and hotels are likely to protect their WiFi with a password but visitors should be able to gain access by simply asking a staff member for the password.
Accessing the Internet from Your Mobile in Russia
In big urban centers, your smartphone and other mobile devices should be able to connect to the Internet with no issues. Mobile internet connection in Russia is just as good as in most other developed areas in the world, and includes access to 3G, 4G, and LTE fast internet networks.
You can choose to enable international roaming on your phone or sign up with a Russian Internet provider. If you choose the latter, you can get a local SIM card or even a small portable modem for about $ 40.
Not all Internet providers offer the same coverage and services. If you are planning to spend time in rural areas, it’s important that you do your research and enquire about coverage before making a purchase (international roaming is not likely to work well in remote areas). Some providers offer better connection in remote areas — SkyLink and BeeLine, for example, are known to get a signal in Siberia and the Russian North.
How to Get High-Speed ADSL or LAN Internet in Russia
As it’s often the case, broadband services represent the most reliable type of Internet connection in Russia. For those who need to work online during their visit or intend to spend a good amount of time in the country, setting up an ADSL or LAN connection may be the best option.
Different areas in the country will be covered by different providers. Contact a local provider and give them your address to find out how long it will take them to set up your connection (usually, no longer than 2 weeks). Prices vary but most companies charge $ 15-25 per month and most contracts can be terminated with just one month’s notice.
Internet Restrictions in Russia: What Sites Are Banned in Russia?
Russia is known for enforcing bans on certain websites. Although Russian Internet content laws are strict, these are mostly intended to protect internet users. In fact, the Russian government has repeatedly stated that among the main reasons for a website to be blocked in Russia is the practice of storing and sharing the users’ data outside Russia.
Internet restriction is not steady in Russia: some sites that are blocked today may be available tomorrow. Famously, the messaging app Telegram is blocked and unblocked often in Russia. LinkedIn, Dailymotion, and Reddit also have seen their sites blocked in Russia. And although it rarely happens, you may have issues accessing services that you normally use to work online, like Dropbox or Gmail.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN) services offer one of the easiest and most popular solutions to the problem. International visitors who need unlimited and unrestricted access to the internet in Russia can purchase a VPN subscription that will allow them to bypass the Russian site bans. It’s important to do some research before traveling to avoid breaking the law and make sure the VPN service will work in Russia.
VPN services usually automatically encrypt all the user’s traffic. This means that using a VPN will also protect your data from eavesdropping while using a public WiFi connection.