POST & COMMUNICATIONS
Pochta refers to any post office, glavpochtamt to a main post office, and mezhdunarodnyy, glavpochtamt to an international one. The main offices are open from 8am to 8pm or 9pm, with shorter hours on Saturday and Sunday; in big cities one office will possibly stay open 24 hours a day.
Outward post is slow but fairly reliable; if you want to be certain, use registered post (zakaznaya pochta; zakaz-noi po-cht). Airmail letters take two to three weeks from Moscow and St Petersburg to the UK, longer from other cities, and three to four weeks to the USA or Australasia. For airmail letters under 20g, the cost is R10/16 for regular/registered post to practically everywhere abroad.
You can address outgoing international mail as you would from any country, in your own language, though it might help to precede it with the country name in Cyrillic.
In major cities you can usually find the services of at least one of the international express carriers, such as FedEx or DHL.
Receiving Mail Incoming mail is so unreliable that many companies, hotels and individuals use private services with addresses in Germany or Finland (a private carrier completes the mail’s journey to its Russian destination). Other than this, your reliable options for receiving mail in Russia are nil: anything addressed to poste restante should be considered lost before it is sent, and embassies and consulates won’t hold mail for ransient visitors.
If sending mail to Russia or trying to receive it, note that addresses should be in reverse order: Russia, postal code (if known), city, street address, name.
Russian city codes are listed in this book under the relevant section heading. The country code for Russia is 7.
Russian telecommunication services have improved no end since 1991, but there’s also been an explosion of providers, which can be confusing and, if you’re not careful, expensive
From a private phone in Russia, dialing outside the country is very simple, but the prices keep rising and are now even higher than those for equivalent calls from the West to Russia. To call internationally dial 8, wait for the second tone, then dial – 10 and the country and city codes, then the number. Omit any zeroes from the city code (eg, to call Sydney, it’s 8 10 61 2, and then the phone number).
At the time of writing, daytime ( 8am to 8pm, Monday to Friday) telephone prices for Moscow and St Petersburg were R15 per minute to Europe, R19.5 to the USA and Canada, and R35.4 to Australasia. Calls arc cheaper from 8pm to 8am weekdays and all day on weekends.
Taksofon (pay phones) are located throughout most cities, usually in working order. Most take prepaid phonecards, available from metro token booths or kiosks. There are several types of cardphones, and not all cards are interchangeable. Cardphones can be used for local and domestic or international long-distance calls.
Some older phone booths accept zhetonr (metal tokens) as payment. Place the token in the slot on top of the phone and dial; when the party answers, the token should drop. A series of beeps means you must insert another token.
Domestic’ calls (ie, long-distance calls within Russia or to any former Soviet republic) can be made from mezhdugorodnvy, using different, wrinkled-metal tokens available only from telephone offices. They work on a similar principle, but you need to push the otvet button on the phone’s face when your party answers. Dial 8, wait for the second tone, then dial the city code (including zeros) and the number.
State/Central Telephone Offices
State-run long-distance telephone offices are found in almost all towns and cities, usually in the same building as (or near) a post office. In most, you leave a deposit with an attendant and are assigned a private booth where you dial your number directly. In a few instances, you still give your number to an attendant who dials the number and then sends you to a booth to take the call. Either way, you pay an outstanding balance or collect change from your deposit when you leave. Rates are similar to home services.
Satellite Phone Centres
In many cities, you can now find privately run phone centre, boasting satellite links to the outside world These have an advantage over state offices because they offer much more reliable connections, comfortable surroundings and competitive rates.
This service allows you to dial a toll-free number in Moscow or St Petersburg for connection with a service provider such as AT&T, MCI or Sprint, which can put through collect or calling-card calls to numbers outside Russia. (Note: you pay for this reliability and convenience with high rates.) The access numbers for these services change frequently, so check the number with the provider before you leave for Russia.
At most traditional Russian hotels local calls are free. Placing long-distance calls can be more difficult and you’ll have to work the details out with the front desk. Calls from pricey Western hotels are expensive: a direct-dialed call abroad from your room can cost over US$ 100 for 20 minutes. If you or your company don’t want to pay such a rate, use a country direct service or go outside.
Most hotel-room telephones have a directdial number for incoming calls, which saves you having to be connected through the switchboard. However, this can lead to unwanted disturbances: see Dangers & Annoyances later in this chapter.
Mobile (cellular) phones are becoming increasingly popular with Russians who want to bypass the antiquated state system. In Moscow and St Petersburg, they ate as common as in most major Western cities, although coverage gets a lot patchier the further east you head, until you hit the major Far East urban centres of Khabarovsk and Vladivostok. There are several different systems and you may be able to use your regular cell phone while you are in Russia – check with your service provider for details.
Faxes can be sent from most post offices and the better hotels. Post office rates are usually around R60 a page to Europe, the US and Canada, and R90 a page to Australia.
Email & Internet Access
It is no problem finding Internet cafes across Russia – even the smallest towns have connections. The best place to start is the main post office or telephone office, as they often have the cheapest rates, around R30 an hour or less.
To access your home email account, you’ll need sour incoming (POP or IMAP) mail server name, your account name, and your password; your ISP or network supervisor will be able to give you these. It also pays to become familiar with the process for accessing mail from a net-connected machine before you leave home.