There are three major ways to top up your Russian SIM-card if you've run out of money on it:
1. Through any of the offices of your mobile operator or any big mobile phone retail store.
2. Through ubiquitous cash-accepting terminals on every corner (most popular are called Qiwi).
3. And the best one is through an app on your mobile phone.
Before you do any of that, however, make sure that your balance is actually the issue there. There are not that many reasons in general why your SIM might refuse to work, but lack of funds is only one of them.
To check it, open the num-pad and, depending on your mobile operator, dial:
*100# - 'send a call' button for MTS and Megafon
*102# - 'send a call' button for Beeline
A few seconds later you'll get a special one-time message (not a text message) on your screen telling you the remaining balance of your SIM-card.
If you see that there are more that 100-200 RUB still left, most likely it doesn't work for some other reason. Try to ask people in the nearest office of your mobile carrier or just buy a new SIM since they cost almost nothing.
Also, whichever method of refilling it you choose, you'll have to know your number. Which is something not everyone bothers writing down.
Use these commands through the num-pad to find it out:
*111*0887# - 'call' button for MTS
*110*10# - 'call' button for Beeline
*127# - 'call' button for Megafon (costs 1 RUB on Megafon, everywhere else is free)
So, here are the methods of refilling your SIM-card balance one by one.
1) Topping up through a physical store or office
Just Google the name of your mobile operator plus the word 'store' in your maps app. Like: 'MTS store'. Find the location of the nearest one and try your luck finding it. They are not that hidden most of the time. Get there, say that you need to put money on your SIM, tell them the number and give the money. Done.
The same way you can find the nearest Evroset (Евросеть) or Svyaznoy (Связной) store. They also accept payments at cashier desks but only of Beeline and Megafon. MTS you can top up this way only in MTS stores.
Here are logos of each of those stores to visually recognize them:
2) Topping up through a special automated terminal
Russia loves those. People don't trust banks so much, that if you do any online business in Russia, you absolutely must add a payment option through those terminals. Mobile phone, electricity bills, home internet, road fines, taxes, bank credits - you pay for pretty much anything through them. People would often bother going to the nearest one outside than to use their card details to pay online from their couch.
For that reason those terminals are absolutely everywhere. And the two most widespread companies operating them are Qiwi (Киви) and Eleksnet (Элекснет).
Here are some example pictures of how each of them can look like:
If you start paying attention, you'll notice that you've already seen at least a hundred of those throughout your trip. Just go to pretty much any supermarket or shopping mall to find one. Or google the location of the nearest on your maps app.
I'm not so sure about any translations in any of them though. If everything is in Russian, use your Google Translate app that translates foreign words right on the screen when you point your camera at them. There shouldn't be too much to translate anyway.
3) Refilling your SIM-card through a mobile app
This one is by far the best option, as it doesn't require you to go anywhere. If don't have anything against using your bank card online and have a temporary internet connection from somewhere (assuming yours doesn't work since you run out of balance), then this is supposed to be the only way you should consider.
Just download one of those mobile apps depending on your mobile operator:
Each has a well translated interface. Each might require a quick registration in the form of receiving a text with a code.
Just find an option 'Top Up Wallet' or something to that extent inside the app, put in your bank card details and follow the instructions through to the completion.
This will do it for refilling your Russian SIM-card tips. Thanks for reading to the end. I hope it'll be enough to top it up in any case or situation if you suddenly need to do that.
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