Is there WI-FI on the Trans-Siberian?
You will not find WI-FI on any long-distance trains in Russia apart from the Sapsan high speed train between Moscow and St. Petersburg, the Allegro between St Petersburg and Helsinki and a couple of luxury private train services such as The Golden Eagle. Once off the trains there is plenty of free WI-FI available in airports, railway stations, hotels and restaurants.
Internet security can be an issue just like anywhere.
We strongly advise against using internet banking facilities whilst travelling.
When using public wi-fi avoid using any of your usual passwords. Hotels you stay at will generally give you a password for access, where as in public spaces you usually need to register you telephone number. Sometimes this public WI-FI is only available if you have a local telephone number.
Can I buy a SIM card in Russia?
It is easy to purchase a Russian SIM card for your smartphone when you arrive in Russia. This is a very economical way to make calls and use the internet. We generally recommend Megafon because they have so many stores and their coverage is extensive but there are dozens of companies to choose from. You will need your passport to make the purchase and the staff are usually young and speak some English. You can recharge at a store or through their website by credit card as required.
It is important that you know the size of your SIM card…is it standard, micro or nano? We recommend that you ask the vendor to put the SIM in your device for you and activate it. There are no blocks on western messenger apps in Russia. With a Russian SIM you will have the occasional signal onboard trains as you pass through larger cities. But in the middle of Siberia we suggest you go offline and enjoy the view.
What apps are blocked in China?
Most western messenger apps are blocked in China (the Great Firewall) and the list is constantly growing…there is no access to Outlook, Google, Gmail, Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, Twitter or WhatsApp. You can still use Skype (for the time being) or a Chinese App like WeChat or QQ. Nearly all English language search engines are also blocked.
It is quite easy to purchase a Chinese SIM card for your smart phone locally. You will need to show your passport to make the purchase. If you are going to be in China for more than a few days then it’s worth considering this as an alternative to international roaming which can be very costly. Many travellers make use of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to get around the government blocks, not something we can comment on…it’s up to the individual.
What about phone and internet in Mongolia?
If you are travelling from China into Mongolia once in Ulaanbaatar the firewall blocks lift and you can communicate with home freely using your app of choice in the Mongolian capital. There is not much need to purchase a Mongolian SIM card unless you have an extended stay planned. Most of our travellers just have a couple of days and make use of the free WI-FI available in their hotel. You will not have WI-FI at our ger camps, so you’ll need to wait until you get back to UB to make that all important Instagram post. Many cafés and restaurants around UB offer free WI-FI too.
What about postal services?
To be blunt; really bad. Don’t bother trying to send a postcard home.