travel tips ► TELEPHONE AND FAX
You will see public payphones called tacksofon on the streets in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The use of these requires a special pay phone card that can be bought at metro stations or in newspaper kiosks. From these payphones it is possible to make local, national and international phone calls. You can also make telephone calls at many post offices or telegraph centers. In these places, you go up to the person at the counter, write down on a piece of paper the number you want to call and the amount of minutes you would like the call to last, then pay a deposit. The operator makes a call and then yells out to you to quickly run into one of the many numbered booths that are placed in the room. "New York! Booth 9!!!" you run there, close the door, pick up the receiver and talk. If you talk for too long, you will have to pay the operator the difference after you have finished the call. If you talk for less than anticipated, you can go to the operator and she will give you the difference back. Most telephone centers and many post offices will also send faxes for you. Just go to the counter and ask.
A very cheap way of making calls from hotels or apartments is to use a phone card (telephonaya karta). These can be purchased at mobile telephone shops that are really everywhere. Anyway, you purchase the card for let's say the equivalent of $5, bring it back to the hotel or apartment, scratch off the back (like a lottery ticket) and follow the instructions on the card - it is best to find a card that has instructions in English. You dial a local number, and then switch your phone from pulse to tone by pressing the # key on the phone, keep following the instructions and make your call. The connection is usually pretty good and it is indeed cheap - anywhere from $0.07 - $0.18 per minute to call the US for example. This is a great way to avoid the unreasonably expensive rates at hotels.