MAKING PHONE CALLS IN UKRAINE
When you own a website, it is sometimes difficult to come up with an interesting topic to write about. Once, while meeting a client at KBP airport a few good topics came to my mind. "Making telephone calls in Ukraine" is one of them. So, who is this article for?
WHO SHOULD READ THIS ARTICLE?
You might find it useful if you are already in Ukraine, or planning to visit our country any time in the future. It is quite possible that you will need to make a call or two during your stay, and this article aims to help you do just that.
ARE THERE ANY BENEFITS OF BUYING A UKRAINIAN SIM CARD?
To get the answer, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a cell (mobile) phone with a SIM card slot?
- Will you be bringing it with you to Ukraine?
- Are you planning to make at least a few calls during your trip?
- While doing so, would you like to save charges on roaming?
If your answer to all of these questions is "yes", then I suggest you consider getting a local SIM card.
WHAT MOBILE PROVIDERS ARE THERE TO CHOOSE FROM?
There are several mobile providers (aka mobile network operators) who provide no contract cell phone plans. Each of these operators has SIM cards for sale that generally cost you from 1 to 3 US dollars. Below is the list of the most commonly used ones:
THE CHEAPEST MOBILE NETWORK OPERATOR
When it comes to no contract (pay-as-you-go) cell phone services, Ukrainian carriers generally change you per minute of conversation. The cost within the same network is substantially cheaper than a call to someone who is on a different carrier. Each Ukrainian carrier has approximately the same charges associated with calls within its network. In addition to that, all mobile providers have numerous plans you can choose from. To significantly cut the cost of the mobile service, consider scrutinizing your friend's phone numbers. Just by looking at the number, actually its first 3 digits after the country county, one can say what mobile network operator it is (more on this later). If the majority of people in your phone book use MTC, then that is the carrier you want to use since the cost of a minute of a conversation within the same network is less expensive.
Interestingly, the majority of people in Poltava, a city I come from, use MTC.
With that said, there is no way to determine the cheapest mobile operator in Ukraine.
DISTINGUISHING PHONE NUMBERS BY CARRIER
Ukrainian cell numbers consist of the country calling code, carrier code, and the number within the carrier's network. As stated on the contact us page, the telephone number you need to dial to call me from outside of Ukraine is as follows: +38 (068) 153-49-84 where "+38" is Ukraine's calling code, "068" is the carrier's extension, and the rest is the number within the carrier's network.
If you want to know what carrier is any given Ukrainian phone number, please click on the drop down box below. The carrier's name will be in bold font face, while what follows it is a list of its currently available extensions.
By using the drop down box above you can easily identify that my carrier's name is Beeline. Let's take it one step further. If I were the only person you were planning to call during your stay in Ukraine, you could cut the cost of your phone bill by buying a SIM card for Beeline. As it was mentioned above, calls within the same carrier are cheaper than calls between different carriers.
MOBILE PROVIDER WITH THE BEST NETWORK COVERAGE
The majority of people in our country believe that Kyivstar has the best and probably the biggest network coverage. Regardless of your whereabouts within Ukraine, Kyivstar will generally provide you with a good call quality, and very rarely will you have no bars on your cell phone.
WHERE DO I BUY A SIM CARD?
Now that you know the mobile carrier you will be using, it is time to buy their SIM card. Ukrainian mobile network operators make it very easy for you to buy their SIM cards because their bottom line depends on the number of people who are using their phone service. While looking for a SIM card, consider checking out these places:
- The international airports. I know for certain that SIM cards for different carriers are sold at Borispol and Kharkov airports.
- In local street markets, aka bazaars. There are people whose job is to sell top-up cards (aka scratchcards) that are used to put money on your SIM card. These people tend to wear a vest with the names of mobile providers they serve. Most of the time they will also sell SIM cards.
- Cell phone shops. These are places where they sell mobile phones and their accessories, as well as SIM cards.
Many cell phones that are sold by mobile network operators come locked to those specific operators. These phones can only be used with those carriers; you won't be able to use it with another carrier's service (roaming is an exception).
To use your SIM card you need to insert it into your phone's SIM card slot. For that your phone needs to be unlocked and SIM card capable; otherwise it won't do you good.
Don't get upset if you happen to have a locked phone. The cheapest cell phones in Ukraine will only set you back about US $25. They come unlocked, and SIM card capable.
ACTIVATING A SIM CARD
You need to activate your SIM card before you can use it. Each operator has its own process of activation.
- To activate your Kyivstar or Beeline SIM card, check your account balance or dial any number.
- To activate your MTC or Life SIM card, dial the following number: 111 (free)
Note: once activated, it is important that you don't take too much time (more than a couple of weeks) to replenish your SIM card account balance. Otherwise, your SIM card may be permanently deactivated.
To start making telephone calls you need to put some money on your SIM card. You can do this by purchasing a top-up card. Top-up cards, just as SIM cards, are sold in Ukrainian currency. Ukraine's currency code is UAH.
Read about getting currency in Ukraine.
20 UAH top-up card generally costs you from 20 to 22 UAH and fills your SIM card with 20 UAH worth of call credits. For how many minutes one talk with that kind of money on the SIM card? Again, this very much depends on whom you are calling to. If you are only calling to people within your network, then that money can easy last a week.
These cards come in different denominations depending on the mobile provider you have selected. Needless to say, 20 UAH top-up cards is not your only option. They can be from 5 to 100 UAH worth of call credits. Depending on where you are buying your top-up card, an additional 2 UAH might be charged. As such, don't be surprised if you are asked to pay 102 UAH for a top-up card worth of 100 UAH call credits. It is normal, and you are not being ripped of.
It is also important to note that some mobile carriers go out on a limb by crediting their SIM cards with 5 to 10 UAH worth of call credits. This is probably done to attract more people to use their service, instead of that of their competitors. In this case, it means that once you have inserted and activated your SIM card, you can immediately go ahead and start using your phone until you run out of that initial credit.
ACTIVATING A TOP-UP CARD
For the call credits to be added to your SIM card balance, you need to go through the process of activating your top-up card. The process of activation takes only a few minutes provided that you know what needs to be done.
The majority of top-up cards come with step-by-step instructions that you need to follow. Unfortunately, the instructions are written either in Ukrainian or Russian. The following is their translation into English:
- In order to re-fill your SIM card with a top up card, reveal a hidden code by scratching the silver area with a coin. The hidden code generally consists of 13 - 14 characters.
- Once you know the hidden code, enter the following combination of characters on your phone (add no spaces):
- Kyivstar:* 123 * hidden code #
- MTC:* 100 * hidden code #
- Beeline:* 101 * hidden code #
- Life:* 111 * hidden code #
- Press the dial button.
Once you have taken the steps described above, a text message will be sent to your phone notifying you of the amount of call credits that have been added to your SIM card. This means you are all set to start using your phone.
OTHER WAYS OF RECHARGING YOUR BALANCE
To learn about alternative means of recharging your phone account, please click on one of links below:
CHECKING ACCOUNT BALANCE
Just as with recharging your balance with scratchcards, you can verify your cell's account balance by dialing a specific character sequence. The following are character combinations to check your SIM card's account balance:
- Kyivstar:* 111 #
- MTC:* 100 #
- Beeline:* 102 #
- Life:* 121 #