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Can I use my American cell phone in Russia?  It depends on your mobile phone.  All major American cell phone companies do offer global roaming capabilities with their phones, allowing you to make calls in Europe in general and in Russia in particular.

CDMA vs. GSM

The cell phones in Russia, as well as in the rest of Europe, use GSM network.  American mobile phones used to mainly utilize CDMA until more recent years when GSM became a popular alternative, especially with an influx of other carriers such as Cricket, Metro, Boost, and the like.  You can read about the technical details and compare the advantages and disadvantages of both systems elsewhere.  The key question for you is whether your cell phone will work in Russia or not.

Will my cell phone work in Russia?

If you have a phone that enables you to use GSM network you will be able to use it in Russia.  Note that the US GSM carriers do not use the same bands as their European counterparts, but some of them overlap. In other words, your US GSM phone isn't the same as an international GSM phone and you might not get as good a signal etc. 

How much will it cost to use my mobile phone in Russia?

It depends on your provider and plan.  This information is readily available from your customer service.  On average, it will cost you around $5 a minute for international roaming in Russia.  This is in addition to special international plans, if applicable.

What are the alternatives to using my cell phone in Russia?

If you really need the mobility, the way to go is to buy a prepaid cell phone in Russia and leave your American mobile at home.  Mobile phone are very common thing in Russia with a number of well established wireless providers offering all kinds of phones and plans.  If you don't speak Russian or don't have friends in Russia to help you with making the right purchase, this might be a difficult (but possible) task.  It is worth investing in a Russian cell phone if your planning to stay in Russia for a lengthy period.

If you are simply visiting Russia for a short period of time you can go without using a cell phone.  For domestic and overseas calls to USA or any other country simply use the phone cards to make international calls from Russia.