Ulan Ude is a small city in Russia's Eastern Siberia. But its closeness to Outer Mongolia and China gives it a more Asian feel.
Why go there?
If you take the Trans-Siberian, every train stops at Ulan Ude…
Why not get off the train and explore a little? You will be surprised by how much this city has to offer…
Things to do and see
People may laugh when you tell them you holidayed in Eastern Siberia, but…
They will miss the largest fresh water lake in the world—Lake Baikal also ranks as the world's deepest fresh-water lake. The landscape is as unworldly as some of Lake Baikal's rumored inhabitants…
A daily train service leaves for Lake Baikal and costs around three hundred rubles each way.
If you are a Lenin fan, Ulan Ude is home to the largest statue of Lenin's head ever built. You will find it in the main square, five minutes walking distance from the train station. Most trains stop for at least this long!
The Ivolginsky Datsan
You'll need another day or two to see the Ivolginsky Datsan—Russia's center of Tibetan / Mongolian Buddhism. It's a forty-five minute car journey from downtown Ulan Ude…
Tip: Follow Buddhist by walking around the temple and its compound clockwise. Also take plenty of small change for the prayer mills.
The Ethnographic Museum
The Ethnographic Museum hosts a collection of reconstructed buildings. The buildings include gers (or yurts), houses, a church and farms. The earliest dwellings belonged to the Buryats and Evenks and the later buildings to the Cossacks and Old Believers. Give the Zoo next door a miss!
Other Museums—there are many more museums which focus on local history and culture. Try some of the following: The Fine Arts Museum (Kuibisheva Street); The Nature Museum and the Geology Museum (both on Lenina Street); and the History Museum (Profsoyuznaya Street).
If you're strapped for cash, just walk around. You will be rewarded with stunning architecture. The best architecture is in the center of 'old' Ulan Ude and along the river banks. The oldest buildings sit just behind the central market.
Don't miss the recently renovated, seventeenth century cathedral.
Outdoor stands—A good place to buy souvenirs or gifts. Good buys include 'chapka'—fur hats, and local handicrafts.
How to arrive
Most people arrive by train—from Moscow the journey takes four days. Ulan Ude sits on the junction of the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Siberian line. Most travelers are just passing through on their way to Ulan Bator or Beijing.
TIP: If you're meeting someone at the railway station, you can get a tannoy announcement for ten rubles.
By road—just take the Trans-Siberian Highway, best buy a map first!
By plane—Flights from Moscow arrive daily. It takes about seven hours and a one-way ticket typically costs $130. Try the S7 Airline's Web site for more information.
Or you could arrive by garbage truck or in an ice-cream van…
But that's another story.
When to arrive—and when not to!
If you know anything about Siberia you know that it gets cold in winter.
Don't arrive in December or January—the coldest months by far. The nighttime temperature drops below minus-forty. And since the sun rises after nine and sets before five, it's the nighttime temperatures you should note!
Things start to warm up in February and March. April and May are pleasant enough but you still get the occasional snow flurries.
June, July and August are the best times to visit. The temperature typically stays in the upper twenties and people wander around in T-shirts and shorts.
From September the temperature start to drop toward the big chill as the days get shorter.
Where to stay
If you're on a budget, then steer clear of the hotels which tend to reflect budget prices with dirty rooms and poor facilities. Instead consider a homestay, which usually run in at between $20-40.
In the midrange, the Geser Hotel comes strongly recommended. Don't expect anything too special though. Prices cost between $40-80 a night.
Where to eat
The mixture of Russian and Mongolian culture makes this a place where you can eat mutton, drink vodka—and learn to love it!
Try some Buryat and Mongolian food at 'Modern Nomads' on Ranjurova Street or 'Buuza' on Kommuniticheskaya Street.
Want a 'dish' recommendation: you can't get much more Mongolian than Buuz or Khuushuur!
Leaving Ulan Ude
You can either continue on the trans-Siberian to Vladivostok or journey southward through Mongolia and China. Unless of course you're moving in the opposite direction!
If you want to take the train—buy tickets before you enter Russia. You may find tickets impossible to purchase after you've arrived.
If your journey will take you to or through Ulaan Baatar, then consider taking the bus. It's cheaper and you will arrive in half the time.
See you in UB!
Return from Ulan Ude to Ulan Bator
Return from Ulan Ude to Mongolia Travel Guide