Useful Information

Packing list

In this section we decided to list only those things that you might need, but that are not obvious.
  1. Photocopy of your passport (including pages with all needed visas), insurance and tickets
  2. Money in USD or Euro or a credit card (traveller's cheques are hard to exchange but they are accepted)
  3. Money belt that can be put underneath your clothes to have your passport and money hidden
  4. Comfortable walking boots and sandals
  5. Waterproof jacket
  6. First-aid kit, including your personal medications
  7. Torch (flashlight)
  8. Small trinkets for gifts if you're staying in a homestay
  9. Wet wipes
  10. Pocket knife
  11. Outlet adapter and voltage converter (Russia is 220V)

Money

Nowadays in Russia there is no problem with money exchange or ATMs. In major cities there are banks that offer money exchange service. To withdraw money you can use ATMs that you can easily find in all of the Russian cities, as well as in some big villages. ATMs accept all major credit and debit cards such as Visa, Master Card, etc. You can also use them to pay in most of the restaurants, supermarkets and hotels. Euro and Dollar traveller's checks are also accepted in some banks in Irkutsk.

The currency in Russia is Ruble. Here are the current bank exchange rates: 1€ is 57 rubles and 1$ is 53 rubles.

Tips on travelling by train

1st class is a couch in a 2-bed coupe and 2nd class is a couch in a 4-bed coupe. The lower bunks in the 1st and 2nd class compartments can be raised and there is room to safely stow luggage underneath the bunk. There is also space above the doorway, but it's harder to get things up there and to safely secure them. The compartment doors can be locked from within and the train conductor can lock them as well. If you are uncomfortable with your fellow travelers, make that known to the conductor and they will try to find a different bunk for you.

Offering to share your food and drink increases the likelihood that your fellow travelers will look out for your belongings. You can get a glass, tea holder, tea bags or instant coffee, sugar and hot water from the train conductor for a small charge. Bring along a mug, dried soups, coffee and cocoa for variety.While there are dining cars, the food in the Russian dining cars is generally poor and often not available. Some of the stops are quite long and almost anything you might want will be available either in the groceries on the station or on the train platforms from vendors. Some things can be purchased from vendors who ride the trains: chips, drinks, snacks.

Climate on Lake Baikal

The main feature of Baikal weather is its susceptibility to change. The lake being located in the centre of Eastern Siberia with its continental climate characterized by sharp contrasts between summer and winter temperatures, hosts some aspects of a maritime climate. Seasonal temperature variations are smoothed over. Thus, there is a comparatively mild winter and cool summer. The difference between the Baikal climate and the climate of Eastern Siberia becomes quite obvious when for instance, comparing the temperatures in Irkutsk and on the lake. Even though the distance between them is only 70 km, in December, while it is -25-30°C (-13-22°F) in Irkutsk, it is only -15-20°C (-1°F) in Listvyanka. But in July, when it's above 30°C (86°F) in Irkutsk, it is just above 23°C (74°F) on the lakeside.

Lake Baikal is a sunny region. The sun shines brightly above the lake till late autumn. A comparatively mild winter, cool summer and abundance of sunny days are true merits of the Baikal climate considered in view of the average annual temperature and hours of sunshine.

Food

In Siberia, where it is cold in winter, we need meat to survive through the cold time. That is why you rarely find vegetarians among Russians. Also Russians love potatoes as they work as the best garnish. It's only a Siberian stereotype if you think that we don't eat fresh vegetables and fruits.

If you are a vegetarian, it won't be a problem for you to survive, because you can always find groceries in supermarkets and order vegetarian meals in restaurants.

While travelling by train, on the stops you might notice some sort of pastry. Russians call it “pirozhki”. It's fried or backed dough with meat, cabbage, or mashed potatoes inside. They are quite good, but buying them on the platform is a tad upsetting for your stomachs!

Ticks – to be afraid or not to be?

Nowadays you can find ticks in many countries. Often they are harmless, but sometimes they carry some serious disease, e.g. Tick-borne encephalitis or Lyme disease. These diseases can cause a human nervous system damage or, in worst cases, paralysis. This is why we recommend our clients to get Tick-borne encephalitis injections. Usually these injections have to be made in advance. For more details contact your doctor.

The most tick-active time is from the beginning of May till the start of July. In this season when going to the forest it's always better to have a tick-repellent. On the treks provided by our company, the guides will give you repellent if asked as they always have some with them.

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