ULAN-UDE - THE CAPITAL OF THE REPUBLIC OF BURYATIA
The city is situated in the Selenga river valley, on its right bank, between the Khamar-Daban and Ulan-Burgasy ranges, 120 km to the east of the Baikal, 5532 km to the east of Moscow. The southern part of the city is crossed by the Uda river (the tributary of the Selenga river). There is a pier on the Selenga river. There is a network of railways and motor transport roads. There is also an airport.
The city was founded in 1666 as Cossacks' winter hut Udinskoye on the Uda river's bank for collecting yasack (fur's tax) from Evenks and Buryats. From 1775 the city was called Verkhneudinsk. In 1934 it was renamed into Ulan-Ude - "Red River" (in the Buryat language "ulan" means "red", "Ude" denotes the name of the Uda river).
Time difference between Ulan-Ude and Moscow is 5 hours (if it is afternoon in Moscow, it is 5 p.m. in Ulan-Ude). The geographic latitude is 51 53', the geographic longtitudeis 107 39'.
TRANSPORT (CITY, INTER-CITY TRAVEL)
In the capital city of the republic there is a well-developed system of public transport, including such transport means as buses, trams, minibuses and taxis.
The tram fare is 8 roubles, the bus fare is 10 roubles to be paid to the conductor. It is more economical to buy a transport card for some travels. The most popular kind of transport is a fixed route taxi (a minibus) with a fare of 12-15 roubles which is usually paid on getting on the minibus. Public transport starts running at 6 a.m. and finishes at about 11 p.m.
The airport of Mukhino, which has been recently renamed "Baikal", is located in the outer suburb of Ulan-Ude. It will take you about 6 hours to get to Moscow, an hour to fly Irkutsk, an hour and a half to fly Nizhneangarsk. Minibuses Number 55 and 77 run between the airport and the city.
There is one railway station in Ulan-Ude. At present the train is the most popular way of travelling across Russia's spacious lands. There is only a night's journey from Ulan-Ude to Irkutsk or Chita; a four day journey will take you to Moscow or Vladivostok. Alternatively you can take a minibusto Irkutsk, Chita or the Baikal shore areas on the square attached to the railway station.
It is more comfortable to make a journey to the rural districts of the republic in a car, but the roads connecting some settlements are in poor condition.
Petrol is comparatively cheap in Russia - it costs three times as cheap as in Europe.
Unlike taxis in most countries the city taxis are not always yellow-coloured or specially marked. Payment is usually made according to the kilometer rate; the average fare is lower than in many European countries. You can call a taxi by phoning from your hotel room.
When going to Russia foreign tourists usually insure themselves in the company which provides their life insurance. Anyhow a tourist had better make certain that the company has its service centres in the cities he is planning to visit. If there are no such centres, the insurance company, as a rule, reinsures their client with a Russian partner.
If any medical help is needed, appeal to your guide, the reception desk or the first aid post of the hotel.
The Russian national currency is the rouble, which equals to 100 copecks. In circulation there are coins of 1, 5, 10, 50 copecks and banknotes of 10, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 roubles.
You can exchange dollars or euros practically in any city bank as well as in the currency exchange at the hotel. The exchange rate is fixed by the Central Bank of Russia. As many exchange offices are open only until 6 p.m., make sure to have enough cash in roubles: there will be no exchange service available late at night.
Commercial banks of Buryatia are open from 9 a.m. until 6-8 p. m. on workdays, branches of the state Savings Bank work from 8.30 a.m. until 7 p.m. Most banks are closed at weekends.
Credit cards are received mainly in large hotels and supermarkets. You can make money transfers through Contact, Western Union, Money Gram.
In the Russian calendarthere are many holidays when most institutions and companies do not work. They include the following occasions:
New Year holidays - January, 1 st - 5th
Christmas - January, 7th
Defender of Motherland's Day - February, 23rd
International Women's Day - March, 8th
Day of Spring and Labour - May, 1 st
Victory Day - May, 9th
Day of Russia - June, 12th
Day of People's Unity - November, 4th
If a holiday falls on a Saturday or Sunday, an extra day off is officially announced.
Most food stores start work at 9 a.m. and close at 8 or 9 p.m. Manufactured good stores usually open at 10 a.m. and close at 7 or 8 p.m. Large department stores finish work an hour later. Network supermarkets of "Absolut", "Titan", "Semiya" have the longest working hours of all. Some food stores work 24 hours.
All the central shops and large shopping centers work without lunch breaks and days off.
You had better buy souvenirs at gift shops, small art saloons and in large shopping centers. There is sure to be a small souvenir stall at the hotel. You can buy good souvenirs in the Art Saloon on "Arbat" Street, only ask your guides for directions.
However a present bought at an antiquarian shop can cause a lot of trouble at the customs because you must have special export documents. Apply to your travel agent for drawing up a necessary certificate. To export the purchased original art piece of no cultural value for Russia one has to produce a signed and stamped bill of the antiquarian shop which is certified by the Russian Ministry of Culture. Icons are export prohibited.
Some export goods are restricted to as follows: medicines - one pack of any item, fish and crayfish - 5 kilos, black caviar - 280 grams, not more than 5 golden or platinum pieces with overall weight of 130 grams or 5 silver pieces of 120 grams per person etc.
You are allowed to export only 20 litres of petrol in a jerry can when crossing the state border in a car.
Valuable coins of Russian Federation made from precious metal are export prohibited without special permission of the Central Bank of Russia, other coins are export restricted.
POST OFFICE, INTERNET
It is not costly to send a letter in Russia: a regular item weighing 20 grams is twice as cheep as the city bus fare. A letter travelling 500 kilometres will be due in 2 or 3 days. If there is air communication between towns your mail is delivered within a week's time. A regular letter abroad will cost you 50 cents, while a registered letter will be worth 1 dollar or 1 euro in the rouble equivalent.
Air mail from Europe, Japan or the USA arrives in Moscow and any other big city of Russia in 5 -7 days. Further delivery is conditioned by transport connections between settlements.
A parcel under 10 kilos sent from Russia abroad costs 6 dollars a kilo in the rouble equivalent. You will be asked to pay another 13 dollars for service.
Post offices in Buryatia are open from 8 or 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is more convenient to receive "poste restante" at the Central Post Office (Glavpochtampt) addressing it at 61, Lenina Street, Ulan-Ude, Republic of Buryatia, 670000. Mailing through EMS and DHL is also at your disposal.
You can enjoy the Internet services in Buryatia. Four and five star hotels offer the Internet lines installed in the rooms, any other hotels have business centres of their own.
In Ulan-Ude telephone numbers are six-digital whereas in smaller settlements they are five-digital. Look for the dial codes and trunk call prices in the telephone directory of your hotel room or at the trunk line booth in the hotel lobby.
In order to make a call to Russia one should dial the international code of Russia - "7", the city code of Ulan-Ude - "3012", then the subscriber's phone number. To make an international call one should first dial "8", and then dial "10", the country code, the city code and the subscriber's phone number.
Telephone cards for box calls are usually sold at news-stands. Ask your guides where you can get a mobile phone and learn about operators' services and available tariffs.
The traditional Russian lunch consists of three courses. For the first course thick meat and vegetable soup is usually served. The second course is fish or meat with some garnish (boiled rice, buckwheat, potatoes, macaroni, and stewed cabbage). The third course maybe a drink of compote, fruit drink or juice. In Russia a lot of wheat and rye bread is eaten, that is why it is served abundantly.
Many dishes such as beetroot and cabbage soup enriched with sour cream or meat soup with sharp seasoning have a delicious taste due to their various components. They are worth while tasting, at least once. Mayonnaise produced in Russia is appraised even by the French and the classic "Olivier" salad, which is called "the Russian salad" all over the world, consists of much more ingredients than the one usually served in Europe.
Crunchy salted cucumbers are also delicious, alongside with caviar they are thought to be the best choice to take vodka with.
Buryatia is famous for its national cuisine. Bookhlyor, boozy, oobsun, khirmasa, oryomog, khiyme and blood-pudding can meet various people's tastes.
Dairy products occupy a special place in the Buryat cuisine. They have always been the dishes to start any welcoming party with. Like Russians, who welcome people with bread and salt, the Buryats always treat their guests to some milk or other milk products.
You can taste national dishes in the cafe "Buryatskaya kookhnya" (4, Limonova Street, tel.: 46-11 -77) and practically in any restaurant of the city.
It is more convenient to have lunch or dinner in the city centre. The restaurants are not overcrowded in the daytime. A lunch might cost 150-200 roubles per person. In the evening you have got to pay no less than 400 roubles per person without spirits, whereas at the best restaurants the price may be even twice as high.
Vodka has always been the main alcoholic drink for Russians. First it appeared in the 15th century under the name of "bread wine". It is made from grain and purified spring water.
The great chemist Dmitry Mendeleyev, who proved that vodka must be 40 % vol., is believed to be the father of Russian vodka. Such strength ensures homogeneity of the drink, which emits maximum heat and doesn't scorch the stomach.
The first patented vodka, named "Moscow special", won top prizes at international contests of 1894, exceeding in its quality all sorts of whisky and gin.
Vodka is the best way to relax and warm oneself in winter. Traditionally it is cooled to 8-10 degrees below zero and is taken with caviar, soured cabbage, salted mushrooms or cucumbers as well as rich and spicy dishes.
Tipping at restaurants, bars and night clubs is widely spread among the Russian. If the service is good enough, you can leave a tip of 5 to10 per cent of the bill.
There are enough hotels in the city to live with comfort in an unknown place. They are mostly concentrated in the historical centre of the city. Among them are the hotels: "Baikal", "Geser", "Sagan-Morin", "Dva Kita", "Barguzin" which offer the whole complex of services: booking of rooms, airplane cashier's office, currency exchange office, telephone, business center, restaurants, saunas hair dresser's. Some hotels like "Buryatia" and "Geser' have their own tourist centers on the shore of lake Baikal and they can provide tours outside the town.
THEATRES, MUSEUMS, CINEMA, ENTERTAINING CENTERS
Ulan-Ude is a theatrical city. There are five theatres in the capital - academic: Buryat State Opera and Ballet House (51, Lenin Street), Russian State theatre after Nicholay Bestuzhev (1, Tereshkova Street), Buryat Drama theatre after Khotsa Namsaraev (38, Kuibyshev Street), Youth theatre (2, Dimitrov Street), Buryat State Puppet theatre "Ulger" (46, Lenin Street).
Rich culture of the past diversity of flora and fauna, treasures of Baikal's depths are represented in six republican museums: the open-air ethnographical museums of Trans-Baikal peoples (Verkhnaya Berezovka), The museum of History of Buryatia after M. Khangalov (29, Profsoyuznaya Street), pine Arts Museum after Ts. Sampilov (29, Kuibyshev Street), Museum of Nature of Buryatia (46, Lenin Street), Geological Museum (57, Lenin Street), Museum of the town of Ulan-Ude (26, Lenin Street).
There are several cinemas in Ulan-Ude: "October", "Progress", "Erdem", the entertaining cinema center "Fabrica kino". Cinema halls are provided with the most modern equipment for film display, including stereo sounding. As for their repertoire - the most famous film productions are displayed at the same time throughout the whole Russia.
The city's night clubs begin their work at about 6 p.m and close at 6-7 a.m.
URGENT CALL TELEPHONE NUMBERS
In case of fire call 01, police - 02, ambulance service - 03.
SPECIAL SERVICE TELEPHONE NUMBERS
Inferior Affairs Department of Republic of Buryatia - 22-02-02, State Traffic Inspection - 55-30-26, Federal Security Service - 21-05-42, Civil Defense and Emergency Affairs Committee - 26-80-33.
Airport information service - 22-76-11, bus station information service-21-21-85, railway information service - 28-20-25.