The town was founded in 1666, and due to its location on trade routes between Russia, China and Mongolia it developed into a prosperous trading town. Ulan Ude is an important commercial and industrial center of Eastern Siberia, located on the 5640th kilometer of the Trans-Siberian railway. It is the capital of Buryatia republic that is a home for Buryat, Evenk and Russian people. The city itself has a distinct Asian-like feel, perhaps because of the cultural mix and proximity to Mongolia. There are about 400 000 inhabitants, but it seems to be very calm and local people are friendly to visitors.
You definitely feel more Asia here as half of people on the streets are Buryats. It leads to a different atmosphere than any other russian city - own ethnical holidays, festivals, sports, folklore, way of life in general.
The months of January to March are the coldest, with temperature reaching as low as -27°C in January. April and May are also cold, but usually it is above freezing. June to August are the most pleasant months with lots of sunshine and temperatures rising to the low 20s. September and October are bracing months, but not yet very cold. November and December again sees a return to freezing temperatures of around -10°C to -20°C.
Generally, it is very contrast: in summer it may be very hot, and in winter it may be freezing. The months of January to March are the coldest, with temperature reaching as low as -27°C in January. April and May are also cold, but usually it is above freezing. June to August are the most pleasant months with lots of sunshine. Also, the whole Buryatia, and Ulan-Ude particulary, is considered to be the place where there are the most sunny days during the year, comparing to other places around.
The average temperature during the year is: January -27 | February -18 | March -9 | April +1 | May +9 | June +18 | July +20 | August +22 | September +10 | October 0 | November -11 | December –19
Don't forget that humidity is low, so the extreme temperatures don't feel as extreme as it would in humid areas.
There are daily flights to/from Moscow airports on several airline companies (S7, Ural, Aeroflot) — the 6 hour flights from Moscow are overnight, arriving in the morning, with return flight leaving around 8-10 AM, arriving in Moscow before noon. A taxi from the airport to a city center should cost between 200 - 300 rubles. To catch a bus, walk straight out from the airport and turn left at the crossroad. After a 5-10 mins walk there is a bus stop. Buses 55 and 77 go to the city center (Ploshchad Sovietov) from the bus stop on your right. (Actually they are not buses but mini-buses called marshrutka, as usual in Russia.) Price is around 20 rubles.
There are daily buses from and to Ulaanbaatar. Departing at 7.30am from either UB (front of train station) or UU, the journey taking about 10-12 hours. From Ulan Ude, travel agents sell tickets for 1100R, including a 10% booking fee. Tickets departing Ulan Bator are sold at the upper floor of the building next to the train station (facing the station, it's on the left), for T65,000. They will not accept rubles, but the desk next to them is an exchange desk, with quite good rates. All in all, this is a much cheaper and faster alternative to the train.
Minibuses operate a service to the Mongolian border town of Kyakhta. The buses depart every hour from 7am to 7pm and the three hour journey costs 250R. Coming in by train, the distance to the bus terminal is rather long so you have to take a taxi. Learn how to do it in Russian and you will not get ripped off. The minibus driver will most probably ask for 50R. extra for each of your luggage.
There is a bus service operating both to Irkutsk and Chita, but the frequency depends on the season. Departs from the train station. Ulan-Ude to Irkutsk train station is 700 roubles. You just come to the bus, occupy seats and pay to the driver.
Ulan-Ude's Lenin Head is surely the largest in the world
The center of Ulan Ude is relatively compact, and very walkable. Taxis roam the streets for the lazy, but don't expect any of the drivers to speak English. If you don't want to walk, shuttle buses (10-12 seat minbuses) run frequently to all parts of the city for a flat cost of 15 RUB (from 2013). Each route is numbered (on the windscreen) so get help to identify the route you want, flag the bus down to get on, pay the driver and indicate when you want to get off. Inside the minibus there should be visible both the price and whether you should pay when entering (посадка) or leaving (выход) the bus. There are also a limited number of tram routes. Main tram line is a circle around the whole city, quite slow soviet era wagons will give you the taste of the place from locals' eyes.
From 2013 there are only 2 bus stations - Train station and South Bus station. Buses to lake Baikal and most of the republic depart from South Bus station. Some of the buses leave from train station, to Irkutsk and to Arshan.
The merchant's mansions. Historical relics of the town's prosperity as a trading center. The mansions are located along the banks of the Uda River.
The Arbat street, it's locally called Arbat after famous Moscow Arbat, Lenin street in real life. The part of the street is pedestrian, the main place for meeting, walking, shopping for locals. It's a right place to get an atmosphere of the city just sitting on a bench.
Odigitrievsky Cathedral. Founded in 1741. The first stone building in the town. Located at the beginning of Lenin street (near river Uda).
Rimpoche bagsha, buddhist center Streletskaya st.,1. Not only a new nice lama temple, but scenic panoramic view of the whole city. Take bus 97 from Baikal Plaza hotel at Lenin's head square to the last stop.
Ivolginsky datsan Buddhist Monastery — 23 km from the city. Buses no 130 leave from bus stop at the Odigitrievsky Cathedral or from Yuzhniy avtovokzal one after another for the forty minute journey to Ivolginsk village. Get off at the last stop and get on another bus/ shared taxi (which is the only there) and you're at the Monastery in 10 minutes. Expect to pay 60 roubles for the whole drive (40 to Ivolginsk and 20 to the Monastery, as of 2014).
Ethnographic Museum, Verhnaya Beriozovka. Old homesteads and Buryat wooden yurts have been relocated to the site, and along with reconstructed streets representing traditional Buryati homes, this outdoor exhibition consists of seven large complexes. Only bus 37 goes there, price 27 RUB (in 2014). You can take it from Baikal Plaza hotel bus stop (south of Ploshchad Sovietov) and tell a driver to stop at "MUZEI". Takes about 20-30 minutes drive. The whole complex is open Wednesday to Sunday. On Monday only the small ZOO is open, on Tuesday the ZOO and one other house are open. Price is 100 RUB on Monday-Tuesday and 150 RUB Wed-Sun.
History museum. Profsoyuznaya st., 29. The rachest musem of the city. 400 years of buryat history.
Fine arts museum. Kuibisheva st.,29. Buryat painting, buddhist tankas, horse hair tapistry
Nature museum. Lenina st., 46. Flore and fauna of Buryatia.
Rimpoche bagsha, buddhist center, Streletskaya st.,1 (take a mini bus 97 from main square (baikal plaza hotel stop) till the final stop). There is a pretty nice view from the hill. You can see the whole city. The lama temple is worth an hour of exploring.free. edit
Opera and Ballet House, very central at main square (At Lenin's head square). Nice piece of art. Buryat singers and dancers are worth seeing150-700. edit
Arbat street, actually Lenin street. Main pedestrian street with a lot of opportunity for people watching.free. edit
Embankment of Selenga, (at Pioner mall, close to main bus station). Quite nice place with a lot of opportunity for people watching.free. edit
Puppet Theatre Ulger, Lenina street 46, ☎ +7 3012 213764. 9am -6pm from monday to friday. The name of the “Ulger” theatre is translated as “legend”. Puppet theatre “Ulger” was founded in 1967 and is the only theatre for young audiences in Buryatia. Among the theatre’s productions are many plays by Russian and foreign playwrights, but the theatre also puts an emphasis on plays by Buryat playwrights. The theatre tours both inside and outside Russia, participates in different festivals, and frequently is a laureate of different contests, winning prestigious professional awards. In 2006 the theatre won the Golden Mask National Theatre Award in the nominations “Puppetry/Best Production” and “Puppetry/Best Actor”. “Ulger” Theatre gradually steps over the boundaries of puppet theatre. In the last five years the dramatic performances Dogs, Zoya’s Apartment, The Space of a Spirit, To Go and not Return were staged at the theatre. The theatre tours extensively in Russia and abroad. In 2006 the production “Singing Arrow” received the Golden Mask Award in the nominations “Best Production” and “Best Actor”.edit
Cedar Oil (Кедровоемасло), any local food store, ex. Titan. In Buryatia with the beautiful mother nature, cedar trees are very popular in the area and cedar seeds and cedar oil is cheap and affordable for everyone. Once you have chance to visit Ulan-Ude, go to any regular market and buy a bottle of Cedar Oil, it's really nice, healthy and extremely tasty and made only from natural products and original technology. There is no way to buy similar product anywhere in the world, because it's local made mostly for locals. 10$. edit
For some high-end gourmet food shopping head to "Sputnik" supermarket, near Baikal Plaza hotel (Yerbanova x Kommunisticheskaya intersection). Otherwise the city is full with small self-service shops, look for the "магазин" sign. For example "Slavyanskiy bazar" on Smolina street near intersection with Sovyetskaya street.
Ulan-Ude is full of cheap cafes all around. The long list of recommended can be found in Ulan Ude Travelers House.
Appetite Lenin's head looks at it. Quite cheap, tray style, russian food, free wifi.
Shene Buuza Opposite Natural history Museum just a few meters down the Triumph arch.
Modern nomads Ranzhurova st., 1 (at intersection with Yerbanova st.); mongolian cuisine, meals for 300-400 RUB, drinks from 30 RUB. Nice interior but hot in summer.
"Baatar orgoo" YURT GER cafe, Verhnaya Beryozovka, Dokuchaeva str.11. Only minibus 37 goes there. You can take it from Baikal Plaza hotel bus stop, tell a driver to stop at "KAFE YURTA". Takes about 20-30 minutes drive. Only traditional food and very nice atmosphere. 500-700 r/meal
"Buuza" cafe/bar, Communist str. 41a; on tram tracks, near hotel Siberia, 3 mins from Lenin's head
"Buuza" (again?) cafe, Yerbanova str. 20; 1 min from Lenin's head, left to Baikal Plaza hotel
"Tenghis" restaurant , Yerbanova str. 12; Inside Baikal Plaza hotel
"Buuza" (again?!) cafe, Communist str. 44; opposite Siberia hotel
Ulger Restaurant & Cafe, Kirova str., 8, ☎ +7 2012 21-21-09. A restaurant with traditional Russian and Buryatian food. A nice terrace outside..7$ for full dinner;. edit
Zolotoy Drakon, Lenina St., 46, ☎ +7 2012 21-80-66. 11.00 to 22.00. Chinese restraunt5-10$;. edit
Churchill pub&grill, Lenina St.. On Lenin street opposite the Lenin's head. A restaurant in european style, with various meats prepared mostly on a grill. Price around 300-500 RUB. Probably one of the nicest/most expensive restaurants in town with staff speaking English.10-20$;. edit
Dostoevsky Hostel, Smolina str. 54a, app 219, 13 floor (Dostoevsky is located in 5 minutes walking from the train station and 10 minutes walking from the central Soviet square. You just need to find the signs on the road which will guide to the entrance of the hostel building.), ☎ +79835317529, . checkin: 12; checkout: 12. Dostoevsky is a chain of hostels across Russia. In the summer of 2014 Dostoevsky was opened in Ulan-Ude. It is situated on the 13th floor, so guests can enjoy a bird's-eye view of the Ulan-Ude City life. The hostel provides cozy homelike atmosphere for affordable prices. Staff is very friendly and speaks fluent english.450-650. edit
Ulan Ude Travelers House, +7-950-391-6325, +7-902-455-2222, email@example.com, , from 500 to 650 RUB including breakfast. Free Wifi. Address: Lenin str 63, app 18. Only English-speaking place in Ulan-Ude.The most central located hostel is just on the Soviet square with the famous giant Lenin's head monument. Clean and cozy. 10 minutes walk from train station, less than a minute to main sights of the city. When you see Lenin's head, look for a 4 storey yellow building with a big sign 'S7 airlines' on the top. Right entrance, a black door right to S7 airlines office. Press 18 and B on terminal and wait for the door to open. Dennis speaks fluent english and can help you with everything you need, so can the staff. There is a lot of information on the walls in the hostel. They can arrange bus tickets to Mongolia or help you to get there other way if tickets are sold out.
Hotel Odon, Gagarin str., 43 (a 5 minute walk from the railway station). Tel:+7 3012 443-480. Popular with Chinese businessman, rooms and hygiene standards reflect the low price. Single rooms from 400R, doubles from 600R. Cheaper rooms don't have a shower, and there aren't shared facilities on site. Consider getting a better room or hitting up the banya.
Hostel House, 8(9025) 620-888, 8 (301) 262-08-88. HostelHouse@mail.ru, . улица Смолина, д. 54, лит. А, Ulan-Ude, RU. Address: Smolina str 54a, 3rd/last floor. 600 RUB, more in summer. Food is nor provided, neither the laundry detergent, etc. About 10 minute walk to the city center (Lenin Head), close to cheap eateries. Part of the staff speaks decent English. As of 15/05/2013, you get a key to the apartment and the usual electronic key for the building's front main door. The Owner speaks enough English and can arrange for transport to Ulaanbaatar if you are doing the trans-Siberian.
Point Hostel, +7 (3012) 211253, sms +7-9140-588-558. firstname.lastname@example.org, . Address: (Y)Erbanova str. 1-22. 6bed, 4bed and double bed dorm, for 500-600-700 RUB. 15 minutes walk from the train station, 5 minutes from the bus station / Soviet square. Entrance is from the back of the house. Free WiFi and tea/coffee in a kitchen.
Hotel Geser, Ranjurova ul., 11. Tel.: +7 3012 211-178, 215-383. Fax: 216-151 E-mail: Hotel_geser@mail.ru  A cozy hotel with English speaking staff. Sgl room 2300 RUB (summer 2008)
Hotel Baikal Paza, Erbanova ul., 12. Tel.: +7 3012 210 770. Fax:463-828, e-mail: email@example.com. Recently refurbished hotel on the central square. A single room w/o a/c is 2000 RUB; twin room with a/c is 3000 RUB. No elevator. 'burnet' wireless internet available (access cards cost 100 RUB). (Summer 2008)
Hotel Buryatia, Kommunisticheskaya ul., 47a. Tel:+7 3012 31-18-35. Fax: 21-15-05, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org About a 10-minute walk from the train station, this central hotel is located in a large and some-what run down complex. Rooms from 700R. However, if you talk to someone from Baikal Naran Tours (their office is conveniently located in the lobby), they may be able to book rooms for 500R.
Medical Institute for Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, 6 Sakhyanovoi Street. Tel:+7 3012 334-353, email: email@example.com — a good place to receive treatment for both acute and chronic ailments using traditional Tibetan herbal compounds.
Lake Baikal — the deepest and oldest lake in the world and, by volume of water, also the planet's largest freshwater body of water. It contains 20% of the world's liquid fresh water and is just over one mile deep. A daily bus service runs from the train station, leaving about 7:30AM, returning about 3:00PM, cost 300RUB each way.
Ivolginsky Datsan Buddhist Monastery — 23 km from the city. Buses no 130 leave from South Bus Station (Yuzhniy avtovokzal) on a regular basis, one after another. It will bring you to Ivolginsk, there is another bus or shared taxi waiting, it just says ДАЦАН on it. It will bring you to the Monastery. Expect to pay around 60R each way (40 + 20). It takes 40-60 minutes one way
Ulaan-Baatar, Mongolia Take TransMongolian from Ulan-Ude towards capital of Mongolia. 3 options - a train, an airplane and a bus. Trains are popular, it takes about 24+ hours (long border stops), kupe carriages are only available, so it makes more expensive; buses are cheaper (1300-1600 roubles) and it's about 10-12 hours (depends on traffic); airlines is EZNIS.