Ulan Ude, originally called Udinskoye, is in an area of Russia called Buryatia, named after the nomadic Buryat Mongols that first settled in the area. In the 1650s, as a result of a split in the Russian Orthodox Church, a group of people called the "Old Believers" were forced to flee their homes and escape to Siberia in order to freely practice their religion. The settlement was officially founded in 1666 by Russian Cossacks as a fortress. Due to its location on trade routes between Russia, China and Mongolia, it developed into a prosperous trading town. It grew further when it became a hub for the Trans Siberian Railway in 1900 and the locomotive manufacturing industry dominated the economy. Ulan Ude means "Red Ude" in the local Buryat language. The city was closed to foreigners before 1991.
Buryat Mongols make up over 20% of the population of Ulan Ude, and the Mongolian cultural influence on the city is very noticeable. However, much of the original Buryat culture and religious buildings were destroyed by the Soviets in the 1930s. Shamanism, Buddhism, and Orthodox Christianity are all commonly practiced in Ulan Ude. There are approximately 400,000 inhabitants.
The city is situated at the intersection of the Uda and the Selenga rivers and is between the Khamar-Daban and Ulan-Burgasy mountain ranges. The city is 100km south of Lake Baikal, along the Uda River. Lake Baikal tourism is very important to the economy of Ulan Ude and the city is tourist-friendly.
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 and temperatures rising to the low 20s. September and October are bracing months, but not yet very cold. November and December incur freezing temperatures of around -10°C to -20°C. Also, the whole of Buryatia, and Ulan-Ude in particular, is considered to be the place where there are the most sunny days during the year, compared to other places in the area.
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
Humidity is low, so the extreme temperatures don't feel as extreme as they would in humid areas.
Buses #55 and #77 operate between the airport and Ploshchad Sovietov, the location of the giant Lenin head, in the city centre. To reach the airport bus station, walk straight out from the airport and turn left at the crossroad then continue walking for 5-10 minutes. The bus costs RUB20. Alternatively, taxis should cost RUB300 if negotiated in advance and the journey to the city centre by taxi takes approximately 20 minutes.
All Trans-Siberian trains stop at Ulan Ude, which is 5,642km from the Moscow commencement point.
Train timetables and fares can be found on the RZD website. There are several daily trains to Moscow (95 hours, RUB4,000-11,000), Krasnoyarsk (25 hours, RUB1,600-8,400), Irkutsk (8 hours, RUB750-4,000), Novosibirsk (40 hours, RUB2,200-10,400), Omsk (50 hours, RUB2,600-7,600), Yekaterinburg (63 hours, RUB3,300-9,000), Perm (70 hours, RUB3,500-9,600), Vladivostok (61 hours, RUB3,300-16,000), Ulaanbaatar (22 hours, including a 12-hour scheduled stop at the border), and Beijing (66 hours, once per week).
Ulan-Ude is the first major Russian city on the train journey from Mongolia.
The bus station “Selenga” (also known as “Yuzhniy”) is at Korabelnaya st 32, at the end of Sovetskaya st. It is 1.5km from the train station and it can be reached on foot or by marshrutka #30 or #29. There is a baggage storage room open from 8:00AM to 8:00PM. Sometimes it is referred to as the "South Bus Station"; however, the north bus station no longer exists.
Note that many buses/marshruktas, including those to Irkutsk, Lake Baikal, Arshan, and Chita, also stop at or leave from the train station. Buses/marshruktas are generally less comfortable than the train; however they are usually cheaper and faster. Many small towns in Buryatia cannot be reached by train, and bus is the only public transportation option to reach these areas.
There are daily buses to/from Ulaanbaatar, departing from either city at 7:30AM for the 10-12 hour journey. Tickets can be purchased at travel agency offices for RUB1,100. The bus is much cheaper and faster than the train.
Minibuses operate a service to the Mongolian border town of Kyakhta. The buses depart every hour from 7:00AM to 7:00PM and the 3-hour journey costs RUB250. The minibus driver will most probably ask for RUB50 extra for each piece of luggage.
There are buses/marshrutkas to Lake Baikal (3 hours, RUB300), Irkutsk (9 hours, RUB700), Arshan, and Chita, departing from the Ulan-Ude train station. Tickets can be purchased from the driver. The buses usually leave early in the morning, once full.
The World's Largest Lenin Head is in Ploshchad Sovietov, the main city square. The head is 7.7m tall and weighs 42 tons. It was unveiled in 1970 in honor of Lenin's 100th birthday and to remind the local population who was in charge. In is now a common meeting place.
The merchant's mansions, richly decorated with wood and stone carvings. Historical relics of the town's prosperity as a trading center. The mansions are located along the banks of the Uda River.
Lenina Street, also called Arbat street. Part of the street is pedestrian-only. It is the main place for meeting, walking, shopping for locals and a good place for people-watching.
Gostiniye Ryady, the former shopping arcade.
Revolution Square was the location of bazaars during historical times. There is a victory arch with a two-headed Russian eagle.
Embankment of Selenga (at Pioner mall, close to main bus station). A good place for people-watching.
Ethnographic Museum of the People of Transbaikalia Culture, Verhnaya Beriozovka (Take Bus #37 from Baikal Plaza Hotel bus stop, south of Ploshchad Sovietov, same side of the street as the hotel, and tell a driver to stop at MUZEI - RUB17, 30 minute drive), ☎ +7 (3012) 33-25-10; 44-33-10 (email@example.com), . W-Su 10AM-6PM; on Monday, only the small zoo is open; on Tuesday the zoo and one other house are open. An outdoor museum. Old homesteads, including some 17th century Cossack houses, and Buryat wooden yurts have been relocated to the site, and along with reconstructed streets representing traditional Buryati homes. Includes a small zoo.RUB180. edit
Museum of Buryatia History, Profsoyuznaya ul., d. 29 (In the city centre), ☎ +7 (3012) 2 21 70. T-Su 10AM-6PM; Closed on Mondays. Rare books, clothing, and artifacts from the region, including those from Shamanism, Buddhist, and Christian religions. The highlight exhibit is a rare illustrated book from the 17th century on Tibetan medicine.edit
City History Museum / History of Ulan-Ude, Lenina Str., 26. (In the city centre), ☎ +7 301 221-25-22. 9AM-6PM. In a house that formerly belonged to a wealthy tea merchant. Includes an exhibition to Pandito Hambo-Lama XII, Dasha-Dorzho Itigelov, leader of the Buddhists of East Siberia between 1911 and 1917.edit
Museum of Buryatia Nature, Lenina Str., 46 (In the city centre), ☎ +7 (3012) 24833. T-Su 10AM-6PM; Closed on Mondays. Includes exhibits on the animals, botany, and geology of the area.edit
Sampilov Museum of Fine Arts, Kuibysheva ul., d. 29 (In the city centre), ☎ +7 (3012) 22909. T-Su 10AM-6PM; Closed on Mondays. Also known as the East-Siberian Hermitage, this museum contains over 7,000 pieces of fine art from the Buryatia region.edit
Geological Museum, Lenina Str., 59 (In the city centre). M-F: 11:00AM-4:30PM; Sa-Su: Closed. Features the largest collection of minerals, rocks, gems, and stones from the Lake Baikal region.edit
Odigitrievsky Cathedral (at the beginning of Lenin street, near river Uda). Built in 1741 in honor of the Madonna of the Odigitria. The first stone building in the town.
Rimpoche bagsha, buddhist center Streletskaya st., 1. (Take bus #97 from Baikal Plaza hotel at Lenin's head square to the last stop) A new nice lama temple with a scenic panoramic view of the whole city. The temple should be explored for about an hour.
Ivolginsky datsan Buddhist Monastery — 23km from the city. (Take Bus #130 from a bus stop just north of the bus station to Ivolginsk village- 40 minute ride, RUB40. Get off at the last stop and take a marshrutka to the Monastery - 10 minute ride, RUB20). This is the centre of Buddhism in Russia, being with permission from Stalin. Although the Dalai Lama has visited several times, many tourists find the temple to be kitsch.
Bolshoi Kunalei is a nearby village where the Old Believers, called "Semeiskiye", live. They will sing songs for visitors and you will be treated to homemade wine.
Buryat State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater, Lenina St., 51 (At Lenin's head square), ☎ +7 (3012) 21 36 00 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Beautiful building. Watch performances of Buryat singing and dancing.RUB150-700. 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”. The theatre was built in 1967 and caters to kids. Features 40 local plays, including several in the Buryat language. The performers have toured worldwide and have won several international awards.edit
Try local buryat cuisine. Mainly it's small meat dumplings called "buuza", steamed "Pozi", fried "Sharbin", or "Khushuur". Soups include meat broth "Bukhlyor" and noodles "Shuleen".
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
"Tenghis" restaurant , Yerbanova str. 12; Inside Baikal Plaza hotel
Marusia Lenina st., 46; russian cuisine
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
Darwin pub, Prospekt 50 let Oktyabria, 13, ☎ 44-22-15, . British pub in downtown. European food, huge amount of draft beer from all around the world. 10-20$;. edit
Food can be bought in shops; look for the signs with "магазин" ("Magazine", literally: store).
Sputnik, ul. Kommunisticheskaya 48 (at the intersection of Yerbanova and Kommunisticheskaya, near Baikal Plaza hotel). 24 hours per day. Good selection of prepared foods, including vegetarian options.edit
Slavyanskiy bazar on Smolina street near intersection with Sovyetskaya street.
Most hotels and hostels offer free WiFi and many have computer terminals. Almost all accept credit cards. Hotels and hostels will usually provide a visa invitation and registration for an additional fee.
Dostoevsky Hostel, Borsoeva st., 33 (In the city centre; 10 minute walk from the train station), ☎ +7 (983) 531-75-29 (email@example.com), . Nice hostel.6-bed dorm: RUB450; 4-bed dorm: RUB600; Double: RUB1,200. edit
Ulan Ude Travellers House AKA UUhostel, Lenin str, #63; Apartment 18 (In the city centre; at the Lenin Head Statue; look for a 4-floor 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), ☎ +7 902 455-22-22 (UUhostel@gmail.com), . Friendly staff that can help you book onward travel.RUB500-650. edit
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. About 10 minute walk to the city center (Lenin Head), close to cheap eateries.
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 Baikal Plaza (БайкалПлаза), Erbanova ul., 12 (Near the Lenin head statue), ☎ +7 301 221-08-38 (email@example.com), . Refurbished, but no elevator and rooms on the 4th floor are RUB200 cheaper.Single: From RUB3,500; Double: From RUB3,800. edit
Hotel Buryatia (Kommunisticheskaya ul., 47a), (Near the train station and the Lenin head statue), ☎ +7 8 (3012) 214-888 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . checkin: Noon; checkout: Noon. 14 floors.Single: From RUB2,100; Twin: From RUB2,500; Double: From RUB4,000. edit
Hotel Geser (Гэсэр, гостинично-туристскийкомплекс), ul. Ranzhurova, 11 (Near the train station and the Lenin head statue), ☎ +7 301 221-61-51 (email@example.com), . Red brick hotel surrounded by a garden. Staff speaks English well.Single: From RUB3,300; Twin: From RUB4,300; Double: From RUB4,800. edit
Hotel Odon (ГостиничныйКомплексОдон), Gagarin str., 43 (Near the train station), ☎ +7 301 244-34-80, . Popular with Chinese businessman; rooms and hygiene standards reflect the low price. Staff is nice and cooperative. 75 rooms. The cheapest rooms do not have access to a shower.Single: RUB950-1,650; Double: RUB1,350-4,200. edit
Medical Institute for Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, 6 Sakhyanovoi Street, ☎ +7 8 (3012) 433 551 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . 8:30AM-6:00PM. A good place to receive treatment for both acute and chronic ailments using traditional Tibetan herbal compounds. edit
Free WiFi is available in most hotels, shopping malls, university buildings, cinemas, restaurants and cafes, and some public areas and parks. There are also plenty of WiFi hotspots for which you must pay. There are internet cafes in the city centre. You can also buy a mobile GPRS card to enable data transfer via the cellular networks. For more information, see Russia#Contact.
In addition to continuing on to cities on Trans-Siberian Railway and the Trans-Mongolian Railway, it is worth making a diversion to Lake Baikal, the deepest and oldest lake in the world and, by volume of water, also the largest freshwater body of water. It contains 20% of the world's liquid fresh water and is 2km deep. The lake can be reached by bus.