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Siberia travel practical info

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Siberia Travel Info & Advisor

Travel to Russia is a unique opportunity to get acquainted with Russian history and culture. Russia spans eleven time zones and two continents and is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. This is a great country with an array of rivers, forests and towering mountains. Now you have a chance to explore its land of striking beauty and diversity, from magnificent capitals, Moscow and St. Petersburg, to the measured life of Siberian cities. The whole new world is waiting for you to be discovered. Selena Travel Mongolia features east Siberia - Irkutsk, Lake Baikal and Buryat region. There are number of tours in Irkutsk and Lake Baikal area are provided by us. So, you're advised to pack for the Siberian weather, travel  condition etc. Irkusk is a major city of eastern Siberia.  

siberia travel, siberia travel info, siberia travel advisorClothing: Whatever the season is, it is advised to bring your umbrella and a windproof raincoat or jacket. Rain is always possible here. Depending on the time of the year. I’ll need warm boots with non-slip sole, waterproof boots/shoes, comfortable sandals.In winter it can get very cold outside, but hotels and homes are reasonably well-heated. You can wear shorts in summer, though these might prevent you from entering churches. Bring a sweater or a light jacket for the chilly summer evenings. It is in autumn that you are most likely to use your umbrella and waterproof boots, though a Russian version of an Indian summer (around mid-September) can be mild and fairly dry. Make sure you have warm sweater and/or a light jacket for the evenings and cool days. The hot summer season is a little shorter than you might expect and by August will have already begun to cool down. If you have booked one of our guided tours please bring comfortable walking shoes. 

You may also want to have enough closing for the entire visit so you don’t have to worry about laundry. If your trip is long, laundry service will be available at your hotel. However, laundry services are way overpriced in most of the hotels while there are no Laundromats here at all. Though, since airlines baggage restrictions are getting tighter we recommend one bag per traveler (20 kg) and a smaller carry on (8 kg). Trains allow having up to 35 kg baggage. If you bring more you might be required to pay luggage fees.

Banks: 
Vneshtorgbank at Ulitsa Sverdlova, 40 is recommended. Open 9am-6pm Monday-Friday. It has a good exchange rate, and commission for travelers’ checks is 0.5-2% of the face value of the check (Visa, American Express), depending on the type of operation and currency. Accepts Visa & MasterCard.
 
Shopping for clothes: Clothing in Russia tends to be more expensive than in the US The cheapest clothing is at the Chinese market, where you can haggle to get prices down, but it’s recommended to wash things several times before wearing them to get out as much of the chemical smell as possible. On ul. Uritskovo (the pedestrian street near the central market) you can find a number of more upscale European clothing chains, including United Colors of Benetton, Reserved, as well as a Columbia Sportswear store for outerwear. Mango (which sometimes offers good sales on jeans, etc.) and Adidas can be found on ul. Karla Marksa, and right across the street from the bus stop at the central market is a Forever-21-type store with frequent sales called Two Thousand.
 
Electronics: There are a couple of electronics stores around the city. The most popular one, which seems to have the biggest selection, is DNS, with locations all around the city, including at Barguzin (Байкальская, 107а/3, not far from the IGLU dorms), at the central market (Литвинова, 17, enter from one side of the Torgoviy Kompleks) and just down the street from the circus (Свердлова, 36). (1)(2)(3)   Source: www.sras.org/guides_irkutsk 

Safety condition in Russia
 
In spite of common concern Russia is relatively safe country. Coming to Russia is no more dangerous than visiting any other European county. It is about having some common sense: do not carry all your money with you, do not walk alone at nights, etc.Make sure you have our emergency number and your Embassy number at all times when you leave the hotel. It is also reasonable to pick up hotel’s card at reception desk. In case you get lost in the city, you can always show it to a cab driver to bring you back to your hotel. 

Russia is safe for travel, but there are basic precautions that you should take when visiting any country. First of all, keep your passport and money in hotel safety deposit boxes (in-room or at reception desk). It is also recommended to have passport with you while being outside of the hotel, however, many people choose to have a copy instead while keeping passport in the hotel safe. If you are encountered by a Russian police officer (which is rather unlikely) you will be asked to show your ID. 
Be careful with your money and credit cards. Where there are tourists there are pickpockets. This happens in every major European capital. Some basic precautions are:
 
    - Don’t let anyone spot you flashing your wallet and money.
    - Beware of the people around you and don’t let anyone walk into you. This is how pickpockets work.
    - Don’t carry more than $100 with you (or about 10,000 rubles).
    - Split your money and credit cards and keep them in different pockets. Divide them between you and your companions.
    - Zipped or buttoned inside pockets are best for storing valuable things – they are the hardest for pickpockets to reach.
 
Traveling by trains:Within Russia all train departures and arrivals are always indicated in Moscow time both in the train tickets and timetables at the railway stations.  In Mongolia and China they use local time in all train tickets and timetables. In your travel itinerary we show Moscow and local time to make our clients understand the day time of their arrivals/departures. In case you are still confused with this issue, please, consult your tour manager or local guide.

In Russia there are 2-nd class carriages with 4-berth compartments (2 bottom shelves and 2 upper shelves above them). These shelves are good enough to sleep unless person is a lot taller than average.  Linens are always included into train ticket cost. 
In all trains meals can be ordered in a restaurant car attached to the train (meals cost is not included in to ticket price). Restaurant car is usually in the middle of the train near the 1st class car. You may want to ask your carriage attendant about that. 

One can take his own snacks/food into their cabin in all trains. Most Russians would do this, since restaurant car meals may be very regular, but overpriced as if it is a real fancy restaurant. Russians would normally bring drinks, snacks, cookies, hardboiled eggs, instant noodles/instant potatoes, smoked chicken, etc. Beware though, that there is no refrigerator provided, thus, pick food that can be kept at least some time without it.

Many westerners bring from home instant coffee, chocolate, dried fruits, nuts, etc. Please, take your own mug into the train to have instant coffee, etc. Hot boiling water is provided free of charge any time of the day. Though, it may be rather hot in summers, so please be sure to visit supermarket before the train trip to buy some cold drinking water to take to the train.

Each train car has its car attendant. This lady is in charge of keeping overall order. Besides, she makes hot boiled water in the tea pot. It is provided free of charge for anyone to make tea/instant coffee. Very often car attendant also sells tea bags/instant coffee, snacks, etc. One can purchase food from them if he runs out of his own stock or also easily buy food from many vendors on station platforms when train stops. 
If traveling in the sleeping car “without services included”, make sure you bring your own toilet accessories including towel, soap and toilet paper.

Money in Russia - Russian Currency: 
The national currency in Russia is called the Russian Ruble. One ruble is made up of 100 kopeikas. At the present time coins of 5, 10 and 50 kopeikas as well as 1, 2, 5 and 10 rubles are in circulation. However, kopeikas do not have much buying power and are mostly used for giving change in large supermarkets. Paper banknotes are 10, 50, 100, 500, 1 000 and 5 000 rubles. In Russia, payments for all goods and services are to be made either in Russian rubles cash or by credit (debit) cards. It is possible to exchange money at any bank, at exchange booths and at the majority of hotels.

Here is example of the prices tourists may face: 
     - Public transport: from 12-20 rubles (public bus), 25 rubles Metro token in St. Petersburg, 28 rubles single
       time pass at Moscow metro 
     - Museum entrance tickets: 150-350 rubles
     - Opera/Ballet (front seats) tickets: from 1500 rubles
     - Mineral water/soda: 30-40 rubles,
     - Beer: 50 rubles (0,5 liter bottle), from 250 rubles (0,5 liter in café or restaurant),
     - Light snack in a café/bar/fast food: from 200 rubles,
     - CD/DVD: 100-200 rubles,
     - Dinner in a good restaurant (without drinks): from 1000 rubles. 
      - For your trip you do not need to bring all of your credit/debit cards. Bring a bit of cash and a few of your cards. 

Cash: 
You cannot exchange your currency to Russian rubles in your homeland due to the unpopularity of rubles abroad. But there is no problem finding an ATM in or near your hotel. When you use your credit card in a Russian ATM you will withdraw cash in Russian rubles. ATMs might use an exchange rate that is different from Russia’s Central Bank official rate but still can be better than exchanging cash US dollars in commercial banks. 
You can exchange money at the airport but we advise against this as airport exchange rates are usually high. It is possible to exchange money at any bank outlet, at exchange booths on the streets and at the majority of hotels.

The rate of the Russian ruble today is 32 Rubles for 1 US dollar. We recommend that you carry anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 rubles (approximately $100-$300) with you at any time for emergencies, taking a taxi or shopping in some smaller stores that accept only cash.

Credit Card
In Russia VISA, Master Card and Maestro are widely accepted. JCB and Diners Club are much less common. Euro card and American Express are hardly accepted anywhere. If you carry any of those two we would advise to apply for VISA or Master Card to use it for this trip. You may bring one or two of your credit cards if you prefer to make purchases this way. But it is always a good idea to have a bit of cash with you for emergencies as well. When you travel outside of big cities (e.g. Baikal, Altai, Russian villages, etc.) we advise you to have enough cash for your personal expenses since it may be a problem with credit cards there. 
Most restaurants in cities accept credit cards but we recommend that you make sure this in advance.  Call your bank before you depart and let them know that you will be traveling so they do not block your cards when they see transactions from Russia. We also recommend that you bring more than one card should one of the cards get locked or lost. Carry your money and cards in a pocket that is not easily reached from the outside to prevent any pick-pocketing. We also recommend that you keep your cards and cash in separate pockets.

Travelers' Checks: 
If you bring travelers' checks, you can cash them either at American Express Travel Offices (of which there are only 2 in Russia, by the way) or at a local bank. Beware though that you will be charged a 1% to 3% commission for cashing your checks. Major hotels or American Express Office suggest locations for obtaining cash advances on credit cards. Unfortunately, it is impossible to use travel checks to pay for goods and services and you will need to cash them into rubles. Please do not countersign your checks at the bottom before you get to the exchange office, as your signature must be verified by a certified officer to disburse your money.

Russian Language
Russian is the most widely spoken language of Europe and the most widespread of the Slavic languages. Russian belongs to the group of Indo-European languages, and is therefore related to Sanskrit, Greek, and Latin, as well as the modern Germanic, Romance, and Celtic languages, including English, French, and Irish. Written examples are attested from the 10th century onwards. 

While it preserves much of its ancient synthetic-inflexional structure and a Common Slavonic word base, modern Russian exhibits a large stock of the international vocabulary for politics, science, and technology. A language of great political importance in the twentieth century, Russian is one of the official languages of the United Nations. Although the international prestige of the language has waned since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the positions of Russian as the lingua franca of much of eastern Europe and northern Asia has only strengthened.

 

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