Reliable buses, minibuses and a bruised head
Other forms of transport include the trolleybus and taxis (which are not as common here as in some cities) so the local buses provided all of my journeys where I didn't walk.
From the train station, the number 116 is a great service line, going all the way down Lenin Street to the Angara port and steamship at the southern point of the city. When arriving in the city, this bus should take you to roughly where you want to be, whether that's a hostel, hotel or the meeting place in the city centre.
Look closely as many of these buses, including the 116, are minibuses (... like 8,9,10 seaters - not like the large Stagecoach style carrier one might take to work every day) and mind your head on the low roof! I didn't! They may look like private buses to the outsider but are not.
As of July 2013, all city bus services were 12 RUB, very reasonable. Call out your stops otherwise you'll be ignored.
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How to get to Irkutsk from Moscow
The distance between Moscow and Irkutsk by air is 4200 km.
It will take you 6 hours to get there by plane.
The distance between Moscow and Irkutsk by railroad is 5318 km.
It will take you 98 hours to get there by train.
But it's only the middle of Russia, because the distance between Irkutsk and Chukotka Eastern Cape by air is 4800km (no railroad there).
And the distance between Irkutsk and Vladivostok by rail road (where the Transiberian road finishes) is 4108km. It will take you 73 hours to get there.
I went there on business in February of 2010 and choose the first way – by plane.
The Airport of Irkutsk is very close to the city. You can take a taxi and in 15 minutes for 300 RUR ($10) you will find yourself almost at every Irkutsk hotels. Or can use public transport and in half an hour for 12 RUR (40 cents) you will be in the centre of the city.
You can watch my 3 min 17 sec Video Flight Irkutsk-Moscow over Siberia out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.
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How to move along the city
Irkutsk is a relatively compact city in the historical center. It is a very walkable city within the center. But if you want to move from one its suburb to another the public transit system is rather good: you should use bus, trolleybus, tram and minibus ("marshrutka"). Fare is usually 12 Rubles.
Local etiquitte is to pay the driver when exiting the bus and trolley (therefore you can exit it only thru the front door). In trams tickets should be purchased from driver, and then stamped in the machine on board.
You can watch my photo of Irkutsk on the Google Earth according to the following coordinates 52° 16' 40.30" N 104° 17' 30.00" E or on my Google Earth Panoramio Wooden Irkutsk 3.
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Trans Siberian Railway
Irkutsk is one of the important trains stops along the Trans Siberian. There are frequent trains from/to Irkutsk. As Irkutsk being the closest big city to Lake Baikal, it attracts many people and those have not so many options to get here but the train. Novosibirsk - Irkutsk about $150 (2nd class, one way).
Food in Transsiberian
If you travelling from Irkutsk to Moscow, be prepared to bring your own food (3 days trip).
But if you stay out of the food, don't worry, in summer, along the route in main stops you'll always find ladies selling food (fresh and homemade) and drink.
And always buy some vodka and beer for this trip. You'll need it when you meet new russian friends. This photo is taken on Mariinsk train station.
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As you can see on this photo, in Irkutsk rail-station you'll find timetable written in cyrilic alphabet.
Also, if you travel by train throughout Russia, never, NEVER forget that trains drive on Moscow time.
For Irkutsk , this means 5+hours. If you do forget, you'll miss the train for sure.
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UB to Irkutsk
We missed a "original" transmongolian train from UB to Irkutsk, so we took another one. First impression, not so good, but then...mongolian "provodnjitsa" were ok, helpful, boiled water, bit cheaper fare then original.
Train NO 263, runs daily, ride it 1 day and 18 hours, which is 16 hours more then UB-Moscow train. Can you guess why? Border crossing. We came early in the morning and the we have to wait officials to do their job several hours....quite experience. Be sure that you have good company on board. Still amazing landscapes.
You get one free meal. No restaurant carriage, bring your own food. And vodka !!!
DON'T USE TOILET IN TRAIN STATION IN NAUSHKI, SEE OTHER PHOTOS WITH THIS TIP.
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by plane or by train...
To get to Irkutsk you can go by plane or by train
We took the train both times and Irkutsk was right in the middle of our trip: 3 days from Moscow and 3 days from both Khabarovsk and Beijing...
If you are interested in the Transsiberian Railway, please have a look at my Russia page
Within Irkutsk you can walk or take a bus.
A good way to get from the railway station to downtown, especially to the market area. The ticket will be sold to you by the conductor. The trams are not always reliable and sometimes (especially in the evening) don't come for a very long time, so that you may give up on it or they suddenly run differnt routes.
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Getting to Irkutsk on the train
There are plenty of trains from the west and east that stop in Irkutsk, including the Moscow-Vladivostok (Rossiya), Moscow-Irkutsk (Baikal), Novosibirsk-Vladivostok (Sibiryak), and a host of others.
We actually got on the Moscow-Blagoveshchensk train in Yaroslavl, and got off at Irkutsk.
traveling past the lake to Mongolia
We went this time ( 2004/5) to Mongolia and hina by train trough russia. we passed irkuts ( where a sleep) and past the lake Baikal. We went in the winter, and the lake was not totaly frozen, but it was a great sight!!
I can not stress aenough traveling by train trough Russiaia greAT WAY TO SEE THE COUNTYRY
The Transsiberian Railway
Irkutsk is a main stop-over for passengers travelling on the Transsiberian, so you've got some trains each day to choose from. The best train however is the train "Baikal" which travels between Moscow and Irkutsk.
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Take Train 5 that departs from Ulaan Baator in Mongolia, rather than the trains from the other parts of Russia.
See SIBERIAN SHOPPING. On this train, the long journey to Moscow is constantly interrupted by a hive of activity at each train stop as the Mongolian traders rush up and down the train to sell goods to the Russians.
In a way, it is a good insight to glimpse at how isolated the Siberian towns are and how desperate these townfolks are to obtain material goods.
Short Cruise by Baikal
For short cruises "Yaroslavets" is the best.
"Yaroslaveys" is the model name of those small ships.
It is about 100 ships like this at the Baikal lake.
The best place to rent "Yaroslavets" is Listvianka village.
Although I did not try any...
Although I did not try any other way, I think the best way to get to travel around Russia is by rail! First, it is the most common way of Russians to travel; Secondly it is quite cheap (we payed about US$100 for Moscow - Ulan-Ude (further than Irkutsk) - Moscow including all supplements) and Thirdly is a lot of fun and very relaxing. Of course you need to take some time - we travelled 4 weeks from Berlin to Ulan-Ude and back. We bought all our tickets on the way exept Moscow-Ekaterinburg and proved that it is possible to all Russians who warned us. Ok, it is not always easy to get tickets. You should keep in mind the following:
1)It is mostly impossible to buy a ticket for a train not leaving the place where you just are (we managed once)
2)Come as early as possible (two days ahead is fine), do not expect to get a ticket just before the train leaves
3)Have somebody with you who knows at least some Russian
4)Take cheaper trains (numbers greater than 100), they are stopping more often, but are also very nice
5)Be prepared to change your plans if you do not get tickets for the train you want
6)Always have all passports with you.
We always took coupe, a four-bed compartment, there is also luxe (two beds, more expensive) and platzkarta (a lot of beds in one car, no walls in between, quite noisy and crowded, we never took it).
In every car there is a boiling water supply for tea which is free of charge and two toilets (no showers), your compartment can be safely locked from inside and is a pleasent place to be. You have four beds at all times, two on each side, and you can comfortably sit on the lower ones using the table in between for food and games.
Every few houres the train stops for 20 minutes and you can walk around a bit and buy all kinds of food from the locals very cheap - so don't take too much food besides tea on your journey.
We felt so much at home after some time that we were dissapointed when a 27 hour ride was over!
To go from Irkutsk to Lake Baikal you should take the Boat (hydrofoil), it is cheaper and faster and more fun than the bus. You have to get to the hidrofoil terminal (I think Bus #16)
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