We traveled from St Petersburg to Ekaterinburg and from there to Ulan Ude. Can tell you it was great we traveled on the number two train,this time we went first class. In the winter that is great, in second calss sleeping on yhe top bunk can be hell, it is so hot on the trains. At v first id did want to travel first class, was afraid of not having contacts with the other passengers, but we we lucky, our compartment was full of Russians so we did have a great time, talkimg. The provodniks where great too. The trip from Ekateriburg to Ulan Ude takes thrre night and two and a half days.
There is at least one train per day from Irkutsk (7-8 hours), one per week from Beijing via Ulan-Bataar, one per week from Beijing via Harbin, and one every other day from Moscow or Vladivostok. There are local flights from Moscow but I never could make a reservation from abroad.
Check the site of SIBERIA AIRLINES. The other airline is ENKOR. Both fly to Moscow DOMODEDOVO airport.
Buses and trams are cheap and easy to use (5 rubles for a ride, in 2003). The conductor will come to you and ask for the fare. Van-buses (mini-vans) run the same routes as the buses and they cost 7 rubles (2003) for a ride. If you sit at the very back of the bus, just pass the coins to the people in front of you, they will pass it to the driver. If you give a ten ruble banknote the change will come back the same way. Just don't forget to say 'Adin pazhalusta' (one please).
GETTING TO UST BARGUZIN (ZABAIKALSKY NATIONAL PARK):
Go to the bus station on 'ulitsa Savietskaya' around 7:00 or 7:30 am. The bus station is less than 15 min walk from Hotel Buryatia when you know the way. On the other side of the street from the bus station mini-vans are lining up. They are easy to spot. Go and ask the drivers: 'Ust Barguzin?'. There are one or two vans, sometimes more, which go there every day. You have to negotiate the price with the driver (usually 200-300 rubles / $6 to $9 if your luggage is not too big. 2003). The vans leave when they are full. It takes about 7 hours to reach Ust Barguzin and the road is very bumpy. When you arrive in Ust Barguzin (usually around 2:00 or 3:00 pm), the driver will drop you where you ask (see the section 'Out of the Beaten Path' about Ust Barguzin).
There is also a regular bus that goes to Ust Barguzin. It leaves around 8:00 am. It is cheaper than the van but it is almost impossible for a foreigner to get a ticket. Also, some local people cannot afford the van, so please, be sensitive, even if you can get a seat in that bus, take the van.
You can fly to Ulan-Ude. I took a plane from Irkutsk over Lake Baikal (spectacular scenery-especially over the eastern shore of the Lake), but the flights are rare. I took a train back over to Irkutsk, reserved the entire 2nd class four-bunk compartment because I wanted to work--the scenery while the train hugged the shore of the lake was unworldly.
Most of the tourist sites within Ulan-Ude are easily accessible on foot. A driver is useful to get to the airport or the datsan (Budhist monestary) located about 45 minutes from Ulan-Ude.