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Tips for Lake Baikal and Siberia visitors and travellers


Maxim Milyutin, Julia Fadeeva; English translation by Alexandra Tankhaeva

After you’ve thought it over for a while you've finally decided to spend your holidays in Siberia, at Lake Baikal. Here’s some advice to assure that you will have a wonderful time here and will make your stay here much more enjoyable.

Clothes and climate

The climate in Siberia is sharply continental; what that means is that there are big drops between daily and night temperatures (sometimes the difference can be as great as 15 °C). In the summer months be sure to pack some light summer clothes as well as warm clothes. There are always cold winds on the lakes shore, so you'll definitely need a windbreaker. The sun is very warm, but it doesn't feel too warm because of the wind (that's why you can get burned easily). In winter take with you warm clothes. During both summer and winter you should be sure to have sunscreen (with at least SPF 20); in winter the sunlight reflects from the snow and its effect gets much stronger. It's also good to have sunglasses (both in summer and winter).

Dress in layers if you are going to be active outdoors - a change of thermal underwear (polartec clothing or something like that), a fleece jacket, a season appropriate jacket (a puffer jacket in winter and a windbreaker in summer). Also be sure to have warm socks and comfortable shoes because you'll walk a lot. In summer some light trekking boots or sandals will be enough. If you need a sleeping bag, a tent or a sleeping mat, you can rent it here at affordable prices. Also take a swimsuit with you during any time of the year - you can put it on when go to the Banya (Russian sauna), swim in the lake or in hot springs. A small thermos flask, a thermomug and other ware could be also useful. They will make your journey more comfortable. In summer and autumn you should also have a raincoat to keep you dry when it rains. 

It is also nice to have insect repellent (a spray or cream). In the months of May and June you should definitely be using something to repel ticks.


The easiest is to bring your usual bank card. There are branches of the most popular Russian banks in the Irkutsk Oblast. In most of Irkutsk’s supermarkets, shopping malls, hotels, and cafes you can pay with your Visa and Mastercard cards; there are some ATMs and terminals that you can use for UnionPay. But if your travels take you outside of Irkutsk, to Olkhon Island or distant villages, for example, be sure to take some cash - there are no ATMs there. You can exchange money in many banks here – Sberbank, the biggest Russian bank, usually has a good exchange rate.

Safety and Security

It is quite safe in Siberia, but you should of course be sensible – you wouldn’t walk down dark streets with a large sum of money at home and you shouldn’t do it here either. People here are very friendly. Tourists usually say that in Irkutsk there more English speaking people, then in Moscow or in Saint-Petersburg. People in Irkutsk are more helpful and talkative. 

If you are going to go out on the ice in winter, please ask the locals or emergency service (they monitor ice layer changes) about how safe it is, how thick it is. It can be very dangerous. 


You would be wise to have along a first aid kit; be sure to bring along all the medications you need. If you anticipate doing a lot of hiking, don't forget to take court plaster. There is nothing worse, then an unsealed corn.

Ticks are especially active during the months of May and June. Ticks are very small arachnids, they require blood meals to complete their complex life cycles. Ticks tend to attach themselves to their hosts and feed for hours or even days. They are dangerous because some of them (quite few) are transmitters of diseases, such as tick-borne encephalitis or Lyme disease. Ticks don't jump or fly, they simply reach out with their legs and grab or crawl onto a host, that's why it's better to tuck jackets and t-shirts into trousers and trousers into socks. Also, you should cover your head. Definitely take sprays or creams to repel ticks. When you walk through a forest, inspect your legs, armpits, back and crotch every 4-5 hours. If you are in a group, you should check each other. If you've found a tick on yourself, you can drip a drop of some oil, so the tick will lack oxygen and relax its hold on. Then take it out carefully slipping it out/wringing it out. It would be better to ask a local to do it as they are likely to know how to do it properly. You shouldn't touch the tick barehanded. After you've taken it out, put the tick into a waterproof plastic bag and take it to the center of preventative medication of tick-borne infection for an analysis (Irkutsk, Karl-Marx street, 3). Often you won't get sick even if the thick was infected but it's always better to be safe. Before your trip you can purchase tick insurance at many insurance companies in Irkutsk. The cost is about 100 rubles for one season and lets you get a free analysis and medicine, should you require it. The insurance won't hurt if you go on a long trekking tour (3 days and longer) in May and June. Later, the tick season is over. It's interesting that ticks can't come on cyclists because they move too fast.

Mobile communications

All of the 4 Russian federal mobile operators work in the Irkutsk oblast. All operators have 4G capability. Tele2 has the largest area of coverage and that’s why we recommend it as your mobile provider. There is usually free wifi with good connection speed in main cities.

Photography and other stuff
Don't forget to take your camera and charged batteries (better not one package), powerbanks. Often the battery is low at the most important moment. In many museums you have to pay if you want to take photos. It's also nice to have a diary to write all your memories in it, a player with music and headphones, which will be nice to listen to during the long trips in a bus or car.


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