If you are planning on visiting Olkhon Island and see lake Baikal, then you need to know a few things before heading over there so that you are fully prepared for the unexpected.
Quick tip, if you are traveling to Russia and Baikal specifically, you HAVE to buy one of these adapeters. Otherwise your won’t be able to charge your phone or your computer.
Is It Worth The Expense To See Lake Baikal?
This comes down to your personal preference. Some people like seeing natural landscapes and experiencing the wild beauty, whereas some others like cities and more of the nightlife and culture.
It won’t be THAT cheap beacuse you do need to plan it and consider your budget. However, if you like seeing natural landscapes and more of an introverted person who likes to reflect on your life, then this will provide you the opportunity to do so.
I break down the costs at the end, so stay tuned!
Should you go see Baikal with friends or by yourself?
Again, this comes down to personal preference. What is your purpose of visit? Are you looking to get away from everything and need time to yourself? Then definitely go by yourself, because it will give you the space and time to be with yourself.
However, if you are looking to have a good time and enjoy your stay best to your possibility, then traveling with friends is not such a bad idea. Sharing amazing moments with friends and loved ones is always a good memory to have.
Though, I found going with people close to you, family, spouse etc was best.
Should you visit lake Baikal during Summer or Winter?
Do you like the winter or the summer? Because either is beautiful in its own right. During the winter, lake Baikal is frozen, and there are events and attractions that allow you skate, but I personally went during the summer season.
Where should you buy Bus Tickets?
First step is to book a Trans Siberian Railway ticket to Irkutsk. You can do so on their official website.
Or if you are flying to Irkutsk, then that is also okay.
Usually if you book your stay at a hostel, then you should be able to book a trip from your hostel. They will write you slip and reserve a spot for you. It costs 1000 rubles one way, 2000 rubles round trip.
If you are going a bit further into the Island though (Kharantsy section) it does increase to 1100 rubles one way.
You can also use apps like Beepride or Blablabla ride, to book a minivan/bus trip online.
What is the Ride to Olkhon Island Baikal like?
Best tip is to go to the bathroom before heading on your journey, because you never can be sure 😉
The ride will usually take 7-8 hours, so packing something to drink and eat along the way is not such a bad idea. The driver will most likely stop for bathroom break, so you can always buy a few snacks during your stop as well.
Once you reach the port after 5 hours of so driving, you will have to get off the van and load onto the boats. Don’t get lost and miss when your van boards the ship! Board the ship when your van boards, keep a close eye. During our trip, someone ended up getting lost and we had to leave her after almost 2 hours of waiting.
After being transported to the Island by a boat, the driver will continue for another hour or two to the villages. Depending on where you booked your stay on the Island the driver will drop you off at your destination.
Should You Book Your Hotel in Khuzhir or Kharantsy
Kharantsy all the way! When you book a place in Hujir, you are booking in the area that is the most crowded and you have to walk a little to actually see Lake Baikal. The view from Hujir is not that great either, so Kharantsy is the preferred place to book your stay, though it is a bit more expensive.
I stayed at Badanskay, which cost around 3000 rubles per night including food and lodging.
Though I do have to stay reception at Harantsii is pretty bad and is somewhat isolated from the party. The good news is that you have the best view of lake Baikal, just a 2-3 minutes walk and there are many vantage points.
It’s another worldly experience to see such a majestic sight with your own eyes instead of just reading about it.
How Much Will It Cost You In Total
Excluding Trans Siberian and Airfare ticket costs, here is the breakdown of what it might cost you to get there from Irkutsk.
Minivan/Bus ticket: ~2000 rubles roundtrip
Snacks & Gifts: ~ 1000 rubles
Hotel/Guesthouse: ~2000-3000 rubles x Per night
So if you are staying there for a 3-4 days, which seems to be optimal amount time, then it should come down to 11000 rubles to 14000 rubles per person, which is not that expensive, but still not that cheap either.
For currency converter, check here.