Trans-Siberian Railway – The best things to do in Ulan-Ude

by Gaetano
Buryat Opera and Ballet Theater

The Trans-Siberian route that leads from Irkutsk to Ulan-Ude runs almost along Lake Baikal southern shore. Over 4300 km as the crow flies and around 6000 km of railway separates us from Moscow.

Ulan-Ude is the last real Russian city before reaching the border with Mongolia. It was my seventh stop along the Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian Railway, with departure from Moscow and destination in Beijing.

Anyway, only a few travelers stop here, most either continue east, along the classic Trans-Siberian route to Vladivostok or turn south along the Trans-Mongolian route.

The stop in Ulan-Ude was mandatory because, as I wrote here, I crossed the border between Russia and Mongolia by bus and not by train.

I read on the internet that border checks are faster for passengers arriving by bus because there are fewer people to control. For this reason, I made the change between train and bus in Ulan-Ude. Some speak of a 7-8 hour train stop, while all routine operations have been done in my case within two hours.

So, if you start from Irkutsk and want to pass the border by train, you don’t need to stop here. If you wish to cross the border by bus instead, you must get off the train and take the bus in Ulan-Ude.

Don’t forget the following things:

  • The Trans-Mongolian trains do not leave every day. There are only two trains per week (three in high season). Be careful when planning your trip.
  • I recommend booking the bus in advance using a travel agency (you can do it up to a month before departure). In fact, if you do it on-site, the bus could already be sold-out. I used this travel agency for the reservation.

Ulan-Ude in a nutshell

The following is an interactive map. The yellow pins mark some of the main points of interest of Ulan-Ude, while the black ones mark the railway station and the bus station. You need to zoom out to see the Ethnographic Museum because it is located outside the city center.


Ulan-Ude bus station is a twenty-minute walk from the train station. Since I had more than two hours between the train arrival (5 am) and the bus departure (7:30 am), I took a long walk in the center of Ulan-Ude. At that time of the day, there was quite nobody on the streets.

Lenin Monument

All Russian cities have one. This one stands out from the others because it represents only the head of the Soviet leader but in large dimensions.

Lenin Monument - Ulan-Ude

Lenin Monument – Ulan-Ude

Triumphal Arch “the Royal Gate”

There are several historic administrative buildings in this area and the Ulan-Ude Opera House.

Triumphal Arch - Tsarskiye Vorota

Triumphal Arch – Tsarskiye Vorota

Lenin Street

This partly pedestrian street starts from the Lenin Monument and crosses the entire historic center of Ulan-Ude. It is worth going along it because several palaces, museums, sculptures, and typical architectures are located here, such as:

Buryatia Nature Museum

Art Gallery of Asian Peoples

Museum of History of Ulan-Ude

Saint Nicholas Church

Odigitrievsky Cathedral

Probably the most famous Orthodox church in Ulan-Ude. It is located at the end of Lenin Street.

Odigitrievsky Cathedral

Odigitrievsky Cathedral

Wooden houses

We had already found traditional wooden houses neighborhoods in Irkutsk. Now, if you look at Ulan-Ude from above, you will notice the extent of these neighborhoods which reach truly remarkable dimensions here.

Wooden house - Ulan-Ude

Wooden house – Ulan-Ude

Ulan-Ude Ethnographic Museum

This museum must be separately mentioned because it is not in the city center. It is located 8 km from Ulan-Ude and is one of Russia’s largest open-air museums. It exhibits 40 buildings, including the Old Church of St. Nicholas built entirely of wood.

Unfortunately, given the distance and the limited time available, I could not visit this beautiful museum.

The time has come to get on the bus and travel the eight hours between Ulan-Ude and Ulaanbaatar. It is the first border crossing of this journey. Time to say goodbye Russia and hi Mongolia!

Trans-Siberian and Trans-Mongolian Railway – All you need to know

Travel arrangementsGeneral Information
Departure stationMoscow
First stopNizhny Novgorod
Second stopKazan
Third stopYekaterinburg
Fourth StopNovosibirsk
Fifth stopKrasnoyarsk and Stolby Nature Sanctuary
Sixth stopLake Baikal
Seventh stopIrkutsk
Eighth stopUlan-Ude
Ninth stopUlaanbaatar
Tenth stopDatong
Arrival stationBeijing

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