There are four main ways to travel at Altay: taking a packaged tour, hiring a local guide with his own transport, traveling "wild" with local buses or hitchhiking, and traveling with your own car.
Each way of travelling has its pros and contras, but in this section we will focus on basic stuff that may be useful for any traveler. This list is not full and will be updated from time to time. If you have anything to add, please, leave your Feedback.
Practical Info & Addresses:
ATMs by Sberbank (Sberbank telephone in G-A: (38822) 4-26-87)
ATM in Gorno-Altaysk: Choros-Gurkina St., #13 (24 hours)
ATM in Maima (on Chuysky Trakt): Lenina, #11 (24 hours)
There are two main providers at Altay: MTS and BeeLine. As of August 2003 MTS had better coverage and the signal went as far as Manzhrok tourbase (about 20 km from Gorno-Altaysk along Chuysky Trakt). After that, the only way to connect to the world is to use international phone service in settlements along the way.
There are no public internet access places yet in Altay Republic. There are many internet cafes in Barnaul, so send all your e-mails from there before traveling to Altay. However, dial-up service is widely used, so if you ask nicely you could use it at the tourbases (or any place where there's a phone). A local ISP is "ElektroSvyaz", phone: (38822) 9-52-52. e-mail: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
The main Altay internet resource is the Official Altay Republic web portal. It has a full version in English and is very comprehensive.
Reportedly, Russian tourists sometimes have problems with local people. The problem is that alcoholism is very wide-spread at Altay and some men, when drunk, behave agressively towards strangers. However, if you are a foreigner, you will most likely be treated with respect.
To avoid any problems it's better to be with a knowledgeable guide. If you are alone, NEVER drink alcohol with local people - they get drunk very fast and start to become agressive.
Local Rescue Team. (MChS - Ministry of Exceptional Situations) - If you are traveling to Altay alone or plan a dangerous venture in the mountains, you can leave data about yourself and your planned route at the local MChS branch. Only for authorized and official tour groups. Also, if you have any problems, you can try to contact them.
Address: Gorno-Altaysk, Ulagasheva, #13. Contacts: (38822) 3-10-54, 2-29-14, 2-22-54.
Altay is famous for its traditional crafts, beautifully woven carpets, local honey, national music instruments (most popular: kumys) and music itself
Traditional Altay carpets
(especially throat singing). There's a good souvenir shop in Gorno-Altaysk on Choros-Gurkina street, where you can buy all the traditional crafts, photo albums, carpets, and honey. Also, there are souvenir shops along the first 50 km of Chuysky Trakt after G-A (near Bogotol and at Tsarskaya Okhota tour base)
If you are thinking about a few things to bring from Altay it should be a CD with traditional music (the most famous ensemble is AltaiKAI), the musical instrument Kumys (the little iron arc that is put close to teeth and makes strange vibrating sound - costs about $10-$20), traditional carpets (from $20 to $100), a pot of Altay honey ($2), and a set of postcards ($2).
More to follow soon... Send your suggestions.