Practical Advice for Baikal Travelers:
In this section we will share some valueable advice and information we've learned during our travel in Baikal. If you have anything to add, please, feel free to leave a message in the end of the page.
Traveling Alone or with a Travel Agency:
Baikal is a lake surrounded by forests and mountains. You will not find tourist information centers or many signs over there. Almost nobody speaks English or any other foreign language, except Russian. There are only a few rescuers, policemen, and doctors in the area. Few people can help you in case of accidents. There are wild animals in the forests.
All that is not to frighten you out, but to make the point that if you travel by your own, you should be able to save yourself.
If you are not sure about your life saving skills, consider making a tour with a travel agency. Good travel agencies (like the ones recommended on our site in Activities section) develop great and interesting tours, led by professional guides who will look after you and will save your time showing the best of the lake.
Encephalitis in Baikal area:
Encephalitis is spread in Siberia and at some places near Baikal. One can get this desease after a bite of an infected tick. Encephalitis is marked by apathy, head aches, muscle pains, and can cause infammation of brain. A person who has encephalitis can either die or have a damaged brain.
Not all the ticks are infected (less than a few percent), but even if you get
You can get an injection against encephalitis, or otherwise, practice special safety measures and check your body thoroughly. The vaccination itself is quite strong, so some people just don't care (like me). In any case, it's better to take precautions.
The most dangerous areas are in the forests and next to bushes. Ticks are usually "hunting" at people and animals next to the roads, sitting on the bushes ready to jump, so these are the most dangerous areas.
It is recommended to wear clothes that competely covers your body and make regular checks to see if there are any ticks on your body. Repellents may be very helpful. If you are in a "dangerous" area, check yourself every 15 minutes and ask another person to check your body (and hair) every 2 hours (especially, before going to bed). If you find a tick on your body, just brush it away, being careful not to squeeze him. If the tick is already inside your body, don't panic: only a one percent of them have the infection, so just carefully do the following: put some oil or gasoline on the place where he bit in (so that he doesn't have any air coming), and wait until he comes out of the hole. When you can grab him, very carefully and gently drag him out. If you do it too fast, his head will stay inside and he may still infect you.
Finally, there was only one case on Baikal lake in the last few years, and when WayToRussia.Net team traveled there last Summer, only Dan has got a vaccination, and Dmitri and Celina were not vaccinated. We were checking each other everyday still, but never found any ticks on our body. The most dangerous thing about ticks is to become paranoid, so just take it easy, and be careful at the same time.
Baikal is surprisingly not as cold as they say. Many guides say it's possible to swim there because it's cold, but it's simply not true. The temperature is like in any lake or a river, there are just a few places where the water is colder or warmer, than usual.
From our own experience, we can say that the warmest water is at Olkhon
Baikal is not polluted at all. Even though there's a factory in Baikalsk that makes paper and is believed to be polluting, it has became completely internal-oriented (thanks to GreenPeace and other activists!), so it does not pollute the lake anymore. (Well, it would be nice still if it was shut down anyway, but then many people would be left without a job). The bigger problem are the tourists that leave garbage on the shore, so when you travel there, please, be nice to Baikal — dump all your garbage in special areas.
Baikal is a fresh water lake, so it is possible to take the water from the lake directly, boil it, and then drink it. After a few weeks of travel there, we even started to drink water directly from the lake (Oh, what a nice feeling it was to swim in the morning, and to drink some water while floating in the lake...), however, you do it at your own risk.
Eating at Baikal:
If you travel with a travel operator, they will provide you with all the food. Otherwise, don't worry about stocking food: there are a lot of shops in the towns and villages along the way, that sell anything from rice and buckwheat to vegetables, fruits, and milk.
Local fishermen also sell some fresh or cooked fish — you should definitely try it, because it's very very tasty (and there's a special kind of fish called "Omul", which exists at Baikal only!)
Baikal fish live in a cool open waters, if you’d like fishing you will need to hire the boat.
What to Take:
Have a supply of matches, medicine, batteries, and photo or camera films with you.
There is no GSM or DAMPS coverage in the area of the lake. Your cell phone will not operate. The international and local phones can be found in the big
Camping on Baikal shore and making a fire
Have enough Russian roubles in cash. One hundred bills are most preferable. The banks and ATM machines can be found in Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude only.
There is a shortage of the fire-wood on the lake, take a multi-fuel primus (gas and petrol), if you're going to cook outside. Petrol is readily available, however gas for primuses is impossible to find.
You should have warm sweater, hat, waterproof coat, and good comfortable trekking shoes with you even in the summer time.
You should have good repellents to avoid mosquitoes and ticks.