Altay Transport Guide
Distances (times given by car):
Novosibirsk > Barnaul: 240 km (3-4 hours) ||| Barnaul > Biysk: 175 km (2-3 hours) ||| Biysk - Gorno-Altaysk: 100 km (1 hour) ||| Gorno-Altaysk - Beluha: ~ 400 km (6 hours) ||| Gorno-Altaysk - Chemal: 105 km (1 hour) ||| Gorno-Altaysk - Kurai: 400 km (6 hours) ||| Gorno-Altaysk - Mongolian border: ~ 550 km (8 hours)
What Transport to Use?
Basically, what transport you use depends on how you travel at Altay
. If you have a packaged tour you won't have to care about transport arrangement, the travel company will do it for you. The only thing you will need is to arrive to Novosibirsk or Barnaul and a local guide will meet you there.
If you decided to have more flexibility, you can hire a local guide with his own transport. It's better to choose someone who is knowledgeable and has a big car that can fit a few people and luggage (like this you save money). The best option is to have a 4WD military style Russian minibus (called UAZ, not very comfortable), or a Japanese second-hand Toyota or Nissan minivan (quite popular at Altay, and are quite comfortable).
If you are traveling wild, then you will either take local buses or hitchhike.
Hiring a Local Guide with Own Transport:
This is the best option, in our opinion. If you are lucky, you get a person who knows the region well and who does all the driving for you, so you just choose where you want to go and lay back observing the landscapes...
There are many companies offering this type of service at Altay, most of them are based in Barnaul. This is convenient, because you can arrive to Barnaul from Novosibirsk by train (or bus) or from Moscow by plane, stay one or two nights (it's a great town!) and then venture to Altay right from there, bypassing unnecessary fuss with taking the buses to Biysk and Gorno-Altaysk.
Usually, the price of a guide with his own car is about 6R ($0.17) per 1 kilometer and you need to pay for the way back. If the driver waits for you at
a place you decided to stay longer, it costs about 800 R ($25) per day. In this situation it is better of course to find a car that can fit quite a few people (a minivan) and pair up with other travelers. For example, Aktru is about 750 km away from Barnaul, so the ride there and back will cost $0.17 * 750 km * 2 = $255 plus $75 for 3 days waiting, total $330. If you are 1 person, it's better to join a package tour, but if you are 3 people it may be worth taking the car by yourselves already, because for just $110 you get freedom to stop where you want and do what you like.
When choosing a guide you should make sure that he knows local people and areas, he's a nice person to be with (you'll spend a few days with him, after all!), and has a nice car in good condition.
On our last trip to Altay in August 2003 we found a very good local guide from Barnaul - Alexey (on photo) - who has a small business offering car-trips to Altay. He has two cars: Toyota and Nissan minivan, which can fit up to 6 or 7 people (with backpacks). Both cars are quite robust and can go to quite remote places. Alexey used to be in National Rafting Team and is an active member of Local Rescue Force, so he knows specifics of the region and can show you the best of Altay. He speaks basic English.
His name is Alexey and if you want his contacts, send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org or Information. You can also read an interview with him at Life in Russia / Russian People section.
Taking the Local Buses at Altay:
If you decided to travel completely by yourself, you will need to take local buses. Firstly, you will need to get to Gorno-Altaysk, where there's a bus station from where you can take a bus and get to almost any village at Altay. The bus services are unsteady and often full, but if you are lucky, you can purchase your ticket 1 day before traveling. Also, get the way-back schedule, because there's often only one bus a day and if you miss it, there's no other chance. As of August 2003 the bus schedule was as follows: Gorno-Altaysk (GA) to Kosh Agach: daily at 7.10 (back at 7.00) - price $12 one way, GA to Ongudai: daily at 15.30 (way back at 7.00) - price $5 one way. GA to Chemal: 13.35 and 18.40 (back at 7.30 & 17.00) - price $3 one way. GA to Belokuriha: daily 15.00. There are also daily buses every hour to Barnaul (from 7.00 to 17.50), to Biysk (from 8.00 to 18.00)
The journey times are estimated at the top of this page.
If you can't take a bus there are local taxists offering their services, but the prices are too high. The bottom line is 6R / for kilometer (and you have to pay the way back as well even if you're not using it). So, for example, instead of paying $5 to go to Ongudai (which is 210 km away), you would pay $80 to taxi, so it's better to avoid them.
Gorno-Altaysk Bus Terminal: (38822) 2-24-57, Kommunistichesky Prospekt. There's also a railway ticket sales office that is opened from 9.00 until 17.00 (break 13.00 to 14.00).
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