Irkutsk: practical information
If you have nowhere to stay, and you don't feel like being out, you can go to Irkutsk railway station, there's a non-comfortable, but secure waiting area. Also, there are many trains passing by at any time of the day, so a good (and adventurous) option could be to take a train somewhere (for example, to Krasnoyarsk, which'll take you slightly less than 1 day). You'd pay about $10-$20, comparable to the price of a cheap hotel and have a bed and a place to store your bags for yourself.
If you got ill, you can go to the government hospitals, but you'll have to stand long queues, talk to the doctor who speaks Russian only (in most cases) and I'm not sure about the quality of service. So, it's better to find a western clinic or wait until you get to Moscow. Here are addresses of some hospitals in Irkutsk:
Medicine Vaccination Center. Vaccination against barrelioz and encephalitis, emergency assistance. Address: Irkutsk, Karla Marksa St, 3. Tel: (3952) 333-971, 240-351 (central).
City Hospital #9. Irkutsk, Radishcheva St., 5. Tel.: (3952) 34-40-13
City Hospital #1. Irkutsk, Baikalskaya St., 118. Tel.: (3952) 22-91-76.
Dental Clinic (open 24 h). Irkutsk, Lenina St., 4 (central).
There are a lot of pharmacies in Irkutsk. You'll even be surprised — they're on every step. A pharmacy is called "apteka" in Russian, and if you need to find one, go on the central Lenina or Karla Marksa streets. The popular medicines and basic hygiene products (condoms, towels etc.) are readily available, but if you need something special, better take it with you. Most of the pharmacies are opened 8.00 to 20.00, but there are some 24h ones.
24 hour pharmacies in Irkutsk:
Avitsenna Pharmacy: 18 , Sukhe Batora street (tel.: 34-34-19) Apteka Doveriye : Lenina st., 21 (corner of Karla Marksa and Lenina st.)
Open Hours and Peak Hours
Irkutsk is not a "nightlife" city, so you won't see many people on the streets after 23.00. The normal opening times for shops are 10.00 to 19.00 Mon to Fri, with shorter times on Saturdays. Many shops are closed on Sundays, but not the big ones, or the ones selling food. You can also always use stalls -- there are many on the streets. Offices are normally opened 9.00 to 18.00. Cafes, restaurants, and clubs are usually opened from 12.00 to 0.00.
Even though there are not many people in the night, there are many taxis on the central street, so you'll be able to get around without any problems (but write down a taxi number just in case). Irkutsk is not a very busy city and there are enough buses, so there's no specific peak hours you should avoid.
Irkutsk seems to be calm and safe even late in the night. It's quite small and welcoming. However, we'd recommend you to stick to the main avenues in the nighttime, and in case anything happens, go to one of the hotels first – at least they speak English there.I wouldn't camp in the city there (as we did in Novosibirsk), but it seems like people are friendly and open.
Shopping: Food, Travel Gear & Other Stuff
You can find anything you need in Irkutsk: great nourishing food, clothes, travel gear, medicines, books, photo equipment and a lot of other useful stuff. If you're on your way to Asia or to further to Russia, stock in Irkutsk Here's a list of the shops and markets in Irkutsk we recommend:
There's a great market in the end of Chekhova St., next to the Central Department Store. You can find all sorts of fresh fruits, vegetables, forest berries, and delicious fresh and smoked fish! There are also a lot of little cafes that sell all kinds of foods and snack, so go to this market if you arrive early by train and don't know where to eat. This is the best place (minibus-marshrutka #61 operates between the railway station and the market). This is a must-do sight in Irkutsk, and you'll be sorry if you miss it :-) Open: daily 8.00 to 20.00.
A snack and drinks shop “Ban’ka” is located on Karla Marksa street, 18 (next to Drama Theater). Next to it there’s a slighly overpriced supermarket where one can find delicacies from abroad, such as French cheeses and Swiss chocolate, as well as “normal” goods, such as mineral water, beers, pasta, fruits and veggies. Opened from 9 to 23, a smaller shop is opened 24h a day.
24 hour food shop “Romashka” or "Lastochka". A real "local" food store and cafe opened all night is a real saver for taxists, late travelers, and nightlife people. There's a telephone and a TV inside. Address: Lenina st., 22 (very close to Rus hotel).
Gastronom #1. A typical Soviet style shop which has a good choice of food. There’s also a section of inexpensive salads and take-aways (baked fish, cheesecakes, potatoes). Opened 9.00 to 22.00 daily. Address: Irkutsk, Karla Marksa 21.
Central Irkutsk Department Store. (Tsum) Western clothes, apparels. Next to the Central Market.
Fun Sport Travel Gear Shop: A wide range of travel gear: from clothes to equipment, tents, sleeping bags. Mostly Salewa, MSR, Tatonka, Campus, and Russian brands. Staff speaks English. Address: Karla Marksa st., #39 (red bulding), 2nd floor. Contacts: (3952) 24-33-92, 20-20-64, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mongolian Embassy in Irkutsk
It’s better to get your Mongolian visa in Moscow, because it takes only 1 day there (against 1 week in Irkutsk). However, if you decided to get your visa in Irkutsk, it’s quite easy as well.
Here’s a list of the documents you need: 1. Passport; 2. One photo 3 by 4 cm; 3. A filled-in application form (given at the consulate).
The citizens of most European countries, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand don’t need any invitation. If you’re not from any of these countries, you might need an invitation (Russians do).
It’s not a big problem, because in that case the visa officer will give you the address of a travel company that’ll do the invitation for you. After you filled in the application form and provided your documents, you’ll need to pay about $50-60 US for the visa (valid for up to 30 days) and leave your passport at the consulate. In 1 week the visa will be ready. You can also get a transit visa ($15 US), and a multiple entry visa ($80, valid for 1 year). Consulate’s open hours: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday: 9.30 to 12.00 and 14.30 to 17.00. Closed on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Address: Lapina St., 4 (close to Karla Marska St).
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