Many travellers bypass Chita if they leave Russia via Irkutsk and Ulan Ude to travel on to Mongolia and China. However, Chita is worth a look. A formerly restricted military city, things have developed quite rapidly, if unevenly, over the past few years thanks to the city's position on a main land-trading route with China. Hastily-constructed highrises sit beside ramshackle wooden huts where pensioners trudge to the local water pump even in the -40° mid-winter.
Westerners will often be treated as an object of curiosity as they are rare, but Siberians pride themselves on their hospitality; just a little time spent getting to know any of the locals will be richly rewarded.
Chita is served by the Trans-Siberian Railway.
- 1 Chita railway station (Чита II, Chita 2).
A service operates to Ulan Ude, but the frequency depends on the season.
There are airlines from Moscow-Ural Airlines and S7 (Siberian) have regular flights. Direct flights to/from Ekaterinburg are possible. For Moscow, everyone in Chita tends to take a train to Irkutsk and fly from there as to do so is much cheaper. There is also a twice a week hap-hazard service to Beijing via Hailer on Air China, but it is regularly cut short, requiring you to take the train.
The civilian airport (Kadala) is a few kilometres from the town centre, but rather than taking an expensive taxi to or from the city, hop onto a 'marshrutka' taxibus. In the city, these go from the large concourse between the train station and the cathedral- any marked 'аэропорт' (airport) will go there.
The airport has very few facilities so bring food and drink if you plan to wait for a while (you will probably have to wait 24 h or so anyway due to delayed flights, fuelling problems and drunken crew).
The public transport system is well developed, with trolleybus journeys at 10 руб and any taxibus ('marshrutka') journey at 15 руб.
If you need a taxi, walk beyond the cabs waiting at the station and into a nearby street, the price magically falls with distance from the station. Agree the price with the driver up front and he will stick to it.
- Kazansky Orthodox Cathedral (Казанский кафедральный собор), Butina str., 6 (Railway Square). Vladimir-Suzdal architectural style.
- Museum Church of Decembrists (Музей Церковь декабристов), Dekabristov str., 3 (Take a trolley №1,3 from the Railway Square to the Магазин Весна).
- Chita's datsan (Читинский дацан), Bogomyakova str., 72. Big Buddhist temple.
If you are interested in local history you can visit the Regional Museum of Kuznetsov. (Russian:Забайкальский краевой краеведческий музей имени А.К. Кузнецова) Go north from the railway station to the crossroads of Leningradskaya and Babushkina and turn to the right. Address : ул. Бабушкина, 113.
The central Zabaikalye and MontBlanc Hotels have Western prices and semi-Western standards, whilst cheaper hotels such as one on the junction of Osipenko/Petrov streets will offer a basic room for 1000 руб per night.
Panama City complex is another more expensive option, located far out in the suburbs, and Hotel Turist on Babushkina is home to myriad nomadic market traders and rampant prostitution.
Unfortunately there are no Western-style hostels in Chita at present.
Remember that Russians are often rude to strangers. On the contrary, they are open, hospitable and kind to those they know. Just persist and be polite and people will often soften once they realise you are a clueless foreigner: younger students in particular may speak a little English and be keen to practice.
If you really become desperate to find an English speaker, walk into the Faculty of Foreign Languages on the junction of Babushkina/Butina (closed in the summer). The staff and students will be delighted to meet you.