Destinations Magazine

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia

By Wanderingjoshua

I wasn't sure about going to Mongolia until about a month before my return trip to China. I was planning to visit more places in the latter, but decided to just visit a new country. It took some research to find a cheaper way to get into Mongolia, other than taking the Trans-Siberian Train.

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia

As I was researching online, I found another site that said you can enter Mongolia without taking the Trans-Siberian Train AND is significantly cheaper. The route I found started from Beijing to Jiningnan, and then to Erlian.

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia


I took the overnight train from Beijing to Jiningnan, then decided to go to Erlian on the day I arrive to cut travel time. I took the standing tickets from Jiningnan to Erlian because I wanted to cut travel time. I wasn't even standing, I sat most of the way since there were plenty of seats available.

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia


Erlian was merely a stopover for me so I didn't do much exploring, but it was different from most of the Chinese cities I've been to. The buildings followed a Soviet style and the Chinese characters were mixed with Mongolian Cyrillic.

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia


The picture above shows the schedule of buses departing Erlian for Zamiin-Uud.

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia


After spending a night, I went straight to the bus station to buy a ticket from Erlian to Zamiin-Uud; the fare is CNY40. You have the option to go directly to Ulaanbaatar from Erlian, the trip takes around 8 to 10 hours, costs CNY180 and departs at around 10AM and 1PM. I didn't take this route because I wanted to experience the overnight train.

Zamiin-Uud

In every trip I take there's always a mishap, and this one got me really nervous. Leaving China took longer than expected because I was asked to leave the immigration line and go into an office. Officers asked me what I was going to do in Mongolia and looked at the stamps on my passport. They asked about my travel history, how long I stayed in certain countries and what I did in those places. I made it a point to tell them I was just a tourist and wasn't looking for a job or anything. After a few more minutes I was back in line, stamping out of China. It took longer than expected probably because of my Filipino passport, met a Thai who encountered the same problem when I got to Ulaanbaatar.

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia


I thought leaving China would be the end of my border crossing troubles. As soon as the immigration officers on the Mongolian side were ready to process people, I was left last in line having an awkward staring contest with the officer. I stood there for around 20 minutes as she reviewed my passport asked about where I would stay and whether I was a tourist or not. After a relatively long wait I stamped into the country. I hurriedly looked for the bus I boarded to cross the border, but couldn't find it; it left because I took too long. I panicked for a while but the immigration guard was nice enough to point out there was a shuttle waiting just outside the border for passengers, after realizing the bus I was looking for left already. The shuttle that went to Zamiin-Uud from the border costs MNT1000.

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia


As soon as I alighted, I looked for the place to buy a train ticket to the country's capital, it was a black building with plenty of windows. No one spoke English and luckily, there was a nice lady who helped me book sleeper ticket.

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia


The train cabins were old school, Soviet style. The cabin had four beds and the two topmost didn't have a barrier on it, so if you moved around a lot while sleeping, you might actually fall. Don't expect much from the bed and pillow, they're enough for a good night's sleep until you arrive at Ulaanbaatar.

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia


It was already sunrise when I woke up, and the views of the Mongolian countryside in different shades of orange and red were beautiful.

Ulaanbaatar

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia


After alighting from the train I took a taxi from the station to UB Guesthouse. I walked around the city for a bit and waited for other people before doing the tours.

Terelj National Park

Terelj is a popular park because of its proximity to the capital. If you don't have much time, spending a night here is an option.

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia


Where to Stay in Erlian and Ulaanbaatar

I stayed in Erenhot Youth Hostel while in Erlian, a bed in the dorm costs CNY50, it was decent and comfortable. It was near the bus and train station, and a supermarket.

I stayed in UB Guesthouse for the entire time I was in Ulaanbaatar. A bed in the dorm costs USD8 or around MNT20000 a night. You can contact them via email at ubguest@hotmail.com.

Expenses for Crossing the Border

*I'll mix the Chinese Yuan and Mongolian Togrog

CNY134 - Hard sleeper from Beijing to Jiningnan
CNY43.5 - Standing tickets from Jiningnan to Erlian
CNY40 - Bus from Erlian to Zamiin-Uud
MNT1000 - Bus from the border to Zamiin-Uud
MNT38050 - Overnight sleeper train to Ulaanbaatar from Zamiin-Uud

*For train schedules on the Chinese side check this website out https://english.ctrip.com/trains/.


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