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China-Mongolia Border Through the Trans-Siberian

The final leg of our Trans-Siberian journey was across the border between China and Mongolia, between the cities of Zamyn-Üüd and Erlian (also called Erenhot). In this post we tell you how the trip was.

We took the Chinese visa in Ulan Bator, capital of Mongolia. We face a very boring and bureaucratic process. To find out what it’s like, read here: Getting a Chinese Visa in Mongolia.

Chinese Visa

And to know how the visa for Mongolia works, especially if you want to stay more than 30 days in the country, read: Visa and Registration in Mongolia – How it works.

mongolia visa
Mongolia entry, registration and exit stamps

If you are planning your trip to China and still don’t understand how everything works (after all, we are talking about a very different country), be sure to read our tips.

After almost 3 months traveling around China we gathered a lot of information and wrote it all in great detail here on the blog:

China x Mongolia Border: Transport

Many think that to travel the Trans-Siberian it is best to just take the train. However, in many places, the best option is to use other means of transport, and sometimes even merge train, bus and car sections.

This is the case for crossing the border between China and Mongolia, traveling between the capitals Ulan Bator and Beijing or to other cities.

What happens on the Trans-Siberian is that the price of the train ticket to cross international borders is astronomical, due to various government fees.

A direct train from Ulan Bator to Beijing can cost around R$700, not including website purchase fees, and dates are very limited.

The form that we are going to present here takes this cost to around R$100 or R$200, depending on your final destination.

Let’s talk about how to get from Ulan Bator to Beijing or Datong, which are the two interesting cities in China after crossing the border into Mongolia.

For those traveling the opposite way, coming from China to Mongolia, the most recommended thing is to go straight to the capital Ulan Bator, since most cities in the interior of the country have little or no structure.

We have already talked about the best way to go from Ulan-Ude, in Russia, to Mongolia in another post, check it out: How is the Russian Border x Mongolia Through the Trans-Siberian.

Travel to Zamyn-Üüd

First, go to the Ulan Bator train station and buy a ticket to Zamyn-Üüd, the Chinese border town. This train costs around R$50 and leaves every day at 5 pm.

china mongolia border
mongolian train

We traveled second class and it was very comfortable, although in the middle of the night the weather was very uncomfortable. The train crosses the Gobi Desert, so the dryness of the air is absurd.

The train arrives at the border at 7 am. At this time the bank branch next to the station exit is already open to exchange your Mongolian money (tughrik) for Chinese money (yuan). There will also be a bakery and restaurant to eat.

Crossing the Mongolia-China Border

At the exit of the station there will be numerous drivers offering to cross the border. You pay 50 yuan or 20,000 tughrik, but the price is negotiable. When the car fills up, the driver gets out.

Price (January/2022): 1 yuan = BRL 0.89

It is also possible to cross by bus, but it is necessary to go to the bus station and find out the timetable. You cannot cross the border on foot, as it is a militarized zone, and walking around there is not allowed.

We went in a car (minivan) with about 5 other people, all Mongolians. As soon as we arrived at the border, we all got out of the car and entered Mongolian immigration.

There you pay 5,000 tughrik as a tax to leave the country. Don’t forget to keep this money, because if you pay in yuan, the quote will not be good.

After stamping the exit, we got back in the car and headed for the Chinese border. There is passport checking all the time, but this part doesn’t usually take long.

To enter China the lines are very long. For us it took almost an hour, but the driver is waiting at the door. He has a pen in hand to fill in the China entry card.

The procedure was very simple: they collected our fingerprints in a little machine, took a picture and asked if we were only traveling for tourism.

After getting your entry stamp to China, get back in your car and head to Erlian, a Chinese city also called Erenhot.

It is important to agree with the driver from the beginning where you are going: train station or bus station. And give him the money only when you get there!

Traveling in China

We chose to sleep one night in Erlian, as the city is quite cute. There is a tourist attraction with dinosaur bones to see, as well as a famous statue with dinosaurs intertwining tongues over a road.

china mongolia border
A replica of the dinosaurs

But it is possible to continue the trip on the same day. To Beijing, you can take a direct bus. They leave at 2pm and cost 220 yuan (about R$140). The trip lasts 10 hours.

Another option is to hire a driver right there at the bus station. They charge around 250 yuan per person. Note that from Erlian there is no direct train to Beijing.

If the objective is to go to Datong, the options are to take a train from Erlian to Jining (the name of the station is Jining Nan) and then another to Datong. If you prefer to go by bus, the route is the same, as there is no direct bus to Datong.

Some drivers also take you to Datong, but we don’t ask for the price. Note that there is another Jining in China, so you need to look for the Jining in Inner Mongolia (see map later).

On our YouTube channel you can check out our video about how this trip was. Be sure to watch and subscribe to follow our travels around the world!

Times and Prices for Trains and Buses

Here are the transport schedules as they were in September 2019, when we crossed that border. But the best is to confirm on the websites.

Ulan Bator – Zamyin-Üüd: leaves at 5:30 pm and arrives at 7 am the next day. Cost: 36,000 MNT in cabin or 19,000 MNT in third class.

Erlian (Erenhot) – Beijing by bus: leaves at 14:00, 14:30, 15:00, 16:00 and 16:30, arriving 10:00 later. Cost: 220 yuan.

Erlian (Erenhot) – Jining by bus: leaves at 8:15 am, 10:30 am, 12:20 pm, 1:40 pm and 3 pm, arriving around 6 hours later. It costs around 85 yuan. Note that it is common for buses to be sold out. When we arrived at 9:30 am, there was only a ticket for 1:40 pm.

Erlian (Erenhot) – Jining (Jining Nan station) by train: leaves at 9:30 am and arrives at 4:25 pm or leaves at 10:50 pm and arrives at 3:56 am the next day. It costs around 42 yuan to go sitting or twice as much to go to sleep in the night option.

Jining – Datong: There are several options by train or bus around the clock. The train costs around 21 yuan.

Sites: China Highlights, China Bus Guide and UBTZ.

Click on a point on the map to see its legend

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