The train is one of my favorite forms of transportation, and taking the Trans-Mongolian Railway to cross into China is a cool experience that’s a lot less stress and more fun than the Thai-Cambodia border. Here’s what to expect when riding from Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia to Beijing.
The border crossing usually takes around five hours, but luckily you don’t need to get out and wait in line or wander around, hoping you’re heading into the correct immigration line. If, however, your train shows up at lunchtime, you’ll have to wait until the workers get back from eating to start the immigration process.
The main reason the border crossing takes so long is that Mongolia’s train tracks follow the Russian single track, while the Chinese tracks are double, so the bogies need to be changed. While this is happening, you can’t get off the train or use the bathroom. You can watch the workers but this does get boring after awhile, so make sure you have plenty of battery left in your Kindle.
Immigration officers from both countries will come on board for documentation, so you don’t have to leave the comfort of your seat! Once everything with the train is sorted, you can get off for a bit on the Chinese side to walk around, although there’s not much there beside a small shop. Departure times are clearly posted, or you can just follow everyone else, so it’s not likely the train will leave without you.
The current cost for a soft sleeper ticket is around US$280. Tickets can be bought through your hotel, online or through local travel services. These tickets can get sold out quite quickly in the high season (summer). The train is quite safe and uneventful, and much easier than trying to hitch a ride in a Jeep across the border.
Don’t forget to make sure you have your Chinese visa in order!
Do you have any tips for crossing the Mongolia-China border?