Friday, November 24, 2017

Crossing the Border from China Into Mongolia

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.


Erlian

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.


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.


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.


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


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.



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.


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.



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.



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


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.



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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