Ultimate guide how to get from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing for less then $50

UAZ vehicle on Mongolian-Chinese border
Ultimate guide how to get from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing for less then $50

There are three ways to get from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing. First one — by plane, second one — by international train operating on Transsiberian Railway route and third — travel junky deluxe itinerary with two stops for no more than $50!

Trans-Mongolian way

If you want to enjoy pure Transsiberian journey, you can buy direct train ticket to Beijing. Look for train numbers: 24 and 04. They depart on Thursdays and Sundays at 7:15 am from Ulaanbaatar central station. You will arrive in Beijing at 2:04 pm next day. That’s comfortable, but quite boring way. Also a bit pricy, because you need to spend around $100 for one way ticket in economy class.

If you want to save $50 at the same time earning unforgettable experience arriving to China in style — read more.

Ulaanbaatar–Beijing total discount economy

Here is how to do it:

Step 1. Train from Ulaanbaatar to Zamyn-Üüd

Train departs several times a day. The cheapest one is at 4:30 pm every day and arrives at the border at 7:20 am next day.

Tickets

Sitting places for hardcore travelers you can buy for 9700 MNT. However if you want to catch some sleep, better try ticket in platzkarta, sleeping carriage. That one costs 16400 MNT. These tickets run out quickly, so it’s better to buy ones a few days prior departure.

Train from Ulaanbaatar to Zamyn Ude

International train is much shorter. And proportionally more expensive.

Conditions in train

In carriage without compartments you will get blanket to protect you from cold. They however seem already too many travelers without being ever washed. You need to choose — either you will freeze during night (even in summer) or be forced to lie in stinky bedding. You will need to pay extra 1500 MNT for bed sheets. Besides warm clothes, take some food. In train you can get only Chinese noddles and drinks.

If you tend to topple in bed, try to avoid upper bed. Beds don’t have any bars protecting you from falling e.g. when train brakes.

Step 2. 4×4 ride from Zamyn-Üüd to Erlien

There no way to cross Mongolian-Chinese border on foot. You need to take a ride. After arrival in Zamyn-Üüd just run towards first available car, mostly old Soviet UAZ. Don’t hesitate too long, otherwise you will be last in long queue at the border. After you will get into car, grab whatever handle you can grab, because all drivers apparently were stuntmen in their previous live.

Chinese-Mongolian border

Border in the middle of nothing. This is how Zamyn Ude looks like.

How much?

As much as you are willing to pay. Bargain quickly and jump into car. We paid 8000 MNT per person to get into center of first Chinese town — Erlien (二连浩特). You can pay also in Chinese yuen.

Twice on every side of a border we had to pay additional fee, tax or whatever. It might be simply a scam, but Mongolians we sat together with paid as well. Prepare for that a few thousands tughriks and 5 CNY.

Tip: Get migration card from Mongolian customs and fill the form ASAP. It will save you time. You won’t learn that piece of paper even exists before you will get in front of officer, who will send you at the end of long queue.

Step 3. Erlien-Beiijing

If you are fast enough, you can arrive in Erlien before 11 am. At that time departs direct train to Beijing (on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays). Too late? No problem, we did not make it too.

Long-distance bus station in Erlien

Long-distance bus station in tiny Erlien.

Bus to Beijing

Find long-distance bus station, which is located on outskirts. Buy tickets for any bus, which goes to Beijing. They depart almost every hour. In addition most of them has beds inside, so you can kind of comfortably catch a nap. Whole route, around 800 km takes 10-12 hours with a few short stops! Single ticket costs on average 220 CNY.

Erlien dinozaurs

Do you see dinosaurs behind the window? Dinosaurs? Better quit smoking pot (on a way from Erlien to Beijing)

Sumup

Whole trip from Ulaanaatar to Beijing will take you around 35 hours and your wallet will become lighter by $45. Don’t forget to send us commission from $50 you have saved due to our secret memo ;)

Author
Artur

Instead of work in glass skyscraper, mortgage and couch from Ikea I chosen a travel to unknown. That’s how I landed in China. I burned maps and walked straight ahead. Sometimes the wind whips my eyes, but at least I feel that I am alive.

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Comments
  • Hanz
    1 year ago

    Hi there,

    This web is the right one, I’ve been searchin’ for many weeks. Me and my friend decided to make an insane trip from Leningrad to Beijing. The possibility to get from Ulan-Bator to Beijing this way is awesome. Could you please let me know, if I can book train tickets from Ulan-Bator to Zamyn-Üüd somehow on some reliable website? Searching in these Russian/Mongolian/Chinese ticket websites makes me lost everytime when I’m trying to find something, actually I’m never sure if the price is with fees or not…

    Thank you so much!

    • Artur
      1 year ago

      Hey Hanz, yes, you can book tickets for Transsib on many websites, but honestly I don’t think it’s worth. All of them have high processing fees. The same ticket you can buy for literally a few dollars just on station in UB. We did it just a day before and haven’t had problems with getting a place. I recommend you the traditional way, because risk of getting stuck in UB is rather minimal if you could buy ticket 2-3 days in advance. Good luck!

      • Vina
        1 year ago

        Hey, that post leaves me feeling fohosil. Kudos to you!

  • Yannick Rudolph
    4 months ago

    Hi,

    first of all, I love the way of saving money here and it sounds really fun! There is only one major obstacle for me and my girlfriend now, the Chinese Visa! In order to get one, we have to provide train/bus/flight tickets in advance and cannot state that we’re planning to take a cap! Therefore, I would like to know how exactly you managed to handle this situation! Thanks in advance and regards,
    Yannick

    • Artur
      4 months ago

      Hi Yannick,

      That should not be a problem.

      First of all, you may honestly explain in the Chinese consulate/embassy your plans, supplying them with written travel itinerary and some additional proofs like accommodation bookings on a way or train tickets/airline tickets, that you’re able to obtain in advance. They should not make any problems giving you visa with that, but of course it depends on people working there. There is always a little risk, that you will face some stubborn official.

      Another way is to prepare flight ticket booking confirmation, that does not require payment for actual ticket. You can do it in many ways. Either you can find websites, that allow to book a flight without making payment for a few hours or even download some kind of template for ticket booking and modify data on your own. Consulate is happy and they issue you visa. And you simply “change your plans” and do not take the flight, opting for cheaper and more adventurous solutions ;) Nobody on the border knows your original itinerary anyways. And nobody in consulate is really going to check if you bought a ticket or not (they may however check if your flight exists).

      Also in 2012 it was possible to get Chinese visa in UB in just a few days. Not sure that’s still possible. You could check on their website or better call them and ask. I could recommend this option if available, because requirements in UB are lower and service is faster than in Europe.

      Hope that helps a bit with your dilemma. Good luck! :)

      • Yannick Rudolph
        4 months ago

        thanks a lot for your quick reply :) we make some plans and I keep you updated about our final decision!