Train from Ulaanbaatar to Irkutsk

Ulaanbaatar Travel Blog

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Are we there yet?

We boarded the train that would take us from Mongolia into Russia.  We had been booked on the "slow" train as the fast one didn't go on the day we wanted.  I couldn't work out why the slow train was so much slower until ...

  • we got to the Mongol exit point at Sukh Baatar at about 0400 ... and waited till 0900 for exit formalities to begin
  • then about 1100 before we chugged forward for 20 minutes to Naushki on the Russian side 
  • then began our entry formalities
  • then waited till 1620 before continuing our journey.  Everything was like clock-work but with long stops.

Hence we sat at the border all day!  About a third of the entire journey time!  Toilets were locked and we had to resort to station toilets which were disgusting on the Russian side.

On the train in the four-bunk second class cabin. Cosy and friendly atmosphere.

Most interesting thing about the border crossing was the smuggling.  Lots of people carry goods which they hide (eg. wear several layers of new shirts, stuff hidden in ceiling panels)

We were offered a pair of plastic sandals (worth $1 perhaps) to safe-keep for the crossing ... promptly retrieved after the crossing.  I guess they must have had a big bag of them.  And the conductors take a supporting role in hiding these goods for the passengers (for a fee presumably).

I think we mentioned that we booked 2nd class for this leg, ie. a cabin of 4 people.  We shared this with Liz and Sarah, Australian and Canadian (respectively) who have just completed a couple of years teaching in Japan.  Liz's Mum is from Kuching!

Had lots of fun with our companions  -  eating, chatting, drinking etc. The scenery changed from arid grassland to forests and lakes.  We even saw a frozen lake as we approached Irkutsk.

This train didn't have a dining car so it was very much indoor picnics with cup noodles, bread, ham and cheese.  Lots of tea.  Very enjoyable actually.


bbarragan says:
How did you book your tickets on the Trans-Mongolian Railroad? Did you just show up at the ticket office in Beijing?
Posted on: Nov 28, 2006
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Are we there yet?
Are we there yet?
On the train in the four-bunk seco…
On the train in the four-bunk sec…
photo by: Biedjee