Route details for Beijing, China to Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia
Route entered by
1d 7h 0m
If you were only going to do one train journey in your life Beijing to Irkutsk would be my recommendation. We bought our tickets (second class) through an agent who we found via an internet search. We were kept hanging around as our contact was out for lunch (for two hours!). We also had to pay an agents fee so it’s probably quicker and cheaper if you just go to the station and sort it all out there. Don’t forget you will have to get a visa from the Mongolian authorities before you start this journey and a Russian one if you are continuing into Russia!
The great thing about this route is the diversity with a massive change in landscape and culture, the train (No.23) seemed to be brand new and was to a very high standard although for some reason a lot of the toilets were locked for most of the journey. As we left Beijing we were soon passing through the mountains that carry the Great Wall of China, rushing through one tunnel after another and getting a momentary glimpse of each valley. After the mountains the landscape opened up into a vast farmed plain where we passed rural mud huts as we headed towards the Gobi Desert and the Mongolian Steps. Once in the Desert it was not be long before we got a glimpse of a ger and then a herd of goats closely watched by their shepherd. The border crossing was a long one (6 hrs) but that’s all part of the fun! As they change the wheels on the train, check passports and paperwork, and look for stow aways the hours soon passed. Although the toilets were locked for the full 6hrs so cross those legs! You can get off the train (which we did not realise) apparently there is a toilet and a tax free shop. The people we spoke to did not rate it as a great alternative as they were stuck on the platform for several hours, they also got a bit worried when the train pulled away (to get its wheels changed).
If you want to stop off in the desert then there is a station you can get off at. From there you can take a camel ride through the wonders of the desert. We met several people who had done this and they seem to have had a great time. We stayed on the train and it was a good few hours before we were out of the desert which gave us plenty of time to chat to our Chinese travel companions. Once off the train in Ulaan Baattar we soon sorted out a hostel as there were plenty of hostel owners waiting for us at the station!