In this article we will look at the different ways to take the Beijing to Ulaanbaatar train, with a unique money-saving way for backpackers and budget travellers.

There are several ways to travel between Beijing in China and Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia.

Beijing to Ulaanbaatar Train Option 1 – Trans-Mongolian (27hrs)

Train K23 (023I) leaves Beijing Railway Station at 07:27 every Tuesday and arrives in Ulaanbaatar at 14:35 the following day (Wednesday).

Hard Sleeper (4 berth cabin) costs ¥1,310 and soft sleeper (2 berth cabin) ¥1,881

You can book tickets online through Real Russia or buy them at Beijing Railway Station. Buying tickets at the station is going to save you almost 50% on buying tickets through a travel agency.

If you have 6 people or more you can apply for a group ticket up to save up to 25%.


Beijing to Ulaanbaatar Train Option 2 Trans-Siberian (27hrs)

Train K3 (003Z) leaves Beijing Railway Station at 07:27 every Wednesday and arrives in Ulaanbaatar at 14:35 the following day (Thursday).

Hard Sleeper (4 berth cabin) costs ¥1,310 and soft sleeper (2 berth cabin) ¥2,041

You can book tickets online through Real Russia or TravelChinaGuide or at the station in Beijing. Buying tickets at the station is going to save you almost 50% on buying tickets through a travel agency.

If you have 6 people or more you can apply for a group ticket up to save up to 25%.

For more information on the Trans Siberian and Trans Mongolian trains, see the excellent Seat61 website. You can also read an interview I conducted with the site’s founder Mark Smith.


Beijing to Ulaanbaatar Train Option 3 – Train to Border

Below I will share a little tip of how you can travel on the legendary Trans-Siberian for a fraction of the usual cost.

Take train K3 or K23 as above to Erlian (Erenhot) on the Chinese border with Mongolia. If you don’t already have a VISA for Mongolia you can apply for one here (I got a VISA here in 1 day).

Train K23 departs Beijing Railway Station at 07:27 on Tuesdays and arrives in Erlian at 20:18 the same day. A ticket for a 4 berth cabin costs just ¥224 (that’s $32 for half the journey).

Train K3 departs Beijing Railway Station at 07:27 on Wednesday and arrives in Erlian at 20:18 the same day. A ticket for a 4 berth cabin costs just ¥141 (just $20). For more information on train travel within China, see my guide on how to buy tickets.

You will need to spend the night in Erenhot, a pleasant enough dusty town on the edge of the Gobi Desert, and then make your way to the border in the morning (or to the Mongolian Embassy to obtain a visa).


Crossing the Border

You can take a taxi the 10 minute drive to the border (¥20 to ¥30) and there you will see many jeeps stuffed to the brim with goods bound for Mongolia. Flag any one of these down and negotiate a price (you shouldn’t pay more than ¥100).

They will take you through the Chinese border, wait for you while you are processed by customs and then take you on to the Mongolian side, where you can take a bus or shared taxi into Zamiin Uud a few kilometres away.


Zamiin Uud to Ulaanbaatar by Train

If you have times this right and travelled to the border on Tuesday’s K23, you will be in Zamiin Uud on Wednesday ready to catch the K3 Beijing to Moscow (departs Zamiin UUd at 02:40 Thursday morning) train where a sleeper ticket costs just $21 to Ulaanbaatar.

If you buy the direct Beijing to Ulaanbaatar ticket on Real Russia it costs $368. You can do the same journey, albeit broken, for $53. A hotel in Erlian will cost ¥200 ($30), add the taxi fares for crossing the border at around ¥150 ($20) and the total cost comes to $103 USD. That’s still almost half the price of buying the direct ticket at the station in China (¥1,310/$190).

You may find all this a lot of extra work but if you are on the road long term and looking to save money, it’s a great way to do so. It’s also a cool little adventure if you ask me.


Zamiin Uud to Ulaanbaatar by Taxi

If you find yourself in Zamiin Uud and there are no trains, you can take a shared private taxi all the way to Ulaanbaatar. The journey is around 6 to 8 hours but you may be waiting a few hours for the driver to fill the car. I did this and paid the equivalent of around $30. Drivers will be waiting around the station and it won’t be long until you are approached so you don’t need to hunt them out.


Option 4 – Sleeper Bus

Another option to get to the China/Mongolia border is to take a sleeper bus from Beijing to Erlian (Erenhot). The journey is 9 hours and costs ¥180. The buses are comfortable and you make toilet stops every few hours. The views as you cross Inner Mongolia are superb.

See below for bus times, cost and departure points:

Beijing to Erlian (Erenhot) Bus Timetable
Beijing to Erlian (Erenhot) Bus Timetable

See China Bus Guide for more information and booking tickets.

Follow the steps above for crossing the border and getting from Erlian (Erenhot) to Ulaanbaatar.


Getting a Mongolian VISA in Erlian (Erenhot)

I went to the Mongolian Embassy (a shed on the edge of town) and had no luck obtaining a VISA or finding anyone that spoke English. I then went to the CITS office across from my hotel where some of the staff spoke a little English.

They were able to arrange a same day VISA for me (although at points it didn’t look like it would happen, maybe because it was my birthday they tried extra hard).

Mongolia VISA

I gave CITS my passport but I didn’t have any passport photos with me and there was nowhere in town to get one. This was mistake number one and ended up causing delays. Ensure you have spare photos with you. In the end they let me off using one, but perhaps someone else might not be so lucky.

After 4 hours of waiting my passport came back with VISA glued in and I then made my way to the border.

Looking for somewhere to stay in Ulaanbaatar? Check out Booking.com for a range of hostels and hotels.


Steve Rohan

About the author: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang and now resides in the tropical paradise of Sanya on Hainan Island.

He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.


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