Hello Mongolia!

Travelling by train from Russia to Mongolia, branching off the Trans-Siberian Railway to Ulaanbaatar.We certainly arrived in Ulaanbaatar on an auspicious day. At 5am, all bleary-eyed, we stepped off the train from Russia in to the shivering darkness of a Mongolian morning and were informed it was a national holiday. It was Chinggis Khan’s birthday.

The train, number #362, had left Irkutsk the previous evening. We had the pleasure of a kupe, four berth cabin to ourselves and luckily had Sean and Severi in the cabin next door. 

We had bought the tickets for the journey at Irkutsk station the previous day. Only this carriage on the long train we boarded would be travelling over the border into Mongolia.

It was a sociable evening but later I couldn’t sleep as the cabin was hot and stuffy. Instead I climbed down from my bunk, opened the window a fraction and sat peering out into the night.

The stars were bright and many, it was a magical scene. The front of the train could be glimpsed as we snaked around bends, its front light illuminating our onward journey.

Hello Mongolia!

Hello Mongolia!

Watching the world go by from the bunk.

Watching the world go by from the bunk.

I slept well later on, refreshed by the air and the stars. At some point during the night the train had shrunk to just a few carriages.

In the early morning the rails glittered with frost, the lakes and rivers were frozen over, we journeyed under clear blue sky.

We passed small tumbledown towns, a few people would get off onto tiny stations where battered old cars waited to whisk them away.

Even here, in these dusty, isolated places the women wore heels and fancy coats.

At 1pm we arrived into the Russian border town of Naushki where the train pulled into a smart-looking station. After an official passport check we were free to get off the train, we had three hours.

The four of us took a walk through a dusty park and up a sandy, dry hill to a viewpoint overlooking the valley.

We could see our train being shunted below.

Hello Mongolia!


By the time we returned to the station our sleeper carriage stood alone, no engine, nothing. We sat for a while on the platform then moved back into the cabin.

The toilets were closed during this time but there were toilets at the station for 20rub.

Hello Mongolia!


Just before 4pm we were given forms to fill out then the officials boarded and a series of painless processes involving customs and passport control played out.

We read, we chatted, we ate.

It had become dark by the time the train pulled out, the carriage had been attached to an engine and this very short train headed for Mongolia.

Hello Mongolia!


We were able to change our rubles into tugriks as the train crossed the border, a local passenger gave us good rates {the XE app on our smart phone came in handy at this point!}. She did the deal out of her Hello Kitty handbag way before the black market money changers boarded.

The Mongolian border procedure lasted three hours and was equally pain-free, for us anyway. We were able to get off for the last hour to stretch our legs while more carriages were added to the train.

This gave us an opportunity to draw out some more currency and for some to go find beer.

It turns out that drinking in Mongolian stations is prohibited, you can get fined, therefore delayed and may result in you thinking your train is leaving, when in fact it is only shunting.

You may end up running after the train as fast as you can only to be laughed at by the provodnitsa.

Yes, this did happen to a couple of the guys on the train, to our great amusement.

Hello Mongolia!


And so we found ourselves in Ulaanbaatar very early the following morning, feeling very fortunate that we had arranged a pick-up for the hostel.

After a hot cup of tea we were able to check in and claim our beds. Chinggis Khan’s birthday could wait for a couple more hours, there was a cosy duvet calling me…

Hello Mongolia!

Ulaanbaatar | Mongolia

We headed to Sükhbaatar Square later in the day to see some of the festivities, smartly dressed soldiers on parade. We even got interviewed for a local TV news channel!

Try these posts:

There Are No Roadsigns In The Gobi Desert: Part 1 Sleeping in a ger with a nomadic family, in the desert: magical!

There Are No Roadsigns In The Gobi Desert: Part 2 Our Soviet van breaks down! We are stranded in the middle of absolute nowhere!

There Are No Roadsigns In The Gobi Desert: Part 3 Waking up to deep snow at the valley of the vultures.

There Are No Roadsigns In The Gobi Desert: Part 4 Spectacular rocks and cards by candlelight.

Crossing Siberia By Train, Fulfilling a Dream Yekaterinburg to Irkutsk, and one very boozy Russian experience. Yes, we did sing Bohemian Rhapsody to two bemused Russians. Oh dear!

Travelling by train from Russia to Mongolia, branching off the Trans-Siberian Railway to Ulaanbaatar.

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By Rachel Davis

10 Responses

  1. Jayne says:

    How long did it take you to cross from Moscow to Beijing? How long did you spend in Mongolia? I’m enjoying reading these, can’t wait to do it ourselves. I wasn’t too keen on the idea to start with but now I have come around to the idea and quite excited about it 🙂

  2. Dave Rowley says:

    Wow, interviewed for local TV station, cool !! What did they ask you? Did they have translator or the interviewer spoke English? (What language do they speak in Mongolia anyway?)

    • We were chatting away to an interesting old Mongolian tour guide we met in the Square, who’d come over for a chat, and they pounced on the opportunity for a translated interview! What we thought of the Chinggis Khan birthday celebrations and what we thought of the man himself. We never saw the footage, no idea if it ended up being broadcast!
      They speak Mongolian! Lots of vowels!

      • davegct says:

        Sounds like Mongolians are very friendly! Is Chinggis Khan a very important historical person there? I remember learning about him in school but he is not that well-known/important to people here…

  3. margaret hodgson says:

    Have thoroughly enjoyed reading about yet another leg of your exciting journey and with the accompanying pictures feel that I’m experiencing it too, thank-you Rachel xx