Travelling on the Trans-Mongolian train from Beijing to Ulan Bator is the rail journey of a lifetime! The scenery and landscapes are fantastic and the overall train experience is very positive. To help you figure out your Trans-Mongolian train journey, here’s some information from our trip:
The K3 train departs from the main Beijing Railway Station at 8:05am and arrives at 1:50pm the following day, for a total of 29 hours and 45 minutes. This train travels on Wednesdays only.
There are 4 stops before arriving at the border town of Erlian at around 8:15pm.
At the border, the wait time is 4 hours before the train carries on to Mongolia. On the Mongolian side, there are 3 stops before arriving in Ulan Bator.
How Much Does The Train Cost?
3rd Class Hard Sleeper: $247 usd (approx 1,500 cny)
2nd Class Soft Sleeper: $330 usd (approx 2,000 cny)
1st Class Deluxe Sleeper: $360 usd (approx 2,200 cny)
Depending on who you book your tickets with, the price can vary greatly. We suggest booking your tickets with CITS in Beijing. They are so helpful and easy to deal with, and they are the cheapest we found. You just send them the payment via paypal, or some other form of money transfer, and pick up the tickets in Beijing on the month you are travelling. CITS is able to book tickets well in advance and can ensure you get a seat on this famous train line. As a bonus, if you “like” them on Facebook, you can get a $50 discount.
What Are The Sleeping Compartments Like?
We stayed in the 3rd class sleeper. There are 4 beds inside of one berth, with a sliding door that can be closed. There is no air conditioning, only a small fan. The windows in the hallway open up, but not inside of the sleeping area.
The beds are comfortable enough and there is lots of room for storing bags, either underneath the bottom beds, or on a shelf on the top bunk. There is lots of room for sitting up if you are on the top bed.
The toilet is average. Not gross, but not great.
It’s the same as the 3rd class, except for the beds are a tiny bit wider and when sitting down, the padding at your back is a bit thicker than in 3rd class. The toilets are the same and there is no air-conditioning.
There are only 2 beds in each compartment, and a soft chair for sitting on. The beds are more spacious and there is air-conditioning. The decor is also different, it has wood paneling. The toilets are the same as in 1st and 2nd class, but each compartment has its own sink.
Customs & Border Crossing
When the train is approaching the border town of Erlian, someone will come around and give you a customs declaration form to fill out and they will collect your passport as well.
The train will stay on the platform for about 20 minutes before moving further down to have the wheels changed over from Chinese size to Mongolian size.
The train will be stopped in Erlian for 4 hours and you can stay on the train during the entire time, hopefully getting some sleep. However, the toilets are locked so if you need to go to the bathroom, you’ll have to go inside the train station.
At the Erlian station, there is a shop selling lots of fresh fruits, booze and many snacks.
The shop is also able to change your Chinese Yuan for Mongolian Tugrik, for a rate slightly less than what is quoted online.
If you decide to go inside to use the toilet, or to buy some food, make sure you bring your bag with you and hurry back. We didn’t know that the train would leave after 20 minutes and we were stuck inside the Erlian train station for 2 hours, with no train in sight!
The train will continue on to Mongolia around midnight. You will be given your passport back at this point, which will have your exit stamp from China (make sure to check). About 45 minutes later, the train will stop again on the Mongolia side and you’ll have to fill out another customs declaration form and your passport will be taken from you again – and the toilets will be locked for about an hour, so use them while the train is moving!
By the time the whole process of giving in the passports and stamping out of China and into Mongolia is finished, it will be about 2:00am, and time for bed.
The Restaurant Car
We weren’t sure what to expect here, but the food is actually really good. All of the food is Chinese (on the Chinese side). They have beer (10rmb), water (2rmb for 550ml) and pop and iced tea (5rmb).
We were given a ticket when we boarded the Trans-Mongolian Train for a free lunch and a free dinner! Bonus.
On the Mongolian side, the restaurant car is completely changed. The Chinese car is dropped and a Mongolian one is attached. The decor is really nice and it’s a great place to have a tea and socialize.
The menu changes from Chinese food to Mongolian cuisine. The prices on the Mongolian side are also higher than the costs on the Chinese side.
What To Bring:
1. Some Chinese Yuan and Mongolian Tugrik currency for buying items in the restaurant car.
2. Toilet paper.
3. A small padlock to lock up your bag at night.
4. Some cards or other game to play with friends.
5. A book to read.
6. A camera for the amazing scenery.
7. Your Mongolian visa (you can apply for the Mongolian visa in Shanghai and Beijing)
8. Some snack food.
9. There is hot water available in every car. Bringing instant noodles, oatmeal, tea and instant coffee is recommended.
10. Moist towelettes are a good idea – there are no showers.
All in all, our journey on the Trans-Mongolian Railway was a very positive one! We had a great time and hope that this information can help you out.
For more information on travelling in China and Mongolia, check out our Backpacking Guide to China and our Guide to Traveling Mongolia.
Check Out Our Trans-Mongolian Train Video
Have you ever been on this train journey? If not, would you like to?! If so, do you have anything to add? We’d love to hear from you…leave a comment below.
TRANS-MONGOLIAN TRAIN JOURNEY: BEIJING – ULAN BATOR
VIDEO: TRANS-MONGOLIAN TRAIN JOURNEY