Travelling On The Trans-Mongolian Train: All You Need To Know

Dariece Swift author's bio Goats On The Road

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.ย To help you figure out your Trans-Mongolian train journey, here’s some information from our trip:

trans mongolian train
All aboard! The K3 train leaving Beijing bound for Ulan Bator


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.

K3 trans mongolian time table
Time table for the K3 Train


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?

3rd Class:

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.

3rd class sleeper k3 train
The 4 berth 3rd class (hard sleeper) on the K3 train

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.

k3 train hallway
The hallway in the K3 train, kind of narrow!

The toilet is average. Not gross, but not great.

trans mongolian toilet
The toilet on the K3 train

2nd Class:

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.

1st Class:

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.

taking the trans mongolian train

***Goat Note:
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.

taking the trans mongolian train
Us in the Chinese restaurant car with some new friends

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.

trans-mongolian restaurant car
The Mongolian restaurant car

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.

playing cards on the trans mongolian
Make sure to bring some cards for the long journey

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?!ย If so, do you have anything to add? We’d love to hear from you…leave a comment below.




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Travelling On The Trans-Mongolian Train- All You Need To Know

Dariece Swift author's bio Goats On The Road

Written by

Dariece Swift

Dariece is a co-founder of Goats On The Road, and an expert in saving money, finance management, building an online business and of course... travel. She loves meeting new people, trying new cuisines, and learning about the unique cultures of our world. She has over 12 years of experience helping others to realize their travel dreams and has worked in numerous jobs all over the world to help pay for travel.

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16 thoughts on “Travelling On The Trans-Mongolian Train: All You Need To Know”

  1. This post is super helpful! I am just curious if you prebooked any of your other train tickets ??

    Thanks so much
    Ashlea ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Hi Ashlea,

    We pre-booked the Trans Mongolian journey and we also pre-booked our journey from Ulan Bator to Irkutsk (Russia) and then from Irkutsk to Omsk as well. Those legs were booked through Real Russia.

    I hope this helps !

  3. Excellent! I went on exactly this train 4 years ago, but stayed on all the way to Moscow. I’d love to do just this part again; definitely had the most impressive scenery.

  4. That would be the LONGEST journey ever going all the way to Moscow! Wow, good for you ๐Ÿ™‚ We needed to get off a couple of times…to keep our sanity! haha. Cheers for the comment Sam.

  5. Very interesting as we are following in your dust in a few weeks, unfortunately without the stop offs but from Shanghai to Moscow and on to St P by boat. The info on the train is v helpful as we are just making our packing lists and know now to jettison the vacuum jug, as they seem to provide those in each compartmen, but will bring the leatherman. The notes about the border crossing and toilet lock ups will be very helpful. Enjoy Almaty if you get there, party central of central asia, we can recommend the horse on a stick and vodka at Soho and great skiing at Chimbulak but you may be a bit early for that. Good working on the video, you guys must be professionals.

    BTW, for anyone who’s interested, Russian visas are easily available from the consulate in Shanghai, but be prepared to queue in 40deg sun for an hour outside the consulate as they only let in one at a time. They only give you the exact dates specified in your official invitation, CITS train ticket receipts are no good, has to be from a Russian co. Also despite your great vid about going to the Mongolian embassy in SH, it’s moved now to Pudong, (SW corner of intersection of Pudong Lu/Weifang Lu) helpful and simple process CNY180, both embassies need your passport for 1 week,

    Train tix BJ-Moscow on train K3 are CNY 6200/ US$1000 from CITS for first class 2 berth cabin.

  6. Wow, thanks for the awesome comment and for including the cost of the first class train all the way to Moscow.

    We’ve been told that the Mongolian Embassy in Shanghai has moved…so much for making a video about it! Oh well.

    That’s quite the journey you are embarking on – Shanghai to Moscow without any stops! Have a great time. Thanks for the info about Almaty as well, we are going there tomorrow actually ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. Thanks for all the info, have just sent of to book our tickets. We are following in your footsteps except going on to Moscow and St Petersburg. Really enjoyed your video ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Gteat read!-we are doing this next year but will start in Uluunbataar rather than Beijing as we have already been thtough China. We spend a couple of weeks in Mongolia before taking the train to Irkutsk with another stop at lake Baikal then on to St Petersburg with more stops along the way.

  9. This looks similar to the 27 hour train journey we took in Vietnam – we really want to visit Mongolia but I’m not sure we could hack it again! The train was’t bad itself but we just went a bit stir crazy being on a train for so long! We live in Beijing and have a spare week in the summer before we go home so we might go then … probably by plane though!!

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