Mongolia

Сrossing Russian-Mongolian Border via Kyakhta–Aganbulag Checkpoint: How to Get from Ulan-Ude to Ulaanbaatar and Transport in Mongolia

Kyakhta–Aganbulag is the most popular border crossing point between Russia and Mongolia, since the Ulan-Ude–Ulaanbaatar road passes through it. The distance between these two cities is about 585 km, which equals about 12 hours’ drive, including the border crossing and such kind of views on the way.
to Get from Ulan-Ude to Ulaanbaatar

There is also a plane between Ulan-Ude and Ulaanbaatar which flies twice a week, but if the schedule and price do not suit you, there are the alternative travel options.
Direct bus Ulan-Ude–Ulaanbaatar departs from the bus station Yuzhny in Ulan-Ude at 7.30 AM and arrives at the Dragon railway station in Ulaanbaatar at approximately 19.20 PM. The arrival time depends on how smooth the crossing of Russian-Mongolian border goes (usually it takes 2–3 hours, but there may be delays). Buses depart daily. Ticket price is 2100 roubles. For example, this is one of the company which provides buses http://jassotour.com

Across the border with transfers

This option is suitable for those who do not want to go directly to Ulaanbaatar, for example, if you want to the Erdonet direction before reaching Ulanbaatar. This is how we travelled too and below we describe our Ulan-Ude – Kyakhta – border – Sükhbaatar – Erdonet route.
buses to Mongolia

Minibuses from Ulan-Ude to Kyakhta, the city near the Russian border, depart every hour (also from the bus station) from 7 AM to 7 PM. The ticket costs 400 roubles and the trip takes three hours. The timetable and prices are available at the official web-page of the bus station in Ulan-Ude: https://avtovokzal-ulanude.ru. Before taking the last minibus, make sure you know how the border crossing check point operates: when we drove, the crossing worked 24 hours for passenger cars (for trucks – from 8 AM to 8 PM), but they change the timetable frequently. On the way to Kyakhta there is one big stop in Gusinoozyorsk, and after the landscape gradually changes.
from Russia to Mongolia

Kyakhta itself is a cluster of military units, the city is quite large, and there is even a History Museum. When we arrived at Kyakhta, the driver asked the passengers if anyone wanted to go to the border; for additional 50 roubles per person he drove us there. At the gates of the border, the Mongols wait for passengers in their cars: they take 200 roubles per person for traveling across the border, and 300 rubles to Sükhbaatar—Mongolian town near the border (we ended up bargaining for 250 rubles). Some Mongols spoke Russian if it helps you, you may even bargain :). Among the drivers there both taxi drivers and regular Mongols who go home after shopping in Russia, but the price for everyone seems to be standard.
Сrossing of Russian-Mongolian Border

We recommend to choose cars rather than truck, because board guards check even small trucks on X-rays, and probably you would not want to spend your time waiting.
The border starts with customs control. Russian license plates are in priority; guards check cars with them first. They also do a selective inspection of bags, asking whether you carry “stones”. Probably, this is about the potential smuggling of precious stones: back in Gusinoozersk we saw an advertisement about purchasing of crystals (1 gram for 1500 roubles). After customs, border control follows, but, to be honest, the border is such a chaos, that it is difficult to predict something. Right in front of us, the only window was closed for lunch break, so we had to stand in a queue to the next window, at the exit, to put stamps into our passports. Finally, we entered Mongolia and arrived at the first border town of Sükhbaatar.

Сrossing of Russian-Mongolian Border

Transport in Mongolia, based on the example of Sükhbaatar

As it turned out, that Mongolia has some similarities with Central Asia in terms of transport organization. In Sukhe Bator, we were driven to the point, where a bunch of taxi drivers are waiting for clients. They can be easily identified by their raised T-short and bare paunch.
Transport in Mongolia

Transport in MongoliaTransport in Mongolia

As in Central Asia, you need to wait the shared taxi to a certain city gets full with passengers (or you can pay for all the seats and not wait). What is different from Central Asia is that in Mongolia it is a bit more organized. There is a fixed price for a car to a certain point (for example, from Sukhe Bator to Erdonet—60.000 MNT), while the ticket is sold at the ticket office.

The ticket includes the information about the price, passenger’s passport number and the car number. In theory, you can avoid cheating and will not pay a higher price as a foreigner.
shared taxi

Cheating, however, is still inevitable and happens after payment and departure: the taxi driver collects more and more people on the way. Children are not counted as passengers at all. Once, when it was too much we could bargain and reduce price for our trip a bit, but generally, it’s useless to argue, everything usually ends like this.
taxi in Mongolia

Life hack: nod to your camera, say “tourist”, and show that you want to take a picture; in this way, try to get to the front passenger seat, as you will not have to share it and it is indeed better to take pictures.
Travel in Mongolia

The roads are relatively good: normal asphalt and scenic views. There is not much traffic, so driver usually goes in the middle of the road, what gives him opportunity to overspeed about 20-30 km/h.
roads in Mongolia

Taxi drivers usually stop for lunch at a roadside restaurant every few hours, so passengers can also have lunch.
Travel in Mongolia

If you drive past the koumiss (horse milk) selling points, the driver will also stop: you can try or buy koumiss.
horse milk

koumiss

Anything may happen on the road, sometimes taxis, as well as buses can break. Not only passengers, but also drivers of taxis are involved in the repair.
Auto in Mongolia

In general, it is easy to get around such a taxi between large settlements, but if, for example, you want to travel around the Khövsgöl Lake to see the landscape, a taxi is not an option. We were very lucky: we joined a group from the Czech Republic and travelled around the lake with them for two days. The way back was much more complicated. At the same time, renting a car in Mongolia is not cheap, so if you go to rural area let’s hope that you are as lucky as we are!