Ulan Ude, for us anyway, only served as a stopover before the journey to Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar. So rather than fill this blog with boring crap here’s some photos instead. The city was closed to foreigners until 1991 and has some nice architecture. If you need to break up the journey it’s not a bad place to spend half a day. There’s some useful info about crossing the border at the bottom. Enjoy!
Where we stayed
We stayed at Clean Hostel Na Borsoeva which is super convenient for the train station so you don’t have to drag your bags across town.They let us check in and leave our bags when we arrived on the overnight train at 5:30am. A private double room cost about USD$18, ask for one with a window. Only downside was there’s only one bathroom so it gets busy. There’s plenty of cheap accommodation options on Booking.com but make sure you check out the photos. If your hotel looks like it’s a brothel in a carpark by the train tracks it probably is…as one unsuspecting friend of ours found out when he was kept awake all night by the resident lady of the night doing her rounds.
Getting to the Mongolian Border
After trying and failing to secure tickets on the direct bus leaving the following morning (we were at the station before 7am) we were left with no choice but to patch together the route using alternative transport (or overstaying our Russian visa…again!). First we caught a minibus at 7:30am to the border town of Khyagt (RUB400 each) from where we had to catch a taxi to the border itself (RUB150 for four people). Then we had to wait for a minivan with space and jump in with two others to cross the border to the Mongolian town of Altanbulag (RUB200…negotiate hard!). As expected were were hassled by Russian immigration for not having an immigration form which we weren’t given on the train when we crossed over from Kazakhstan at 3am, even when we asked for one. A simple google translate of this fact resulted in forms being thrust into our hands which we completed and were on our way.
Note that you cannot cross the border on foot!
Once across we bummed around trying to find a car heading to Ulanbataar which didn’t require us having to pay for all four seats. Eventually we found a guy though after a while he couldn’t fill the rest of the car so in the end a young lady who had just dropped her mother off in town was returning to Ulaanbaatar and she had free seats. Turned out she spoke pretty good English was a Geophysicist working for the countries gold mines. A new mine had recently opened in the Gobi region and she told us the locals are very concerned they’re taking one of the nomadic people’s most important resources – their water. She was also amazing enough to drop us off right out front of the hostel, all for the price of MGT30,000 (about USD$17) each. All up the trip cost the same as the direct bus, only took about an hour longer and we had way more of an adventure!