The Trans Mongolian train runs from all the way from Moscow in Russia to Beijing in China taking several days to complete the journey, but I jumped on in Mongolia and took the train from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing.
I had spent my time in Mongolia on an adventure in the Gobi Desert and then last minute decided to head into China on the Trans Mongolian train as it was passing through only a few days after I had come back from the Gobi.
Trans Mongolian Train Journey
If any of the schedule changes in the future please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can update this article accordingly to give the most recent advice.
Train number 4 is the name of the eastbound train to Beijing. Simple and easy.
The Trans Mongolian train only runs once a week from Moscow to Beijing, so make sure you plan it properly if you are shorter on time.
The train leaves Ulaanbaatar at 07.30 on Sunday morning every week and gets into Beijing on Monday at 14.30 in the afternoon making it a 31-hour journey from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing.
There are a few different classes of carriage that you can take but as I am a budget backpacker (the name of this website should give tat away) I took the 4 berth hard sleeper as it was good value for money and comfortable enough. I recommend the same for you.
You can go to the train station in Ulaanbaatar to do this yourself or ask at your guesthouse in Ulaanbaatar and they might be able to help you.
Soviet kind of vibe on a logo on side of train.
About to leave Ulaanbaatar.
When you get out of Ulaanbaatar the first part of the journey is along grassy steppe with a few hills here and there before rolling into the Gobi Desert.
From now on until getting deeper into China later it’s just wide-open terrain with vast views.
Keep an eye out of the window for the occasional yurt camps you will see on the way until you reach the border.
Mongolian – Chinese Border Crossing
When reaching the Mongolian – Chinese border at Dzamin Uudthey Mongolian side) Erlan (on the Chinese side), they have to change the wheelsets (bogies) of the train as the tracks are different in China.
This happens at night-time (sorry for poor quality images but photos are from phone and half asleep).
They take the train to a gauge changing shed to do this and when I did the journey you could remain on the train while it happened but now you have to get off and wait on the platform.
They lift each carriage up by a jack and place the China wheelsets underneath.
The train takes an hour or so on the Mongolian side of the border and then another 4 hours on the Chinese side to change the gauges, so be prepared for that.
The different wheelsets for China in the background ready to be put under the train.
Watching them change the wheelsets.
All of this finishes around 1ish in the morning so when it’s finally done you can go about getting some sleep in!
In the morning the scenery slowly changes as you head deeper into China as the arid desert gives way to rolling green hills, mountains, and tunnels until eventually arriving in Beijing in the afternoon.
Take The Train!
Well anyway, the only realistic way to get from Mongolia to China is to take the train and it’s a cool train journey to do.
For more information on this train journey and how to book tickets etc take a look at Seat61, my favourite train site.
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