After our stay in Listvyanka, Russia (see my previous post), my travel partner and I caught a public bus and rode back north to Irkutsk, where we returned to the train station and awaited our departure on the Trans Mongolian Railway.
We had a late departure — 10:10 p.m. — so we spent several hours waiting around. Our final destination was Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, so we were on the Trans Mongolian for a total of about 32 hours (two nights). As is usually the case with travel, we both have a few stories to tell about this part of our adventure, and, as can be the case sometimes, these experiences could be totally unique to our particular situation and train car. But here are a few tips that might help you if you’re considering this route:
- Having your own roll of toilet paper would be a good idea (there wasn’t any in the bathroom)
- Related to that, use the restroom while you’re moving (they close during stops because the toilet flushes to the side of the tracks)
- Be prepared to spend time with some other travelers in close quarters (we could only get a four-berth train cabin)
- Be sure to purchase some food before you leave (the opportunities to get food were not as numerous as on the Trans Siberian)
Don’t let any of those tips frighten you away; it’s just a different kind of experience, that’s all. Here are a few photos of the view, my (questionable) food choices, and our window.
The next three photos were taken at Naushki, Russia, the last train station before we crossed over into Mongolia. When we arrived, Russian immigration officials boarded the train and took all of our passports. We were then told it would be a five-to-six hour stop, and it was. At one point, our train started pulling away, causing a bit of a freak out among me and my fellow passengers who were standing on the platform, but we quickly learned that it would be returning soon. Once it did, our car was left on the tracks by itself while a new engine and other train cars were rounded up to connect to it. By the way, there’s a bathroom facility located at the train station, too, but it’ll cost you a few rubles if you need to use it.
The photo below is of a World War II memorial located behind the train station. I saw this kind of memorial at other train stations during the trip, too.
After several hours and two more checks by Russian immigration and customs officers, we finally started moving and shortly crossed the border into Mongolia. We arrived at Sukhbaatar station, where we spent a few more hours while Mongolian immigration and customs officials took our passports, processed us into the country, and then returned them to us before we left. As had happened in Naushki, our train car was left by itself for a little while.
Once we got back on our way, it was one more overnight before we arrived at Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, right on time at 5 a.m.