Hohhot to Erlian to Zamyn-uud, Mongolia
This post has been updated here.
I said I would write about this last month and never got it done. Here is our experience with crossing the border into Mongolia. First, you should read my disclaimers here about why I’m not the best person to write about our travel.
We had some friends visiting us from the States so our first step was to rent a van and driver from Hohhot to Erlian. We had a decent vehicle that sat about 10 and the price was 2200 RMB round trip. Because we were staying a few days, we also had to pay for the drivers’ hotel room (118 RMB/night).
The trip can be made in under 5 hours, (I’ve heard some drivers even say 4) but we had two little ones and ran into a bit of snow so we made it in about 6.
Some notes about what you pass along the way: You first leave Hohhot driving north through the da xue cheng then continue north through/over the mountains. You’ll pass a ski resort, a golf resort, and lots of fancy vacation homes.
About two hours out of town you’ll arrive at Si ZI Wang Qi. Just past Si Zi Wang Qi is the Gegentala Grasslands Tourist Area.
Another town you’ll pass through is Sai Han Ta La (Sai Han). On our journey we stopped here for lunch.
Not too far past Sai Han you will begin to enter Er Lian. You’ll know you’re close when you begin to see dinosaur statues lining both sides of the highway. I know these aren’t great photos, but you can see the dinosaurs in the distance.
The closer you get the more dinosaurs there are and right as you enter the city there are two giant ones that make an archway over the highway. Erlian was a famous site for dinosaur fossils and I think there is a museum there about it.
Once we got to Erlian we had a local friend help us find a car to cross the border into Mongolia and helped us find a hotel. We stayed at the 二连瑞元培训中心 Erlian Rui Yuan pei xun zhong xin. It is THE BEST under 200 RMB hotel I’ve ever stayed in. The standard room was 118/night. It’s nothing fancy, but it was clean, comfortable and well worth the price.
If you don’t have a local friend to help, we heard you can hire drivers at two different places: Wen Zhou Shang Chang and another shopping center called Yi Wu. For us a jeep was 150 RMB to go and 30 RMB to come back per person. Most of the drivers are from Mongolia so my Chinese wasn’t that useful. Our local friend’s recommendation was to use the lady drivers as he feels they are more responsible and honest than the men. His impression was that the women work hard to get in two or three trips across in a day to earn money to support their families, but the men don’t necessarily work as hard and are more likely to rip off foreigners.
The border crossing itself was a series of checkpoints (4-5 each direction) along the road between town and the border where the driver would show the documents of everyone in the car to a guard who would then wave us on. When we got to the immigration building we had to get out of the car and walk through immigration like you would in an airport. Before entering the building we also had to pay some kind of 5 RMB tax at a small building outside. We had to show the receipt of payment inside. We exited out of China and then had to wait for the driver who had to take the vehicle through a few other checkpoints while we were inside.
We got back in the car and then entered Mongolia, also by exiting the vehicle and walking through the immigration building. In our case, we weren’t there to sight-see and hang out, we were merely fulfilling our visa obligation to exit. Just across the border there is a plaza on the west side of the train station that has shops, restaurants, and also where you rent a car if you are crossing from Zamin Uud into China. We fed our kids, got back in the car and did the process in reverse.
It took much longer for the car to process through than it did for us to process through immigration into China. We had to wait quite a while outside so be prepared if the weather’s bad.