the Highways of Inner Mongolia

I said somewhere in an earlier post that our family has been traveling more in Inner Mongolia this spring and summer than we normally do (and more than we’d like!) Most of our trips we’ve rented a car and driven ourselves. This post is a compilation of all the “interesting” things we’ve seen along Inner Mongolia’s highways.

Some of these items should be typical for driving in China, and others are specific to Inner Mongolia.

1. Potholes


Potholes! This is Hohhot’s North Second Ring Road, but you see ditches across highways or potholes like those pictured here.


2. Swirling Dirt/Dirt Devils/Dust Devils/Tiny Tornadoes/whatever you want to call them. No matter what season or what direction we’ve travelled, I can’t remember a single trip we’ve taken that we didn’t see one.

dirt devil

Dirt devils. We’ve seen these every direction we’ve travelled, not just in one particular area of IM.

3. Livestock and other animals.

First, horses.


and more horses. This herd was spotted somewhere between Saihantala and Erlian.
more horses


Pigs. We didn’t see as many of these, but this large lady was crossing the highway somewhere north of Siziwang Qi.


Of course in Inner Mongolia, you can’t go very far without seeing sheep grazing in the pasture along the road.


But, sometimes they are also crossing the road.

sheep crossing

just south of Gegentala Tourist Area. You can see it just beyond the sheep.


Camels. We’ve seen a lot of these in Alxa and close to the Mongolian border, but not so much in other places.


And, lots of cows.

And cows next to backed up cars.
cows and cars


And cows next to backed up cars with a car driving the wrong way down a divided highway.

cars and cows 2


4. Wide Loads
wide load

I only have pictures of hay, but isn’t it amazing the amount of stuff they are able to carry in a single load? The recyclers in the city and the farmers outside of the city both have a unique skill set for packing it on!
lots of wide load.

5. Road Signs.

This one baffles me a bit. It’s the highway marker sign for most of the journey between Hohhot and Erlian. I’ve thought it over quite a bit on our drives and I can’t think of anything it’s intended to represent other than Mickey Mouse or a teddy bear. And either way, I’m not sure why Inner Mongolia chose that shape for their road signs. If you have some insider knowledge as to why this shape, please leave a comment to enlighten us all!

road signs

6. Toll Booths

Our first car rental experience we drove to Wushen Qi in Ordos. We were surprised at the number and expense of tolls. It’s about 200-250 RMB to go to Wushen Qi, about 150 RMB from Hohhot to Erlian, and about 200 RMB from Hohhot to Kangbashi. No highways are free and generally the bigger/better the road, the more expensive the toll.

toll booth

7. Closed Highways

Ahhhh, the frustrations. This is one of the highways between Saihantala and Siziwang Qi. We didn’t know there was more than one until this one we normally take had a fence built across it between our last two trips.

The time we went to Kangbashi, the main highway between Dong Sheng and Kangbashi was also closed. The on-ramp was barricaded. We stopped and asked a few folks for another way to go, but everyone just kept directing us to the on-ramp that was closed! We found another way, but it delayed our arrival by an hour and a half or so.

road closed

8. Speed Bumps. On the highway.

I understand speed bumps as you enter a toll booth, but on the so-called “gao su lu” (high speed road) it seems funny to have these every few kilometers as they are between Hohhot and Siziwang Qi.


That’s just a small sampling of the joys and frustrations of Inner Mongolia’s highways.


Have you road-tripped here? What were some of the more unusual things you saw? Leave us a comment and tell us about your experience.

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