Border Crossing China to Mongolia:

Position and Times:

The only vehicular crossing from China to Mongolia is from Erenhot (Ereen on some maps) in China to Zamyn-Uud in Mongolia. The China side is relatively organised I cannot say that for the Mongolian side where confusion reigns supreme. 

Erenhot is a very modern town situated on an open desert plain. What is unusual is as you approach Erenhot beside the road is a variety of large dinosaurs roaming across the plains.

Stock up on food and fuel supplies in Erenhot before you cross into Mongolia as once over the border, the supply of such items is limited and more expensive. Be also prepared for a long and isolated 2 to 3 day drive from Zamyn-Uud to Ulaanbaatar (UB for short).

The difference in the road quality between China and Mongolia is very characteristic of the diversity of the two countries. A four lane bitumen highway on one side soon disappears into a myriad of ghostly tracks that sometimes disappear into to nothingness of the Gobi Desert.

The border is open from 8am to 6pm daily except holidays.

To bring a vehicle into Mongolia, it is not necessary to do any preliminary paperwork however you do need to get a Temporary Vehicle Import Document and 3rd Party Vehicle Insurance at the border

Leaving China- Immigration and Customs:

This part of the equation is relatively easy as it is handled by your Chinese guide as part of their service. At the border crossing you will see numerous Mongolian owned Russian Uaz vehicles loaded beyond the maximum with food, building materials, etc, as shopping in China is considerable less than in Mongolia. We notice that nothing is stored on the roof of the vehicles and it was explained that the Customs officials turn a blind eye to most things but on the roof was just too obvious.  We did however see some passing of ‘things’ between the organiser of the Mongolian group of  vehicles and the Chinese inspectors.

Under the export procedures the vehicles were inspected by Chinese Customs officials and the VIN and engine numbers crosschecked against the vehicles documents.

The vehicles were then locked up, as we all with our passports in hand, proceeded through the immigration outgoing system. Our wives walked through the building whilst we as drivers, were escorted back to the vehicles to drive the trucks across the border into no-mans land.  Collecting our ladies, we then drove the one kilometre to the Mongolian border post.

Arriving Mongolia- Immigration, Customs and 3rd Party Insurance:

At the first gate we were handed our arrival cards and then lined up next to the immigration building for vehicle inspection. In the cream immigration building on the left, our passports were stamped and we returned to the vehicles. No one seemed to inspect the vehicle nor offer direction for the Temporary Import Papers.  Following asking lots of questions and walking all the building I found that the Chief  of Customs located at the “Customs Control” point after passport control can issue the required documents. Following an inspection of the vehicles , checking the VIN and engine numbers, he filled out a 30 day Temporary Import for each vehicle. It is very handy to have a copy of the registration papers at hand for this process. There was no charge for the permit.

Nobody seemed to speak english and it was impossible to purchase the compulsory 3rd Party Insurance. The best we could ascertain was to get it in UB. Unusual because on both the northern borders from Russia into Mongolia this was easily obtained and part of the formality.

Money changing facilities were upstairs in the immigration building.

Drive out of the dusty town onto an open plain, here the dirt road separates into many tracks that migrate in a very general north west direction towards UB

Welcome to Mongolia.

Travel in Mongolia:

If you enjoy wide open spaces and cross country driving you have arrived in paradise.  Mongolia is the size of Queensland (Australia) or France and Germany combined yet there is only a few 100 kilometres of paved roads outside of the major towns. Country travel is just by remembered directions. Fortunately with GPS, travel is made easy and from books like Lonely Planet where the country towns have the GPS co-ordinates noted, you simply lock in that data and head that general direction. Sometimes there is a track sometimes not. Cross wide valleys, over 2,500 metre hills it is free to travel completely without fenced boundaries. Fortunately because of the nomadic way of life Mongolia has resisted the wire.

This is a major ‘road’ towards UB.

The ‘Millennium Road Project’ is an upgrade of many of the main country roads using Chinese money. However what we saw was mostly stalled and already returning to nature. The road building funds seem diverted to roads that lead to the Chinese owned mineral operations

All this country and relaxed driving style changes as you enter Ulaanbaatar. Here they drive cars as they would stock horses through the bush. The only accident I ever had during our overseas travels was in UB. For us not serious, but the taxi did finish up with the mark of a bull bar down one full side of his vehicle. The policeman at the scene who witnessed the event just told the taxi to move on!

Handy to remember is that all along the road, opposite the  main entrance to the Naran Tuul Markets or Black market in UB are a large number of second hand vehicle part suppliers.  Here you can buy tyres, springs and just about anything for a vehicle....that is if it a Russian or Japanese. Most small towns also have repair shops and they are reasonably creative in fixing things.

Just outside UB and some other major towns are toll booths. These are left over from the Russian occupation and collect funds not for the roads but as an income for the town. Into UB the toll was T500 (US$0.40) In some towns you pay going in and going out. The towns from UB to the northern border do sting the overlanders amounts of T500, T1000 and T1,500  (US$0.40 to 1.20 in and out of towns)

For the country driving be totally self sufficient with everything. The roads, tracks, and cross country are wearing on vehicles. Know how to repair a tyre, carry 2 spares, extra water and fuel and generally all spares for remote desert driving. Along the way you will possibly find other broken down vehicles. One we came across had been using his personal belt as a radiator belt for a day until that also failed. We then gave the driver a 100 kms lift to the next town.

The Mongolians are incredibly friendly, stopping by a Gur for directions may well lead to a sampling of airag,  an alcoholic drink made from fermented mares milk.

Take some small colouring pencils and books for the children (not sweets) as a thank you to the family.

Some parts of Mongolia are called Strictly Protected Areas and you will need a permit, that many times is ONLY available in UB.  For areas like the Khalkhiin Gol and Nomrog in the Mongolian far east, on the China border, we needed a guide to also accompany us. We tried very hard to get permits for Nomrog, however a party of German tourists were out in the long grass and their vehicle caught fire burning thousands of acres of grassland and gazelle habitat. Now the authorities have blocked it for all. 

To get permits for these areas only a Mongolian can apply on your behalf so we contacted Mongolia Expeditions and found them very helpful. They also provided us with Moogie an english speaking guide and we really enjoyed his company. Mongolia Expeditions specialise in the unusual.

Contact Mongolia Expeditions at:  and e-mail :

Mongolia suffers from a number of plagues. In fact the Black Plague of England came from Marmots in Mongolia! On both our visits we encountered closed areas due to Marmot Plague and Foot and Mouth Disease.  When it does break out vast tracks of land are closed and one must seek alternative routes or be quarantined until it has passed.

It would help to learn the Cyrillic alphabet for Mongolia and Russia as it will help with the road signs.


Camping is as free and idilic as one could ever want. Mongolia is our favourite destination and one of the reasons we returned this time via China. Vast open spaces: in the North pine forrest and crystal lakes; in the South the Gobi Desert; West the Altai Mountains, and  in the East, golden grasslands that thunder with gazelle.

Often we found when camped up on the open plains we were visited by nomads who would come by and just sit and watch us.  We would ask them to the table for chai (tea) and that would lead to some serious vodka sessions. This is just part of the local custom.

In the shops Vodka is cheaper than bottled water!

Toilets are virtually non existent in towns. At the UB and other town markets there are pay toilets available, ordinary by european standards, but when in need they are a welcome sight.  BYO paper. As for the country the biggest problem is that in many places  the country is VERY flat and there are no trees in any direction. Our answer was ladies to the left, men to the right.

For the list of Camp sites we used in Mongolia see: Travel in Mongolia.

In UB we stayed at the Hotel Genex N47* 55.073 E106* 53.895 -US$60/night incl breakfast quite comfortable. They will also allow you to store the vehicles in the front entrance area.

I have since heard that the Oasis Guest House is the destination of many overlanders


Although the food choice is limited compared to perhaps China, the freshness and quality is good. Vegetables are limited to items that endure travelling. Items like Carrots, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Onions and Cabbage we found most places.

Meat was plentiful. It was always a challenge knowing what type of meat it was. Sometimes the animal’s head or feet are displayed near the meat. This can give you a clue to the origin, otherwise we used the animal noise when communicating. That always brought a smile and laugh but at least we knew what we were purchasing and it opened dialogue. Normally nearly the whole animal is available however you can buy ‘chunks’ of the meat by pointing to the part you want, and it is simply cut off.

We found that it normally did not matter which part you purchased it was all the same price/kg from the same animal. Horse meat is everywhere, and is normally an orange colour.

Lamb is good and we almost constantly dinned on legs of lamb, so ensure you take a camp oven. Camel steaks are also delicious.

As in all markets it is best to shop early in the morning as the produce arrives fresh and there is no refrigeration on site.  You could always haggle a little on the price. Do be careful of pickpockets in the markets particularly the one in UB.

Fire wood is a scarce in a land of few trees, however it is available in the village markets. Cost T1,000 (US$0.80) for a reasonable bundle.

Meals in country towns at eateries cost an average of US$2.50-3.00 per person, for dishes like meat goulash or boiled mutton, potatoes and rice.


In most places that are marked as towns on the Mongolian maps are fuel stations. Prices for Diesel was T1280 to T1400 per Litre(Tugriks) about US$1.03 to US$1.13/lt.


When in the towns you can buy water from the village wells. They are like the Russian system where you pay for the quantity you take. Either a square concrete or brick structure, where you will see a stream of usually children carrying containers to and from. 

Normally there is an old lady that you pay and she turns the outlet tap on and off.

We also found the mountain streams always good quality water and drew from them.

In Mongolia (2010) we travelled 3,800Kms. Refuelled with 548Lts of fuel at an average of T1,300/Lt (US$1.00)( UB cost T1280, Far East T1400/litre) Total T698,438 (US$520)

Meals,tolls etc cost for 22days was T230,000 or T10,454/day (US$8.00/day /couple or US$4.00/day per person)…and we eat well, mostly on lamb and vegetables.

Plus the 5 hotel days in UB @US$60 to 65 /day.

Plus Mougie’s guide fees, a requirement for visiting the Strictly Protected Areas for 14 days, totalling US$350 or per person US$5/day.

For our actual Travel Diary through Mongolia see:   GoannaTracks Across Mongolia

Return to: DIY Kit for Overland Travel

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Overland Mongolia and

Border Crossing from China


No Roads

Just Directions.

SHILIIN BODG UUL (N45' 28.350' E114'35.349) in a remote Strictly Protected Area in the South East Corner of Mongolia.

This is the highest peak in this remote area and is part of an ancient group of shield volcanos. It is here that the first rays of sun streak across the Mongolian landscape.


Even before Genghis Khan this extinct crater was sacred to many Mongolians as at sunrise the first rays of the sun revives the spirit.