How to get from Erlian to Zamyn-Uud trouble free
For those of you intending to cross the China-Mongolia border and travel from Erlian to Zamyn-Uud, the first thing to note is that, unless you are exempt, you will need a Mongolian visa in order to do so. I tried entering Mongolia without a visa in the mistaken belief that I didn’t need one. It didn’t work. Get one before you travel.
You can apply for a Mongolian visa before you reach the border, usually in Beijing or even in Hohhot. As of 2008, you can no longer apply for a Mongolian visa in Hong Kong. If it is not possible to get your visa before you travel, you should get one when you reach the China-Mongolia border in Erlian (Erenhot).
Those passport holders (as of 2011) that do not need a Mongolian visa are: Kazakhstan, Laos and Macau SAR citizens (90 days), US citizens (up to 3 months), Cuba, Malaysia, Israel and Thailand (1 month), Philippines (3 weeks), Hong Kong and Singapore (2 weeks). Everybody else will need to apply.
Where is the Mongolian consulate in Erlian?
Much of the information I have found online regarding the Mongolian Consulate in Erlian is now outdated. Directions either point to the location of the old consulate or are simply too confusing to effectively follow. I got lost following directions I’d found online and had to take a taxi instead.
The present Mongolian Consulate can be found here on Google Maps:
Directions are as follows:
From Erlian train station, walk straight on down Xinhua Street directly in front of the large stone and flag pole until you reach Youyi Lu. This is the second road that crosses Xinhua Street. The road directly in front of the train station is the first.
Turn right and walk down Youyi Lu.
Walking on the left hand side of the road, you will first pass Guomenjin Street, then Chaha’er Street. On the corner of Chaha’er Street you will see the bus station. Continue down Youyi Lu until you pass Wuzhumuqin Street on the left.
You should now be able to see the blue and red flag on top of the Mongolian consulate building. You will find the Mongolian consulate on the left hand side on the next block.
When is the Mongolian Consulate in Erlian open?
The Mongolian consulate in Erlian is “officially” open Monday to Friday 08:00 – 12:00 and 15:00 – 17:00. However, when I was attempting to get from Erlian to Zamyn-Uud it didn’t open until 09:15 and again at 15:20.
Best practice, if you want to get your visa on the same day, is to get there for when the visa office opens in the morning, drop in your application, and pick it up again (hopefully) at 15:00. I have read of same day pick-ups at 12:00. But from what I witnessed I’d say this is a rarity. Don’t bank on it.
The Mongolian consulate in Erlian will not be open during Chinese New Year. Nor, I’ve read, will the border. The consulate will also not be open at weekends.I only realized this slight matter of importance a little too late.
About the Mongolian visa application
Same day service costs Y495. I met a German guy while I was there and we both paid the same.
The visa will last for 30 days from your date of entry.
You will need your passport, one passport photo, a photocopy of the main page of your passport (this can be done at the office if absolutely necessary) and the Mongolian visa application form.
You will need to pay in cash. Chinese Yuan please.
You may also need a letter of invitation. I asked my hostel in Ulaanbaatar to send me one, which they did, all very officially headed, signed, dated, and with the required information regarding my stay, but the officials at the consulate said it wasn’t a letter of invitation. They issued my visa anyway without any more questions, just be aware that you may be asked.
You can get a letter of application at Legend Tours for US$25 if you want to be certain. Though as there is some debate as to whether it is needed for a tourist visa not longer than one month, there is clearly a decision to be made as to whether you want to spend the money. From what I have read, invitations are only needed for stays of longer than 30 days. As I’ve said, I was asked when applying for my 30 day tourist visa, but I was granted the visa anyway.
Crossing the China-Mongolia border
Once you have your visa in hand, you are free to cross the China-Mongolia border and make your way from Erlian to Zamyn-Uud. For all the various ways of achieving this, see my post Crossing the China-Mongolia Border.
Things change fast in China. If you find any of this info is out of date or you have anything useful to add, please let me know in the comments below.