In this article I will explain how to go from Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia to Ulan-Ude in Russia the cheapest way possible by public transport. It would cost you around 13US$. It is cheaper than the direct bus going from Ulan Bator to Ulan-Ude everyday for 20$.
The cheapest way includes taking one bus from the capital to the border, switch to a shared taxi to cross into Russia, and then take a van to Ulan-Ude. It takes slightly longer than the direct bus, depending on how long it’ll take to cross the border.
I will also show you all the options you have between Ulaanbaatar to Russia, and also shared our experience, which was a mix of buses and hitchhiking to get to Ulan-Ude.
What are my options to get from Ulaanbaatar to Russia ?
- Direct bus – 20US$ – leaving at 7.30am, it takes 10-12 hours to Ulan-Ude
- Train – more expensive than the bus and takes 24 hours (you’ll stay at the immigration for 12 hours)
- Break down the trip in multiple parts. First take a bus to the border, a shared taxi to cross the border and a van to Ulan-Ude. – 13US$
- Hitchhiking is definitely possible, as it is the main axe between these two countries. It works well in both countries, but Mongolian might expect a small payment at the end of the ride.
- Organise a private transport or have your own mean of transportation.
Step 1 : Ulaanbaatar to Altanbulag (350km) – ~6 to 8 hours
Altanbulag is the town located at the border between Russia and Mongolia. It it still in Mongolia.
First you’ll need to go to the Dragon Bus Terminal in Ulaanbaatar. It is located on the west part of the city. The cheapest option is to get a bus ticket to Altanbulag. You can go inside the terminal and buy your ticket at the official counter.
Buses – 6US$
3 buses are leaving every day at 11.30am, 4.30pm and 6pm. The price is 16.300₮ (~6US$). It took us 7.30 hours to get to Altanbulag, with one longer break to eat and multiple “Mongolian toilet” stops in the middle of nowhere.
Shared taxis – 11US$
Many shared taxis are waiting on the parking of the terminal. They go pretty much everywhere in Mongolia. Ask around to find the one suitable for you. We were quoted 30.000₮ (~11US$) for one person. They leave once they’re full. It takes about 6 hours.
Another taxi offered to bring me to Altanbulag for 120.000₮ (~45$US).
Our experience on the bus and where to sleep ?
We took the bus at 4.30pm, and we arrived in the town of Sukhbaatar at 11.30pm. There we all had to get down the bus. The few of us who had a ticket to Altanbulag were transferred in a van where we were driven for the 25 last kilometers to the border town. We were dropped at a “terminal” located in front of the Altan Plaza Hotel. Double rooms start at 30.000₮ (~11$US). We chose to walk 200 meters to the main road and found a double room for 15.000₮ (5.60$US). No shower available but “clean” bed sheets. You can find this hotel on maps.me under the name “Room from 10.000T”.
Step 2 : The border between Mongolia and Russia (Altanbulag to Kyakhta) – ~1-3 hours – 1$US to 5$US
You can’t walk through the border, therefore you’ll have to find a vehicle to cross. Some shared taxis are doing the shuttle all day, you can find them near the Altan Plaza Hotel or just walk to the border and ask vehicles before the checkpoint.
As we were already on the main road, we decided to walk towards the border and hitchhiked. A few minutes later a car stopped and told us to hop in. It was a couple going to shop at the border. We arrived at the border before 8am, but it took us almost 3 hours to cross into Russia. At the end of the ride our driver asked us to pay him, and we agreed on a fare of 200 roubles (8.500₮ /3$) in total. A shared taxi will surely be more expensive.
Step 3 : Kyakhta to Ulan-Ude (235km) – 3.5 hours
There are many vans connecting these two cities. The road is in much better condition than in Mongolia, and the vans are also more comfortable than buses or shared taxis in Mongolia.
Vans leave frequently as soon as they are full. They depart from the centre of Kyakhta. The price is around 300-350 rubles (~5US$) and it takes about 3 and a half hours. You will get drop at the bus terminal in Ulan-Ude.
There are a few hotels in Kyakhta and some supermarkets. You can find ATMs inside the supermarkets.
After crossing the border we were in a hitchhiking mood, so we sticked our thumb and got a ride about 40 minutes later to Gusinoozyorsk, the main town before Ulan-Ude. Not much traffic on the main road because most cars are just Mongolians going to the supermarket in Russia. Anyways after an hour and a half in the same car, we waited for 10 minutes until another car stopped and brought us to Ulan-Ude in the afternoon.
Overall, going from Ulaanbaatar to Russa cost us about 20.500 tugrik (~7.70$) per person, a small amount because we managed to hitchhike on the Russian side. If you choose to take public transportation all the way, it would cost you between 13 and 16US$ depending on how well you bargain for the shared taxi at the border.
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