How to miss and catch a train in Mongolia

By Jordan Karasek

(Not that we have any personal experience in this or anything)

The Trans-Mongolian train bound for Moscow left UB’s station at 3:22pm, and we ended up arriving at 3:30. Fortunately, the train people were very accommodating. Here’s step-by-step what to do:

1) Miss your train and have a minor freak-out moment

2) Ask the ticket people and hear you have to wait for the next train that comes six days later.

3) Have another minor freak-out when you remember your Russian visa was only for specific dates, and we had to catch the train we just missed today.

4) Be led us over to the information office where the Mongolian train officials discuss amongst themselves what to do, stamp our tickets, and look at passports.

5) Gesture driving to catch up to another station, and then have about 3 or 4 taxi guys willing to drive us to the next station for a small fee, of course.

6) The station people call some numbers and looked up some charts to find out that it would arrive in Darkhan at 8:14 pm, where we could pick the train up.

7) Find out the trip will take 3 or 4 hours by taxi and cost $90.

8) Have another minor freak-out moment when realizing how much money that is but how you don’t have any choice.

9) Because you have only 4,000 tugrik in your pocket (about $1.75 USD), hunt for an ATM.

10) All 5 of the ATMs at the train station will probably be out of money, so jog about half a mile to a bank and pull out the cash.

11) Return to find the station police putting your bags in a taxi while your wife looks around frantically for you.

12) Thank everyone profusely in a terrible accent, hand over the cash, hop in the taxi, and wait for the other two seats to be filled.

13) Have another minor freak-out moment when you realize it’s 4 pm, the train arrives at 8:14, and it’s a 4 hour drive on icy, remote roads. Mime that you need to go fast.

14) Pick up two other people, start out across traffic-congested, icy Ulaan Baatar, and just pray.

15) At about 5 or 5:15 you’ll hit the edge of the city and keep going through the countryside.

16) Thank your driver when he picks up speed and passes slow-moving trucks on the steppes.

17) Arrive in Darkhan with at 7:15, lug our bags through the snow, up the icy steps, and inside the train station where everyone stares at us.

18) Show our tickets to the station agents, get them stamped again, and wait.

19) Train pulls into the station 20 minutes early at 7:53

20) Show passport and tickets to the provodnitsa, the car attendant, and find your compartment.

21) Once on the train, the guilty spouse apologizes to the aggrieved spouse for being the reason you missed the train in the first place.

22) Because you reach the train and all is well (besides missing 90 USD), the aggrieved spouse relaxes and stops thinking about murder.


In summary: If you miss your train,

  • Go to the station, talk to officials at the information desk, show tickets and passports
  • Get a taxi to the nearest station they think you can catch (in our case, it was Darkhan)
  • Speed like wild tahki horses
  • Jump on the train when it shows up in the station, hand tickets off to your provodnitsa.
Categories: Mongolia, Russia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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