Mongolia: Border Crossing and Documentation

This post is about the government documentation we needed and obtained to bring our car and ourselves into Mongolia.

Mongolia in General

Basically there was no documentation needed for us to enter Mongolia. Firstly, as US citizens, we did not even need a visa and could enter under Mongolia’s visa waiver program. We were not entirely clear on the process to bring a car in, but we managed/muddled through regardless.

Before the Border

Nothing needed to be done prior to the border. We had made copies of our car registration and passport just in case they were needed. They weren’t.

Entering Mongolia

We crossed from Èrliánhàotè (二连浩特) in China over the border into the town of Zamiin-Uud (Замын-Үүд) in Mongolia. The G208 in China joins with the newly constructed road to Ulaanbaatar at the border.

The border complex on the Mongolian side is not nearly as impressive as its counterpart on the Chinese side. And unfortunately a bit more confusing. But we managed to complete the various steps and everything was very amicably. Here is the step by step:-

  • Step 1: We were stopped by security as we got near the border crossing and parked the cars in front of the barrier. We were a little unsure what to do until the security guard handed us a little white slip of paper and asked us to fill it in. It took a while, but we worked out we had to fill in the slip of paper with our license plate, make of vehicle and number of seats (or maybe it was the number of passengers).
  • Step 2: Next we had to purchase something which cost 1000 TUG. Not entirely sure what this was for, but we got a very nice receipt. We also did not have any local Mongolian currency, so we ended up paying ¥5 instead. We suspect this was for some sort of toll or road usage fee.
  • Step 3: A security guard wanted to see our car registration papers. We handed these over and they looked official enough so he seemed to be satisfied.
  • Step 4: There is a little office just after the barrier and to the left with an even smaller window where you pass the little white slip of paper with the car information on it along with the registration papers to the official. The official then proceeded to copy the information off our paperwork and onto the computer system. We assisted the official by pointing out where the key information was on our registration papers. This would have been a quick process but the official was constantly being interrupted by other people also trying to cross (and cutting in front of us). The whole process took 15 minutes, most of which was waiting for others before and after us to be processed. It also turned out that we had filled in the little white slip of paper incorrectly, so the official re-wrote the information for us and added a control number to the top right hand corner. The last digit of the control number was the inspection lane we should drive to; ours was lane 6.
  • Step 5: A more senior looking official who spoke English showed up and asked a few questions. We think she mainly wanted to make sure we had completed the paperwork. Once she understood we had, she directed us to drive through the checkpoint and into the inspection lanes. At the checkpoint barrier there was some fancy looking scanning equipment, something like an x-ray machine for a car. I am pretty sure it didn’t do anything and was only there for show, but who knows, it could have been a fancy scanner of some sort.
  • Step 6: We waited around the inspection area for 5 minutes watching customs officials inspect other vehicles. They did not seem to be very interested in us. Then someone worked out we had to go to another small window on the building to the west which was Immigration. There were lots of Mongolians lined up getting their passports stamped. But when we showed up, the official took us inside the building instead where there were 2 normal looking arrival counters with immigration officers. We presented passports and were very quickly stamped in with an entry date. There was no exit date stamped into our passport. The passports were scanned and some information was entered into the computer. The immigration office stamped the little white slip of paper with a green stamp.
  • Step 7: There were cash machines and a bank on the other side of immigration in the arrival hall. We successfully obtained money from the cash machine and changed our leftover Yuan into Mongolian Tug. Our cash card was still in Sterlin, but no one seem to be too concerned as I went back to the car to get it.
  • Step 8: While Stephen was getting the money changed, Caroline went back to Sterlin and a customs officer turned up and completed a very quick inspection. Just wanted to see inside one of our pelican cases. They are a little strange looking, but the sight of our clothes seems to appease him. He also wanted to know at which checkpoint we planned to leave Mongolia. With the aid of a map we showed him and he was happy.
  • Step 9: We had to go back into the arrival hall and hand our little white slip of paper to yet another set of officials, this time behind a glass counter in the arrival hall. The process involved a computer, but not sure what was being entered. They did stamp the little white slip of paper with two red stamps and handed it back to us.
  • Step 10: We were directed to get back in our cars and drive off. The exact expression used was “Go!”.
  • Step 11: We drove a 100 meters or so before we got to a barrier and the exit of the border crossing area. We parked and tried to sort out if we needed a customs form or temporary import permit or any paperwork to carry with us to show that we had legally imported our car. In South East Asia we always had some sort of proof. We tried to explain this to a security guard at the barrier, but his English was not very good. A Mongolian also crossing the border helped with translation, but apparently we had everything we needed and the security guards just wanted us to go. So we did. Once they saw three stamps on our little white slip of paper they let us out (and of course they kept the little white slip of paper).
Control Slip with all three stamps.
Receipt for something?

After the Border

About a week after entering Mongolia we finally got around to purchasing third party car insurance. And maybe we also purchased road tax, but not entirely sure. The total cost was TUG 69,300 or around $40 USD for 1 month of insurance/road tax. The Insurance Office we used was located at  47.918638°N and 106.940119°E, but there are probably other branches (including head office) that sells the same insurance. It is called Mongol Daatgal (Монгол Даатгал).

The Insurance Company.
Our Insurance paperwork
Some sort of road tax sticker.
A thing to stick in the window with our phone number. Everyone has these.
A free key-ring and luggage tag.

Leaving Mongolia

We departed Mongolia on the western border near the town of Ulaanbaishint (N49.607776° and E89.467679°). The crossing process was relatively painless, but took quite a bit of time for us as we arrived at the border checkpoint 30 minutes before lunch started and had to wait until lunch was finished before we could be processed. Lunch is from 1pm to 2pm (but the border was actually closed from 12:30 till 1:30….) This added 90 minutes to our crossing. On the Russian side the town is about 20 kms from the border, and not sure what it is called but it is located at  N49.710095° and  E89.201519°.  When we crossed there was only one other car crossing at the same time; we suspect this is a very quiet border crossing post. The steps involved were:-

  • Step 1: The border crossing checkpoint is at the end of the road and easy to find. Before you get to the checkpoint proper, there is a small little white building or shack just north of an ancient looking wooden weigh bridge. We stopped here in front of the Stop sign. The self proclaimed “inspector” had to dash over from somewhere else to greet us. I guess he doesn’t spend all of his day in the shack waiting for people to show up. He was very friendly and we quickly worked out he wanted money from us. We handed over passports and car documentation so he could record our names and vehicle details. We paid 10,000 TUG for something, maybe road tax, not sure. We got a nice receipt. He offered to exchange our Mongolian money into roubles. We stupidly declined his offer assuming we could do this at a bank once in Russia. Turns out it is not easy to exchange Mongolian money.
  • Step 2: We had lunch where we had stopped. It was 12:30pm and the border was closed for lunch. After we finished off our food, we drove a about 400 meters to a chain fence gate complete with a uniformed guard. Although the gate was open, the guard did not wave us through, so we just waited to see what would happen. A few minutes later and at exactly 1pm the guard closed and locked the gate. This is when we worked out that lunch must start at 1pm and not at noon. The guard wandered off somewhere. At 2:18pm the guard returned, the gate was unlocked and opened and the crossing process for us started.
  • Step 3: The guard wanted to see our passports and car registration papers. Once satisfied with our documentation, she gave us a small white slip of paper but first had to write down our vehicle registration number. Unfortunately there was some confusion as our license plate is a word and not a series of numbers. So the guard ended up writing down some numbers that are within our Vehicle Identification Number. This would cause more confusion later. Regardless, we got the white slip of paper and proceeded as directed to the inspection area through the gate and to the right. At the security there was some weird sort of scanning equipment, but not sure if it even worked.
  • Step 4: Stopped at the covered inspection area, and headed into the administration building. The order of affairs would be 1) quarantine, 2) customs and then 3) immigration.
  • Step 5: We showed our white slip of paper to the person in the quarantine office, who was confused by the license plate number, but signed it and handed it straight back.
  • Step 6: We proceeded to enter the next office and got barked at by an official in Mongolian to leave. Apparently we were not meant to be in the office. Only then did we notice the little window where we could pass over our passport and car registration papers. (This is all happening in one and the same area, where all the officials are gathered, and except one other person, we were the only customers). The receiving customs official clearly had trouble reading out car registration papers and finding us in the computer system, so we waited patiently while she struggled. Several other officials were called in to help sort out the confusion. After 10 minutes everything was in order and the official signed the little white slip of paper and handed it back.
  • Step 7: Next we headed back to the car for a quick vehicle inspection. The VIN was checked and a few questions were asked about what was what. The inspection lasted less than 2 minutes.
  • Step 8: Back into the administration building to pass through immigration and to get stamped out of Mongolia. Again a little confusion regarding the license plate, but it was not long before we were processed and headed back to the car with the third signature on the little white slip of paper.
  • Step 9: We drove to the exit gate to find it closed and unmanned. We waited here for 8 minutes until a uniformed official turned up, asked for our passport, car registration papers and of course the little white slip of paper. The passport and car registration papers were returned, the gate was opened and we were on our way to Russia. The actual border is another 5 kms away along an unsealed road (N49.643344° and E49.643344°).

For us it took 2 hours and 20 minutes to cross the checkpoint of which 30 minutes was spent doing official paperwork things and the rest of the time waiting around doing nothing. It seems that temporary import papers for vehicles are no longer being used by Mongolia with everything in the computer instead. Overall, a long but easy exit.