Naushki : the border crossing from Russia to Mongolia

Leaving a country for another is always a little special, not just because of the arrival in a new country, but rather because of the procedure at the border itself. The border crossing between Russia and Mongolia by train is worth a few words....

At a ridiculous 5 am, the train left Ulan-Ude for Naushki, passing in the steppe a number of abandoned factories, closed since the fall of the USSR and the abrupt end of the trade with Mongolia that followed. A sign on the way read "Moscow 5850 km" in the opposite direction. We reached the border station around 12, a small town, a tiny station, nothing much. We stayed there for the whole afternoon, fortunately mild and sunny. Nothing happened for hours, except that the train was taken apart, leaving only our carriage on the platform. Meanwhile, Mongols or local Buryats (people living in Russia related to the Mongols) travelling on this train were busy loading box after box in their compartments. I met two Brits who were flying back to England from Ulan-Bator after 5 months canoeing from a river in Mongolia, across into Russia and down the Amur river until the ocean. They had to slide the 2 canoes into the train corridor since the luggage compartment was not continuing into Mongolia. A russian man working at the station came to ask me for some french coins : "collektsia !". I did not have any but I gave him some money from Estonia, which he had never seen. He was quite happy with it and even gave me some rubles back.

At last, a little before 5 pm, there was some movement as custom officers appeared and we were told to return to our compartments.

At all borders I crossed, foreigners' bags are rarely checked, since tourists don't transport any merchandise to be sold over the border. However, bags of local people are subject to thorough inspection. Here too, the custom officers only  glanced at our bags but they carefully inspected the compartments next door, which the locals had stuffed with boxes. The Mongols or the Buryats, like asian people, remained calm, while the russians were speaking to them rather loudly. Next thing, ripped open boxes were thrown brutally into the corridor, one after the other. Inside : sponges, loads of sponges, plastic plates, racks for washing up, and more kitchen things. Obviously, all this would have been resold in Mongolia, exempt from tax. Every single box eventually ended up in a heap of boxes on the platform. The locals did not come back in the train.

A little later, border guards appeared, ordered everyone in their compartment and proceeded to check and stamp visas and passports. Outside, armed guards surrounded the one-car train, as the locomotive was attached. Shortly after, we got moving until the mongol border post where we stopped briefly for passport control. Next morning, the train arrived in Ulan-Bator, at another ridiculous 6 am.

see the photos from Russia and the photos from Mongolia





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