I’d hoped that my passage into Mongolia would be by bicycle.
At least that was the plan. Crossing the border at Kyakhta (Russia) and Altanbulag (Mongolia) seemed like a romantic way to enter the country that I came this far north for. But my time hiking the GBT and relaxing in Irkutsk has torpedoed that plan.
A train is the easiest solution, so I jump on the internet to book a ticket from Irkutsk to Ulanbaatar. My last trip, from Zabaikalsk to Irkutsk was booked through Real Russia, who seemed expensive but reliable. But, despite using their site again, this time I end up booking through All Russian Trains. However when they respond I realise it’s the same crowd.
The train doesn’t run every day, so I choose the Monday departure, which will get there on Wednesday. This wastes the last couple of days of my precious 30 day visa, but it feels wise to have a bit of a buffer in case anything goes wrong.
My 3rd class ticket to travel the 954 km from Zabaikalsk to Irkutsk cost me £35.50, but a 2nd class ticket to travel the 518 km from Irkutsk to Ulanbaatar will cost me £109.05! The math doesn’t make much sense to me, but beggars can’t be choosers. But first I have to make sure that I can get a ticket before the train departs.
Real Russia‘s standard policy is to post the tickets out, but today is Friday and the train leaves on Monday. If I don’t confirm the booking ASAP, tickets could sell out. If do confirm the booking but the tickets don’t arrive on time, the train will leave without me. What to do?
Obviously I should have organised this sooner, but to do that I’d have needed more rigid plans. I like my current flexibility, but unfortunately flexibility seems to entail more stress!
Thankfully Real Russia reply that they can drop the tickets to the hostel. But delays in the payment process mean that they won’t receive the ticket until Monday morning. They’ll then deliver this to me between 1pm and 6pm, leaving me time to get to the station by 10pm.
I hope it all goes to plan.