Erlian (二连; Èrlián) is a city in Inner Mongolia. It is also variously known as Ereen or Eriyen in Mongolia, and Erenhot or Erlianhaote (二连浩特; Èrliánhàotè) in China. It appears as Erlian on Chinese railway timetables, and Ereen on Monglian railway timetables.
There is a daily direct flight Beijing-Erlian (Erenhot Shi, code ERL) via Capital Airlines, China.
There are daily trains (K3) from Beijing to Erlian, departing at 8:05 am from the main Beijing Railway Station located on subway line 2 and arriving in Erlian at 8:37 pm. The hard sleepers have 4 berths instead of the usual 6 berths, with the lower berth costing RMB 147, upper berth costing RMB 141.
If you are doing a visa run from Beijing, find out when trains will be coming back before going to Erlian. Train tickets can typically be purchased at the train station five days before the train is scheduled to leave, ten days during Chinese New Year. Tickets can purchased up to 20 days in advance on the official 12306.cn website (website only available in chinese).
There are sleeper buses from Beijing (¥200, 2011). The long-distance bus station is nearby, about one block west and 2-3 blocks north of the train station.
It is possible to catch an overnight sleeper bus to Erlian from the Beijing Beijao bus terminal (note: not the same as Deschengmen station, although you can take bus 55 from here). The ticket cost is ¥200, although it is unlikely you will ever actually see a physical ticket. To get to Beijao take subway line 10 to Jiandemen, Exit C, then bus 55 to the last stop. Or take bus 113 to the last stop from the east side of Jiandaokou St (the next major street east of Nanluogu Xiang. From the bus stop walk 100m ahead, turn right. The station entrance for pedestrians is on your right in 100m. It is not possible to book the ticket in advance - but if you arrive by 5pm and ask the staff at the information counter, they will make a phone call and the bus driver will be by to pick you and any other passengers up, probably not until after 7pm, maybe much later. The bus will already be at least half full, so I am assuming it leaves from another station first. Pretty comfortable bus, but the ride is bumpy in places, especially closer to Erlian. Arrival time should be around 7am, perfect timing to catch breakfast before heading to the Mongolian Consulate to apply for your visa!
You can take a bus from Hohhot, there are several buses each day. Cost is ¥88. Depending on the traffic the trip is about 6hrs 30mins. Bus stops for the driver to eat, but there is not much choice so bring some snacks.
Going to Hohhot, there are 7 daily buses, more details at the "Get Out" section.
Sleeping busses (at least five) leave daily every afternoon. Latest was going to Beijing at 16:30, arrived to Bejing arround 2:00 morning, but was waiting in (you can still sleep inside) before City until underground opens.
You can get from Zamiin-Uud in Mongolia by jeep, which costs around ¥60 per person (August 2012) - be prepared to bargain, the driver's opening price seems to be ¥100. Russian-made jeeps driven by Mongolian drivers start at the market where Mongolians buy goods to take back to Mongolia. The same jeeps also pick up passengers at the first border checkpoint with Chinese guards if they have room. At the border a jeep will arrive every few minutes. A Chinese taxi can take you to this checkpoint for ¥5-10. The jeeps are allowed to carry 5 passengers; however, some drivers ask the Chinese guards for exceptions and carry up to 7 passengers. If taking a jeep, expect to be very crowded and to either sit on someone's lap or have someone sit on your lap. Get out of the jeep at the Chinese and Mongolian entry points and walk through. Be sure to remember which jeep is yours as they come in only two colours (grey and green) and look nearly identical to each other. Many Mongolians cross the border on a daily basis so they are familiar with the process and can help out. Many speak at least some English.
You are not allowed to walk between the Chinese and Mongolian border posts though they are within walking distance. Do not miss the first window on the right side of the road opposite the Chinese immigration building where you pay a ¥5 fee for a receipt you must show the official who will give you an exit stamp. The whole process takes around 1 1/2 hours.
Immediately after entering Mongolia there is a building that looks like a customs office where you can obtain tugrik. There are at least 3 ATMs that display all the major bank card logos and definitely accept VISA.
Be prepared that on some holidays (e. g. June 1st, Children's day), the border is closed and you may be forced to stay a day longer than prepared. It may happen that a driver still offers you a lift, then notices at the border that it isn't possible and still wants to charge you for it.
Taxis, pedicabs and rickshaws are everywhere. A taxi around town costs ¥5 flat rate or ¥10 to the border from town. The number one bus also will take you from town to the border for ¥1.
Antiques (of suspect age), as well as touristy nicknacks, at the alleys of gift shops at the north-east corner of 新华街 (mislabeled as Xinghua Street) and 前进路 (Qianjin Road).
The Mongolian restaurant in the bus station complex (on the left side) has excellent food with reasonable prices and a picture menu. They also have some imported items from Mongolia and ¥1 lockers if you don't want to lug your bag around. Most of the clientele are Mongolians and many of the waitstaff don't speak Mandarin so you know it's authentic!
Near Yiwu Market(义乌商城) and Wenzhou Market (温州商城) to the west of Dinosaur Square (恐龙广场), there are also many Mongolian restaurants dotting the alleys. Menus usually come in Mongolian and Chinese, along with pictures showing the food. A large number of Mongolians congregate here as this is where most traders import their commodities.
Within a 3 minute walk from the train station you can find very cheap hotels. About 30 Y for a room with a double bed and a toilet without bargaining. Make sure to find out checkout time before. Otherwise you'll have to pay a little more, but be able stay till the afternoon. There is wifi.
When you leave the train station walk a tiny bit to the right and you'll see some "plant-columns". Directly behind this and further to the right along the street in front of the train station, there are a few other dirt cheap places (20 Y for a room with shared toilet, 30 Y with own toilet, wifi) but their conditions can be less than ideal. There were shared showers which you'll only want to enter with your shoes on. They cost extra. Recommended is a hotel 30 meters into the street behind the "plant-columns" on the right side (on the opposite side of the street, there's an expensive hotel). You might get a cheaper rate, if you arrive late and leave very early.
Other hotels for about 80 Y can be found further on in the central, for example next to the ticket office of the bus station.
The ticket office for the international train is opposite the train station in a glass building, it is only open in the morning. You will need your passport to book the train (which leaves at 17:10 daily) (18:05 daily, cost 35,550 tugrik), so bear this in mind if you are applying for a visa at the consulate. The domestic ticket office is at the right end of the train station main building (as you face it). Check chinatrainguide, ctrip etc. for timetables. Note the train station may be called "Erenhot" or some other variation on the name, depending on which website you use.
The coach station is near the junction of Yuoyi and Chichaer streets. There are buses to Hohhot and Beijing, among other places.
Going to Hohhot, there are 7 daily buses: 8:00, 8:20, 8:40, 9:50, 11:00, 12:30, 13:30. Ticket costs RMB 95 and travel time is between 6 to 7 hours, with short bathroom brakes at 2 cities. If taking the overnight train from Ulaanbaatar to Zamiin-Uud, a more interesting option would be taking the the bus at the main square outside of the Zamiid-Uud train station. It's a purple bus, Hohhot is written in both chinese (呼和浩特) and cyrillic (хех хот). Bus departs about 30 to 45 minutes after the train arrives, stops at Erlian and leaves again for Hohhot at 11:00. The cost is RMB 135, remember to request the driver for a ticket upon arriving at Erlian as a different driver will take over the drive to Hohhot and will inspect all tickets. When crossing the Chinese and Mongolian borders, you will need to take out all your bags and pass through immigration with them.
Going to Beijing (stopping at several cities along the way), there are 5 daily buses (Jul 2014): 14:30, 15:00, 15:30, 16,00, 16:30. Tickets costs RMB 220. Same as described above, you may take the bus to Beijing from Zamiin-Uud at an additional cost of RMB 30~40.
By taxi and jeep
You can cross the border into Mongolia in a Soviet-style jeep, they leave from near Dinosaur Square or from the checkpoint just beside the border (under a giant rainbow bridge). Border closes at 6pm. A train leaves Zamyn-Uud station at around 6pm daily for Ulaan Bator, ticket office is upstairs in the station - MNT35,550 for a hard sleeper, train arrives around 9:00am the next day. If you are REALLY stuck for time it should be possible to buy the ticket on the train itself.
Getting a Mongolian visa in Erlian may be a better option than dealing with the sometimes difficult Beijing embassy or Shanghai consulate. It is possible to arrive in Erlian early in the morning on a sleeper bus from Beijing, get some breakfast, walk to the consulate, fill in the application, then pick up your passport and new visa at 3pm before taking either the train or a jeep across the border and overnight train all the way to Ulaan Bator from Zamyn-Uud.
Get a Mongolian visa either from:
The visa will last for 30 days. You will need one passport photo (although it won't appear on your visa), a copy of the photo page of your passport (can be done for a small fee by the security guard inside the consulate) and ¥495 cash. You may be asked for an invitation letter, but should be able to get a standard 30-day tourist visa without one. Note that these prices/conditions above apply to most, but not all, nationalities. For a full list see the Embassy in China.
Directions to both from the train station: Walk straight ahead along the road that runs directly in front of the clock outside the train station (Xinhua St) until you reach the second junction (Yuoyi Rd). The CITS will be on the left hand corner. Turn right here, then walk straight ahead for about five minutes. When you get to Chichaer St you will see the beige bus station down the street on the left, but continue walking straight ahead for a about another ten minutes until you see the blue, red and yellow Mongolian flag on the left. Do not worry if it seems like you have walked a bit outside town, you are meant to. Go to the small office at the gate. The waiting room opens at about 8am and remains open all day, feel free to use their plugs to charge your electronic devices!
During Chinese new year, the border (18 Feb) and the Mongolian Consulate (22 Feb) were both closed (2010). One Australian was able to obtain a visa at the border while the consulate in town was closed during Chinese New Year but this process did not seem encouraged and may not be typically available.
Going to Erlian is the most economical way for people living in Beijing to do visa runs. Round trip flights (if purchased in advance through sites like Qunar or Xiecheng) from Beijing to Erlian can cost as little as 500 RMB.
From the airport take a taxi to GuoMen (国门), or tell the driver "Zamyn Uud", you will usually share a cab with 3 other people and you will be the last stop. Don't pay more than ¥20 (per person).
Where the cab driver drops you off you can find waiting Mongolian cars (usually old, Soviet era jeeps crammed full of cargo), negotiate with them for a trip to the Mongolian immigration station, try not to pay more than ¥50 a person.
The driver will take you across the gates and stop while he registers vehicle information. Go to the window at the right and purchase an entrance ticket for ¥5. Walk to your left (near the rainbow) and enter immigration control. Receive your stamp which declares you have exited China, if you have time buy some duty free items.
In the past travellers from here would enter the door at their left and re-enter China, without having entered Mongolia. This is no longer possible and they check every single stamp in your passport to make sure travellers have corresponding Mongolia stamps.
Go outside, hop in the same car and the driver will take you across to the Mongolian checkpoint (about a 5-8 minute drive). This is the end of you're trip with that driver. Pay him the agreed upon amount.
Go through Mongolian Immigration, forms are in English and Mongolian. Border patrol personnel on the Mongolian side speak minimal English and no Chinese. You are now in Mongolia.
Go out the door in the back, and loop around to your left. Enter the building. Fill out your departure forms and walk back out side to a line of cars. You have now left Mongolia.
Find one of those cars to take you back to the Chinese Border. Enter Chinese immigration, fill out your arrival card and get your stamp. You may be asked to open your bag along the way. You are now back in China.
Find a Mongolian car to take you across the border. They drop you off at some Mongolian area with many different 3 wheeled cars, all of whom will try to ask you if you are interested in finding a prostitute. Kindly reply no and tell them your destination.
Your Visa run is over.