Mongolia has borders with Russia and China, not with Kazakhstan. It’s a big country with many border crossings, but not all of them are open to international travelers. For an exact location of all border crossings in Mongolia as well as all others on the Silk Road, see the border crossing map on the overview page. If you are heading to/coming from Kazakhstan by bus or train, see Kazakhstan – Mongolia by public transport.
On public holidays borders are expected to be closed, although Altanbulag – Khyakhta and Erlian – Zamiin Uud might work. Confirmation on these questions is welcomed!
During Nadaam, borders close for up to 5 days.
Mongolia – Russia border crossings
Tsagaannuur – Tashanta: Crossing between Barnaul and the Mongolian Altai mountains at the Durbet-Daba Pass (49.605155N, 89.465113E – be aware of the 26 kilometers of no man’s land between the Mongolian and Russian border posts). Hours of operation are Mon-Sat, 9-18.
Without your own transport, you can proceed as follows: from Barnaul, take a bus to Gorno Altaysk. From there, a minibus goes to Kosh Agach (about $30), from where you need to get a taxi to Tashanta and here bargain with Mongolian drivers (usually on a Russian UAZ 4WD) waiting to cross the border to get you to Olgii (about $15-20).
You might be lucky to find someone in Kosh-Agach driving straight to Olgii. See here for transport options starting in Kazakhstan.
With your own transport: from the border to Olgii, the first part of the road is gravel, last part tarmac. Take 4 hours to cross.
Russian border guards have been known to question travelers for hours. Crossing reports are welcome here.
Altanbulag – Kyakhta: Main road border crossing between Ulan-Ude and Ulan Bator. It’s open 24/7. There is a daily bus between Ulan-Ude and Ulan Bator. You can also take a train from Ulan-Ude to Naushki and a minibus to Kyakhta, from where you can find transport across the border.
Naushki – Sükhbaatar: The railroad border crossing for the Trans-Mongolian. You will be spending some time here, but luckily most likely at night, so just sleep through it if you can. There is no money changing facility in Naushki, there is in Sukhbaatar.
Mondy – Khankh: Between lake Khovsgol and Irkutsk. Despite much speculation, this border crossing is still bilateral only.
Khandgait – Borshoo: Between lake Uvs and Tuva. Despite much speculation, this border crossing is still bilateral only.
Mongolia – China border crossings
Have a look at our discussion on Chinese border closures to make sure you will not be standing in front of a closed door.
Bulgan – Takashiken: Western crossing between Urumqi and the Mongolian Altai mountains. Open for international travelers, from Monday to Friday 10.30-13.45 and 15.30-18.45 Beijing time. The whole road is nicely paved.
From Mongolia, a van leaves Khovd for Bulgan in the afternoon most days (25$/seat). From there, take a taxi to the border (2,5$), and once across, a taxi or bus to Takashiken or Urumqi. To Urumqi, it will be 7 hours by taxi for approx. 40$/seat, or 10 hours by bus for 30$. To Hovd, 6 hours non-stop from the border (40.000 tugrik). Border to Bulgan is 30 minutes drive. Good report here for backpackers, cyclists should have a look here.
From China, there is a morning and a night bus from Urumqi to Qinghe (a small town 150km from Takeshiken). It takes 8 hours during the day, at night 11 hours – 160 rmb. From Qinghe there are several minivans to Takeshiken waiting at the bus station – 26 rmb, 90 mins. Then it’s 15km more to reach the border, should be a quick 15 rmb cab. After the border, a ride to Bulgan should be easy to find.
The Mongolian border building has a few banks in the basement (unmarked, you have to ask) where you perhaps can exchange your currency (they have different rates, so check them all first – might not accept dollar and need to go to Bulgan to get money). On the Chinese side, the little border town has at least one hotel with good wifi and a few restaurants. In Takashiken there is still the pink\orange hotel, you can bargain on the price. Also possible to find fruit, vegetables, bread in little stores in the street opposite to the hotel.
Bichigt Zuun-Khatavch: Despite some speculation, this border crossing in the east is not open for international travelers.
Zamin Uud – Erlian: Crossing between Ulan Bator and Beijing. Also the rail crossing for the Trans-Mongolian. Works every day between 9 and 19 except public holidays, and whenever a train comes in. Buses, trains and planes run from Beijing to Erlian and there are buses from Hohhot as well. Tour operators in Beijing sell bus transfers from Beijing to Ulan Bator.
You cannot walk across the border, but buses and jeeps are available to take you from Zamin Uud to Erlian or the other way if you are not driving or taking the train. Not sure which is quicker/more comfortable/cheaper.
In Erlian, you can get really cheap rooms (20¥ and 30¥) near the train station.
In Zamin uud, there are a few ATMs and shops near the train station.
Sheveekhuren – Sekhee: This border post does not cater for individual tourists. It is used by several thousand trucks a day exporting coal from Mongolia to China. However, Chinese tourist agents affiliated in that region can arrange for groups crossing this border post into Mongolia. Groups travel through a separate gate, and all arrangements at the border are made by a representative of that tourist agency.