Bulgan - Takashiken border (Mongolia - China)

Is the road, border or area open and accessible to foreigners? Is there danger?
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Christoph
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Re: Bulgan - Tashiken border (Mongolia - China)

Post by Christoph »

We, my wife and me, crossed this border recently in July 2018. And it was not a nice experience:

By the way the town on the Chinese side is called Takashiken (and not Tashiken).

We came by car / jeep from Khovd and had a fantastic trip on an unbelievable good road. We did not go through Bulgan, but directly to the border post, since we were told by our tour agency, that the border was open several hours during day light (from 8.00 - 11.00 and then from 13.00 -16.00). This might be true, if you are crossing with a registered vehicle. Since we were pedestrians (our car from Mongolia was not allowed to cross), we were told, that it was not allowed to walk the border line and that we have to wait for the only daily bus coming from Bulgan, which is allowed to transport passengers through the border and pick-up passengers on the border. What a surprise! The border post was 100 m in distance from the border gate, but there was no way to talk our way through and convince the guards by just walking there. Therefore we had to wait for 4 hours until the said bus showed up. The bus tickets we bought through the help of our Mongolian tour guide and paid at the bank at the Mongolian border side. I suppose that the ticket can also be bought directly from the bus driver, when the bus arrives. The 4 hours waiting was the very down part of our trip - there are no facilities, no shadow at the border - only some very simple basic food stalls mainly for truck drivers. There are no Western style toilets - even the lady working at the bank, had to go a open air loo, which was in a terrible state - even for Mongolian standards. Finally the bus showed up and we made the shortest bus trip of our life - after 2 minutes it was over and we had to walk in the Mongolian border control post - there things went smoothly and after receiving our stamps we entered our bus again and drove to the Chinese border post. And from there on we learned what a government can do in 2018 in order to control its citizen: During our 72 hours trip from Takashiken to Urumqi airport were controlled 22 times.!!! Xinjiang province is currently probably worse than North Korea in terms of being watched, checked and controlled at every moment. It started to look dark already at the first Chinese checkpoint. For 20 minutes my iphone was checked by a border guard -going through all my 4000 photos! Every passenger of the bus (mainly Mongolians) had to go through this procedure. When waiting at the border for the bus we were told by a Hong Kong Chinese, that he was denied to enter the PR China because there was a picture of the Dalai Lama on his phone - Hello! Further on, another border guard took a knife out of my luggage informing that weapons are no allowed to enter the country. Unbelievable - I know - but my knife was confiscated. By the way the small kitchen knife was made in China....After four checks and after almost 2 hours inside the brand new Chinese border building we were allowed to enter the country! We were lucky because a friend from Urumqi had arranged transport on the Chinese side and reserved a hotel. Takashiken is very small and pretty strange (we have traveled to more than 130 countries - and very rarely I rate a place "strange") - nobody speaks English, nobody changes money and the ATM does not accept foreign cards. So come with some Yuan in your pocket. Our friend from Urumqi wire transferred some money to the hotel manager, which handed out to us the cash amount. The most disturbing part of our stay was the permanent presence of police in the town. In the small lonely road of the hotel were sometimes 3 police cars at once. Highlight was when at midnight a police platoon entered suddenly into our hotel room asking what we are doing.

After all our experiences we cannot recommended at this moment this border crossing ,if you are looking for a smooth procedure.

On the other side, if you are interested to see what a perfect police state can do in 2018 with passport scanners, wifi sniffer, iris scanners, millions of cameras and conventional police checks, go and visit Xinjiang province. It is scaring. The Chinese government explains these controls are required because of potential terrorist activities by the Uygurs. Apparently these multiple controls at all times have been increased dramatically in the last months. According to the UN one million Uygurs are currently being held in"reeducation camps".
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Aasver
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Re: Bulgan - Takashiken border (Mongolia - China)

Post by Aasver »

Hello,

About the closure of Bulgan/Takashiken border crossing during the chinese new year holidays 2019,
after some calls it looks that they are officially closed the 5/02, 6/02 and 7/02.

They said they are opened on monday 04/02 and friday 08/02, but it is not sure. The mining company using the border every day said they will not work on friday 8/02 because "nobody knows if the border will be opened", as they said. They will start work again on the 11/02 for sure.

Takashiken border crossing phone numbers (I guess they speak only chinese, but you can try in english...):
+86 0906 883 3110
+86 0906 858 8621

Their WeChat account ID: 塔克什肯边防检查站 (not sure they will reply there, but they give informations sometimes)
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Renangreinert
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Re: Bulgan - Takashiken border (Mongolia - China)

Post by Renangreinert »

Hey everyone,
I've crossed this border from Bulgan to Takashiken today. Here are some updated information:

-I've exchanged some tugriks to yuan in Khovd, at the Khan bank. It is a good idea, since you won't have any ATMs in China until you arrive at Urumqi;
-There are vans and normal cars departuring from Khovd to Bulgan. No need for jeeps anymore, since the road is all asfault now.
-They officially leave at 4pm and arrive in Bulgan at 10pm. But our van delayed 2 hours to leave, so we arrived at midnight.
-The price of the vans is 25000 and the cars are 30000 per passenger. But in the end they placed us in a car and charged us 25000 each.
-There are two hotels in Bulgan: we stayed in the cheaper one (30000 for a single room or 40000 for a double room).
-There is an autobus that leaves from Bulgan to Takashiken at 9am. It costs 15000, and they start selling the tickets at 8am. It is a good idea to but it early, since our bus was almost full.

I am not sure if it is still possible to cross the border walking, but it doesn't seem to be. There were some people at the border who had to jump in our bus to continue.
Exiting from Mongolia was easy. We had to go to a separated room for registering our exit, but it was fast. A police officer spoke good English and guided us in the process.
In the chinese side we were separated from the local travellers. We had our cellphones, computers and cameras checked, but they didn't install anything on them, nor deleted our VPNs. They were only interested in checking the pictures. Then our bags were x-rayed. We had a knife and a gas bottle, but they were not found (or they didnt care). Then we answered some questions about how many days we would stay, where we would visit and so. It was a long process, but people were nice.
After that we made the inmigration, and outside a police officer asked were we would sleep that night. We said that we would stay at Takashiken, and in the next day we would head to Urumqi. He just asked if we would prefer a cheap or a luxurious hotel. We asked for the cheap one. So he said that a police officer would take us there.
Then we continued in the bus, and it stopped like 1,5km before the town. A police car picked us there and took us to the orange hotel (local people had to walk the 1,5km). The price for a double room was 120 yuan. The hotel is good.

Then he said that he would send a car to take us to Urumqi in the next day. We said that we intended to take the night bus to save some money, but no deal: he said that we would have to leave the next day in the morning in that car. So...
I don't know how much will cost that car. The police officer said that it should be around 400 yuan for 2 people.

The hotel has x-ray and a police officer at the door. The police guy said that we could go out for eating or for a walk, but no photos at the town were allowed.

Besides the control, people were nice all the time. We didn't feel it tense, but boring.
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rhinomaxil
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Re: Bulgan - Takashiken border (Mongolia - China)

Post by rhinomaxil »

Hi,

I’ve crossed the Bulgan-Takashiken border on August 28.

If you’re in Ölgiy, you need to find a shared taxi which goes to Bulgan. Go in the morning to the Black Market, in the street next to the museum, where all the shared taxis are. Most of them go to Astana or Hovd/Khovd and you may not be able to find one going to Bulgan on the same day. Although don’t despair as I was told that there would be no taxi to Bulgan in the morning and later found one in the afternoon. Be careful that there are two cities called Bulgan in the region so make it clear that you want to go to Bulgan China. The taxi should cost between 40,000 and 70,000 tugriks depending on the number of passengers. Mine left at 6pm and arrived in Bulgan around 7-8 am after a 3h break for the driver to sleep.

In Bulgan, the driver should drop you in front of the "bus station" where you can buy tickets for the 9am bus that crosses the border. I was there a bit before 8am but it didn’t open before 8:15. As you might have experienced elsewhere in Mongolia, local people don’t really queue so stand close to the door and rush in when it opens.

Then the bus left a little after 9, arrived at the border around 9:30. There was a first stop just before the border where some people rushed out - no need to follow them like I did; apparently there is some traffic at the border because I saw them coming back with hands full of cosmetic goods and yuan bills that they would then give to other passengers.

The Mongolian side of the border was relatively slow but uneventful. As I was the only foreigner, I was taken to a separate room by a lady who took a very long and silent look at my passport, and then gave it back to me.

Once everybody done, you hop back on the bus which drives the 100m no man’s land. Chinese border forces are heavily armed and masked but nothing to fear. One soldier got on the bus before we reach the Chinese border and went straight to me to ask for my passport - but again nothing else happened.

Then you reach a first building where they x-ray you and your luggage. At every stage of the process it is a race between passengers to go first so I recommend you try to sit in front of the bus as much as possible. Because I was held separately at the Mongol border, I was at the back of the bus but the driver made me go first as he is probably aware that I’m likely to be the one he will be waiting for at the end of the process. The X-ray scan was quick and uneventful. A short bus ride later, we reached a second building where they check your passport. When you enter the building, you first need to fill an arrival card immediately on your right (name, passport number, visa number, etc.). Have a pen ready because there was only one available and people were literally pushing each other off the table to fill their form. Then I queued to get my passport check and my stamp.

This is the part where I was the most nervous but everything went fine. It took about 15 minutes (but I’d say it’s about 5-10 minutes for Mongols as well) and they asked me random questions (where are you going? -Urumqi and Kashgar; where will you go next? -Kyrgyzstan; do you know anyone in China? -no; -what is the reason for your visit? - tourism; are you travelling alone? -yes). They also asked me what was a stamp on my passport which was the Moroccan visa. I have stamps and visas from Turkey, Iran, Taiwan among others on my passport and these were not an issue. They didn’t check my phone or my camera, didn’t open my luggage (beyond the x-ray), didn’t confiscate my knife (they did later in the trip when taking the train) or anything and didn’t see my vpn (as they didn’t check my phone). Finally he told me I was not allowed to work in China and gave me back my passport while saying: "Welcome to China". Then there was a final x-ray scan for my luggage and I was out. All in all it was really easy and painless. It was around 12am when we left the Chinese border.

Once all the passengers were out, the bus drove us about 1km out of Takashiken. There I followed all the passengers by foot to what seemed to be big open air market with no restaurants. But just in front of the entrance there are a few restaurants where you can eat good food (coming from Mongolia it’s a treat). Then I was able to find a shared taxi to Urumqi as I didn’t want to spend the night in Takashiken. I don’t know if it’s the Mongols I met at the restaurant who arranged it for me, but the driver just burst in the restaurant at some point saying "taxi Urumqi". We were 7 passengers in the car and it cost me 270¥ although the Mongols from the restaurant had told me it should cost 250¥. The ride to Urumqi was about 10h so we arrived around 2am in Urumqi (but we stopped for a very long time for dinner so this might be faster). The driver didn’t want to drop me off at my hotel so I had to get out in the middle of the highway that crosses the city (not the best experience in the middle of the night when you arrive in a new country so I’d recommend being careful where you’re being dropped off). Then I walked for a bit to Bestay hotel that you can book online for about 120¥ a night. After a day and a half of travel it felt good to be in a bed in China.
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Christoph
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Re: Bulgan - Takashiken border (Mongolia - China)

Post by Christoph »

Great report! Any more controls in Urumqi?
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rhinomaxil
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Re: Bulgan - Takashiken border (Mongolia - China)

Post by rhinomaxil »

Not really. Maybe 2-3 passport checks on the road from Bulgan to Urumqi. Then in Urumqi you have the usual x-ray and passport checks when you enter certain places such as the bus station but I walked around the city freely. I stayed only one day though.
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Nomis97
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Re: Bulgan - Takashiken border (Mongolia - China)

Post by Nomis97 »

I passed the Bulgan border in May 2019 from Mongolia to China. In Bulgan there is a bus leaving twice a day to cross the border (one in the morning and one in the afternoon I think). The ticket office is across the street from a hotel  (coordinates: 46.091449, 91.548299) and you have to buy the tickets just before leaving. They will also give you a sheet of paper that will allow you to cross the border. Don't wait behind the locals in a queue because there is no queue and people are just rushing to the woman in the 'office' to buy a ticket. I was too polite and didn't get one because the bus was full. So I waited until the next day which was good in the end because I camped on a hill next to the town and the views from up there were just amazing.

So the next day the woman in the office recognized me and gave me a ticket immediately. The bus left so that it arrived at the border at the time they opened it. On the mongolian border there were no problems and I was as quick as the locals going through it. At the chinese side I spent about 2 hours meanwhile the locals got through it much quicker. The bus waited for me though.
It was the most excessive border control I have ever seen. They checked all of my fotos taken on my phone as well as on my camera. I don't know if they also installed some sort of spyware on my phone, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did so. They will x-ray your body and your luggage. Surprisingly I could keep the kitchen knife I was taking with me but the apples and oranges I bought in Mongolia were not allowed to cross. In general the chinese officers were polite and even curious about a foreigner crossing the border but they kept asking the same questions over and over again while checking my passport at least a dozen times (Questions were: what are you doing in xinjiang, where do you want to go and how, where do you sleep, when do you leave etc.). I also heared them speaking into their walkietalkies: 'I'm with the german now', so they must have known already everything I told their colleagues before. As soon as the bus stopped in Takeshiken in China I just followed the locals walking to the centre but soon afterwards there was a police car aproaching towards me. They stopped in front of me and asked me to come with them. At the police station they asked me the same questions again. Every officer took a foto of me and they would let me go again. And as if that wasn't enough about half an hour later when I was sitting in a small restaurant another man in uniform sat down infront of me saying he is from some kind of foreigner department. And guess what he asked me: the same questions as all his colleagues before did. In the end I shared a taxi with a mongolian woman going to Urumqi because there were apparently no buses leaving. I'm not quiet sure about the price anymore but it cost more than people were writing in this forum. And the driver tried to get even more money from me when we arrived in Urumqi.
There are checkpoints everywhere in Xinjiang so everybody sitting in the car would have to get out and show their passports like every 100km or so.
So if you want to see it first hand how a police state can work and how the chinese government represses the uyghur people go to Xinjiang. There are no safety issues for tourists at least but it was heartbraking to talk to a uyghur woman in Kashgar who has not seen her father for over 8 years not knowing where he is, and whose male family members did all disappear probably beeing taking to reeducation camps. There were so many empty houses in the old town of Kashgar it was scary.
I don't regret going to Xinjiang because there are glimpses of cultural diversity and poeple living together peacefully with so many different cultural and historical backgrounds. And it was so different to the country I got to know in eastern China. But what the chinese government is doing there in my opinion is a crime and is bordering on a genocide of a muslim minority. But you can visit Xinjiang and form your own opinion.
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Christoph
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Re: Bulgan - Takashiken border (Mongolia - China)

Post by Christoph »

Great Post - Same experience
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