[Practical Information] How to cross the border between Russia and China – without going to Mongolia?

Russia China Border Zabaikalsk

When we decided to go from Russia to China, we started to have a look on travel forums to get information about the border… To be honest, whatever the language (English, Polish and French) we did not get too much information… It was really poor and very difficult to figure out how is to cross the border.

Well, we were brave enough to try it… thinking that “whatever it is, for sure, we will be able to cross it” 🙂 .

A border you can cross ONLY by vehicle (car, bus, train) – no WALKING

Russia China Border Zabaikalsk

Here you have few tips – please remember that we crossed it in January:

You have at least 3 possibilities:

  1. THE EASIEST SOLUTION but THE MOST EXPENSIVE

Take the transmandchourian from a city in Russia (Moscou, Irkustk, Ulan Ude, Tchita for example) to a city in China (Harbin or Beijing seem to be the biggest ones on the Chines side of the line). From what we know, you have to buy the ticket in Russia from a Railway station… Easy to buy. You just need to show your passport and the chinese visa.

For example, from Ulan Ude to Beijing in the 2nd class, it is around 285€ per person (18000 RUB) – around 61h.

After using the 3rd class before, we found the 2nd class as a VIP/Premium Class. Everything is very clean, very quiet, very luxuary (especially in the transmandchourian). Unfortunately, it is very quiet and there is almost no possibility to meet people.

Russia Transsiberian 2nd Class
China Harbin Train

2. THE CONVENIENT SOLUTION

You can take the train from a city in Russia and get out in ZABAIKALSK (the last city in Russia before the border)

  • 1/ Transmandchourian as above to Zabaikalsk
  • 2/ You have some cheeper daily trains from Tchita to Zabaikalsk (you can also have some cheaper trains from Ulan Ude – but not sure if it is everyday)

From the train station, you can easily go to bus station walking (1 km) and take the bus to Manzhouli. This bus will make you cross the border – Russian and chine sides and bring to Manzhouli city center.

The price of the bus is around 500 RUB.

Once you arrive in Manzhouli, you have a train station from where you can get a train to Harbin or Beijing or somewhere else.

From Manzhouli to Harbin, Hard Sleeper, 31€ (230 yuan), 13h train.

We unfortunately miss the frequency of the bus in Zabaikalsk but what we know is that the last bus is at 8pm…

Russia China Border Zabaikalsk
Russia China Border Zabaikalsk

3. THE MOST ADVENTUROUS SOLUTION

You stop at Zabaikalsk. From the train station, you try to go to the border 🙂 . You can get a taxi (price can be quite expensive, we don't know it), walk (quite far away) or hitchhike. Once you arrive to the border, you need to hitchhike one more time to find a car that will make you cross the border. We heard that at some season, it is really easy to do it as a lot of cars are crossing between the two countries for trading. For us, as it was before the new year’s eve, it was not the case. Very quiet.

Russia China Border Zabaikalsk

For us, we finally get out from the train in Zabaikalsk. We found someone (a really nice old lady that had a bit pity for us) that took us to the border because we had 5 hours to wait for the bus. At the border, we waited for 1h30 in the wind and the cold (-25°C) for a car but we did not get one…At the end, a bus coming from Mandzouli and going back after to China took us and we crossed the border.

In Manzhouli, we easily got a taxi to get to the train station… From the train station we got a train in 3rd Class (which is a Hard Sleeper in China) for 60€ (2 tickets). We have the train in 2 hours. Just a bit of time to go outside of the train station, go for a restaurant and try our first noodle dish in China. Miam! Delicious! A real pleasure!!

At the end, this border was quite challenging for us but a nice experience… We were a bit desesperate that we would never be able to cross when we were waiting outside by -20°C but this is for sure a winter effect.

One more thing, we had been so surprised to see the difference between Zabaikalsk and Manzhouli. If chinese city is very modern, very big, very lightful… the Russian city is a phantom city. Everything is destroyed, in wooden, close to be a ruin. It was a real shock to see the difference between both especially they are less than 10 km distance.

From an administrative point of view, it was very easy to cross the border. In Russia, it took us 10 minutes… checking our passports and visa. In China, it took maybe 15 minutes but just because they were surprised and happy to have some passports from Poland and France. The guy at the desk called all his colleagues to show the passports and laugh a bit 🙂 Interesting!  Anyway, it took us 40 minutes all together for the 2 borders… Very fast ! Who could believe it 🙂

China Manzhouli
China Manzhouli border
China Manzhouli Restaurant
China Manzhouli Restaurant
China Train Ticket
China Harbin Train
China Manzhouli Train station

3 thoughts on “[Practical Information] How to cross the border between Russia and China – without going to Mongolia?

    1. Hi Katherine! Nope, we unfortunately did not find neither. At the small bus station of Zabaikalsk, there was not timetable neither. We just remember that at this period (winter time), the lady told us the last bus will be at 6pm. As we arrived very early 1pm, this is why we decided to try in different way and not wait 5hours doing nothing at the bus station :).

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