[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

11 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 :).

  1. Hi,
    Do you have and idea about how long does it take to cross that border by bus?
    Seams not to be far, but I just want to be sure.

    Thanks! 🙂

  2. Hi Makey,
    you are right 🙂 It’s not long. Just the bus is around 15 min plus the time you will spend at both borders. For us, all together, it was less than 1 hour. Normally, you can also hichhike and cross the border in the car. We tried, but during 1,5 hour not even one car came as it was just the day before chinesse New Years Eve.
    Good luck! And if you have any other questions – feel free to write it.

  3. Hi Mr. David,
    Is it possible to cross the border by ride the train from Zabaikalsk to Manzhouli only ? (Start from Zabaikalsk and stop in Manzhouli Then) since i saw the train ticket only from Zabaikalsk – Manzhouli.

    Thanks in advance !
    Regards,
    Rudi

    1. Hi Rudi, How are you?
      For sure, it is possible to cross bytrain from Zabaikalsk to Manzhouli only as far as you have the chinese visa ready.
      But if you arrive in Zabaikalsk in a diferent way than the train, it may be easier to take a bus… Faster and cheaper.
      Train between Zabaikalsk and Manzhouli is very long from what we heard.. not because of the distance but because of the different countries.
      Train needs to change the rail system as well as all the administrative part.
      Hope it helps but don’t hesitate if we can help more;
      David

      1. Hi Mr. David,
        I’m fine, thanks
        How about you ?

        And noted with many thanks for your kind info and reply.

        I’ve planned to travell between Asia & Europe without taking the planes ✈️.

        1. Hi!! I am very fine, thank you.
          No worries. How do you plan to reach Zabaikalsk? Fro where? 🙂
          Have you already decided to go there or are you still thinking to go through Mongolia?
          I know, i am curious but I love travelling 🙂
          Regards

          1. Hi Mr. David,

            (1). I plan to reach Zabaikalsk from Chita station.

            (2). I don’t choose Trans-Mongolia route since it’s difficult and wasting time for me as Indonesian citizens to get the Mongolian visa.

            (3). As I known from Google that the train tickets for leaving Russia entering China can’t be purchased online from RZD website. It’s must be purchased on the trains stations offices in Russian territory. Of course it’s impossible for me since I need the train tickets in advance for my Russian/China visa application purpose. If I purchase the long route train tickets from travel agent is pretty expensive so that’s why I decided to purchase the short route train ticket (Zabaikalsk- Manzhouli) from travel agent just for my Russian/China visa application purpose and its ticket price is cheap. I saw it’s only USD 16 for Zabaikalsk- Manzhouli.

            (4). Kindly be informed I don’t have any experience yet in crossing border between countries in my travelling.

  4. And refer to your previous info it’s easier to take a bus-faster & cheaper-, could you please advise me if I could purchase the bus ticket online ?

    Thank you 😉

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