I realised I had omitted a very important part of the Trans Siberian narrative – the border crossing from Mongolia into Russia.
It’s very crucial that you read this should you be planning a similar trip, because in the words of a Singaporean, Russian passport control is “No joke one eh”/ (no laughing matter).
This should be a continuation from: Trans Siberian Tales: Why Chinese do not like Mongolians?
The Trans Siberian further takes us to Suhe Bator at the Mongolian border. By then, it was nightfall. We cleared customs in no time.
This is where I must emphasize – that you should take a pee before you reach the Russian border of Naushki. This is because the customs checks will take about 3 hours and the train toilets will be locked.
Unlike at the Chinese border, I would say it’s not advisable to get down, unless you really have to use the toilet. Primarily because it will be quite cold outside and most people speak only Russian, so it might be inconvenient to ask for directions if you don’t know the language.
We arrived at the Russian border at about midnight (Russian Time). There is a change of timezones from Mongolia to Russia. Naushki and Irkutsk are one hour ahead of Mongolia.
Controls at the Russian border is much tighter than any of the other border crossings. You have got to bring down all your luggage from the upper berths for them to do a check. Most importantly, have a valid Visa.
The Russian officials speak very little English, but there is one who can speak fluent Mandarin.
The lady who was stamping the passports said my travelling companion did not look like the photo in his passport, and she did make her point quite clear in a stern sort of way. The team of officials then grouped together and had a discussion. They asked my companion if he had another photo ID as a means of identification. Unfortunately, he had none.
They stamped his passport in the end, after having a lengthy discussion through walkie-talkie, doing some checks based on the passport and visa number.
Therefore a wee tip – bring an additional piece of photo ID with you, like your driving license. It will come in useful in such situations : )
The train finally moves off at 2.30am, much later than the day before, at the China -Mongolian crossing. After waiting like gazillion years to use the toilet and brush teeth, we scrambled out of bed (our berths) and did the necessary. It was a long night.
We reached Irkutsk the next day at 3.40pm local time.
Check out the next post on: Irkutsk, around and about: A Photo Story.