Erlian (二连; Èrlián) is a city in Inner Mongolia. It is also variously known as Ereen or Eriyen in Mongolia, and Erenhot or Erlianhaote (二连浩特; Èrliánhàotè) in China. It appears as Erlian on Chinese railway timetables, and Ereen on Monglian railway timetables.
There is a direct flight Beijing-Erlian (Erenhot Shi, code ERL) via Capital Airlines, China.
From Erlian to Hohhot a 40-minute flight was just over ¥170 (Sep 2016).
There is a free airport bus from the airport to the city centre.
There are trains from Beijing. The train station is on the eastern border of the town. Tickets can be purchased at the station 20 days in advance, or from almost any tourist/travel centre 5 days in advance. Prices are controlled by the government and there should only be a ¥10 commission on the sale if you buy it from a 3rd party agent.
Train #K23 departs from Beijing at 11:22 arriving in Erlian at 22:30 shared hard berth ¥200 (March 2016).
You can get from Zamiin-Uud in Mongolia to Erlian by train on the international train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar as described in Zamiin-Uud. From Moscow and other major Russian cities along the track, you can take the weekly train 43, aka the "Trans-Mongolian", to Erlian.
As of May 2023, the Trans-Mongolian service has been paused indefinitely, and there are no direct train service to Beijing or Zamiin-Uud for the time being. From Beijing other major cities, one can take a train to Jining and change to a local train.
Trains to Beijing only run a few days a week. If you are doing a visa run from Beijing, find out when trains will be coming back before going to Erlian. Train tickets can typically be purchased at the train station five days before the train is scheduled to leave, ten days during Chinese New Year (2010). If you are traveling from Beijing to renew a visa, return tickets can not be purchased in Beijing.
There are sleeper buses from Beijing. (¥200, 2011) The long-distance bus station is nearby, about one block west and 2-3 blocks north of the train station.
You can take a bus from Hohhot. There are several buses each day for ¥95 (2017). Depending on the traffic the trip is about 6 hours and 30 minutes. Bus stops for the driver to eat, but there is not much choice so bring some snacks.
The bus station was closed for Chinese New Year until Feb 19 (2010).
You can get from Zamiin-Uud in Mongolia by jeep, which costs around ¥50 per person (July 2009). Russian-made jeeps driven by Mongolian drivers start at the market where Mongolians buy goods to take back to Mongolia. The same jeeps also pick up passengers at the first border checkpoint with Chinese guards if they have room. At the border a jeep will arrive every few minutes. A Chinese taxi can take you to this checkpoint for ¥5-10. The jeeps are allowed to carry 5 passengers; however, some drivers ask the Chinese guards for exceptions and carry up to 7 passengers. If taking a jeep, expect to be very crowded and to either sit on someone's lap or someone on yours. Get out of the jeep at the Chinese and Mongolian entry points and walk through. Be sure to remember which jeep is yours as they come in only two colours (grey and green) and look nearly identical to each other. Many Mongolians cross the border on a daily basis so they are familiar with the process and can help out. Many speak at least some English.
You are not allowed to walk between the Chinese and Mongolian border posts though they are within walking distance. You will need to pay a ¥5 exit tax. The process takes around 1½ hours.
On some holidays (e.g. 1 June, Children's Day), the border is closed and you may be forced to stay a day longer than prepared. It may happen that a driver still offers you a lift, then notices at the border that it isn't possible and still wants to charge you for it.
Taxis, pedicabs and rickshaws are everywhere. A taxi around town costs ¥5 flat rate or ¥10 to the border from town (February 2010). The number one bus also will take you from town to the border for ¥1.
- Dinosaur Museum (7 km from the centre of Erlian). This is a cool attraction and outdoor park. There are several exhibits and large outdoor gardens. It takes 2-4 hours to see all the exhibits and gardens. To get to the museum a taxi will cost around ¥40 one way or ¥100 to have the taxi wait for you and take you both ways.
- (Konlongmudi). Large replicas of dinosaur skeletons
- Sculpture. There is a giant at the intersection of the main roads, one running east-west from the train station, the other north-south.
- Dinosaur Plaza (Towards the center of town). There is a large plaza near the centre of town that was under construction (2017). There looks like there is potential for a nice plaza with a dinosaur theme. There is loads of shopping all around. There was a fair in the plaza (July 2017). Several street barbecues set up every night just south of the plaza.
- Erlian Grassland Tour Loop. It is possible to use Erlian as the starting point for the Erlian Grassland Tour Loop itinerary.
Antiques (of suspect age) and touristy knickknacks, at the alleys of gift shops at the north-east corner of 新华街 (mislabeled as Xinghua Street) and 前进路 (Qianjin Road).
- Central Market (The market can be found directly across the street from the dinosaur square.). There is a large indoor market with many small shops selling all sorts of goods from clothes to power tools. There are also many outdoor stores next to the market. There are many large shopping centers in the area also. There are money changers at the east entrance who will give you a decent exchange rate for Mongolian money if needed.
The Mongolian restaurant in the bus station complex (on the left side) has excellent food with reasonable prices and a picture menu. They also have some imported items from Mongolia and ¥1 lockers if you don't want to lug your bag around. Most of the clientele are Mongolians and many of the waitstaff don't speak Mandarin so you know it's authentic!
There are also Muslim restaurants opened by the Hui Muslims of China.
There are many barbecue places on Xilin street that set up outside dinning and start getting busy around 19:30.
There are many smaller hotels around the train station costing ¥50-60 for a double.
- Ruyi International Mansion. The biggest hotel in Erlian Rooms start at ¥330.
- Geely Hotel (吉利旅店) (It is located close to the corner of Xilin Street (锡林街) and Tuanje Road (团结路) It is only marked in Chinese and hard to spot.). This was the nicest "affordable" hotel within walking distance of the bus station. Clean rooms, air-con and good Wifi. ¥80 for a triple.
- Xilinhot, also known as Xilin Gol (锡林郭勒盟). There is only one bus departing in the early morning (around 07:00). It is a scenic bus drive over the dirt grassland roads for about 12 hours to this city of over 200,000 people. Continuing on to Jining by bus is an inexpensive way of doing a self-guided grasslands tour.
- Zamiin-Uud, for onward travel to the rest of Mongolia. Head to the International Bus Station (二连国际汽车站) to buy a ticket to the Zamiin-Uud train station (¥50 per person, June 2023). Buses leave every hour or so. Get off at the Chinese border post to cross Chinese immigration, board the same bus again, get off at the Mongolia border post to cross Mongolian immigration, then board the bus one last time to get to the train station. The buses, drivers, and most passengers are Mongolian. Do not expect any English, or even Mandarin proficiency.
Get a Mongolian visa either from:
- CITS (when open)
- Costs ¥495. You drop it off at 09:00 and pick up at 15:00.
- The Mongolian Consulate
- No.1206, Youyi Beilu Erlianhaote
- Open M-F 08:30-12:00. Same-day processing costs ¥465.
The visa will last for 30 days. You will need one passport photo and to pay with cash. The prices above apply to most, but not all nationalities. For a full list see the Mongolian Embassy in China website[dead link].
Directions from the train station: Walk straight ahead along the road that runs directly in front of the clock outside the train station until you reach the second junction. The CITS will be on the left hand corner. Turn right here, then walk straight ahead for about five minutes. When you get to Chichaer St you will see the beige bus station down the street on the left, but continue walking straight ahead for a about another ten minutes until you see the blue, red and yellow Mongolian flag on the left. Do not worry if it seems like you have walked a bit outside town, you are meant to. Go to the small office at the gate.
During Chinese New Year, the border (18 Feb) and the Mongolian Consulate (22 Feb) were both closed. (2010)
One Australian was able to obtain a visa at the border while the consulate in town was closed during Chinese New Year but this process did not seem to be encouraged and may not be typically available.
For residents of Beijing, a trip to Erlian is the cheapest way to leave the country and renew a multiple entry visa (a visa run) but is less straight forward than a trip to Hong Kong or Seoul, Korea. Most people in town and at the border do not speak any English so some basic Chinese is very helpful.
|Routes through Erlian|
|Irkutsk ← Ulaanbaatar ← Zamiin-Uud ←||N S||→ Hohhot → Beijing|