Following on from my previous post about the worst travel mistake I have ever made, I had successfully made it into China! Once I found my hostel, the real research began because I desperately needed to figure out how to get a Mongolian tourist visa outside of my home country.
Spoiler alert, I did it! And in this post, I’m going to walk you through step by step how to get a Mongolian visa in China.
In fact, getting my visa in China was actually cheaper and way faster than if I had applied at home. So if you’re in a similar situation, I highly recommend this hack!
1. Can Australians be granted Mongolian tourist visas in China?
The short answer is YES, you CAN apply for a Mongolia Visa outside your home country as I did in China.
Many people told me that it wasn’t possible and that if I wanted to go to Mongolia I would have to return to Australia and apply from there.
Below you can read all about the reason I was in this predicament and my personal experience with resolving it. But for those of you who want the cliff notes, when I booked my trip to Mongolia I was already abroad, I checked the visa requirements at the time (a few months before I was actually going to be flying to Mongolia), and at the time, Australians didn’t require a visa.
Fast forward a few months, and I was denied boarding when attempting to check in at the airport. The regulations had changed and Australians now needed a prearranged tourist visa to enter Mongolia.
Determined as I was, despite everyone telling me it wasn’t possible, I rebooked my flights, continued onto China as planned and prayed that I could find a solution to my problem in the 5 days I was allowed to be in Bejing.
2. How to Apply for a Mongolian Tourist Visa in China
Once I landed in China it was go go go to figure out how to make this trip happen. As you know, it was quite successful and I proved once and for all that it is possible to get a Mongolian tourist visa in China.
Note I did this in Bejing, it may or may not be a similar process at other Mongolian embassies but I would say it’s worth a try!
Here are the step-by-step instructions to help you do the same.
Step 1. Check you are not from one of the Mongolian Visa Free countries
This may seem obvious but the list seems to change often so it’s worth double and triple checking before putting yourself through the stress of this process in the first place.
Checking the list was the first thing my American friend Kelly did when I told her about my situation (at that time she was fine and Americans didn’t need a visa).
Step 2. Make sure you can cover the Mongolian visa cost
At the time of writing, the express Mongolian Visa in China costs around $85 USD for a regular visa (processed in 3-5 days).
This is actually less than it costs to process this visa at a Mongolian embassy in Australia
Of course, the prices may also change frequently so if you’re on a budget, double-check that it is within your reach.
Step 3. Gather your documents
You need a few different things to get a Mongolian visa in China, make sure you have all of these before heading to the office.
Otherwise, they will reject your application.
- FULL PAGE (this is important) Photocopy of the ID page of your passport
- Passport Photo
When providing a photocopy of your passport, it not only has to be a large and good quality photo copy, but the piece of paper itself needs to be A4.
I always travel with a photocopy of my passport but I had trimmed the edges slightly to make it fit inside my travel wallet. So it was rejected at the window and I had to go on a wild goose chase to get aother copy.
(You receive and fill out the application form at the embassy)
Step 4. Go to the Mongolian Embassy, before opening!
It’s advised to go early as often there are nearly always tour guides waiting with folders full of applications. The visa processing centre only accepts a certain number of applications per day on a first come first served basis.
You don’t have to go crazy early but 15 mins before opening should be plenty and as previously mentioned, bring a pen!
NOTE: When you arrive at the embassy you don’t actually have to go in. You are looking for a little tin awning above 3 windows.
The embassy is quite big but the visa windows are located on the side of the embassy closest to the train station. Once you see it you will know you’re in the right place so continue to follow the parameter of the compound until you find it.
Step 5. Get an application form & fill it in
Approach the far right window and ask for the application form.
There are a couple of little standing tables outside where you can fill out the form, but there are no pens provided (that’s why I added it to the list of things to bring!).
Try and fill the form out as quickly as possible so you can get back to the counter and be high on the list for application processing.
If you want the express option of same-day pick-up, remember to tick the correct box!
Step 6. Hand in documents and application
Once you’re done filling it in, go back to the right window and hand over all your documents plus the application form.
Move to the middle window and wait for confirmation. If there is anything wrong with your application or you need most documents, they will let you know and you will have to fix it and try again.
The people I spoke to didn’t really speak English very well so make sure to have google translate downloaded and offline on your phone in case you need clarification.
Step 7. Pay for your visa
After confirmation, you will be pointed to the 3rd window where you pay and receive a receipt.
They will also tell you when to return and pick up your passport so pay attention.
Make sure you DON’T LOSE THE RECEIPT! You will need this and another form of photo ID (like a driver’s license) to pick up your passport.
3. My Experience Getting a Mongolian Tourist Visa Outside of my Home Country
After being rejected at the check-in desk in Japan, I knew I needed to find a solution to get my travels back on track.
Normally I would be pretty flexible with my travels so I could have gone somewhere else, but the reason this was so important was because I was meeting my friend Kelly in China to then travel through Mongolia and onto Russia for the Transiberian railway.
So, I had already calculated that the only way to get from China to Irkutsk (my starting point in Russia) whilst avoiding Mongolia, would be approximately $1100 in flights via Hong Kong.
In addition to the money I would lose for pre-purchased tickets, this would not be possible on my backpacker budget.
So I began googling how I could obtain a Mongolian Visa in the next few days. It was (unsurprisingly) difficult to find any real official information on the application process in Beijing or even whether non-nationals could even apply outside their country of residence.
Luckily, I found an old blog post from an Australian couple, who had successfully done just that and received a Mongolian visa in Beijing in 4 working days.
Cutting it fine considering I only had a transit visa (maximum 5 days), but I had to give it a try, even if I would have to book a new flight to Mongolia.
Finally, a tiny piece of hope! So, trusting in this one, 4-year-old article, I was the first to arrive at the Mongolian embassy, 3 mins before it opened the next day.
I asked for the form from the window (as instructed by the blog), filled it in, and presented the woman with my passport, application form, passport photo and photocopy.
Apparently, my photocopy wasn’t good enough as it wasn’t a full page, and thus, I was sent on a wild goose chase of the diplomatic region in Bejing for a photocopier…
The woman told me (with very little English) to go to the Austrian embassy to use a photocopier.
So I walked in the direction I was pointed and asked the security. Of course, the security guard didn’t speak English either, and even with the help of Google Translate, was still confused.
Eventually, I was sent around the corner to the office for diplomatic appointments at the embassy. Here, there were a bunch of German-speaking, official-looking men, in suits, lingering outside the door (I guess waiting for it to open).
Turns out, to access this office, you must be a diplomat AND have an appointment. Quite Obviously, I didn’t have either of those qualifications.
After a while, despite not having an appointment, I was let in to talk to an official, simply because no one could understand what I was asking for and why I was there.
The nice Austrian lady told me they couldn’t do anything to help me and basically said the Mongolian employees were crazy to send me there. Adding the question, “Why would you want to go to Mongolia anyway, it’s too cold?”.
Turns out, there IS a small photocopy shop, set up in a little shack, down a dodgy ally way, directly across the road from the Austrian Embassy’s office. This is where I was supposed to go all along, but no one thought to mention it…
After heading back to the Mongolian embassy, now with everything in hand, as I am handing over ALL my forms now with the correct size photocopy, at the last second I realise there is an express option on the visa form, processing it in under 8 hours and picked up the same day!
The last 24 hours really had turned around now!!
$130 AUD and 5 hours later, I collected my passport with my shiny new Mongolian visa and practically danced down the street knowing I wouldn’t have to miss my flight after all!
Frequently Asked Questions about Mongolian Tourist Visas
Can you get a Mongolian Tourist Visa outside of your home country?
Yes, you can get a Mongolian visa outside of your own country. In this post, I outlined how to get one in China but it is also possible in other countries.
Who needs a tourist visa for Mongolian?
The list changes often so you need to check the updated information on the Mongolian visa website.
Is Mongolia safe for tourists?
Yes, Mongolia is safe for tourists from many countries. The people are very friendly and hospitable but as with any country, you should still always be viligent when protecting your belongings from thieves.
Can you get a Mongolian Visa on arrival?
Some nationalities are able to get a tourist visa to Mongolia on arrival however not everyone is eligible.
Hotels.com - Another great place to find a hotel with specific requirements for your trip.
Agoda - Best for booking hotels in Asia. Has options worldwide however in Asia it seems to have the most options of all the booking sites.
Hostelworld - Perfect for backpackers, Hostelworld is my go-to to find dorm rooms and cheap, social accommodation options.
Discover Car Hire - Another option to compare rental car companies and providers worldwide.
Sixt - Previously “Thrifty” car rentals.
Europcar - Offers car and van hire around the world.
AutoEurope - Best place to find RV’s to rent for your trip.
Paul Camper - Rent campervans directly from their owners at reduced prices.
Viator - Preferred by US providers so sometimes has a bigger range of activities in select locations.
Klook - Most popular in Asia, you will find a bigger range of attractions and tours in the region of Asia on Klook.
Civitatis - Specializing in European Cities. Although it provides tours worldwide, always check here for additional options if visiting Europe.
HeadOut - Best place to find discounted attraction tickets.
Tiqets - Offers a lot of combo tickets. Make sure to visit if you are planning on visiting a few iconic attractions within a city.
Tripaneer - Where to go if you want to book retreats of any kind (yoga, cycling, outdoors etc).
Guru Walks - Book your spot on a free walking tour.
G Adventure - Lets you compare multi day tours around the world to pick the right itinerary for you.
Cruise Critic - Check out the different cruise options for long or short trips world wide.
Cruise Direct - Another option for comparing and booking cruises for your trip.
Helly Hanson - Norwegian based clothing brand which produces durable outdoor clothing, particularly ski gear.
The North Face - High quality clothing for all your outdoor adventure needs.
Decathlon - Has a great range of cheap equipment and clothing for a huge range of sports and outdoor activities.
Sport Chek - Everything you need for general sports and outdoor adventures under one roof (or website).
Kiwi - Best platform for comparing different routes and dates.
Flixbus - Cheapest bus service mostly serving Europe but available in a few other destinations.
Greyhound - US long distance bus transport service.
Busbud - Compare and find all the bus times and providers for your chosen route.
Trainline - Find train times and tickets for long distance travel around the world.
Save a train - Another place to get train tickets and compare services for your destination.
Welcome Pickups - Pre book your airport transfer to your hotel.
Get Transfer - Another option to find airport transfers within your destination city.
Kiwi Taxi - Find and pre-book a taxi service in your location (including airport transfers).