How long can Russian and Mongolian bureaucracy keep you hostage?

By November 10, 2016Asia, Europe, Mongolia, Russia

Since my dad and I are using the Trans-Siberian train to travel between Moscow to Mongolia and then back to Russia to continue our eastward adventure, we had to clear in and out of Russia and Mongolia twice.

Customs guys checking away

Look here comes someone else to check something!!!!

Trust me when I say I understand how bureaucracy creeps in whenever you travel from one country to the next due to my charters, but I do believe stereo typically the Russians are renowned for taking bureaucracy to whole new level. I would love to be able to refute this stereotype, but sadly this blog will simply reinforce it.

The first time our train pulled into the Russian check point around 8pm and we spent almost two hours as a parade of officials came aboard. First there was a guy that asked to see our passport and visas, then handed them back, and left. I was thinking wow that was simple. Haha the joke was on me, apparently his sole job was to make sure we had a passport. Next by went a dog and handler (drug sniffing I assume) and then we had the immigrations lady stop by and the inspection was on. She looked closely at me, my passport photo, and my visa photo (much closer than any other country). Once she was sure I was me, she went to work on my passport, visa, and various stamps I had. To do this she used a magnifying glass to go over what seemed like every inch of the book. Once satisfied she finally stamped an exit stamp in the passport and took my declaration form from when I checked in at the airport.

Whee, done!?! Not quite! Now comes the customs guy that says to exit the cabin as he searches under the bed, in the heater, under the overhead storage, in the radiator across the hall, and who knows where else. His partner followed and asked to see our bags and chose one at random and we had to open it up so he could see the dirty laundry we were smuggling.

Customs stop

Look where we got to spend 5 hours. how exciting!!!!

Ok, now we are done, I mean it this time, except that was just the Russian side of the boarder. AND that was to leave the country. Once we got to the Mongolian check point we had to go through the same process except they actually took all the passports with them and returned them when they were done.

That was a four hour lesson in bureaucracy, which I thought was quite enough but apparently they did not (or they wanted to test my patience) because on our return to Russia after a week in Mongolia we reversed the process. This time the process took nine hours. Yes, you read that correctly NINE HOURS!!!! Of course not one of the officials smiled and on the way back I tried my hardest to be polite and friendly to see if I could get the Russian immigration lady to smile, by saying “good morning”, “I like your nails”, “thank you”, and “have a nice day”. I am pretty sure they will get fired if they even attempt to smile, so my mission was a failure. So sad.

The worst part for my father was that they locked you out of the restrooms on the train thirty minutes before arriving at the station and keep you in your cabin until the check in or out is complete for you (luckily not the entire time). At that time, they will allow you to exit the train and use the station’s toilet, for a fee! It was not much but my dad is convinced it is a conspiracy between the station and the train to make him pay.

Now it is time for this blog document my time traveling among the nomadic locals of Mongolia and I hope you are as intrigued as I am and will continue to return each day. You can also LIKE me on Facebook, FOLLOW me on Instagram, or SUBSCRIBE to me on YouTube so you don’t miss any of my adventures as we explore this last truly nomadic country.

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