Ok, so today was all about the border crossing. In the body of this post is more information about the experience and process.
Our introduction to driving in Mongolia was pleasant; reasonably decent roads, beautiful scenery that varied between open grass lands and tree lined highway and light traffic.
After some miles we came upon a boom gate across the road and after some interaction with the man at the gate we understood that he wanted us to pay a toll. The problem was that we had no local currency and he would not take Rubbles or Dollars. The solution to this problem was to ask the driver of the vehicle behind us (who was blowing his horn to get us to move) to change some Rubbles into Mongolian Tughrik. Throughout the remainder of our drive to UB we passed through a number of these "toll booths". Though we did notice that paying to use a section of roadway was in no way correlated with the quality of the road.
As we neared Kyakhta (Кяхта) the road forked with the sign pointing right for the town of Kyakhta and the left to МАПП. We were a little confused by this as we thought the border crossing was in the town. Since, in any case, we wanted to get fuel we took the right fork into the town. As we would later discover the left fork would have taken us to the border crossing without having to negotiate the town.
The other small complexity in getting to the border crossing were a series of signs that said Toll in English but said customs таможенный in Russian.
At the border crossing a number of trucks were lined up at the closed entrance gates to the Russian exit port. We waited with the group for a while before an officer opened the gate and allowed 3 or 4 vehicles to enter to start their processing. This seems to be the way it is done; let only a few vehicles in at a time. We specuated later that this is a good way of controlling behaviour as we noticed that no-one in this part of the world seems to understand waiting your turn in line.
For us the Russian exit processing was straight forward (though not fast).
First step was to get a form from the first "station" that gets stamped or signed by a number of different people along the way.
Next was vehicle exit processing. For this we needed to have the originals of the vehicle Temporary Import Document and the Customs Decleration that we got in Vladivostok when we got the truck from the port.
Next was an inspection of the vehicle by the customs inspector. They wanted to see into every storage area in the truck. They were polite but thorough.
With the inspection done, and that form stamped a couple of times, we then proceeded to passport control for our exit stamps. At this stop noone seemed to take any notice of whether our visa had been registered nor did I see anyone examine our entry stamp to see if we had overstayed our "90 days every 180 days" limitation. Though maybe their computer systems do that.
The importance of getting the correct paper work when entering was made very clear by the trouble our Austrian friends from yesterday were having. When they entered Russia they got no paper work for their vehicle and as a result did not have that all important Customs Declaration. When we departed the Mongolian entry station they were still in the Russian exit station discussing their situation. We hope they got it sorted out without too much hassle or cost.
The Mongolian entry processing was also simple in retrospect but felt very confusing while it was happening.
A small office at the entrance gate firstly records details of the vehicle and the drivers passport and hands out a blank form (this will become important in a little while). Meanwhile another officer gave Nina a form for each of us which is the equivalent of an entry card and needed to be filled out.
We then moved the vehicle down to an inspection station where an officer gave us a pretty thorough going over. When finished he stamped that form we had just got.
Then we went inside the main building for passport processing and those entry cards were handed over to the officer.
Customs processing was a bit confusing as we were moved from one desk to another simply by one officer pointing at another officer. But in the end it made sense. First we each filled out a customs declaration form which got stamped. Then as the driver I filled out a form with the details of the vehicle and those details were entered into a hand written ledger. This form seems to be the record that the vehicle was processed by customs.
We had a worry when entering the Mongolian entry station and it was that we would only be given a 30 day entry for the vehicle. We currently have only 30 day visas but plan to extend them for an additional 30 days to have a total of 60 days. Thus we needed the vehicle to also get 60 days. We were worried that the border post would only give the vehicle the same number of days as our initial visas. We think we overcame this issue by putting down 2013/7/28 as our proposed departure date on the vehicle forms.
Then we were done and that first form was stamped by one of the customs officials.
Back at the vehicle the inspector checked that form again to ensure all necessary stamps and/or signatures were on it. Then we drove to the exit gate where that form was finally collected and we were on our way.
Except that is, for the next gate where someone was selling mandatory vehicle insurance. The price started at 2800 Rubbles for one month. But after some discussion he agreed to 2800 for two months. After the insurance form was filled out I noticed that he had put down the dates 2013/5/28 to 2013/6/28. After pointing this out to the seller he simply changed the 6 in the end date to an 8 (2013/8/28). So in the end we got 3 months insurance for 2800 Rubbles - it is probably only worth $1.
Our nights camping place was simply a place on the grass about 20 yards off the road. We had a couple of sets of visitors during the remaining daylight hours but they were only people curious about the vehicle.