Getting there & away
Minivans and jeeps run along the good road between Ulaanbaatar and Choibalsan daily (T20, 000, 655km), departing Ulaanbaatar from the Naran Tuul jeep station. Minivans depart Choibalsan in the morning from the Teeveriin Tovchoo parking lot at the eastern end of town. Daily vans and the odd jeep to Öndörkhaan (T10, 000, 324km), Baruun-Urt (T10, 000, 191km) and, less frequently, nearby sums such as Bayandun (T8000) leave from the same lot or from the market. You can charter a jeep for T450 per kilometre.
Postal minivans travel to Khalkhiin Gol (T10, 500, Wednesday), Dashbalbar (T6500, Monday), Bayandun (T6300, Tuesday) and Bayan Uul (T7200, Wednesday).
The roads in the northern part of Dornod are often buried under mud in late summer, but roads to the other eastern aimag capitals are OK. The border crossing into Russia from Chuluunkhoroot was opened to foreigners in 2004, although so far it sees little traffic.
A direct rail line from Choibalsan to Russia was built in 1939 to facilitate the joint Soviet–Mongolian war effort against Japan. It still functions, albeit only twice weekly. As a foreigner, you can go as far as Chuluunkhoroot on the Mongolian side of the border (no permit is apparently required), but the train no longer carries passengers across the border and only travels to Russia to pick up fuel.
The train leaves Choibalsan at 4pm every Monday and Thursday and takes seven hours. The return trip leaves Chuluunkhoroot at 8.30pm on Tuesday and Friday. These times will almost certainly change and you may be told that the train takes only cargo. Call for more info at the station (21502). Tickets cost T2000 for hard seat (the only class).
The train moves very slowly but this remains one of the most unique experiences you can have in Mongolia. Take food and plenty of water as the carriage can get stiflingly hot during the day.
The train station is about 7km northeast of the centre. You can reach the station by bus, but go early, because close to departure time the buses make a sardine tin look spacious.
Choibalsan is a large city by Mongolian standards, so hitching a ride on a truck or any other vehicle in or out of the city should not be difficult. Hang around the market and keep asking.
AeroMongolia (9958 8735) has an office in the Kherlen hotel building. It flies here from Ulaanbaatar three days a week (US$119/212 one way/return). EZ Nis (21177, 9904 9934) is in a building near the Trade & Development Bank. It also flies here three days a week (US$131/236 one way/return). The airport is about 10km east of the centre; buses, jeeps and minivans sometimes go there.