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Besides the direct train which runs twice a week (and, unfortunately, doesn't fit our planned schedule) what other options do we have to make the journey from Almaty to Urumqi by train/bus within a day/24 hours? We have a flight out of Urumqi on the 27th of October and would like to arrive the day (night) before to give us enough buffer.

I plan to split the journey into two parts, first, taking a Kazakh train from Almaty to the border at Khorgas and then a Chinese train from Khorgas (on the Chinese side it is called Huoerguosi) to Urumqi.

I have researched a few options but struggle to confirm their actual availability. First, there's Lonely Planet citing two daily connections between Almaty and Khorgas:

To get to the border at Khorgos, go to Almaty-I and either take daily train 702 at 8.01am (3483T, 3¾ hours) or train 394 at 11.51pm (2422T, 5¼ hours). A 15-minute bus transfer to the Khorgos border is included in the fare.

This information is cited on various travel forums but I couldn't find either train on www.railways.kz or any other online schedule so I assume this information is outdated.

A similar option (as pointed out by the Lonely Planet) is to take the train to Khorgas but then continue on a bus or taxi to Yining. How frequently do these busses run or how easy is it to get a taxi? How much would it cost and most importantly, how much time would we need to plan to make our way from the border to Yining, i.e. which onward train to Urumqi can we realistically aim for?

I can find multiple Chinese train connections from both Yining and Huoerguosi (Khorgas) to Urumqi (K544, K1338, K9710, K9718, K9790, T206, Y952), for example on www.trip.com.

On the Kazakh side, the trains I found for the route between Almaty and Altynkol on www.railways.kz and tutu.travel are 393T (00:50-7:34) which runs every second day and 886X/6986Х/7086X (8:36-15:11) which operates daily. Can someone confirm this information?

If these timings are accurate how can we bridge the gap between Altynkol and Khorgas/Yining? Is there transportation available and how much time do we need to plan for crossing the border? I didn't find any information about potential border closures but maybe someone can share their experience crossing at Khorgas on a weekend.

Lastly, for further research, could anyone confirm the Kazakh and Chinese names for Khorgas/Khorgos/Korgas/Qorǵas?

This question covers the same route but I am explicitly asking for a different connection.

Update I found the bus from Almaty to Urumqi on Sayran's webpage. There's a daily connection at 7:10 (if I click on the details it says 7:00). There's not as much information as for other connections but it appears as the bus stops at Khorgos (I don't know which side of the border though, and whether it's possible to get out and continue by train from there). It's a 24 hours ride for 16000 tenge.

Almaty-Urumqi bus

Details of Almaty-Urumqi bus

There's also a connection from Almaty to Zharkent (2000 tenge) every other day at 9:20 (again the detailed information mentions 9 am sharp): Almaty-Zharkent bus

[...] Zharkent, from where a bus to China leaves twice a day, while minibuses leave when full (average wait 2-3 hours, less in weekend).

There's also a report about someone making the trip from Almaty to Yining by bus.

Source

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First of all, the Khorgos border is no longer operational:

Since late 2018, the former Khorgos border crossing is no longer active and now only functions as a Special Economic Zone with discount shopping and tacky tourist attractions. The new border is called Nur Zholy and lies a few kilometers south of Khorgos. It is not yet marked on the map: follow the main new highway from Almaty and you will get there.

(Source)

The border opens at 10:30. The border is also quick to cross with freight vehicles taking less than 40 minutes and the automobile check point is quite sophisticated:

The ‘Nur Zholy’ automobile checkpoint and the new transport and logistics center are one of the largest in the Commonwealth of Independent States. It has no alternatives in terms of the technical equipment, speed of transportation of goods and control systems. Therefore, the new modern transport and logistics center has a great future, experts say.

(Source)

From Almaty to Nur Zholy there is a bus:

I went to the border directly with a taxi: 35 yuan. After exiting China, there is a Kazakh bus that goes STRAIGHT to Almaty (you must buy the ticket on the spot because the bus starts in the no man's land, this bus never touchs Chinese territory) It is then possible to skip Zharkent!! Price of the bus: 100yuan (I feel I could have bargained)

(I assume this bus runs vice-versa, Source)

And then to get to Urumqi:

These guys arrived to Huo er guo si' and went to the city bus station. They took a bus which drove them to the Chinese border, and then crossed to Zharkent.

In my case, I went to the border directly with a taxi: 35 yuan.

(Source)

  • Thanks, I saw the reports on the pages you link to. Can anyone confirm whether the Nur Zholy <> Almaty bus actually runs in the opposite direction? I'm a bit hesitant to just assume this. Which bus station would it depart from in Almaty? I'd still prefer the train but I'm fine with this as well if there's no other option. I just want to clarify things beforehand. Without a reliable connection to the border, my whole itinerary becomes a bit risky. – martin Aug 27 at 7:16
  • @martin I’ll have to check but Uber works just in case – user89966 Aug 27 at 8:54
  • As far as I know, Yandex replaced Uber in Kazakhstan. They don't operate in the border area so the only option I see is getting a ride all the way from Almaty. While the app let's me book this (for a hefty 50000 tenge) whether a driver would actually take us on this 5+ hour long trip is another question. I'm also not sure whether we're allowed to walk across after the driver drops us at the border. – martin Aug 27 at 10:59
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    @martin I see, I am struggling to find information whether the bus runs in reverse, but I assume it would as it isn't a short trip – user89966 Aug 27 at 11:00
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    @martin Cool, hopefully that works for you. If my answer helped it would be appreciated if you award the bounty – user89966 Aug 27 at 13:56
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Yandex.Timetables lists two direct trains between Almaty and Urumqi:

One is 013Х Almaty — Urumqi which leaves at 01:13 AM on Sunday, and goes for 30 hours;

the other is 103Ц Almaty — Urumqi which leaves at 09:45 AM on Monday and goes for 21 hours. By the description the latter seems to be much more comfortable.

Both leave from Almaty 2 and pass Almaty 1 (the listed time is Almaty 1).

Obviously you can take either one with a break in the middle. Or trace their route and make a switch to a different train in between.

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    As mentioned these trains don't fit the OP's schedule. First sentence: "Besides the direct train which runs twice a week (and, unfortunately, doesn't fit our planned schedule)" – user89966 Aug 26 at 20:30
  • Dostyk has only these 2 trains going furter to China, I guess it means no other rail options. You can use any other trains on Kazakh side, but for border crossing these seem like an only option, – alamar Aug 26 at 20:34
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    But the OP already said these trains weren't an option. -1 – user89966 Aug 26 at 20:58

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