Mongolia is an adventure destination, where travellers can experience nomadic culture and vast, untouched landscapes. It has emerged as a young democracy with a promising economy based on mining, agriculture and tourism.
Ulaanbaatar is the capital of Mongolia, situated on the Tuul River on a windswept plateau and surrounded by four sacred mountains. Ulaanbaatar is a city of contrasts where modern life comfortably blends with Mongolian traditional lifestyle.
The average temperature in Ulaanbaatar is -0.7°C and during the year there is little rainfall. The average temperature in September is 8.9°C, with an average low of 2.2°C and average high of 15.7°C.
Ulaanbaatar’s population is approximately 1.3 million. Mongolian is the official and most widely spoken language of Mongolia, with 95% of the population speaking it. English is also a widely spoken foreign language in Mongolia.
The Mongolian tögrög (Tugrik or MNT) is the local currency in Mongolia. The exchange rate is approximately USD$1 = 2,739Tg. It comes in notes of T5, T10, T20, T50, T100, T500, T1000, T5000, T10,000 and T20,000. Gentle haggling is common in markets however in all other instances you are expected to pay the stated price. ATMs are widely available and credit cards are accepted in most hotels, restaurants and shops. For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com
A 10% Value Added Tax (VAT) is applicable to most goods and services in Mongolia. Hotels may not always include VAT in their prices, so be sure to ask when booking. Restaurants may also leave off the VAT from menus.
Electricity in Mongolia is 230 V with a frequency of 50 Hz. Power plugs and sockets are of type C and E.
Bus: Local public transport is reliable, and departures are frequent, but buses can be crowded. Cash payment is not accepted on board so you will need to purchase a U Money card (T3600), available from kiosks around town. Bus trips cost T500 and T300 for trolleybus. There are plenty of routes connecting the most important destinations in the city centre and the surrounding area. Keep a close eye on your possessions, as crowded buses are prime grounds for pickpockets.
Taxi: Taxi’s in Ulaanbaatar can be either official or non-official. When possible, and especially at night, use official taxis as they are more reliable. Official taxis are noticeably labelled on the exterior and may or may not have a meter. Taxis charge a standard price per kilometre (check rates you’re your hotel). Don’t agree on a set price because it will be more expensive than the standard rate. The best way to catch a taxi is to go towards a busy street and wave one down.
Bicycle: Mongolian drivers can be dangerous, so it is not recommended to ride a bike around town. There are no bike lanes and you should never expect to have right of way.
Ulaanbaatar is well-endowed with shopping malls and independent stores. The State Department Store (Ikh Delguur) has the largest selection of souvenirs and gifts in the country and is virtually a tourist attraction in itself.
Naran Tuul Market (also known as the Black Market) sells a variety of goods from shoe insoles to delicate Mongolian rugs, as well as food products. This is a must see spot for those wanting to pick up traditional Mongolian items.
Some other popular shops are Mary & Martha (selling handmade traditional handicrafts, felt products, toys etc), Gobi Cashmere Factory Outlet (slightly lower prices than cashmere shops in the city centre) and Seven Summits (stocks German-made Vaude gear, GPS units, maps and travel accessories).
Shops are generally open from 10am to 9pm although times and days vary
Traditionally, Mongolians don’t tip. However, Mongolians working in tourism-related fields (guides, drivers, bellhops and waiters at restaurants frequented by foreigners) are now accustomed to tips. If you do feel service was good, a 10% to 20% tip is appreciated.