Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar or Ulan Bator is the capital of Mongolia. In 1998 its population was estimated at 650,000. It is situated north and slightly east of the center of Mongolia, on the Tuul River, in a valley at the foot of the mountain Bogdo Uul.

Founded in 1649 as a Buddhist monastery town named Urga, it prospered in the 1860’s as a commercial center on the tea route between Russia and China. Mongolia first proclaimed its autonomy in 1911, and when the city became the capital of the new Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924, its name was changed to Ulaanbaatar (“red hero” in the Mongolian language), in honor of Mongolia’s national hero Sühbaatar, who liberated Mongolia from Ungern von Sternberg troops, Chinese rule, and called in the Soviet Red Army. His statue still adorns Ulaanbaatar’s central square.

Ulaanbaatar has an international airport, Buyant Ukha Airport and is connected by highway to all the major towns in Mongolia and by rail to the Trans-Siberian railway and Chinese railroad systems. The city has the only university in the country. But there are number of colleges both private and public. A historical library contains a wealth of ancient Mongolian, Chinese, and Tibetan manuscripts.

If you have breathing problems, be aware that Ulaanbaatar has high levels of Air Pollution. UB has a population just over a twentieth of Beijing; yet according to the World Health Organization, UB is considered the second most polluted city in the world in 2013 – behind Ahvaz, Iran.  But the countryside air, away from the cities, is gorgeous.

Climate

Ulan Bator is located at about 1,350 metres (4,430 ft) above mean sea level, slightly east of the centre of Mongolia on the Tuul River, a subtributary of the Selenge, in a valley at the foot of the mountain Bogd Khan Uul. Bogd Khan Uul is a broad, heavily forested mountain rising 2,250 metres (7,380 ft) to the south of Ulan Bator. It forms the boundary between the steppe zone to the south and the forest-steppe zone to the north.

It is also one of the oldest reserves in the world, being protected by law since the 18th century. The forests of the mountains surrounding Ulan Bator are composed of evergreen pines, deciduous larches and birches while the riverine forest of the Tuul River is composed of broad-leaved, deciduous poplars, elms and willows. As a point of reference Ulan Bator lies on roughly the same latitude as Vienna, Munich and Orléans. It lies on roughly the same longitude as Chongqing, Hanoi and Jakarta.

Owing to its high elevation, its relatively high latitude, its location hundreds of kilometres from any coast, and the effects of the Siberian anticyclone, Ulan Bator is the coldest national capital in the world,  with a monsoon-influenced, cold semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk, USD A Plant Hardiness Zone 3b ) that closely borders a subarctic climate and humid continental.

The city features brief, warm summers and long, bitterly cold and dry winters. The coldest January temperatures, usually at the time just before sunrise, are between −36 and −40 °C (−33 and −40 °F) with no wind, due to temperature inversion. Most of the annual precipitation of 267 millimetres (10.51 in) falls from June to September. The highest recorded precipitation in the city was 659 mm (26 in) at the Khureltogoot Astronomical Observatory on Mount Bogd Khan Uul. Ulan Bator has an average annual temperature of −0.4 °C (31.3 °F)

The city lies in the zone of discontinuous permafrost, which means that building is difficult in sheltered aspects that preclude thawing in the summer, but easier on more exposed ones where soils fully thaw. Suburban residents live in traditional yurts that do not protrude into the soil. Extreme temperatures in the city range from −49 °C (−56 °F) to 38.6 °C (101.5 °F)

Ulaanbaatar Weather

Get in

By plane

The majority of visitors arrive in Mongolia through Chinggis Khaan International Airport (IATA: ULN), which is located 18 km to the southwest of Ulaanbaatar. Many locals still call the airport by its old name “Bouyant Uka”. The airport was reconstructed in 1990, and the immigration, customs formalities and luggage delivery are relatively efficient.

MIAT (Mongolian Airlines) offers direct international flights to the city from Berlin, Moscow, Irkutsk, Seoul, Beijing,Hong Kong, Singapore and Tokyo. Domestic flights from ULN to Dalanzadgad, Moron, Khovd,Bulgan Khovd, Altai, and Arvaikheer are also available. Korean Air also flies daily from Seoul to ULN. Air China flies to and from Beijing. The Russian airline Aeroflot flies daily between Moscow and Ulaanbaatar. Turkish Airlines fly direct from Istanbul.

By train

Direct (but long) journeys are possible from Moscow, Russia and Beijing, China on the Trans-Mongolian line of the Trans-Siberian Railway. Trains also run to the Chinese border towns of Erlian and Jining 3-4 times a week. There’s also a daily train to/from Irkutsk in Russia, which can also be reached from Vladivostok at the eastern end of the Trans-Siberian.

Trains from Beijing run once a week (on Tuesdays) and seats can only be reserved at the International Hotel in Beijing (a ten minute walk north of the main Beijing rail station). The journey takes about 30 hours. Packing a face mask might be a good idea as sandstorms in the Gobi desert may cause difficulty in breathing.

By car

As there are barely any paved roads in Mongolia, the few ones that exist, lead to Ulaanbaatar. Navigating in Mongolia on a paved road is very easy because you just have to follow that ONE road (compared to driving on tracks, where there are hundreds of possibilities…).

Coming from the north the paved road starts at the Russian Border. Coming from the south (the Gobi) the paved road starts at Choir. Coming from the north-east the paved road starts at Bulgan.

By bus

Once in the country, it should not be difficult to find a bus going to UB, at least from larger towns. However, bus stops are difficult to locate, with buses usually just stopping in populated areas. Furthermore, Mongolian buses are notorious for being late and on some routes for not even arriving on the scheduled day. Domestic buses usually go to Dragon Center (СХД18-р хороо, 18072 Улаанбаатар), Teevriin Tovchoo (near Main Railway Station ) and the eastern bus station near the Botanical Gardens (the Gardens are completely destroyed, but the location is well known to the locals).

Get Around

By taxi

Taxis are cheap, charging around T800 per kilometer, but a foreigner will get overcharged easily. After midnight charge goes up to T1,000 per kilometer. A ride from the airport to the city center should cost you no more than T15,000, but most drivers will try to charge you a minimum of T20,000. You may get a better and more reliable deal by seeking out older drivers in their own cars, rather than the official yellow cabs, now there are new white cabs with large square meter LCD on the dash. Younger drivers can sometimes get extremely opportunistic and try to hold you or your luggage at ransom until you pay them extraordinary amounts of money. Always negotiate the fare in advance and don’t be fooled by tricks like “I meant 3,000 for each of you.”
Tip: carry a small memo of MNT amounts (500 MNT, 1000 MNT, 1500 MNT etc) and show them exactly what you are willing to pay before you get on.
Please note that no taxi drivers speak English, so it’s best to have the name and destination written in Mongolian to the driver unless the driver knows English. Otherwise, English-speaking drivers are relatively non-existent.

By bus

Buses are regular and have a fixed charge per ride. Electric trolley-buses are slower and run fewer routes. After midnight, only trolley-buses are available. But they go for only two main routes. Smaller buses (really just vans), called micro-bus, are equally accessible. These have someone who hangs out the window at each stop shouting the name of the destination in rapid Mongolian. A bit hard to understand.

Many of the city buses go out to the edge of the city. Route 22, goes southwest to the Bird Farm along the Tuul River. Catch the bus at the Ard Cinema bus stop, the Cinema has been replaced by an Anod Bank. This bus stop is located on Bagatoiruu Street, from the central Post Office walk west along Peace Ave. At the intersect with the traffic lights, cross the street and turn right (north) half a block and you will reach a small square with the bus stop.

Bus #11 and #22 go close by the Airport. Get out at Nisekh, and walk 500 mtr across the field.
As in any city, be wary of pick pockets on the buses, especially when the buses are packed.

By foot

Walking is also an option as the city center is quite compact. Having only one main Avenue, Ulaanbaatar stretches from east to west and it’s also easy to draw a mental map. but getting around ger districts can be puzzling. Get a good city map at the Mongolian Government Map shop. Located on Ih Toiruu Street. West from the State Department Store three blocks, the first intersection with traffic lights, turn right (North) about one half block, on the east side of the street you will see a yellow and blue Elba Appliance store, the Map Shop is behind and inline with the North wall of the Elba. But purchasing map from the airport would help save you a lot of time. finding specific places or offices by address is quite challenging because locals will usually tell you the places by nearest landmarks such as West Junction (supposed to be Undsen Huuliin gudamj) and Urt Tsagaan (which is Tourist Street1) and along the department store (Peace avenue) sometimes locals will not know any better than you as they too never seen some street names put on the streets. specially when you buy guide books, look for books with pictures printed so that it would help you ask locals about places rather than only showing written addresses with postal codes.

Visit

Note that most tourist sites have a separate camera/video fee in addition to the entrance fee.

Gandan Monastery (Gandantegchinlen Khiid). The main monastery in the city has services around 10AM every morning. Approximately five thousand monks live here. In 1938 the communists destroyed the religious icons in this monastery and took its contents to the Hermitage where it was then regenerated into ammunitions used to fight during the siege of Leningrad. It was not until very recently that the Mongolian people were able to reconstruct the massive statue of the Buddha that resides in the largest of the temples featured in the picture on the right. Taking photographs requires the payment of an additional negotiable fee (often that for an adult is requested).

Choijin Lama Monastery, Ulaanbaatar, Chingeltrei district, Left of Central Library, 10.00am-17.00pm. Choijing Lama Temple Museum is a unique showcase of religious art and the history of Buddism in Mongolia. This museum is a gem of the historical and cultural heritage of the previous century. The monastery was active until 1938. According to the degree of the Peoples Khural, November 1941, the monastery was included in the list of historical and cultural monuments and was taken charge by the Committee of sciences in 1942. It was then turned into a museum. The museum is an ensemble of Buddhist architecture and consists of 5 temples and 5 arched gates. In the main temple there is the sculpture of Choijing Lama and the embalmed mummy of his teacher. It also contains the great coral mask of Begtse, created under the direction of protectors using over 6000 pieces of coral. Yadam temple and Amgalan temple contain rare artifacts made by the famous Mongolian artist and sculptor, Zanabazar. In total the museum has over 5000 items out of which 12 are unique and 200 are particularly valuable. 

Natural History Museum (closed indefinitely), Ulaanbaatar. Behind of the Government house. 10AM-5.30PM, last admission 4.30PM. When the first national museum was established in Mongolia in 1924, the base of the natural historical museum was founded by consisting the principal sections of the exhibitions with the choicest exhibitions of Mongolian Nature. When the national central museum was put in present location in 1956, it has been enriching its exhibitions and expanded as a big natural department, which has various kinds of geographical, flora, fauna and paleontological exhibits. The government Resolution, which to classify the museums in different fields like as the developed countries, was passed and the national central museum was abolished in 1991. Since 1992, a new museum was established in the place of national central museum with the purpose of being the leader natural central museum for the further development, getting foreigners enjoyed in international level, showing the geological history such as locations of planets and earth establishment and formations and show the biology characteristics of earth central zone and named as Museum of Natural History. Natural history involves historical process of 4.7 billion years of that is very long term from the origin of the world until the origin of plant, animal and human. Thus the museum shows the briefness of these events by exhibitions and contributes knowledge to peoples mind. The museum consists of: – Mongolian geography, ancient volcanoes, stones from the volcanoes – Earth origin, planet studying meteorites – Geological history, useful resources, minerals – Ancient and contemporary botany – Land fauna /mammals, birds, fishes, insects, reptiles, amphibious/ – Very ancient plant and animals /paleontology/ – Human origin Museum colleagues always enrich their treasures, exhibitions, renovate the exhibition halls and improve the museum settlement so that the museum became a big museum, which has the capable to attract foreign and domestic visitors. The museum is one of the big museum of Mongolia that has the 40 halls with 2700 square meters, 12000 exhibits and more than over 50 thousand visitors visit to the museum each year and exhibition marshrut lasts about 1.5-2.0 hours. The museum is studying and advertising museum, which introduces natural history, its appearance movements and developments to the audiences by theoretical and objects researching. Closed summer 2013 for renovation, and may reopen elsewhere in the future.  As of late 2013, items have begun to be moved into storage, as the structure of the building has been deemed unsound.

Chinggis Square, (Chinggis Square). The big open space in the center of the city was renamed to Chinggis Square from its old name Sukhbaatar Square. It has an equestrian statue of the 1921 revolution hero Sükhbaatar, and seated statue of Chinggis Khaan and their sons and 2 military generals (Urlugs). edit
Bogd Khaan Palace Museum, Khan-Uul district, Chinggis avenue Bogdo khan winter palace museum Ulaanbaatar. This palace known as The green palace was built between 1893-1903 during 10 years by Mongolian masters and dedicated to the YIII Bogdo gegeen, the head of lamaist religion & last khan of Mongolia.In 1911 there was formed The Bogdo khan state and the YIII Bogdo gegeen assumed political authority over Mongolia as the Bogdo khan or “Holy King” and continued to govern as a constitutional monarch from the time of the Mongolian People’s Revolution in 1921 until his dearth of illness in 1924. After Bogdo khan death in 1924 it was turned into museum Bogdo khan palace was founded as the first National historical museum of Mongolia. In 1954 was founded The state central museum and the Bogdo khan palace museum became the branch museum. Since 2000 the museum is activiting as Bogdo khan palace museum.Now the Bogd khan palace museum consists of seven Summer Prayer temples and the winter palace. The collections of the museum include unique and valuable objects related to Mongolia’s political, religious, and artistic history from the 17 to early 20-th centuries: bronze castings, silk paintings, mineral paintings, and paper icons made by well-known artists and artisans of the period, among others the first Bogdo Javzundamba Zanabazar and his school; as well as objects owned and used by the YIII Bogdo Javzundamba and his wife queen Dondogdulam, including royal clothing and equipment, gifts from domestic and foreign guests or representatives, and items purchased by the king for his own diversion. The collection of the museum is consists of a great number of original objects and works of art from the Bogdo khan palace and is divided into 12 parts: sculpture, scrolls paintings/thangka/, applique, wood carving, religious objects, clothes, furniture, decorative arts, collection of stuffed animal, special collection, support collection and architecture.. Also all exhibits is divided into: high level category, valuable category and original category. Nowadays we have 68 exhibits of high level category and 23 exhibits of valuable category. The number of these categories will be increasing. Exhibits of high level category includes gilded bronze sculptures made by the famous master Zanabazar and school of Zanabazar, thangka paintings from the XIX-XX centuries, the painting shown the capital city of Mongolia 1912 made by Jugder, original paintings made by founder of Mongolian modern painting B.Sharav and expensive clothes of khan and queen. 

Central Market or Black Market  (Naran Tuul)  Khar Zakh. The notorious black market on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar is a large, crowded flea market which sells a huge variety of items. Suitable for the adventurous traveller, it is patronised mainly by local people.

Zaisan Memorial. A huge communist-era monument located on a hill in the south of the city. It represents the Russian and Mongolian heroes who fought together during WWI and WWII. Nowadays it is a popular viewpoint where you can see over the whole city. There’s also a huge buddhist statue at the bottom. 

International intellectual museum, Ulaanbaatar, Bayanzurkh district,in front of East Center, Mongolia.. From Monday-Saturday 10.00 am-18.00pm. The museum’s collection includes many Mongolian puzzle toys and world famous, rare and precious exhibits. The museum is a manufacturer of Mongolian puzzle toys, logic games, hand crafted products and souvenirs and it exports most of its products abroad. The museum has exhibited over 80 international exhibitions and fairs in 50 countries. 

The Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, Ulaanbaatar, Chingeltrei district, Barilgachdin Square (Two blocks west of the Government House). 10-6. The collection includes items from the Stone Age to 20th C. Particularly interesting is the collection of Buddhist art beginning in the 17th Century. 

Eat

Nobody travels to Mongolia for the food, but Ulaanbaatar has a good range of Western, Asian and Mongolian options. No other city this side of Beijing has close to a comparable selection. Even better, meals here are quite reasonable. You can get perfectly reasonable pizza for $3, even a night out at a fancy French cafe shouldn’t pass $20. Consider splurging on a couple good meals here, especially if headed out for a long trek into the country. Be aware that fresh vegetables, especially in winter, are hard to come by and expensive.
Korean (solongos khoolnee gazar) and Chinese restaurants dominate the city. As Asian restaurants in America tend to tailor their menu to the American palate, so in Ulaanbaatar do the East Asian restaurants tailor their menu to the Central Asian palate.

Sleep

Nowadays, budget accommodation in Ulaanbaatar tends to give the best deals for a traveller. Usually a bed in a clean dormitory costs about $5-10 and a double room should be under $30 a night. Good mid-range options are sparse. Note that during the annual Naadam festival it is almost impossible to get any kind of accommodation in UB without prior reservations.
Guest homes may not respond to email (only 2 of 5 responded to us). Be Aware that in August 2009 the government passed a law requiring domestic transactions to be priced in the Mongolian currency (MNT). Some guest homes attempt to charge more than the price on their website saying their website is out-of-date. Some may change the price (higher) from the price you have agreed to pay from your on-line reservation, citing that the exchange rate has changed. Many guest homes operate also as Tour Guide/Operator/Agency and be more interested in selling a tour and devote less attention to the guest house facilities in room size/space, limited number of bathrooms/showers relative to the number of beds, internet WiFi service shut off at 22:00h and turned on at 09:00h, and so forth.
Budget private rooms are often located in rented apartments in complexes away from the main guesthouse. Guesthouses rent these from nomadic families during the summer peak season and return them when the family return to the city for the winter months. Dark and dirty stairwells are the norm in Ulaanbaatar.

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Mongolia

  • Ulaan Baatar
  • Ulaan Baatar

Mongolia

Mongolia Listeni/mɒŋˈɡliə/ (Mongolian: ᠮᠤᠩᠭᠤᠯ ᠤᠯᠤᠰ, Monggol Ulus and Монгол Улс, Mongol Uls) is a landlocked country in east-central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Ulaanbaatar, the capital and also the largest city, is home to about 45% of the population. Mongolia’s political system is a parliamentary republic.

The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, theRouran, the Turkic Khaganate, and others. In 1206, Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, and his grandson Kublai Khan conquered China to establish the Yuan dynasty. After the collapse of the Yuan, the Mongols retreated to Mongolia and resumed their earlier pattern of factional conflict except during the era of Dayan Khan and Tumen Zasagt Khan. In the 16th century, Tibetan Buddhism began to spread in Mongolia and it was accelerated by the unwavering support of the Qing government after Mongolia was incorporated by the Qing dynasty. In the 1900s almost half of the adult male population were Buddhist monks.

      By the mid-18th century, all of Mongolia had been incorporated into the area ruled by the Manchus’ Qing dynasty. During the collapse of the Qing dynasty Mongols established the Temporary Government of Khalkha on 30 November 1911, before the abdication of the last Qing emperor and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China. On 29 December 1911 Mongolia declared independence from the Qing dynasty and this National Liberation Revolution ended 220 years of Manchu rule (153 years after the collapse of the Dzungar Khanate).

Shortly thereafter, the country came under Soviet control, resulting in the proclamation of the Mongolian People’s Republic as a Soviet satellite state in 1924. After the breakdown of communist regimes in Europe in late 1989, Mongolia saw its own peaceful democratic revolution in early 1990; it led to a multi-party system, a new constitution of 1992, and transition to a market economy.

 

At 1,564,116 square kilometres (603,909 sq mi), Mongolia is the 19th largest and one of the most sparsely populatedindependent countries in the world, with a population of around 3 million people. It is also the world’s second-largest landlocked country. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by grassy steppe, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south.

Approximately 30% of the population are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The majority of its population are Buddhists and non-religious population is the second largest group. Islam is the dominant religion among ethnic Kazakhs. The majority of the state’s citizens are of Mongol ethnicity, although Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other minorities also live in the country, especially in the west. Mongolia joined the World Trade Organization in 1997 and seeks to expand its participation in regional economic and trade regimes.

Mapa de Mongolia

Visas

Entry requirements

There are four border crossings open to foreigners, three on the Russian border of which the main one is Altanbulag, and one called Zamyn – Uud near the small town of Erlian on the border with China.

Foreign nationals of the following countries/territories can enter Mongolia visa-free:

For up to 90 days: United States, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Georgia and Macau SAR

For up to 30 days: Canada, Cuba, Israel, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Turkey, Japan, Romania and Russia. From 25 June 2014 to 31 December 2015 passport holders of 42 countries additional countries (including the United Kingdom, Norway and Brazil) will be able to enter visa-free for up to 30 days.

For up to 21 days: Philippines

For up to 14 days: Hong Kong SAR, Singapore

For other foreign nationals, the process for obtaining a thirty day visa or tourist visa is relatively painless, requiring a visa application form, a small fee at your local Mongolian embassy and an invitation letter that is arranged through tour companies. Licensed tour companies can issue the invitation letter for you. However, the citizens of Indonesia, Russia, China and Taiwan and some other countries needs to get an official invitation letter that is issued by the Consular Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after confirmation by the tour company or firm or individual who is inviting you. Longer visas are available; it requires an invitation letter from a Mongolian company or individual.

Citizens of countries where a Mongolian Embassy or Honorary consulate of Mongolia doesn’t exist, can apply for a Mongolian visa at the Mongolian borders – Chinggis Khaan Airport, Zamyn – Uud and Altanbulag. It requires your official permission letter that is issued by Immigration Office in Ulaanbaatar according to your invited person or entity’s request, exact arrival date and time, flight or train number. Once you got the permission, you have to bring the copy of permission, passport sized photo and visa fee of c. US$105 per applicant and then you can get the visa at the airport. For most cases, it is easy to seek a help from licensed travel company that can get permission for you from Immigration Office in Ulaanbaatar.

Also, it is possible to acquire an expedited visa in a matter of hours at the Mongolian consulate in Erlian, though there is a steep $50 US fee for this service. A similar service is available in the Mongolian consulate in the Russian city of Irkutsk and Ulan-Ude. Indian nationals are required to apply for a visa, although the visa fee is waived.

You won’t get more than 30 days on a tourist visa. In Mongolia you can extend your visa for another 30 days maximum.

The Embassy of Mongolia in the UK website is useful for updates.

The Embassy of Mongolia in China website allows you to print off the application form you will need if you are applying for your Mongolian visa in China, although the consulate does have them too. If you going to stay more than 30 days you have to get registered at Mongolia Immigration.

As of September 2013, the consulate in Irkutsk does not require an invitation letter any more and will issue even one year multiple entry visas without a fuss.

By plane

There are a few places with flights into the capital, Ulaanbaatar. National air carrier MIAT Mongolian airlines operates daily flights (during some peak season – twice a day) from Beijing and Seoul, twice a week flights from Hong Kong, Berlin, Moscow and Tokyo (during some peak season – from Narita). During peak summer season it increases flight frequencies and operates direct flights from Berlin. There are branch offices in Berlin, Moscow, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing. North American branch office is in Denver, CO and can be reached via Air Bridge

There are almost daily flights from Seoul on Korean Air as well as other flights through Beijing. It is also possible to fly to Ulaanbaatar through Tokyo’s Narita Airport. There are also direct flights from Istanbul with Turkish Airlines. Don’t buy a non-refundable or unchangeable ticket if you are going to Mongolia, because flights don’t always actually happen. You can also fly in from Beijing, with MIAT Mongolian airlines being the cheapest, then Air China after that. You may find the cheapest air ticket to Mongolia from travel agents.

Hunnu Air, a Mongolian Airline, offers flights from Hong Kong, Shanghai, Bankok to Ulaanbaatar.

Once you are in the country you can also fly to all the provincial capitals. Plane flights between the capitals may be hard to find though. But air travel agents, guest houses, and hotels can help you to obtain your domestic air ticket in Mongolia.

As of 24th September 2014 MIAT has started cheap (relatively) flights from Singapore to Ulan Bator twice a week (Wednesdays and Saturday).

By train

The Trans-Mongolian Line of the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway links Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar with Moscow and Vladivostok, Russia and Beijing, China.

From Russia

The Trans-Mongolian train crosses the Russia/Mongolia border at the town of Naushki, Russia.

  • Those interested in saving money can book one way elektrichka (regional train) tickets from Irkutsk or Ulan Ude to Naushki. In Naushki, one can spend the night in the recently (June 2009) renovated train resting rooms (komnati otdiha) for US$.50 per hour. From there, it is possible to take a marshrutka to the land border crossing town of Kyakhta, Russia. Walking across the border is prohibited, but travelers have no problems arranging for Mongolia bound cars to take them across the border, either for a small fee or for free. Upon crossing into Mongolia it is relatively easy to hitchhike, taxi, or bus to Sukhbaator or UB, as all southbound traffic is headed towards those cities.
  • From the West, from Russia, it is possible to cross at the land border in Tsagaannuur. There are daily petrol and wheat-carrying Russian Kamaz trucks headed to Olgii and it is possible to hitchhike to Tsagaannuur or even Olgii. Regular buses and marshrutkas also operate from the border, though service is unpredictable due to the lack of a schedule.

From China

Trans Mongolian Railway

2nd class (hard sleeper) costs about US$200 (Mar 2011) from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar. The ride takes almost 30 hours, but you are given a berth in a sleeper-car. The train leaves twice per week from Beijing. Currently, as of Mar 2011, tickets cannot be purchased from the Beijing station. Instead you will be directed to the China International Tour Service (CITS) office at 2nd floor of the Beijing International Hotel (10 min. walk north of the station, large, white building).

Local Trains

Beijing to the border: If the Beijing – Ulaanbaatar train is sold out, as seems to be common, or you need a more frequent option, you can make your way from Beijing to the border at Erlian by local train as described below, and then on to Ulaanbaatar by bus and train. You may also try looking on eLong.com for flights from Beijing to Erlian (Elianhaote on eLong). As of March 2011, there are morning flights from Beijing to Erlian out of Capital Airport Terminal 1 that only cost 160Y, which is cheaper than the bus.

Trains run daily from Beijing to Jining (Inner Mongolia) or Hohhot. You can change there for a train to the border town of Erlian near the Mongolian-Chinese border. The K89 leaves Beijing in the morning and arrives at Jining in the evening. Jining has many hotels near the train station and has karaoke bars to keep you entertained while you wait. From Jining to Erlian there is a slow train that leaves in the morning, passes the great wall multiple times, and arrives in the early evening. For up to date train times and costs see China Guide. Note that this will take a night longer than getting the sleeper bus as described in “By Bus”.

Crossing the border

Be wary of scams at the border where people in uniform will attempt to sell you “required travel insurance.” There is no such thing and you can safely ignore them.

You should then cross the border from Erlian in China to Zamiin-Uud in Mongolia as described in Erlian to and from Mongolia.

In Erlian you can cross the border in a Jeep or by Bus. The bus goes everyday. In the bus station look for the international ticket window.

Once in Zamin-Uud, the only option is the train.

From the border to Ulaanbaatar

Once you have crossed the border, you will need to get from Zamiin-Uud to Ulaanbaatar as described in Zamiin-Uud get in.

Stay safe

Apart from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is generally a safe place to travel. However, incidences of pick pocketing and bag slashing have been on the rise in recent years, so always keep your personal belongings in a safe place (money belts are highly recommended), especially in crowded areas or in places where your attention is diverted, such as internet cafes . Notorious places for theft are the Black Market (bazaar), the railway station and crowded bus stops.

Violent crime is uncommon outside the capital city, but still caution is required at night, and dark or deserted alleys and streets, in particular, should be avoided.

Unfortunately, Xenophobia is rampant, and violence towards foreigners is not uncommon. This problem usually affects males. Mongolian men will generally pick out the largest foreign men and attack them, mostly with their fists. This is known to happen at all hours of the day and in any part of the city. Of course, at night the problem becomes much worse. Be very, very wary of clubs that have a majority of Mongolians. Do not under any circumstances fight back if a Mongolian man assaults you. Many foreigners have been hospitalized and it will never be a fair fight. Ignore completely any drunk Mongolian man; NO EXCEPTIONS. If you are on the street keep walking. If you are in a club and Mongolian men become aggressive, leave immediately. Also be aware that if you are a male, in a group with Asian women (Mongolian or not), this is perceived incredibly negatively by Mongolian men, and it is very likely that you will get assaulted.

Additionally there are ultra nationalist Neo Nazis operating freely in Ulaanbaatar, and they have multiple times shown up at clubs and assaulted foreigners. Some of these assaults end up with hospitalizations. In one particular instance these Neo Nazis showed up at around 2 AM at the gay club (Hanzo or ‘H’) and threatened to ‘kill all gay people’.

Most foreigners visit Ulaanbaatar without incident, but remember to be extremely cautious.

Corruption is a huge problem in Mongolia, and locals are convinced that the police are not to be trusted.

There are small bands of Mongolian ultra nationalists that style themselves as neo-Nazis who assault foreigners including white, black and particularly Chinese. They are especially provoked by foreigner interaction with Mongolian women.

Lone or female travellers, especially blondes, obviously need to exercise a higher degree of awareness of their surroundings as getting groped in the chest or buttocks is not uncommon.

Be careful when travelling by horse as it is not unknown for groups to follow tourists and then steal their goods, including the horses, while they sleep at night.

Many tourists are injured from falling off of horses. Mongolian herders are expert riders, thus their idea of a horse suitable for riding is quite different from most casual riders. Also, the horses are trained differently than in the west. If you are injured in Mongolia, you may be hundreds of kilometres from medical aid and ambulance service may be hard to obtain and consist of a Russian minivan. Medical evacuation insurance is advisable.

Dogs in Mongolia can be aggressive and may run in packs. It is a good idea to be wary of them since they are not likely to be as tame as domestic dogs elsewhere.

Stay healthy

Nomads’ dogs may have rabies. As a precaution, consider having a rabies shots before coming.

Marmots should not be eaten at certain times of the year because they can carry pnemonia. That said, the disease is carried by the marmot’s fleas so the afflicted tend to be fur traders, and marmot is not a mainstream dish even in Mongolia.

Hepatitis and tuberculosis are common throughout Mongolia.

Respect

Mongols traditionally live on the steppes, breeding horses, just like their ancestor Genghis Khan. Not surprisingly, following Western pleasantries will not have the intended effect in Mongolia. That being said, there are still a few rules to follow. Always receive items with the right hand, palm facing up. Drink from the right hand with the palm up as well. It is very rude to refuse a gift. If offered a plate of hospitality munchies, take at least a small nibble from something. You should never point anyone with your index finger since it implies disrespect.

Whenever you approach a nomadic family, or enter a ger, you will, without knowing, break one or several of the many traditional, religious and superstitious customs. If you do become confused, don’t panic, minor indiscretions will be tolerated and forgiven. The following do’s and don’ts will help minimize cultural differences.

Do

  • Say hello (sain bainuu) when you arrive (but repeating it again when you see the same person is considered strange to Mongolians)
  • Take at least a sip, or a nibble, of the delicacies offered
  • Pick up everything with an open hand, with your palm facing upwards
  • Hold a cup by the bottom, and not by the top rim
  • If by accident you tap someones foot with yours, immediately shake hands with them (failing to do so will be seen as an insult).

Don’t

  • Lean against a support column
  • Whistle inside a ger
  • Stand on, or lean over, the threshold
  • Stamp out a fire, or put water or any rubbish on it (fire is sacred to Mongolians)
  • Walk in front of an older person; or turn your back to the altar, or religious objects (except when leaving)
  • Take food from a communal plate with your left hand
  • Touch other people’s hats
  • Have a long conversation in your own language in front of your hosts

Contact

There are plenty of Internet cafés in the capital. The postal service is slow and most people have a PO Box if they want to get anything. It is possible to buy phone cards that can be used to call abroad very cheaply from domestic phones, but not all phones can do this. (You can ask for MiCom or MobiCom cards). In the countryside, don’t expect to be staying in contact with anyone. Most Aimag Centers (Province Capitals) have an Internet Café in the post office.

To make local calls in Ulaanbaatar use a phone of one of the many entrepreneurs with cellular telephones on the street corners. 

Hostels in Mongolia

Mongolia

 

 

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