Mongolia : Travel Information before you go!
At least 13 hrs, often via Munich, Frankfurt or Berlin. Oulan-Bator is approximately 4,400 mi from London.
Buyant Ukha international airport in Ulan Bator is located 10 miles out of the town centre. You will easily find a taxi. The trip to the town centre will cost you between USD 10 and 20.
Mongolia is a country where you tend to feel safe. However, small crime is developing fast in Ulan Bator and it is recommended to avoid walking in dark streets after dusk, or then take a taxi back to where you are staying. Beware also of pickpockets on markets, buses and at places where tourists go in general. Excessive consumption of vodka in Ulan Bator sometimes leads to trouble.
The official language is Khalkha, spoken by three quarters of the Mongolians, often under different dialects. A significant part of the population speaks Turkish. English speaking is extremely rare, except for the tour guides.
Required travel documents for
To get a tourist visa valid for 30 days or a transit visa valid for 7days, it is no longer required to bring a justificatory document or a letter of invitation from a travel organisation or a Mongolian agency. However, these documents will be requested if you want to extend your visa for an extra 30 days. The visa can also be issued upon arrival in the country (Buyant Ukha aiport of Oulan-Bator, Zamyn Uud in the south and Sukhbaatar in the north). For the visa request, you must have a passport valid for 6 months after your return date, fill in a form with a photocopy of it, as well as a photocopy of your plane ticket and one of your medical repatriation insurance. A tourist visa costs about 15 pounds sterling for those going through a tour operator, and 7 pounds sterling for visitors travelling on their own. Allow yourself about ten days before departure to make your visa request.
Lamaist Buddhism, the religion of a great part of the population can now be practised in open day light, since the fall of the communist State and the passing, in 1994 of a bill on freedom of faith. Muslims are minority.
The currency is the Tögrög (MNT), which consists of 100 Möngö. £1 Sterling = approximately 2,232 MNT. It is best to bring travellers cheques in Dollars as these are easier to exchange than pounds. The exchange rate is lower for cash, so remember to bring enough small notes. If possible, exchange enough money in Oulan-Bator because you will have a hard time finding banks in the other parts of the country. Credit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) are only accepted in the hotels, restaurants and main shops of the capital and are more or less useless everywhere else. Banks are open from Monday to Friday, from 10:00am to 1:00pm and from 2:00pm to 5:00pm, and on Saturdays from 10:00am to 12:00pm.
Public transport infrastructure is poorly developed and will not make your trips any easier outside tourist areas.
From Ulan Bator, the airline MIAT ensures air links to 17 domestic airports - the runways of which is not always tarmacked. The fleet consists essentially of Russian Antonov aircrafts not necessarily fitted with toilets on board. Some flights do last for 4 hours. You also need to know that the fares required from you will be in dollars, clearly much more expensive than those applying to the locals. On your arrival, reserve your return flight right away, because the company still isn't computerized and you may have trouble finding a seat on the plane. Do get there early before taking off, anyway.
Other than the Trans Mongolian which links Moscow to Beijing via Ulan Bator, some trains run on the same route, within the country, and there is a line between Baganuur and Erdenet. But the train does not show much of an advantage as it runs off the main sites to be visited. You ought to know however that there are two classes - seats stuffed or not - and that you can book 10 days ahead.
Other means of transport:
Buses are the cheapest (still under US$ 10), although very uncomfortable and very slow (the average speed is 20 mph). You always have to go through Ulan Bator from one place to another. Faster and cheaper, more comfortable, the Russian jeeps and some collective mini-buses link Ulan Bator to the central provinces and other tourist attractions. They leave only when full, which means overcrowded. Moreover, you will find it hard to know the exact destination, as everything is written in the Cyrillic alphabet. You also have the possibility to "hire" a chauffeur-driven vehicle (most of the time a jeep or mini-bus also used for public transport), but do not leave without having made sure that the price does include the driver's expenses. Finally, it is not recommended to rent a vehicle because the petrol supply points are rare or even out of petrol.
Mongolia does not show any particular risks. But your body needs to become accustomed to the food, made of fermented dairy products. Though no particular vaccine is required, make sure your usual vaccinations (DT Polio) are up to date. Also have vaccines against hepatitises A and B done, as well as the one against rabies. An HIV test can be requested for a stay of more than one month. Avoid drinking water that has not been boiled. Buy mineral water in bottles everywhere you can and remember to have water purification tablets with you. Finally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported several cases of plague, cerebrospinal meningitis, tuberculosis and hepatites B.
Voltage of 220 V. Power cuts can occur.
Taxes and tips
Tips are not essential in restaurants and coffee shops, as a 13% tax is already included in the bill. However, if you want to leave a tip, give about 10% of the bill's total. Outside of the black market, Mongolia is not a country where you will be able to do some bargaining since most shops have fixed prices.
To call Mongolia from the UK, dial 00 + 976 (country code) + 1 for Ulan-Bator + n# you are trying to reach. To call the UK from Mongolia: 00 + 44 + n#.
Mongolia : Useful addresses in the country
Embassy of Mongolia
7-8 Kensington Court
London W8 5DL.
Tel: 44 207 937 0150.
Fax: 44 207 937 1117.
At the destination
30 Enkh Taivny Gudamzh, PO Box 703, Ulaanbaatar 13.
Tel: 976 11 458133.
Fax: 976 11 458036.
Opening times: From 8:30 AM to 1 PM, then 2 PM to 5 PM from Monday to Thursday, and from 8:30 AM to 1:30 PM on Friday.
Mongolian Tourism Board
State administrative building-14
Ulaanbaatar-38 Mongolia, 210628.
Tel: 976 11 311 102 and 318 493.
Fax: 00 976 11 318 492.