Mongolia Travel Guide

At A Glance

Pack your bags and some sturdy shoes as you prepare to enter the realm of Genghis Khan and the seat of the ancient Mongol Empire! Mongolia is a vast and diverse country, comprised of the expansive Gobi Desert, vast steppes, rugged mountains, spectacular countryside, friendly people, and raw adventure unparalleled anywhere else on earth.

Population

3,081,000

Capital

Ulaanbaatar (Pop. 1,372,000)

Population Density

5.1 people per square mile (Least dense country in the world)

Government

Semi-presidential Representative

Ethnicity

96% of Mongolians are ethnic Mongols

Language

Khalka Mongolian is the official language

Overview

  • Mongolian Words and Phrases

    Welcome – tavtai morilogtun

    Hello! – Baina uu

    How are you? – Sonin saikhan yu baina ve?

    My name is…  –  Minii ner

    Where is the toilet?  – Biye zasakh gazar khaana baidag ve?

    Thank you – Bayarlalaa

    Sorry – Uuchlaarai

    Excuse me – Örshöögöörei

  • Travel Requirements, Visas, Passports

    Americans and Brazilians are among nationalities that can enter Mongolia for up to 90 days without a visa. Canadians, Germans, Israelis, Japanese, and others can enter visa-free for up to 30 days. People of all nationalities staying in Mongolia longer than 30 days must register with the immigration authority within 7 days of arrival. You’ll need T 108,000 or the dollar equivalent, two passport photos, and an invitation from an organization or company in Mongolia.

  • Money

    Mongolia uses a currency called the Tugrik (T) (also spelled Tögrög), and currently US $1 is equal to T 2,454. The highest-value note is worth around US $8. Most ATMs in the capital accept international cards, and it’s relatively easy to find an ATM. As long as your debit or credit card has a VISA logo, you can withdraw Tugriks. However, plan on using cash for most transactions, especially at smaller establishments.

  • Food

    There’s a saying that no one goes to Mongolia for the food, but this is a bit of an outdated overgeneralization. Just in the past few years, as Mongolia’s economy rapidly grows, more and more quality restaurants are opening in Ulaanbaatar. Consider splurging on some quality meals, especially before you head into the countryside. Korean and Chinese restaurants are quite numerous in the capital. Throughout Ulaanbaatar, there are a number of cheap eateries and cafes, which are great for sampling Mongolian food

  • Climate and Weather

    Mongolia is cold, high, and dry. Ulaanbaatar is the coldest national capital in the world, with average temps around 28 degrees Fahrenheit because of prolonged periods of intense cold in the winter. Although summers can reach close to the 90s, summertime highs in the 70s are much more normal.  June, July, and August is the high season and the best time to go.

  • Festivals and Holidays

    Naadam is an ancient traditional festival of games native to Mongolia, including Mongolian wrestling, horse racing, and archery, and are held throughout the country during the summer. In 2010, Naadam was inscribed on UNESCO’s list of the “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.” It is the most widely watched festival among Mongols, and has existed for centuries in one form or another. The biggest Naadam (the National Naadam) is held in Ulaanbaatar during the national holiday from July 11 – 13 every year. Naadam is also the single biggest tourist-drawing event in the country, as it occurs during the high season, so hotels can fill up early and prices increase during this time.

  • Religion

    Mongolia has a rich Buddhist heritage, and there are several monasteries in Ulaanbaatar, regional towns, and across the countryside.

  • Health and Medical

    Healthcare in Mongolia is relatively rudimentary, even in the capital. If you get injured or fall ill, you can try contacting your embassy, who may be able to provide you with a list of Western doctors in the country, but serious injuries and illnesses will require evacuation to Beijing or Seoul. It is strongly recommended that travelers purchase insurance with evacuation coverage before departing for Mongolia. Western medicine can be in short supply in Mongolia, and most medicine comes from China or Russia. Take extra supplies of any medicines you may require. If you go to a doctor or medical clinic in Mongolia, expect to pay up front before you’re seen.

  • Safety

    Ulaanbaatar is relatively safe, but pick-pocketing and even violent muggings are known to have occurred against tourists. Hotspots for this kind of criminal activity include the Narantuul Market and the bus stops around the State Department Store.

  • LGBTQ+ Travel

    Before 2002, homosexuality was technically illegal, and during the socialist times, it was very taboo. While the capital’s LGBT community is growing, the legacy taboo has been hard to shake, and many Mongolians view homosexuality as a way to imitate “cool foreigners.”  If you’re gay and you’re traveling to Mongolia, it’s best to avoid public displays of affection and any particular flamboyance.

  • Solo Female Travel

    Mongolians are generally friendly toward solo female travelers, but going it alone in the capital, especially at night, presents some distinct risks. Hiring a local guide/driver to accompany you during your visit is a convenient way to reduce some of the risk, and this way you’ll also have someone who can show you around.

  • Disabled Travel

    While some of the modern buildings and hotels in Ulaanbaatar and a few of the Soviet era buildings have elevators and ramps, much of the capital and even more of the countryside is rugged, rough, and challenging, even for the able-bodied traveler. Disabled travelers should discuss accessibility with their local guides before departing for the country.

  • Cultural Customs

    The Culture of Mongolia has been heavily influenced by the Mongol nomadic way of life. Other important influences are from Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, and from China. Since the 20th century, Russian and, via Russia, European cultures have had a strong effect on Mongolia.

  • Tipping

    Traditionally, Mongolians don’t tip. However, Mongolians working in tourism-related fields like guides, drivers and waitresses at restaurants are now accustomed to tips. If you do feel service was good, a 10% tip is appreciated. Most places will charge a 13% sales tax on top of their menu prices so be aware of this. If you wish to leave a tip, 10% of your total order is a very reasonable amount.

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