Foreigners about Mongolia
|Preface Last Updated: 10/3/2004 11:33 PMThe name “Mongolia” stirs up visions of the untamed and exotic — the warlord Chinggis Khaan, camels wandering in the Gobi Desert and wild horses galloping across the steppe. Today, Mongolia still seems like the end of the earth — outside the capital city you feel as if you have stepped into another century. For the first time in hundreds of years, the Mongolians, once rulers of the vast Eurasian steppe, are no longer colonial subjects of the Russian and Chinese Empires. Today, Mongolia is free, democratic and quickly rediscovering its varied past. Mongolia, the “Land of the Blue Sky,” is a wide vast country of mountains, beautiful lakes, huge deserts, rolling grasslands, and unique wildlife.
The Host Country
Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 9/19/2005 3:14 AM
Mongolia is a large and sparsely populated country landlocked between China and Russia. It has an area of just over 600,000 square miles — about the size of Alaska. Mongolia is the 6th largest country in Asia and 18th largest in the world. The capital, Ulaanbaatar, is over 4,000 feet above sea level. Because of the elevation and distance from any ocean or sea, Mongolia has a harsh continental climate. Marked seasonal, even daily, changes in temperature, numerous high-pressure systems, and severe cold occur most of the year. A remarkably sunny country, Mongolia enjoys 250 sunny days a year, often with clear cloudless skies, making even the coldest temperatures more tolerable.
The country is divided into three basic zones: the Gobi, a vast, dry grassland in the east and south; the low Hangai mountains in the north and northwest; and the high Altai Mountains of the west and northwest. Mongolia’s most scenic lake is Lake Hovsgol located in the Altai, where elevations range up to 15,000 feet. There are three major river systems: the Tuul, which runs through Ulaanbaatar; the Orhon, which combines with the Tuul and flows into Lake Baikal in Russia; and the Selenge in the northeast.
Population Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:52 AM
Approximately one third of Mongolia’s roughly 2.7 million people live in Ulaanbaatar — many in ger (yurt) suburbs that surround the capital. Mongolia has one of the lowest population densities in the world, with 1.5 inhabitants per 1 square kilometer. There are two other sizable cities: Erdenet and Darkhan. Both cities are north of Ulaanbaatar and are served by the rail line that stretches from Beijing through Mongolia to the TransSiberian railroad to Moscow and Vladivostok.
One half of the population is under 30 years of age. The literacy rate is 93%, but many Mongolians are unemployed.
About 80% of Mongolians living in Mongolia belong to the Khalka Mongol ethnic group. The other major ethnic group, the Khazaks, make up about 6% of the population and live mostly in Western Mongolia. There are several smaller ethnic groups scattered throughout the country. About 3 million other Mongols, primarily of the Chahar ethnic group, reside in the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region of China. Buryiat Mongols live in northern Mongolia and in the Buryiat Autonomous Region of Russia, east of Lake Baikal.
Public Institutions Last Updated: 10/3/2004 11:40 PM
The primary legislative body is the State Great Hural. A unicameral body, it has 76 members elected by secret ballot of the citizens for four-year terms. The Hural enacts, amends, and supervises the implementation of laws; determines fiscal policies; sets dates for elections; appoints the Prime Minister and other officials; and engages in other activities. The President, subject to direct election for a maximum of two four-year terms, is the head of state. The President has veto power over legislation; can propose, in consultation with the majority party or parties, names for Prime Minister; can propose dissolution of the government, or instruct the government and issue decrees, which are subject to the Prime Minister’s approval; may propose legislation; serves as commander-in-chief and heads the National Security Council.
Independent judges are nominated by a general council and confirmed by the President and, in the case of Supreme Court judges, the State Great Hural. The 11 member Supreme Court has the power to act as court of first instance for certain criminal and other actions, examine lower court decisions by appeal, examine questions transferred to it by the Constitutional court or Prosecutor General, provide official interpretations of all laws (except the Constitution) and make judgments on other matters assigned by law. Trials are open and accused have the right to counsel.
The Constitutional Court’s members are appointed by the State Great Hural for six-year terms. The nine members are nominated by the Hural (3), the President (3), and the Supreme Court (3). The Court interprets the Constitution, acting upon the request of the President, Prime Minister, Hural, Supreme Court, Prosecutor General, or on its own motion. In addition to reviewing the conformity of treaties and legislative acts with the Constitution, the Court may invalidate any that are not in conformity with the Constitution. It may also examine breaches of law by the President, Prime Minister, or other minister, the Prosecutor General, and members of the State Great Hural or Supreme Court.
Mongolia has 21 aimags (provinces), including three autonomous cities (Ulaanbaatar, Darkhan, and Erdenet). Each aimag has a local legislative hural with a four-year term. Each aimag enjoys some rights of self-government. Governors of aimags are appointed by the Prime Minister and, in turn, appoint governors of the “soums” (subunits of the aimags, roughly equivalent to counties in the U.S.), and nine districts of Ulaanbaatar.
In the first half of 1990 Mongolian citizens held mass demonstrations in the capital demanding an end to 70 years of Communist rule. The government acquiesced, and the first free elections were held in July 1990. Although the communist Mongolian Peoples’ Revolutionary Party (MPRP) won the majority of seats in the national legislature, the reform movement gathered strength. The opposition and the MPRP worked together to form a coalition government, which undertook political and economic reforms, culminating in the new constitution. To symbolize these reforms the star at the top of the Mongolian flag was removed and the state seal was changed to a modernist flying horse design in February 1992.
Mongolia now claims many political parties, including the Democratic Party, the Civic Will Party; the Republican Party, the New Democratic Socialist Party, as well as the MPRP.
Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 9/19/2005 3:18 AM
Mongolia has one public university and seven other institutes of higher learning, plus a growing number of private universities. Many Mongolian students study at universities and technical schools abroad, including in the United States. Mongolians place a high value on education, and the literacy rate, and basic education rate are remarkably high for a developing country. An interesting recent trend is the predominance of women in higher education. By some estimates 70% of Mongolia’s undergraduate students are women, a trend that is driven in part by herding families requiring young boys to stay out of school to help with the animals.
Mongolia’s history reaches back thousands of years. Over the centuries, Mongolians have developed a unique and fascinating culture full of ancient traditions, customs and beliefs. Tibetan Buddhism and nomadism dominate Mongolia’s painting, music and literature. Traditional music involves a wide range of instruments and singing styles. In Mongolian khoomi, or throatsinging, carefully trained male voices produce harmonic overtones from deep in the throat, releasing several notes at once. Another unique traditional singing style is called urtyn-duu or long songs. It involves very complicated, drawn-out vocal sounds which relate traditional stories about love and the countryside. The morin khuur, a horse-head carved fiddle with two strings made from horsehair, often accompanies these songs. Tsam dances are performed to exorcise evil spirits and sprang from Buddhism and Shamanism. Outlawed during communism, they are being performed again.
Classical music, opera and drama thrive in Mongolia. In Ulaanbaatar, the state theater regularly performs local and foreign operas and ballets. Just this year, Mongolia hosted several international art festivals, many of them focusing on the innovative, modern arts culture of this country.
Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 9/19/2005 3:19 AM
The rapid political changes of 1990–91 marked the beginning of Mongolia’s efforts to develop a market economy, but the dissolution and continuing deterioration of the former Soviet Union complicated and disrupted the effort. After the collapse of the centrally planned-system, Mongolia opened its doors to international investors and traders.
Mongolia’s own industries include cashmere, skins, and leather production; furs and animal hair products; coal; copper, gold, and other minerals.
Natural resources include copper, coal, molybdenum, iron, phosphates, tin, nickel, zinc, wolfram, fluorspar, gold, uranium and petroleum. Joint ventures with Western companies in oil exploration, cashmere production, and gold mining are now in operation.
The growing season in Mongolia is extremely short, but wheat, oats, barley, fodder, and some vegetables are grown. The principle industry is raising livestock, in which about 45 percent of the population is engaged.
Mongolia’s land-locked location and lack of basic infrastructure constrains prospects for development outside the traditional reliance on nomadic, livestock-based agriculture. One railroad line traverses the country using Russian-gauge track, which necessitates a change of wheels at the Chinese border. This rail route allows for shipments to Tianjin, China, in one direction and to Moscow or Vladivostock in the other. Both Russian and Chinese rail lines are subject to lengthy delays in shipment.
International air routes are via Beijing, Moscow, Tokyo, Berlin, Seoul, and (during the summer season only) Osaka. Space and high shipment costs limit the amount of freight forwarded by air.
Mongolia hopes for accelerated growth by attracting more foreign investment. Mongolia is actively seeking trading partners in the west. It receives a large amount of aid from donor countries and international organizations, including Japan, the Asia Development Bank, World Bank, IMF, and the United States. Privatization of publicly held companies and the establishment of private businesses led to positive economic growth rates in the latter half of the 1990’s.
Automobiles Last Updated: 9/19/2005 1:38 AM
Most employees bring personal vehicles to post. Because of the road and weather conditions, a four-wheel drive vehicle with good groung clearance is very useful. The Embassy provides one parking space per family in a heated garage in its housing complex. You should contact the GSO prior to shipping a vehicle. Unleaded and leaded gas as well as diesel fuel are now widely available in the city and countryside. Ford, Toyota, Hyundai, Mitsubishi and Mercedes have dealerships with repair facilities in Ulaanbaatar. Some parts maybe hard to find or are not regularly stocked.
Americans must obtain a Mongolian driver’s license. In order to drive an official vehicle each driver must have a valid driver’s license and proof of third party liability insurance. Third party liability insurance may be purchased locally for $150/year, it is not comprehensive. To obtain a Mongolian driver licence you must have a valid U.S. driver’s license. Local liability insurance costs $150 per person annually and is not comprehensive. You’ll want to have additional insurance through a U.S. insurance company. The administrative section will assist you in obtaining a local driver’s licence and insurance.
Local Transportation Last Updated: 9/19/2005 1:42 AM
Buses and taxis serve Ulaanbaatar and its environs.UB has many taxis that can be flagged down on the streets. There are several radio dispatched taxi companies that will send taxis to your location. They charge approximately 1000 Tugriks for a five-minute trip (about $1). Prices for buses are low but they are generally jampacked; pickpockets are a problem. Embassy personnel rarely use public buses.
Car rental is possible in UB. All come with drivers, some of whom may speak a little English. The condition and reliability of rental vehicles is highly variable.
Regional Transportation Last Updated: 9/20/2004 0:31 AM
Trains run to the north and south from Ulaanbaatar and airplanes service most provincial cities. Roads in Mongolia are few and challenging. One paved highway goes north from Ulaanbaatar to the Russian border. Most other roads in Mongolia are tracks across the country. Some of the tracks are smoother than the paved road but most are bone jarring. Roads can occasionally be impossible during the “rainy” season and in winter due to snow.
Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 9/20/2004 0:44 AM
Telephone service in Ulaanbaatar is good. International Direct Dialing is available in each employee’s home. The country code for Mongolia is 976 and the city code for Ulaanbaatar is 11.
Through the International Voice Gateway (IVG) Program, the Embassy has an IVG telephone trunk directly connecting the office with the State Department Telephone Switch at Beltsville, Maryland. This IVG connection was installed as both a cost-saving and morale boosting program. Calls to the greater Washington area (703/202/301/410) are “free.” All 1–800 numbers are also free of charge to Embassy personnel. When placing personal calls, a commercial telephone calling card can be used for numbers outside the D.C. area. These personal calls will be billed to the employee as if the call originated from Beltsville, Maryland.
Wireless Service Last Updated: 10/3/2004 11:48 PM Mobile phones are common in Ulaanbaatar and other cities. They do not provide services in the countryside, but once in the larger cities, you can use them to call throughout the country. Satellite phones which can be used anywhere in Mongolia can be rented in Ulaanbaatar.
Internet Last Updated: 10/3/2004 11:50 PM
There are three providers of dial-up Internet service in Mongolia, with reasonable pricing. Internet access for Foreign Service employees is allowed through the embassy at no charge. There is no broadband Internet service in Mongolia.
Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 9/19/2005 1:29 AM
For US Government employees, FPO service is available via Hong Kong and Beijing. Mail is forwarded from Beijing by air once a week.
FPO flat mail usually takes between three and five weeks to arrive from the U.S. Parcels sometimes take longer. Address personal letters and packages to:
(Name) American Embassy Ulaanbaatar PSC 461, Box 300 FPO AP 96521–0002
The pouch address is only for official mail:
(Name) Section Department of State 4410 Ulaanbaatar Place Washington, DC 20521–4410
International Mail address:
U.S. Embassy in Mongolia P.O. Box 1021 Ulaanbaatar–13 MONGOLIA
Mail service within the country is slow. International mail service between the U.S. and Mongolia is also slow and unreliable. It takes approximately ten days for a letter to reach the U.S. You should bring a supply of US stamps for letters and outgoing boxes, as stamps are not for sale at the Embassy.
Radio and TV Last Updated: 10/3/2004 11:52 PM
Mongolian television programming is SECAM, so be sure to bring a multi-system television. Multisystem TVs and VCRs are widely available in Mongolia and are competitively priced.
VOA and BBC broadcast in English 24 hours a day on FM channel 106.6 and 103.1. BBC and several other English-language television broadcasts are available via commercial cable TV services and by satellite dish. Star Cable Network is available in the employee’s housing and contains a movie channel, a U.S. program channel, sports channel and others. AFN (Armed Forces Network), U.S. programming without commercials, is also available. The Embassy provides one TV and VCR per home.
Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 10/3/2004 11:52 PM
Two English-language newspapers, the Mongol Messenger and the UB Post, are published weekly. They contain information on local news and cultural events. There are a few international English-language periodicals, such as the Economist available locally. However they are very expensive and arrive irregularly. Plan to subscribe to any other publications you wish to receive.
Health and Medicine
Medical Facilities Last Updated: 9/19/2005 1:52 AM
In 2006 the Embassy opened its own Health Unit staffed by a local hire US nurse. The position is expected to be filled by a FSHP in 2007. Additionally official members of the American embassy community are allowed to use services at the SOS Clinic. The Regional Medical Officer from Beijing makes periodic visits to Ulaanbaatar.
Personnel are expected to bring their own prescription medication; prescriptions can be obtained from the RMO/Beijing and sent to your pharmacy in the U.S. or elsewhere to be filled. You are also expected to have your own stock of common over-the-counter remedies such as Tylenol, cold and allergy medications, basic first aid supplies, etc. The Health Unit can provide you with some medications.
Local medical facilities can be used for a fee, but for the most part do not meet American standards. For serious illnesses or medical problems the RMO authorizes medical evacuation Singapore, to Beijing, Hong Kong, or Seoul.
Community Health Last Updated: 9/19/2005 1:58 AM
Because of the climate, Mongolia doesn’t have many of the health problems found in other developing countries. For example, malaria doesn’t exist in Mongolia. However, one must follow food and water precautions to avoid diarrhea and a variety of other diseases. (See the following section.). Mongolia also has a high incidence of Tuberculosis and brucellosis . In 1995, Mongolia had 125 tuberculosis infections per 100,000 people — the fifth highest in the world. While Mongolia has limited poultry farming the H5N1 virus responsible for avian flu has been found in the wild bird population in the northern part of the country.
In warm months, flies and mosquitoes are a nuisance and can spread disease. Using insect repellent and wearing long pants and socks in the countryside during the summer is recommended. You should be careful around marmots (a type of large rodent) when you travel to the countryside, as their fleas carry the bubonic plague.
Air pollution in the capital city during the winter is a serious respiratory problem. Automobile pollution, coal burning power plants and ger-residences burning coal and wood for heat produce smog that is trapped in the city’s valley during the winter.
Uneven sidewalks, ice, open manholes, chaotic traffic and dangerous drivers provide serious obstacles for pedestrians.
Preventive Measures Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:00 AM
You are advised to get all necessary vaccinations before arriving at post. The Health Unit and SOS Clinic does stock some immunizations, but they are difficult to ship and the supply is limited. Recommended immunizations include the rabies series, the hepatitis A series, the hepatitis B series, typhoid, tetanus, meningitis A and C, and the B encephalitis series. Children’s immunizations should be up to date before arriving at post, but can be administered and updated here.
Drinking water should be boiled for 10 minutes and filtering is recommended. Embassy apartments have water distillers. Vegetables that will be eaten raw (uncooked and unpeeled) should be soaked for 20 minutes in a bleach or iodine and water solution (approximately 8 drops of bleach or iodine per liter of water). Avoid eating uncooked or unpeeled vegetables in restaurants.
Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:07 AM
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in Mongolia. Jobs paying at U.S. rates are more difficult to find. In the past spouses have worked for private companies, and taught at the university. The pay for these positions are low. For example, a university instructor might make $60 a month. Teaching positions are also available at the International School of Ulaanbaatar where the pay is comparable to other international schools in the region. English-language teachers are always in demand. Within the embassy, there are seven Eligible Family Member (EFM) positions – six of which are part time. Spousal employment is a top priority within the Embassy.
American Embassy – Ulaanbaatar
Post City Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:08 AM
Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, is located in north-central Mongolia, some 420 miles (675 kilometers) from the Chinese border at Erlian (by train), and 180 miles (290 kilometers) from the Russian border at Naushki. Its altitude and continental location make UB the coldest capital city in the world.
Ulaanbaatar means “Red Hero” and it has been called that since the Communist Revolution of 1921. It was formerly called Urga and Ikh Huree (“Big Camp”) when it was the center of government for its last non-Communist ruler, the living Buddha, Bogd Khan. Built along the Tuul River and surrounded by mountains, Ulaanbaatar is dominated by communist style high-rise apartment buildings but about 300,000 people also live in the extended ger suburbs on the outskirts of town. Most of the city spreads from east to west along the main road, Peace Avenue. The focal point of this city of over 800,000 inhabitants is Sukhbaatar Square, which is dominated by a statue of Sukhbaatar, a Communist Revolution hero, who is buried in a tomb modeled on Lenin’s tomb in Moscow.
UB is a hardship post with a 25 percent differential. Foreign Service employees serving a tour of at least 24 months in Ulaanbaatar, uninterrupted by home leave, are authorized two R&R trips to Sydney, or a destination in the U.S. Employees accepting a three-year tour receive an additional 15% per year upon completing three years.
Security Last Updated: 9/21/2004 10:15 PM
Mongolia and Ulaanbaatar are generally safe places to visit. Mongolians accept foreigners readily and are congenial hosts. There are no specific threat to Americans. However the poor economic situation and the high visibility of foreigners makes them an easy target for petty crimes like pick pocketing and cellular telephone theft. The RSO strongly recommends that you carry only the money you expect to need and leave your passports, wallets, and other valuables in a secure location. Be especially cautious at night and in crowded places.
The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:11 AM
American Embassy Ulaanbaatar has an Ambassador, thirteen State Foreign Service Officers, one OMS, 126 local staff, seven EFM positions, two USAID representatives, and five American Peace Corps staff members. The DAO has three resident military personnel assigned. There are 92 Peace Corps Volunteers in Mongolia.
The chancery is located next to the Laotian embassy in the northeast part of Ikh Toiruu (Big Ring) Road, near the Selbe River.
The Embassy hours are 8:30 to 12:30 and 1:00 to 5:00 Monday through Friday. The Embassy’s telephone number is (976–11) 329–095 and the fax number is (976–11) 320-776.
The American staff live in a complex of new townhouses located ten minutes drive from the Embassy. The Ambassador’s residence is also in this complex.
Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 10/4/2004 0:06 AM
Every effort is made to locate new employees in their permanent quarters upon arrival. However, arrangements are made at one of the nearby hotels when permanent housing is not immediately available. We also have one TDY apartment. Hotel costs are within per diem and are a short walk or taxi ride from the Embassy.
Permanent Housing Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:12 AM
State, USAID and DOD personnel live in U.S. government leased furnished townhouses and apartments called The Star Apartments. Each townhouse has at least three bedrooms, two bathrooms, living and dining rooms, kitchen, and a laundry room. Closet space is minimal. There is only one built-in closet per townhouse but each of them is furnished with wardrobes. A heated garage with one car space per family is in the basement of the townhouses.
A “Welcome Kit” is provided for use until UAB arrives. The kit provides the essentials such as towels, silverware, bedding, and dishes. If you have questions or special needs, please contact GSO.
Furnishings Last Updated: 10/4/2004 0:08 AM
The townhouse landlord provides an American-style range, refrigerator, microwave, washer, and dryer. The Embassy provides a freezer, a vacuum, and a water distiller. A limited number of humidifiers, space heaters, and transformers are also available.(DOD and AID housing may vary slightly.)
State Department personnel are provided with a sofa, chairs, lamps, dining table, china hutch, a queen-size bed, two twin-sized guest beds, dressers and wardrobes.
While the townhouses are good-sized, they don’t have extra storage space. Employees may not want to ship their entire weight allowance.
Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 12/2/2004 10:05 PM
The Embassy pays for basic utilities.. Electric current is 220–240v, 50 cycle. Power outages are infrequent. The Embassy and the residences are hooked up to generators that come on automatically when there is an outage.
Bring a surge protector for expensive electrical equipment. An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is a good investment for computer equipment.
A good supply of batteries is useful too, as locally available batteries are of low quality. Fuses and a few other basic spare parts for electrical equipment are available at post.
Hot and cold running water is provided by a central system.
Multi-system televisions, VCRs, stereos, and other electronics are widely available in Ulaanbaatar. The prices are comparable to dual voltage electronics prices in the States.
Food Last Updated: 9/22/2004 2:05 AM
The post has no commissary. A consumables allowance of 2,500 pounds is authorized.
The availability of basic western staples has improved over the last 2 years and markets now stock a wide variety of packaged foods. However, consistency is a problem. Basic foods are almost always available, including eggs, flour, sugar, canned goods, vegetables, fruits, and meat. The variety is more limited in winter, but potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, carrots, green peppers, bananas, apples, oranges, and garlic are in good supply all year long. You may wish to import traditional holiday foods, ethnic foods, dietary products, baby foods, snack foods, sports drinks, spices, seasonings, and treats for children and pets. Personal care and cleaning products are generally available, but U.S. products or equivalents are sometimes scarce and expensive. Seldom will you find a wide selection of products available at one location.
Merchants selling bakery items, and cheese come to the embassy on a regular basis and many companies will deliver to the residences.
Meat and dairy products are widely available. Several butchers provide western-style cuts of meat, and one of them will deliver to your home. UHT and powdered milk are both available in the markets.
Snack food is increasingly available, including Chips Ahoy and Oreo cookies, candy bars, and Lay’s Potato Chips.
Try not to ship consumables to arrive between October and March since prolonged delays at the border or in transit may cause them to freeze. Be sure to pack soaps and dryer sheets separately from food items to avoid contamination.
Clothing Last Updated: 12/7/2004 1:34 AM
Because temperatures in Mongolia range from 90°F in the summer to -40°F in the winter, you will need to bring a wide range of clothing.
You can buy fur and sheepskin hats and coats in UB (and have them made to order if you like). You can also buy inexpensive camelhair and cashmere sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, and socks.
UB doesn’t get much snow but it’s very cold. Standard winter coats and hiking boots with warm wool socks are sufficient for walking around UB in the winter. Extreme cold weather parkas and boots are very good investment if you plan to travel in the countryside or otherwise spend a considerable amount of time outdoors in the winter. Long underwear is a must.
A raincoat, umbrella, and rainboots may come in handy during the rainy season.
Men Last Updated: 10/4/2004 0:12 AM
Clothing for men is available locally but the quality is low and the sizes are limited.
Children Last Updated: 9/20/2004 10:30 PM
Clothing for children is available locally but the quality is low and the sizes are limited. With access to the Internet, it’s possible to buy clothing online.
Office Attire Last Updated: 9/21/2004 9:44 PM
For men, office attire is business suit or jacket and tie. Dark suits are usually worn to official meetings and representational events. For women, skirts, dresses, and pantsuits are common office wear.
There are one or two occasions each year for men and women to wear formal clothes.
Supplies and Services Last Updated: 9/22/2004 1:52 AM
The Community Liaison Officer (CLO) provides an orientation program for new families. Suggestions for consumables shipments are in the Ulaanbaatar file in the Overseas Briefing Center. Please contact the CLO in Ulaanbaatar for the latest information on any aspect of life in Mongolia at CLOUlaanbaatar@state.gov
Supplies Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:28 AM
Plan on bringing all products you normally use, such as prescription and nonprescription medications, contact lens solutions, paper products, household cleaning supplies, U.S. Postal Stamps, cosmetics, desk supplies and pet supplies. You can find many items locally but availability is never guaranteed, and the quality is not necessarily up to American standards.
To make the most of limited storage space, shoe racks and other space savers are useful. A portable drying rack is extremely useful, especially for air drying wool and cashmere items.
Gift-wrap, bows, ribbons, and tape are handy to have on hand. Cards and other stationery products can be hard to find.. Plan on bringing your own supply. A card-making computer program is useful.
Parents with a baby should bring with them everything required: crib, playpen, stroller, bottles, sterilizer, formula, and baby food. Disposable diapers are usually available but sizes may be limited. Baby food is hard to find and inconsistent, vegetables are rarely available
Basic Services Last Updated: 12/2/2004 9:57 PM
There are several satisfactory and inexpensive beauty shops that give men’s, women’s, and children’s haircuts, as well as massages and beauty treatments. Some hair products are available locally, but employees are advised to bring a supply of the brands they use. Dry-cleaning is available in the city at a few locations; the quality is at U. S. standards. Laundry, dry cleaning and ironing services are also available as a delivery service. Routine auto maintenance (oil changes, filter replacement, tire repair) is done locally. However, only vehicles in excellent condition, with owner’s manuals and spare parts, should be brought to post. Gas is usually available within the city up to a 92-octane level; however the countryside has more infrequent gas supplies, sometimes at lower octane levels.
Domestic Help Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:29 AM
Most of the Americans at post have hired part-time household help. The current starting salary for a housekeeper is about $1-2.00 per hour. Families have found excellent childcare help.
Religious Activities Last Updated: 9/22/2004 3:27 AM
There are several Buddhist monasteries in Ulaanbaatar. Other religions present include the Bahai, Church of Latter Day Saints, the Unification Church, the Seventh Day Adventists, the Catholic Church, and some other Christian denominations. There are special services for Christmas and Easter as well as privately organized Chanukah and Passover events.
At Post Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:44 AM The International School of Ulaanbaatar (ISU), is a private institution that opened in September 1992 and offers English-language instruction to elementary students. The school accepts children that are 3 years of age for Pre-School through the 12th grade. The school became fully accredited in 2003 by the Council of International Schools (CIS) and the New England Assosiation of Schools and Colleges (NEASC); in addition to this accreditation the school is authorized to offer the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Program (PYP),the Middle Years Program (MYP), and the Diploma Program. It is one of only 43 schools worldwide that can make this claim.
The school has been deemed adequate for K – 6 by OAS. It has limited special needs program. Parents of children with special needs are incouraged to contact Post and the school before bidding. Some limited special needs resources are available in the community.
The school term is from late August through mid-June.
Away From Post Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:45 AM Request a list of overseas boarding schools with English instruction from the State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools. An education allowance is available for children from grade 7 through grade 12. The Department’s educational allowance is designed to cover educational costs, including room and board, and periodic transportation between school and post. You may also want to consider home schooling. The embassy does not provide a day care facility.
Recreation and Social Life
Sports Last Updated: 9/21/2004 8:02 PM
The Embassy’s new townhouses contain an excellent fitness center with treadmill and bike machines, weight machines, free weights, sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi for men and women.
The residential complex has a good outdoor playground and a tennis court for the summer. For the long winter, we have a large community room with a ping-pong table, a video room, and an indoor playroom for the kids. There are several swimming pools around town, but they’re often closed for repairs or maintenance difficulties.
Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:45 AM
Mongolia is one of the best countries in the world for outdoor activities. On weekends many go to the countryside, to hike, picnic, rock climb, camp, watch birds, hunt or fish (a fishing license is required.) Kayaking and boating are also possible on the rivers. With the proper clothing, outdoor activities can be enjoyed all year long.
Popular winter activities include cross-country skiing and sledding. You must ship skis and sleds in your household goods, as they are generally unavailable in local shops. Plastic may crack in the extreme cold. Because of the dry climate, Ulaanbaatar gets very little snowfall. However the hills around the city receive a fair amount. The embassy has an annual winter picnic in January or February at a ski and sledding area about 20 kilometers outside of Ulaanbaatar. The Four Holy Peaks surrounding UB offer challenging hiking and breathtaking views. There is more hiking in Gurvansaikhan National Park, around the hills of Khovd, and in the Gobi Desert. Huge Khovsgol Nuur Lake is a great place for fishing and kayaking and there is spelunking in the lakeshore caves.
Big game hunting is also available in Mongolia, but must be arranged through a travel company and is expensive. It is possible to hunt antelope and wolves year-around and the cost is more modest.
Local travel companies provide excellent and modestly priced tours to all parts of Mongolia, including trips to Lake Hovsgol, the Gobi, and even Lake Baikal in Russia. You can arrange to stay in a ger at a tourist camp or in a hotel. Helicopter trips are also available.
Photographers will find that the extraordinary light and the beautiful scenery make Mongolia a great place to practice their hobby. Color film is available now in many shops and getting it processed is possible, even in one hour. However, the quality of the processing leaves a lot to be desired so you may want to send the film to the US to be developed. Slides cannot be made in Mongolia.
Entertainment Last Updated: 10/4/2004 0:22 AM
Ballet, opera, theater, folksong and dance, and symphonic performances are presented in Ulaanbaatar regularly, especially during the winter months. Tickets are inexpensive and easy to obtain. There is an English language movie theater that shows first-run Hollywood movies.
Several places rent videos in town but their selections are sparse. The Embassy has a small video library in addition to a small book library. It’s a good idea to bring lots of videos, books, music, video and board games, or anything else you enjoy.
There are a variety of museums and sights to see in Ulaanbaatar. Some of the most popular places to visit are Gandan Monastery, the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan, the Museum of Natural History, the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, and the Museum of Mongolian History.
An increasing number of international restaurants including Italian, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Thai, French, and German are open in Ulaanbaatar. Service and menu selection are reasonably good. Tipping is not required or expected.
Social Activities Last Updated: 9/21/2004 10:32 PM
Most social activities in Mongolia are casual, with informal entertaining being done at home. Year-round picnics are also popular.
There are also groups such as the Hash House Harriers, the International Women’s Association, the bridge club, The Rotary Club, and the Steppe Inn at the British embassy that meet regularly.
The International Women’s Association sponsors an annual ball in February. Dress is semi-formal.
Nature of Functions Last Updated: 9/21/2004 10:36 PM
Embassy officers have frequent contact with the diplomatic community and with Mongolian officials. Official functions within the Embassy usually consist of receptions in the Embassy reception room or representational events in staff residences. Home entertainment by the Mongolians is rare, except on major holidays such as Tsagaan Tsar (Lunal New Year).
Junior officers and staff personnel lead an active social life within the international community. Although they have fewer social requirements than senior officials, they frequently attend and host official or semi-official functions.
Dress tends to be business clothes unless “casual” is written on the invitation. Eveningwear for men is a suit and tie; for women it’s a street-length dress or slacks and dressy top.
Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 9/22/2004 3:35 AM
No formal calls within the Embassy are necessary, but soon after arrival newcomers will meet the Ambassador and the Deputy Chief of Mission, and visit other employees in their offices. Formal calls should be made on Mongolian ministry officials or other members of the diplomatic community as appropriate. In making these calls, employees should leave calling cards.
Business cards are widely used in Mongolia. Cards may be printed locally and the quality of paper and printing is good.
Special Information Last Updated: 10/4/2004 0:19 AM
Not all sections of the post report will pertain to military personnel assigned to Mongolia. The post report can serve as a good source of general information, but military personnel should correspond directly with their prospective commands and their sponsors for more definitive information concerning assignments, housing, medical and dental care, importation of privately owned vehicles, etc.
Related Internet Sites Last Updated: 9/22/2004 1:13 AM
US Embassy at Ulaanbaatar http://www.us-mongolia.com Mongolia Online http://www.mol.mn Mongolia Resource Page http://www.soros.org/mongolia Discover Mongolia http://www.discover.mn/mongolia Lonely Planet http://www.lonelyplanet.com UN Site http://www.un-mongolia.mn UNDP http://www.undp.org CIA World Fact Book-Mongolia http://www.odci.gov/cia/publications/factbo ok/mg.html Mongolia WWW Virtual Library http://www.indiana.edu/mongsoc/vl.html Mongolia on the Web http://www.geocities.com/yammit_2000 Mongolian Parliament Web Site http://www.parl.gov.mn
Notes For Travelers
Getting to the Post Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:47 AM
Most Americans assigned to Ulaanbaatar fly through Beijing, Tokyo or Seoul. It’s also possible to fly from Berlin and Moscow or, in the summer, through Osaka.
Airfreight from the U.S. arrives generally within three weeks. Beijing should receive an information copy of cables concerning air or surface shipments. UB has consumables authorized for air freight.
Surface shipments are routed from the U.S. to the Chinese port of Xingang (Tianjin), and are consigned to International Transport Express (ITE) for onward shipment by train. Train wheels must be changed at the border to allow for different gauges of track. Normally, shipment arrives in two weeks after reaching the border. Shipments made after the end of September have been known to freeze.
Be sure to check with OPR/STP regarding the latest information on maximum dimensions of containers. There are size and weight restrictions for airfreight shipments because cargo space of flights from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar is limited. Each piece should not exceed 40 kilograms, 2 meters in height or width, and 1½ meter deep. Anything larger cannot be shipped.
Customs, Duties, and Passage
Customs and Duties Last Updated: 9/22/2004 0:27 AM
If you’re traveling through Korea or Japan, you won’t need a visa. If you’re traveling through China you will need a transit visa. Diplomatic passport holders don’t have to pay an airport departure tax at the Beijing or Seoul airports.
Pets Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:48 AM
There is no quarantine for cats and dogs in Mongolia. Be sure to bring a health certificate and proof of vaccinations. You should check with the airline to determine if it accepts pets in the luggage or passenger compartment. Also confirm with hotels used enroute if they will accept pets.
Although dry and canned cat food can be found in the market, it’s still a good idea to bring what you’ll need for your pet or be prepared to order it from the States. Kitty litter is not always available, but paper from the shredder makes excellent filler for the litter box.
Be careful about taking your dog into the countryside in Mongolia. Fleas may carry bubonic plague.
Be sure to let the embassy know if you’re planning to bring a pet to post. The GSO can help arrange transportation and hotel accommodations.
There is only one hotel in Beijing that accepts pets: the Sinoswiss. There are no hotels in Seoul that accept pets, however there are a number of hospitals that will board your animal. Bringing pets through Japan is difficult; check with the Embassy and the airline before making arrangements.
Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 9/22/2004 0:45 AM
If you plan to bring firearms and ammunition to post for recreational use, please notify the RSO in advance.
Hunters traveling with groups have no problems transporting guns and ammunition because they’re sealed and stored in Beijing by the Chinese government and are rechecked by Mongolian officials at the point of entry in Mongolia. All ammunition must be accounted for when leaving Mongolia.
If a permanent resident wishes to bring a gun to post, he/she should contact the U.S. Customs Service and the Mongolian Embassy in Washington to obtain the proper documents and seal the gun for transport.
Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 9/19/2005 2:49 AM
The local currency is the “tugrik.” The tugrik is the sole legal currency although dollars are acceptable in some stores and restaurants. Traveler’s checks are available for purchase at the Trade and Development Bank when you need to travel outside Mongolia. Traveler’s checks can be cashed at the Trade and Development Bank and major hotels. Credit cards are not widely accepted except in major hotels, shops, and restaurants. Cash advances on credit cards are available at the Trade and Development Bank and there are several ATM machines in Ulaanbaatar. All ATMs are VISA only. Personal checks are not accepted by local businesses. However, the Embassy’s cashier will cash checks up to $500 for permanent and TDY personnel.
The metric system of weights and measures is used in Mongolia.
Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 9/30/2003 12:04 AM
Sale of property upon departure is subject to normal U.S. government restrictions.
Recommended Reading Last Updated: 9/22/2004 1:19 AM
These titles are provided to give you an idea of the kind of information that has been published about Mongolia. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.
Allen, Benedict. Edge of Blue Heaven: A Journey Through Mongolia. Robson Book LTD, 1999.
Avery, Martha. Women of Mongolia. Avery Press, Sep 1996.
Becker, Jasper. The Lost Country: Mongolia Revealed. Sceptre, 1992.
Bowden, C.R. The Modern History of Mongolia. Paul Kegan, Inc., 1989.
Bull, Bartle. Around the Sacred Sea: Mongolia and Lake Baikal on Horseback. Canongate Pub., 2000.
Croner, Don. Travels in Northern Mongolia. Polar Star Pub., 1999.
Goldstein, Melvin. Changing World of Mongolia’s Nomads. University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Jagchid, Sechim. Essays in Mongolian Studies. Brigham Young University, 1988.
Major, John S. The Land and People of Mongolia. Lippincott, 1990.
Metternich, Hilary Roe. Mongolian Folktales. Avery Press, 1996.
Morgan, David. The Mongols. Basil Blackwell, Inc., 1987.
Moses, Larry N. and Stephen A. Halkovik Jr. Introduction to Mongolia. Indiana University Press, 1985.
Moses, Larry N. The Political Role of Mongol Buddhism. Indiana University Press, 1977.
Phillips, E.D. The Mongols. Thames and Hudson, 1969.
Rossabi, Morris. Mongolia, The Legacy of Ghenghis Khaan. Thames and Hudson, 1995.
Sandage, Shagdariin. Poisoned Arrow: The Stalin-Choibalsan Mongolian Massacres, 1921–1941. Westview Press, 1999.
Sanders, Alan. Lonely Planet Mongolian Phrasebook. 1995.
Saunders, J.J. The History of the Mongol Conquest. Routledge. Paul Kegan, 1971.
Severin, Tim. In Search of Genghis Khan. Collier, 1993.
Storey, Robert. Lonely Planet Guide to Mongolia. 1997 edition.
Local Holidays Last Updated: 9/30/2003 12:08 AM
New Year’s Day Jan 1 Tsagaan Sar (Lunar New Year) 2 or 3 days (varies) Feb Mother and Child Day June l Naadam (National Day) July 11–13 Independence Day Nov 26