I found when in Mongolia I always made sure that I had adquate amount of fresh bottled water. I found that the fine dust that permeates everywhere here gets in your eyes, and throat..it is imperative to have fresh bottled water on hand always..The dust storms seemed to be quite prevelant and normal to see the locals out cleaning up constantly. I purchased my water at the supermarket and kept a stash always at my hostel.. As I was travelling by train I always had lots of fresh water with me as train water is a no no unless its boiled..
Just make sure that when purchasing bottled water that the cap seal is not broken and its not a "refill" with ordinary tap water.
When travelling to / through Mongolia make sure that you have adequate travel insurance. No place in the world is without its dangers and this is no exception.
The best policies are for cover for medical, accident, theft and repatriation...I make sure that I have all these when travelling especially in most of Asia..The thought of an accident is usually the furthest thing from our minds when travelling but certain places do not have the facilities for good medical and accident facilities. Hospital stays and doctors costs can be horrendous in most countries .Some countries will not have the facility to treat some bad accidents and air travel then comes into play at very large costs to the victim.
I am so glad that I had Insurance when I got robbed here and "ripped off " of my wallet, credit cards, and some cash,
I must dissagree when I hear ..Travel Insurance , I don't need it.!!.well, I am in no way a thrill seeker but I never travel without the right type of travel Insurance..
Like they say: DONT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT.
Well they say that this is one of the worlds capitals for thieves and pickpockets.I must agree ..So,. Be very aware when travelling here of this common activity. Ulan bataar like all places one must be aware of its dangers. All Hostels amd Hotels warn their patrons of the strong possibilty of having there belongings stolen. I found at my Hostel in Ulan bataar that everyone had a small safe locker for their important documents and money. I know first hand as I was robbed here by pickpockets and lost my wallet with all my credit cards and some money.This created huge problems for me as these occurences do in my further travels..
Most advice is really common sense.. just be careful where there are large concentrations of people.
ie: bus and railways stations, especially marketplaces, crowded bars, cafes, shops,
ALWAYS make sure that you DONOT put your bag down without holding onto the strap/s.
Have your bag around your neck NOT over your shoulder.
Do not "flash cash" in public when paying for something..think ahead..
Most "Ripp Offs" occur while the victim is being pushed or shoved and being distracted..
Do not carry all your money in one place...have a stash on your body somewhere.
ALWAYS BE AWARE ..these people do it for a living!!!
I had heard and read reports of many pick pocketing tales and backpack slashings before I went to UB and so was a little paranoid that something might happen to me whilst there. So to combat this I only took my small camera (albeit in my pocket) and a map wherever I went. There are certain off-the-beaten-track areas in the city which I would, personally, recommend not to venture in to. UB is a bit shabby and unloved and a one word summary of it would be "broken". It has an element of the "underworld" about it so be careful and try and not to take too much with you like bags or money etc.
Be careful with your belongings when walking around UB. There's no need to be totally paranoid, but if you're carrying a bag, keep it in front of you, not behind, and not just on one shoulder. People have had cameras stolen out of bags on their backs, and apparently in Naraantuul market thieves have been known to cut straps to take things.
On our last day in UB we were walking down a main street in the centre of town when I felt the camera bag lift slightly - I turned around and a young guy was caught in the act. It's a good job our camera is quite hefty!
Ulaanbaatar is not the most tidy city I've ever been to. In fact, there's hardly any grass here. I'm sure there is some somewhere, but don't think you'll be seeing well maintained parks and gardens. During the Communist era, the government prohibited spending money on beautification projects. They don't seem to have shed this way of thinking. There's just no regard for nature in the city. Even in Sukhbaatar Square, you got these patches of dirt around Sukhbaatar Statue and the Parliament building. And when it rains or there's a snow thaw, that's all going to turn into a slippery muddy mess. So if you have a good pair or water resistant shoes or boots, you should probably wear them always.
Child beggars are common and some are relentless. When you don't give to them, they become very offended and frustrated. Also, be aware that any money you give will most likely go straight to their teenage "pimps", so you may not be helping them as much as you think you are. Any time I saw a couple of beggars, there was a teenaged kid lurking nearby and when he thought you were gone, he'd start talking to them while counting his money. (I have a video of this that I will post to my Choir, Mongolia page)
If you feel like giving to the beggars, give them food. Candy and potato chips are inexpensive in Mongolia so its the perfect alternative. After all, that's probably what they're in most need of anyway.
This story is sad, but true. And telling it will help save people many a broken ankle. Due to the extreme winter cold and lack of homeless shelters in UB, people, most of them children, take extreme measures and dwell in the sewers at night to keep warm. By some estimates I've heard there are as many as 10,000-15,000 of them. Because of this, you've got a lot of manhole covers that are just basically missing. And because of occasional power outages or lack of infrastructure, some parts of UB are very dark when the sun goes down. Not even walking down the middle of streets is completely safe. Make sure you walk slow and you better watch out for these! You fall down one of these, you've had a very bad day.
Be very careful in the traffic! There is much traffic on the main roads, and everybody drives like crazy...
Be especially careful when crossing the roads, not all cars stop for red light or stop in the pedestrian crossing zone.
I think it's the worst driving I have seen anywhere.
Don't walk home alone at night! My friend was attacked by a group of young people, and they took his money.
Nothing really bad happened, but it was not a funny experience!
Walk in a group or take a taxi.
You can change money (USD) in the street. I think the exchange rate is fair, but ... if you want to change 100 USD and the exchange rate is 1000 (example) the money changer uses a pocket calculator to calculate how many tögrög you must have for 100 USD. You see him type 100 * 1000 on the pocket calculator but the display only shows 95000 instead of 100000. (This was just an easy example).
I don't know how they do it; maybe they got a program in the memory. But remember to do your own calculation. They got me the first time - not the second...
Traffic in UB gets very bad virtually any time of the day. Black spots include most of Peace Ave (the main east-west road through the city) and Chinggis Ave (which is the only road over the railway). It gets even worse when it rains as it took us a long time to do a short distance when it was raining. I was quite surprised by the standard of vehicles on the roads. Of course, there are loads of 4x4's around, some of them very posh like Porsche Cayenne’s, Range Rovers and BMW X5's, but there are also some expensive cars like a BMW M6, Mercedes S Classes and BMW 7 series. But most of the cars are small Korean Hyundai's or similar. One thing that was interesting to see was that there were more right hand drive cars than left hand ones. Most of the cars are straight Japanese imports which are cheaper to buy if they are right hand drive.
This is an Eastern Europe thing that I have seen and heard of in Mongolia.
Basically, outside of exchange bureaus and the post office someone leaves a roll of notes-local or dollars outside in a clear place. They are usually just paper with a real note around the outside.
Anyway, the trick is that a tourist picks it up, and the conman, who is watching nearby sees this and says that you have stolen his money; from nowhere a "policeman" appears and searches you, taking all the money that you have, as the man claims it is the stolen lot.
Another variation of this is that conman saying he has "found" the money and asks if you want to split the money, then another man appears saying he has lost some, then the conman says that you have the lot.
I saw several rolls of bills outside exchange places on Peace Avenue, i would leave them well alone.
- Pavements and roads all over the city are cracked and when it rains collect huge puddles of water. So it's best to wear sturdy shoes.
- The driving habits of Mongolians are some of the worst I've seen in Asia. You never know when to cross the street. It is an adventure. Pedestrians and cars all move at the same time irrespective of whether it is green or red traffic light.
We went downtown with our Lonely Planet guide which has a map. But the map is not very detailed and most importantly has the names of the roads in latin characters. However, in Mongolia everything is written in Russian characters. So you need a Mongolian Map with Russian script, otherwise it is impossible to navigate through the streets. Because we are Greek, we managed to find our way, since Cyrilic script is very similar to Greek. But still, it is best to go downtown with a Cyrillic script map.