A Comprehensive Guide about Living in Ulan Bator

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  • Henrik Olsen

    When I first moved to Ulan Bator, I had so many questions and apprehensions, but the InterNations network helped me find the support and answers that I needed!

Life in Ulan Bator

Ulan Bator is one of the most important cities in Asia. Mongolia’s capital is home to around 1.3 million people and it is the beating heart of the country, acting as its transport, economic and employment hub and attracting expats from all over the world.

Unusually, Ulan Bator has moved many times during its history after it was initially founded as a nomadic Buddhist center. Today, the city lies at the junction of the Tuul and Selbe rivers. Sometimes styled as Ulaanbaatar or referred to simply as UB by locals, the city is becoming increasingly important globally as it undergoes its own industrial revolution.

Transportation in Ulan Bator

As Mongolia’s main transport hub, Ulan Bator is one of the best connected cities in Asia. It is connected to the Chinese railway system and the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia, as well as being the hub of the country’s road network.

In UB itself, the Chinggis Khaan International Airport connects the city to the rest of the world by air. In fact, the airport is the only commercial one in the whole of Mongolia. The harsh climate of the city also means flights are sometimes cancelled due to poor weather conditions.

Road travel is quite poor across Mongolia and it is no different in Ulan Bator, where a lot of roads remain unpaved despite developments in this area over the last few years. Even the paved roads are in bad condition a lot of the time, so expats living in Ulan Bator need to be prepared for bumpy rides. The city center is compact enough for people living in Ulan Bator to get around on foot, but the sidewalks are often muddy or icy.

The city is served by the Ulan Bator trolleybus system and there are also thousands of taxis commonly used to get around by expats. Drivers have been known to try to get away with overcharging foreigners, however, so negotiating fares in advance is important.

Plans have been unveiled to open a subway system in Ulan Bator, but the line, which will run from Tolgoit to Amgalan and feature sections both under and over ground, is not likely to be completed until 2020. When it is finally ready, transportation in Ulan Bator will be much improved.

Culture and Leisure in Ulan Bator

Culture and leisure options are improving rapidly across Ulan Bator, but the city still lacks facilities compared to a lot of the world’s major capitals.

The Museum of National History and the National Museum of Mongolia are two of the most important cultural sites for expats to visit in Ulan Bator, as well as the Gandan Monastery, which features the famous large Janraisig statue. There are still a lot of monasteries in Ulan Bator despite former Communist leader Khorloogiin Choibalsan ordering the destruction of many.

For shopping, the 3rd Microdistrict Boulevard is the best place to go when living in Ulan Bator, while the Narantuul “Black Market” area is also well worth a trip.

Ulan Bator’s top sporting facility is the National Sports Stadium, which hosts international football matches and is also home to the annual Naadam festival, which takes place in July and celebrates Mongolian independence. The stadium has also been selected to host the 2016 World University Archery Championship. Archery is an extremely popular sport in Mongolia.

Recent years have seen a growing number of concerts take place in Ulan Bator, with ONYX and the Korean K-pop group T-ara among those to have performed in the Mongolian capital city so far.

Safety and Security in Ulan Bator

Ulan Bator has a reputation for being a relatively safe place for foreigners to visit or live in, with street crimes, burglaries and thefts fairly uncommon.

Pickpockets have been known to circulate around the busier areas of the city, but they are no more common than in any other major capital city. However, people — especially women — are advised to avoid walking alone at night if at all possible as street lighting can be very unreliable.

The emergency number in Ulan Bator is 102 for the police, while people should dial 101 for the fire department and 103 if they require an ambulance. Overall, crime rates in Mongolia are some of the lowest of anywhere in Asia.

One of the major problems for expats living in Ulan Bator is air pollution, with the city having some of the worst quality air of anywhere in the world. Pollution levels regularly exceed safe limits set by the World Health Organization. It is also important to get the proper vaccinations and immunizations before moving to Ulan Bator.

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  • Henrik Olsen

    When I first moved to Ulan Bator, I had so many questions and apprehensions, but the InterNations network helped me find the support and answers that I needed!

  • Sabine Baumeister

    Having a network of expats in Ulan Bator has made the long move from Germany much easier.

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