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Ulan Bator, or Ulaanbaatar, is the capital city of Mongolia. Its drab, communist era architecture belies the fascinating history of this place, dating back almost 400 years. The city, initially known as Urga, was founded in 1639 after the Imperial capital, Karakorum, had been abandoned. Until the 19th century the city was more like a moving tent town with very few, if any, permanent structures other then temples. The city has grown drastically in the last 100 years, from a population of around 50,000 to the present population of roughly 1,000,000. This has largely been due to high levels of migration from the country's western provinces, where unemployment and poverty haven't presented an attractive life and the policy during soviet times of encouraging large families, which has made many families send adult children to the city in order to find work.
Ulan Bator is organised into 9 districts (Düüregs): Baganuur, Bagakhangai, Bayangol, Bayanzurkh, Chingeltei, Khan Uul, Nalaikh, Songino Khairkhan, and Sühbaatar.
Since Ulan Bator is the heart of the country, it is also a starting point for journeys to some of Mongolia's most popular attractions, including the Gobi Desert, Terelj National Park and White Lake. For more information about taking these trips, see the Mongolia article.
The Nadaam Festival is held every year from 11 to 13 July (National Holiday). The National Sports Stadium is the place to be for 3 days long when military parades and sports competitions are held here, with wrestling, arching and horse racing being the most important sports. It is believed that the Nadaam Festival has been a tradition for hundreds of years and nowadays foreigners can enjoy watching traditions in the stadium in Ulan Bator. The festival begins with a massive parade and also features classical Mongolian dancing. In traditional times the festival would have been celebrated when the grass was greenest. In some parts of the country that are more conservative this tradition still holds true.
Ulan Bator is located at an altitude of about 1,350 metres at the foot of the Bogd Khan Uul mountain. Due to this high elevation, a relatively high latitude and an inland location, Ulan Bator is the world's coldest national capital. Summers are brief and warm. Winters are long, dry and very cold. The average annual temperature hovers around -1.3 °C, largely dragged down by the icy winter temperatures of between -15 °C and -30 °C.
Chinggis Khaan International Airport (ULN) is served by several international airlines including Aeroflot, Air China, Korean Air and Japan Airlines. The airport is located 18 kilometres southwest of the city. The national airline MIAT Mongolian Airlines has flights to Beijing-Capital, Berlin-Tegel, Moscow-Sheremetyevo, Seoul-Incheon, Tokyo-Narita, Irkutsk, Osaka-Kansai and Tokyo-Haneda.
The main train station is located just south of downtown. It is a good sized train station with only one platform. It is best to buy tickets a few days in advance. Some hotel will even buy train tickets for guests for no extra charge. There are daily trains to the Chinese and Russian borders and a several trains a week all the way to Beijing or Moscow. There can be one or two trains a week, depending on the time of year, to other cities in Russia or China.
It is possible to take the bus to most of the regional capitals and larger cities and towns. The bus stations seem to be constantly moving. Therefore it is best to ask a local about where to go to catch a bus. Remember that it is best to buy bus tickets a day or two in advance if possible. Bus will leave early if they fill up.
There are lots of official and unofficial taxi's going around town. The rates are reasonable, about T200-400 per kilometre (ask locals about how much the price should be). It is common for taxi's to wait for several people going in the same direction before starting.
There is a good bus system in UB but it can be confusing. Also the buses are old and very crowded. For most tourists staying in the downtown area taking a public bus will never be needed.
If staying in the downtown area getting around by foot is the best method. Although a bit tiresome during the night or the winter getting around by foot is the best way to experience the city. Be cautious of pickpockets and other thieves. The city has recently seen higher levels of petty theft and pickpockets, especially targeting tourists. According to victims and police, most of the pickpockets wear nice clothes and seem to fit in to the rest of their surroundings quite well. If you are robbed, don't expect the police to help you much.
If tired of Mongolian cuisine Ulan Bator actually has a great selection of international food options that are pretty good. There are plenty of Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Pizza, Hamburger and other western food joints around the downtown area. Remember that foreign food will cost more then local Mongolian food and if looking for something a little cheaper one can always hit up a grocery store and make some home cooking in their guest house.
The nightlife scene in Ulan Bator changes quickly and often. The hot place one month will be completely empty next. The best way to find out about bars and clubs in Ulan Bator is to ask at your lodging or pick up a local expat magazine. Another thing to keep in mind is that alcohol laws in Ulan Bator change very quickly also. You can show up and the current law could be no alcohol is served after 10:00pm, you can show up and last call can be when the sun rises. Many times bars will stop serving alcohol when the police comes by and then promptly start serving again once they leave.
|Bolod's Suburban Guesthouse||Appartment No.8, Building BX-48 10 Buudal, Horoo No.20, Bayangol District||Guesthouse||-|
|GobiTours Guest House||Apt # 25, Entrance # 3, Bldg 61C (with AIRMARKET) Opposite Central Post Office||Hostel||-|
|Golden Gobi||Chingeltei district, 40000 Microdistrict building||Hostel||89|
|Happy Travel||1st horoo,building#015(II) Bayangol district||Hostel||86|
|Heaven Envoy Tourist Camp||National Park Terelj in Khan Khentii potected area||Hotel||-|
|Idre's Guesthouse||P.O.Box 44-405 Ulaanbaatar 210644||Hostel||85|
|Khan Khentii Backpackers Camp||Terelj National Park||Hostel||-|
|LG Guesthouse & Hostel||Bayangol district Teeverchdiin Street||HOSTEL||81|
|LG Hostel||Khoroo 3||hostel||83|
|Lotus Guesthouse||Chingeltei, 4th Khoroo Baga Toiruu, 17-15||guesthouse||87|
|Mongolian Steppe Guesthouse||1st 40 myangat Bld# 8 No 7 Chingeltei District 1 st khoroo||HOSTEL||84|
|Mr. Gomez Hostel||Davkhar # 16, Khoroo 1, Bayangol distict||Hostel||-|
|Oyuna Guesthouse and Hostel||Nearby Gandan Monastery Door4, Orkhon5, Bayangol District||HOSTEL||-|
|Travel Buddies Guesthouse||12th building, 40000 micro district||guesthouse||-|
|UB Guesthouse & Hostel||Baga Toiruu street||HOSTEL||85|
|Zaya Guest House||Peace Avenue 63 10 12 Sukhbaatar District||Guesthouse||88|
|Bolod's Guesthouse||Door no 22, building no 61C, Horoo no 12, Chingelt||Guesthouse||-|
|Gandan Guest House||BG district 16th khoroo tuuliin 9th street House No.178||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Mongol Guesthouse||16t door,2nd Enterance 112 appartment, Bayanzurkh||Hostel||-|
|Oneway Guesthouse||Khan Uul Dureg, Jarmag, 4-r choroo, Arzat 14-510 Khan Uul Dureg, Jarmag schgoodangiin 30-r salbar,||Guesthouse||-|
|Adventurer Guest House||Apartment 123, Block 32, Sukhbaatar District||Guesthouse||-|
|Edelweiss Mongolia||Chingeltei district, Baga toirog, 37/56 ap,||Hostel||-|
|Baagi's Guesthouse||Chingeltei district, V Khoroo, House 4-4||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Gana's Guesthouse||Gandan Tuul-2-22||Guesthouse||79|
|Travel Planet Hostel||Apt#3, Building 51, Ulaanbaatar (opposite of west side of Russian Embassy)||HOSTEL||-|
|Danista Nomads||1-37 Orkhon Street Bayangol District||HOSTEL||85|
|LG-B Hostel and Guesthouse||Sukhbaatar District 4 th khoroo ,1st 40 myangat||HOSTEL||-|
|Sunpath Mongolia||Building 37-56 apartment (2 floor), (door code-13) Baga toirog, khoroo 6, Chingeltei District,||HOSTEL||90|
As more foreign companies move into Mongolia more foreigners are starting to get jobs in Ulan Bator. Most people that work in Ulan Bator are still primarily English teachers, government sponsored volunteers, missionaries and embassy employees. The pay is not very good for most English teaching jobs but more private schools for rich Mongolians are starting to appear, which pay better.
There are several good internet bars in the downtown area. They offer good rates and high speed connections. Remember to watch your bags in these places because people have had things stolen.
See also: International Telephone Calls
The international telephone code of Mongolia is 976.
It is possible to buy phone cards that can be used to call abroad very cheaply from domestic phones, but not all phones can do this. (You can ask for MiCom or MobiCom cards). In the countryside, cell phone carriers cover random villages. Between Mobicom, Unitel, and GMobile, all village or Soum Centers are covered.
If you don't use local SIM cards, be sure to switch off international data roaming, as charges for internet are extremely high. Better use only wifi in those cases if you can.
MongolPost is the national postal company of Mongolia. It has relatively cheap but slow services, although it's fairly reliable nowadays. It takes at least 10 days to several weeks before your letter or postcards arrives. Post offices are generally open from 8:00am until late afternoon or early evening, but keep shorter hours in smaller cities and villages. For packages, although also cheaper with MongolPost, it's better to pay the extra cash and send it by companies like DHL, FedEx, TNT or UPS.
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