Take a GPS and some maps if you want to go about the countryside without a guide. The “Mongolia Road Atlas,” which is almost 60 pages long and covers the whole nation, is available in many bookstores. Note that there is a Latin character version and a Cyrillic character version; most people in the countryside will not comprehend the Latin version. The Mongolian Government Map Store has more comprehensive maps accessible. The scale of these maps is 1:500,000. There are also several additional special purpose maps, as well as a very excellent map of Ulaanbaatar’s downtown area. On Ih Toiruu St., there is a map shop. Go two blocks west on the main street, Peace, Peace and Friendship, or Ekhtavan Ave, from the State Department store to the big junction with traffic lights. The map shop is approximately half way down the street on the right (North). The Elba electrical appliance shop, a yellow and blue structure set back from the street, is followed by a huge Russian style office building with four stories, the map store entrance is on the west side, near the south end of the building, and it lines up with the Elba building’s north wall.
Keep in mind that whichever mode of long-distance travel is selected, everything in Mongolia has a propensity to break down. Don’t be surprised if a component of the suspension fails and the driver substitutes a carved wooden block for a mount. It may take a whole day or more for someone to come along and assist with more severe problems, so allow plenty of slack in schedules. Finally, Mongolians have a reputation for being tardy. A bus scheduled to depart at 8:00 a.m. will most likely not leave the city until almost 11:00 p.m.
Using one of the local carriers, such as AeroMongolia, Eznis, or Hunnu Air, is the most convenient method to travel large distances. Almost every aircraft connects Ulaanbaatar with the Aimag centers. The majority of flights utilize turboprop small aircraft like the Fokker-50, with the exception of mines in the south Govi and Choibalsan, which use B-737s. AeroMongolia has a two-tier pricing system, with foreigners paying considerably more than locals, while Eznis and Hunnu share a single charge. There isn’t much of a difference between the airlines apart from pricing. In Mongolia, air travel agencies, guest houses, and hotels can assist you in obtaining a domestic flight ticket.
Mongolia has just one railway firm, Mongolian Railway, which is jointly controlled by the Russian and Mongolian governments. It’s definitely the greatest way to get a taste of communist times, even though it’s changed a little since then. The passenger is seen by Ulaanbaatar train agents as a possible rule breaker rather than a customer. The railway network is inadequate, consisting mostly of the Trans-Mongolian route between Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar, with a few expansions. Trains move at a glacial pace. They typically depart on time and arrive on time or within 20 minutes of the scheduled time. Intercity bus lines on approximately parallel paved highways will bring you to your destination considerably quicker.
Many tiny stations in the countryside serve as stops for local trains. For example, the tiny town of Batsumber is approximately 34 kilometers north of Ulaanbaatar (as the crow flies) and takes about an hour and a half on the train. Take your camping gear and go east of town to the mountains, which are approximately 10 kilometers away. Two streams run west out of the mountains, and you may walk and camp along them. The village has a modest restaurant and a few grocery stores.
You may pay for your rail ticket using a credit card. You pay an additional charge if you book in advance, as well as an additional fee if you purchase it on the train, which is the only option if you have less than 10 minutes before the train departs. A passport is needed to purchase a ticket, however one passport may be used to purchase tickets for many individuals. “Coupé,” “sleeping,” and “public” are the three classes (translated into English by “economic” by the company). The only one with doors is “Coupé.” On busy days, it’s conceivable that you’ll have to spend your night in “public” and even with little space. Although the tickets are numbered, the firm overbooks public seats with tickets numbered “0” at the same price when the seats are sold out. Tickets for “public” seats are much less expensive (and significantly slower) than coach, minivan, and taxi rivals. The schedules may be found on the business’s website. You will be charged for extra bed sheets if you travel in a coupé at night.
Inside a train
Inside the train, you will be offered beverages and Mongolian cuisine by both official company vendors and private individuals boarding the train for that reason at the larger stations with longer pauses. Many conductors are present. Expect Mongolian and perhaps Russian to be the only languages they speak. Keep an eye on your belongings: thefts are fairly uncommon. However, there are police officers on board each train. On a lengthy journey, your ticket will be checked repeatedly, and you may be awakened up in the middle of the night to do so. If you have to get off during the journey, no one will wake you up; but, if you get off at the terminal, you will be awakened up, perhaps more than an hour before arrival, depending on the agent. The train bathrooms are supposed to shut 30 minutes before the terminal, but they often close before.
Traveling by local bus is another a possibility, but these buses usually only connect the province capital with UB, and finding public transit that connects two provincial capitals is challenging. The bus situation has just improved significantly. The name of the city or town, or the name of the Aimag (province) or Soum, are used to refer to most cities and towns (county). Dornod, Dornod Aimag, or Choybalsan, for example (the actual city name). The destination of most buses is printed on a card in the front window. If you have either name written in Mongolian Cyrillic, present it to the drivers or assistants, and they will direct you to the correct bus.
Depending on the route, there are two kinds of buses: micro vans and big buses (some large buses are ancient Russian types and some are contemporary western types). The big buses adhere to a strict timetable, while the microbuses are considerably more flexible. There are two bus terminals in Ulaanbaatar, one on the west near the Dragon Shopping Center and the other on the east near the Botanical Gardens. On each side of the city, both stops are located on Peace Avenue. There are many buses that operate between them. Write instructions with the help of a local. Buy your tickets for the big buses the day before.
Ulaanbaatar, local soums (small county seats), and typically the next Aimag Center will be served from the Aimag centers. However, not all places may be accessible at the same time. Seek assistance from the locals. For example, there is bus service between Ondorkhaan and UB from a central bus station in Khentii Province’s capital, but via buses from UB to Dornad and Sukhbaatar Aimags (Choybalsan and Baruun-Urt) will stop at a gas station on the city’s north side.
Your ticket is purchased at the station, not on the bus. Expect only Mongolian and perhaps Russian to be spoken by any cashier, driver, or conductor. It is not feasible to make a payment using a credit card. To purchase a ticket, you will need your passport. If the weight or size of your baggage exceeds the standard (as stated on your ticket), you will be charged an additional cost by the conductor. This is something you can work out.
Inside a bus
On certain routes, the driver and conductor unlawfully add additional passengers in order to pocket the money. They may even attempt to cram three people into two seats, in which case you have the right to object. Your ticket entitles you to a complete seat, which is what most coaches provide. The coach will typically stop at a local café or cafeteria for a short lunch or supper.
Purgons and mekrs, or public rural taxis and minivans, provide more destinations than coaches and many more than trains, particularly across regions. They’re riskier than buses and trains, and they’re usually overcrowded. The majority of motorists disobey traffic laws. When taxis and minivans in the countryside are full, they depart. They usually say “now” (“odo”), but this is seldom the case, and you may have to wait hours before they really go. To estimate how long you’ll have to wait, count how many individuals are already inside the car. Before leaving town, drivers often pledge to pick up more passengers and goods.
By chartered jeep
A Jeep and driver may also be chartered for private usage. Typically, prices are negotiated by the kilometer. While this mode of transportation is much more costly than taking a ride with the locals, it is lot more handy and enables you to explore more distant locations. It is also possible to hire a guide to accompany you for the duration of your stay. As a result, you won’t have to worry about taxi drivers overcharging you up to 10 times simply because you’re a foreigner.
Taxis in cities should charge about MNT700 per kilometer. The drivers will charge according to the trip meter they have set.
Another excellent option is to just stroll. Resting is never an issue since camping is available everywhere. There are nomads everywhere there is water, and if you stick to the main dirt roads, you’ll come across lots of guanz, who can give you with large, inexpensive meals to keep you going. Wrap yourself in wool blankets and then cover yourself with a Russian raincoat (basically a tarp in the shape of a trench coat) and just plonk yourself down on the ground, like Mongolians do. Sleeping in a sleeping bag or bivvy sack/tent for one night gives you a whole new respect for the marvels of sleeping bags and bivvy sacks/tents.