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Packing Guidance for Mongolia

This guidance is designed to describe appropriate clothing, the cultural context where you will be living and working, and the professional expectations of your workplace.

As you decide what to bring, keep in mind there is a 100-pound weight limit on checked baggage.

In general, most items you will need are available in country and locally acquired items are often the best at helping you integrate into your community. However, locally available items may not be the brands, quality, prices, or sizes you are used to. Bringing some key items from home might make your transition to service more comfortable.

This guidance has been compiled by Peace Corps staff and Volunteers and is based on their experience. Use this information as an informal guide as you make your own packing list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect packing list!

This packing guidance is designed to help you think through different categories of items and consider what you might want to bring, considering work expectations, cultural considerations, and your own personal preferences.

Mongolia is landlocked, has many beautiful mountain ranges, vast steppes, and extensive desert areas. The country is located at a high altitude and often has little precipitation throughout the year. Because of these reasons, the country has more extreme weather events and is usually on the drier side throughout the year no matter the region.

“The land of eternal blue sky” has 4 distinct seasons and about 257 days of sunshine each year. Some days, one may seemingly experience all seasons at once. Normally, weather conditions during each season vary slightly depending on the region of the country:

Winter lasts from November to February. Temperatures drop steadily during the four months.

-40s or lower are not uncommon in many parts of the country during this time. Days and nights are cold and dry except in northern aimags (provinces). Those areas have more snow than other regions and more humidity in the air because of it. Light to heavy snowstorms are not uncommon in many regions of the country during winter months.

Spring starts in March and ends in May. Temperatures begin to settle into the positive range more consistently, but the days are still cold, and the nights colder still. Sandstorms from the Gobi are common during this time, and strong winds may bring the desert sands into other parts of the country.

Summer lasts from June to August. The days and nights are warm, comfortable, and generally pleasant in most areas of the country. In the northern parts of the country, days are warmer, and in the Gobi Desert areas in the south, temperatures climb noticeably higher than most other aimags. In the east, the steppes are windy, warm, and pleasant, and in the west, cool winds also keep temperatures comfortable.

Fall/Autumn lasts from September to October. Temperatures begin to drop slowly from summer highs, and more rain usually occurs in many parts of the country as the seasons begin to change. The days and evenings are cool to cold and pleasant.

During pre-service training and just prior to Volunteers moving to the communities where they will serve, Peace Corps posts provide Trainees and Volunteers with some essential items. For example, Peace Corps/Mongolia provides the following items: sleeping bag, air filter, water filter, fire extinguisher, an extension cord, and a SIM card.

Peace Corps/Mongolia also provides a modest settling-in allowance for Volunteers to buy other necessary items.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take:

  • Pets
  • Weapons
  • Explosives
  • Radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted)
  • Drones
  • Automobiles or motorcycles
  • Flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers
  • Valuables such as precious jewelry or family heirlooms

Drugs

Do not bring any drug that has not been authorized by the Peace Corps for medical purposes without prior consultation with Office of Health Services Pre-Service. This includes prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Illicit drugs, including marijuana and related products such as CBD and herbal substances such as kratom, are prohibited during Peace Corps service, even if they are legal in your home of residence. If you use, possess, or distribute illicit drugs, you will be administratively separated from service.

Clothes washing procedures during pre-service training (PST) will be conveyed to you via pre-departure communication prior to your arrival and will be based on the PST model and location selected for your trainee cohort. Clothes washing procedures at your final site placement will be discussed near the end of PST once sites are announced.

The list of suggested clothing items to bring is grouped into three categories: General, work, and leisure and recreational. Mongolia offers many professional and personal opportunities, and as such, this list is suggested to help you be properly prepared for a variety of common circumstances.

General clothing

  • One pair (tops and bottoms) of mid-weight long underwear
  • One pair (tops and bottoms) of heavy-weight long underwear
  • Winter coat or parka (available in Mongolia, but most jackets are polyester. Down-filled jackets are harder to find.)
  • Fall and spring coat or parka (available in Mongolia)
  • Gloves or mittens (available in Mongolia)
  • Scarf (available in Mongolia)
  • Stocking cap (available in Mongolia)
  • A few (3-4) pairs of wool socks (available in Mongolia)
  • A few (3-4) pairs of cotton socks (available in Mongolia)
  • Sun hats (available in Mongolia)
  • Sunglasses
  • Underwear and undergarments (larger sizes are difficult to find and the quality of items may be lacking)
  • Bathing suit/swim trunks

Work clothing

  • Two to three professional shirts to work in, including one for summer (available in Mongolia)
  • Two to three professional sweaters to work in (available in Mongolia)
  • Two to three pairs of nice pants for work, one light (available in Mongolia)
  • One formal piece of clothing, such as a suit or dress (both available in Mongolia)

Note: According to cultural norms, professionals are not expected to wear a different outfit every day, but instead ensure their clothing is clean and pressed. At work, teachers wear khaki pants or slacks with collared shirts or blouses.

Leisure and recreational clothing

  • One to two pullover sweaters (available in Mongolia)
  • Two pairs of jeans (available in Mongolia, unless you are very tall)
  • Five to six of your favorite T-shirts
  • Sweatpants and sweatshirt (available in Mongolia)
  • Two pairs of shorts (essential for summer and playing sports)
  • One semi-formal piece of clothing for parties, such as a dress (available in Mongolia)

Note: Sports are a popular pastime in Mongolia. It’s common for teachers to have a weekly sports night. Additionally, for big holidays such as Christmas or New Year’s, there are often parties or celebrations where you may be expected to dress up for. For national holidays, such as Tsagaan Sar and Naadam, deels (the traditional Mongolian dress) are commonly worn.

  • Winter boots (available in Mongolia)
  • Hiking boots (not necessary, but the hiking is great here)
  • Sneakers (available in Mongolia)
  • Sandals (outdoor flip-flops are not available in Mongolia)
  • Dress shoes (available in Mongolia)

Note: Shoe sizes are limited. Shoes larger than a US men’s size 10 and US women’s size 8 are difficult to find in Mongolia.

You should bring a three-month supply of any prescription and/or over the counter medications you use that are authorized/approved by the Peace Corps.

Note: Prior to service, Peace Corps supplies all volunteers with a medical kit containing basic, over-the-counter medications, as well as multivitamins.

See a detailed list of items included in the medical kit.

The medical unit will replenish prescriptions after the initial three-month training.

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs (of the current prescription) with you. Contact lens use will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

See additional guidance from the Office of Medical Services.

Additional guidance for Peace Corps/Mongolia:

Many products are available in Mongolia (e.g., Nivea hand cream, Pantene shampoo, Crest and Colgate toothpastes, nail polish, and all kinds of cosmetics), but if you are, for instance, a Clinique or Body Shop junkie, bring your own or have them sent. For contact lens users, contact solution is available, but difficult to find in cities outside UB. All types of feminine products including tampons and menstrual cups are available in Ulaanbaatar, but they are limited in the countryside.

Volunteers who have brought their smartphones, laptops, or tablets have found them useful. For book lovers, Kindles are highly recommended. The Peace Corps/Mongolia office has books available for checkout, but books are hard to transport and for those placed outside UB, harder to access.

Many different types electronics at various levels of quality and price points are found at shops and stores throughout the country. Larger cities usually have a larger selection of items. Availability of items varies throughout the year.

Based on your interests and personal preferences there may be additional items you will want to consider bringing with you. Below is a description of the common activities Volunteers engage in and what different Volunteers have said they enjoy having that might be more difficult to find in-country. Note: these items are not required or even recommended, but they might be nice to have.

During warmer months, Volunteers take advantage of the good weather to travel throughout the country to hike, fish, swim, and otherwise take advantage of the outdoors.

Miscellaneous

  • 220-volt converter (essential if you bring American appliances)
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Camera
  • Flashlight
  • American board and card games
  • Music
  • Solar shower
  • Duct tape (highly recommended)
  • Camping gear (if you like to camp)
  • Fishing gear (if you like to fish)
  • Backpack
  • MP3 or iPod player
  • Flash disk or thumb drive
  • HDMI cord
  • If you plan to travel to other countries for vacation, you may want to bring extra money to suit your travel plans; credit cards are preferable to cash. There are ATMs in larger cities and most towns so you may want to bring an ATM card to access a bank account in the U.S.
  • Small gifts for host family and friends (not required); knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; photos to give away.

Care package items

These are good things for your friends and family to send you if they are looking for useful ideas:

  • Hand and foot warmers (i.e., the charcoal kind that are activated when exposed to air)
  • Your favorite magazines (double as English teaching resource once read)
  • Children’s books with songs/tapes
  • Portable French press mug (if you like good coffee or loose tea)

Kitchen

  • Leatherman or Swiss Army Knife
  • Sturdy water bottle(s) (e.g., Nalgene)
  • Cooking spices (some are available in Mongolia, but there’s a limited selection)