Mongolia

Living Conditions

Communications

Mail

Your address while you are in training is listed below in English and in the Cyrillic alphabet.

Your Name, PCT
Post Office Box 1036
Central Post Office
Ulaanbaatar 15141
Mongolia (via China)

Your Name, PCT

АНУ-ын Энх тайвны корпус
Төв Шуудан
Шуудангийн хайрцаг 1036
Улаанбаатар-15141
Монгол улс
Mongolia (via China)

Telephones

Cellphone service is very common in Mongolia. After completing training and swearing-in as a Volunteer, you will receive a Peace Corps-issued cellphone. Some Volunteers call home using an Internet phone service; the cost is generally whatever the charge is for the Internet connection. Note that many cellphones purchased in the U.S. will not work in Mongolia, so verify that your phone is CDMA or GSM compatible if bringing a smartphone.

Internet

If you bring your own computer, remember that the weather in Mongolia can be hard on LCD screens and electronic equipment may be damaged by power surges. You should consider insuring your computer. Most provincial centers now have access to the Internet, usually at the local post office or telecom center. While Internet cafes in Ulaanbaatar are common, connections are improving in smaller towns and communities. Most provincial centers now have access to the Internet, usually at the local post office or telecom center.

Housing and Site Location

During pre-service training you will live with a host family. During your two years of service, Volunteers live in small family compounds or in separate apartments, depending on what is available at their site. Most sites are located either in a provincial town center (aimag in Mongolian) anywhere from 50 to almost 2,000 kilometers (31 to 1,240 miles) by road from the capital, or in provincial villages (soums) that are up to four hours by car from an aimag. 

A few Volunteers are assigned to Ulaanbaatar. Increasingly, Volunteers in Mongolia live in either gers (yurts) or wooden houses, sharing a compound with a Mongolian family. Enhanced cultural interaction, improved language skills, and greater Volunteer safety have all resulted from this living arrangement. City Volunteers may live in apartments. Electric current in Mongolia runs at 220-240 volts, 50 cycles with outlets take European-style round pin plugs. A ger is a round tent of about 20 feet in diameter, made of a wooden lattice covered with thick felt. The inside consists of one room with furniture around the circumference and a wood stove in the center.

Living Allowance and Money Management

Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. For this, credit cards and traveler’s checks are preferable to cash. If you choose to bring extra money, bring the amount that will suit your own travel plans and needs. 


U.S. dollars can be exchanged at various places in Ulaanbaatar, including hotels, the Trade and Development Bank, post offices, and legal money exchange facilities. Depending on the size of your community, you may be able to change money there as well. Many places will not exchange for U.S. dollars that are old and wrinkled; they like pristine bills. Also, the exchange rate is slightly lower for traveler’s checks of any size or bills in denominations smaller than $50. There are two options for getting cash transferred from the United States. The cheapest and easiest is using an ATM machine. There are internationally connected ATMs around Ulaanbaatar. Some do not have local fees, but your U.S. bank may charge you to use them. While credit cards are of limited use in Mongolia, they are accepted by major hotels, restaurants, and shops in Ulaanbaatar and may come in handy when traveling outside the country. Traveler’s checks can be purchased at the Trade and Development Bank in Ulaanbaatar and cashed there for a 2 percent fee. Although few retail outfits in Mongolia will accept them, they are useful for travel in other countries in the region. Personal checks are not accepted in Mongolia.

Food and Diet

Once a nation of nomadic herdsman, Mongolia is known as the Land of Five Animals—sheep, goats, cattle, horses, and camels. Traditionally, herdsmen got everything they needed to survive from these animals. Today’s diet still relies heavily on meat and dairy products. Fermented mare’s milk is the traditional ceremonial drink. The main meats are mutton and beef, but Mongolians also eat goat, horse, marmot, chicken and camel. Fish is sometimes sold at markets or door-to-door. A very limited variety of fresh fruits and vegetables appears in the markets, but these foods are not a major part of the local diet. The traditional diet can be bland, monotonous, and high in fat and cholesterol. If you are a vegetarian, you may find it difficult to maintain your diet because of both limited food availability and cultural considerations. Turning down food may offend Mongolians, who believe meat is necessary for survival in harsh climates, so a vegetarian will have to become good at explaining their diet to Mongolians. If you are vegan we recommend you consider adjusting your dietary restrictions as plant protein can be impossible to find outside of major cities.

Transportation

Though the number of paved roads in Mongolia is growing quite rapidly, travel among cities by bus, van, or Russian-made jeep is mostly on unpaved roads. The price of rides, which depends on the price of the fuel supplied by Russia, has fluctuated greatly in recent years. Volunteers are prohibited from driving motorized vehicles in Mongolia or from riding on or operating motorcycles. Some cities are also served by train and expensive flights.

Social Activities

Although Mongolia’s traditionally nomadic herdsmen are now comfortable on both motorcycles and horses and many live in apartments rather than in gers, Mongolia has not lost its rich cultural heritage. The Mongolian people’s hospitality endures, and most social life at Volunteer sites centers on visiting friends’ homes rather than going out to bars and clubs. Mongolians enjoy a wide variety of sports. Soccer, volleyball, basketball, table tennis, and the national sport of wrestling all take place during the summer. Hiking is also popular during the warmer months. Cross-country skiing, sledding, and ice-skating are popular pastimes in the winter.

Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior

It is very important that you dress professionally in work settings, where the appearance of the staff reflects on the office or school as a whole. You are also expected to dress professionally during training, which means no shorts or T-shirts, though clean jeans without rips are acceptable. You will need a more formal outfit for being sworn in as a Volunteer. All clothes should be clean at all times. The main goal is to fit into Mongolian culture, in which professionals, especially teachers, dress well. Typical clothing for men includes slacks, a collared shirt with a sweater or jacket, a tie, and dress shoes. Women tend to wear dresses or dressy slacks or skirts with blouse-and-sweater combinations and nice boots or high-heeled shoes. Most Mongolians have only a few outfits for work and will not judge you negatively for wearing only a few yourself. You can wear the same outfits again and again and no one will care or notice.