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
Mongolia (via China)
Your Name, PCT
АНУ-ын Энх тайвны корпус
Шуудангийн хайрцаг 1036
Mongolia (via China)
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.
If you bring your own computer, remember that the weather in Mongolia (extreme cold and dust) can be hard on them and electronic equipment may be damaged by power surges. You should consider insuring your computer. All provincial centers have access to the Internet, and most PCVs can get internet at home. Internet cafes are also common in provincial centers. Internet connections are improving in smaller towns and communities. Most schools that PCVs work at will have internet through an Ethernet cord at a minimum.
Housing and Site Location
During pre-service training you will live at the training center with other trainees in small clusters. After pre service training, and for the remainder of service, you will live in a modest apartment. Each apartment is different and set-up and available amenities depends on what is available at the assigned site location.
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.
Electric current in Mongolia runs at 220-240 volts, 50 cycles with outlets take European-style round pin plugs.
Living Allowance and Money Management
Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of their local community. 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 are preferable to cash. If you bring cash, it is recommended to bring new, crisp $20 bills because they are the easiest to exchange. 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 and a select number of cities in Mongolia. It is possible to exchange money at a variety of locations, including legal money exchange facilities (State Department Store, Flower Center, etc.) and most major bank branches. 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. There are two options for getting cash transferred from the United States. The cheapest and easiest is using an ATM machine. ATM machines in urban areas are often internationally connected. Some do not have local fees, but your U.S. bank may charge you to use them. While debit/credit cards are becoming more useful in Mongolia, they are not accepted everywhere. They are able to be used at most hotels, restaurants, and shops in Ulaanbaatar and some urban areas. They also come in handy when traveling outside the country. In smaller shops and markets around Mongolia, retailers are still heavily reliant on cash (Mongolian Tugrik). Traveler’s checks are outdated and are not commonly accepted in Mongolia. 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.
The number of paved roads in Mongolia has grown throughout recent years, making travel among cities by bus, van, or Russian-made jeep mostly on paved roads. Travel from cities to villages is mostly on unpaved roads. The price of rides, which depends on distance and which means of transportation you are taking, have stayed relatively consistent during 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.
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. Basketball, volleyball, table tennis, and the national sport of wrestling all take place year-round and outdoors 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, t-shirts, open-toed shoes, workout clothes, or sneakers. You will need a more formal outfit for being sworn in as a Volunteer. Most Volunteers dress in traditional Mongolian clothing at their swearing-in ceremony. Clothes should look 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 (optional), 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.