Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia Report of what it's like to live there - 10/10/08

Personal Experiences from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 10/10/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Over a year.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

14 hours from D.C. to Beijing, then 2 hours to Ulaanbaatar. Or from D.C. to Seoul, then to Ulaanbaatar.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

1 to 3 level apartments and town houses for U.S. embassy staff.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Inflation has hit this country hard, something in the 36% level. Everything is more expensive, you can expect to pay 2 to 3 times the price for U.S. products compare to Washington D.C.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Oreo Cookies.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are no U.S. affiliated fast food chains in Mongolia, just a few Chinese and Korean joints.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Central Post Office, at your own risk.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Price is ok, but more expensive then other Asian countries.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can, in few places.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Mormon and other Christian sects are available.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

CNN and BBC.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Not much, but a basic level will be good for out of city travel.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many difficulties, there are crater size pot holes all over the street, and many unpaved side walks.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Same as U.S. but with Mad Max rules.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Train is ok, buses are old and not maintained, any car can be flagged down for a ride. Regular taxi driver will try to rip you off because you are a foreigner.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Mid size passenger car is ok for in the city driving, a 4 wheel drive with high ground clearance is highly recommended for out side the city.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Available but very expensive.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are everywhere.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype, Vonage.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are vet services available here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Maybe with ISU, NGOs and mining companies.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Always good in the country side, unhealthy to very unhealthy in the city.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Pick pockets, drunks, small gangs of hooligans at night.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

TB and other respiratory diseases are widespread, SOS is ok, and there is a Korean hospital.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Winter lasts 6 months here, coldest time is January to March, temp can get -40F at nights. Summer can be very hot. Air is very dry all year round.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

ISU moved from a decrepit old Russian hotel to a brand new facility last year, a 100% improvement.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not much, they do have a special ed teacher this year.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Preschool available with ISU, nanny is recommended for babies.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Small.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Movies, Bars, Clubs.

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3. Morale among expats:

Good.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes/yes/yes.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

it"s a OK city for that.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Mongolian dislike Chinese very much, and blame them for many things I find ridiculous. There is even a small Neo-Nazi group here specifically targeted against Chinese.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Horseback riding, camel riding, yak Riding. Camping out in the country side. Fly to remote parts of the country. Basically anywhere out side the city is good.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Mongol bow and arrow, hats, cashmere.

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9. Can you save money?

You can if don"t go out much.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Maybe to visit, in the summer, but not to live here.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Beach wear.

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3. But don't forget your:

Camping gear, and long johns.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Anything with Chinngis Khan in it.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Anything with Chinngis Khan in it.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Anything with Chinngis Khan in it.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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