Ulan Bator - The Capital Of Mongolia



Ulan Bator is the political, business and everything hub of Mongolia. The city's name can be spelled and pronounced several ways - the locals just call it UB.

UB started life as a nomadic monastery, settling in its current location in 1778. From the 1950s to 80s Mongolia's capital expanded into a medium-sized socialist town with wide sidewalks and large boulevards.

Gandan Monastery Ulan Bator

Then democracy came...

Today UB bustles with a million residents - some ride on horseback, some drive Mercedes. If you visited Ulan Bator five years ago, you won't recognize it today.

Traveling To UB

Most people fly into Ulaan Baatar. Arriving by air means you land at Chinggis Khan International Airport - a mere thirty-minute drive from downtown Ulan Bator.

The more adventurous have traveled here in vehicles such as a garbage truck and ice-cream van!

Ice Cream Van, Mongol Rally

See my travel to Mongolia page for more information.

Things To Do In UB

After centuries of Chinese domination, and seventy years of Soviet control, UB has embraced democracy and become a thriving tourist destination.

Visit my top things to do in Ulaan Baatar page, to get an idea of just some of the things you can get up to.

But...

Don't come to Mongolia and miss the Gobi desert and wide open steppe!

Book a tour before you travel here, or as soon as you arrive!

When To Arrive Here - And When Not To!

The best time to arrive? July and August!

The warm and sunny weather opens up the countryside for exploration, and many special events take place in UB...

Sukhbaatar Square, Ulan Bator

If you come between July 12-14th, you can see the Naadam festival - a Mongolian Olympics first inaugurated by Genghis Khan.

From September, the temperature starts to drop. October temperatures hover in the warm zone, but you get the odd cold day and the occasional snow flurry.

By December, winter has a firm foothold. It gets pretty darn cold in winter - I'm talking frozen turkey, minus forty Celsius COLD. In fact, winter makes Ulan Bator the coldest capital city in the world.

Things start to warm up in April and May, but the temperature can still drop suddenly and you will see the odd flurries of snow.

Check out my Mongolian weather page for more information.

Where To Stay

UB has a variety of places you can stay.

Ger Camps

Mongolian Nomads have lived in gers - portable felt tents - for millennia. Honestly - you CANNOT come to Mongolia without sleeping in a ger for at least one night.

Want to stay close to Ulan Bator? Try Ulan Bator's best-kept secret. The Bogd Khan Camp, only a twenty-minute ride from downtown.

Bogd Khan Ger Camp, Ulan Bator

Mongolia Hotels

Forget star ratings. Just look for a clean hotel close to shopping and sightseeing.

I recommend you check Tripadvisor for in-depth reviews of Mongolian hotels.

Guesthouses

Some people hate them, some love them. Check out this Web site for a range of up-to-date guesthouse reviews.

Where To Eat - Mongolian Restaurants

Mongolia has a staggering array of restaurants: Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, Russian, Ukrainian, Indian, Mexican...

But why come to Mongolia for an Indian take out?

Be brave and try some of the local fare...

Mongolian Restaurant: Sheep's Head

I recommend the Nomads Chain for the best selection of Mongolian (and Western) food. You will find one next to the Wrestling Palace on Peace Avenue.

Have a quick peek at their menu...

Mongolian Food Menu

They have vegetarian dishes too!

What To Buy

Top buys include...

Cashmere

Mongolians call cashmere "white gold."

The best Mongolian brands are Gobi, Goyo and Pure Cashmere Boutique. My wife prefers Pure Cashmere Boutique for its high-quality fabric, modern designs and reasonable prices. Gobi garments are a little more expensive and not quite as fashionable.

Try the State Department Store (now the Nomin Department Store, but the old name has stuck) for the widest selection of brands. But you will find the cheapest prices in the factory shops.

If you arrive here in the winter, try camel hair products. Not as soft as cashmere, but much warmer!

Traditional Clothing

Mongolian National Clothing: The Deel

Mongolian national costumes are both beautiful and practical. Deels are made from a variety of materials including cotton, silk and cashmere.

Each Mongolian clan has its own style of deel. So leave your husband in a restaurant - it could take you some time to pick your favorite.

The best place to buy one? Try the top floor of the Nomin Department Store, opposite the circus.

Don't forget to pick a hat!

Artwork

Mongolians are talented artists, and you will see plenty of oil paintings and watercolors as you browse souvenir shops.

Best practice: check the prices in the shops and then negotiate a fair price when approached by an artist on the streets. They usually hangout in Sukhbaatar Square and the Central Post Office.

Handicrafts

In some parts of Mongolia, beautiful stones just lie on the round. Locals make use of this resource by carving the stones into beautiful artifacts.

Good buys include snuff bottles; sheeps' ankle bones - which occupy a position similar to dice in Mongolian games; jewellery and silverwork.

You will find these handicrafts in various shops - just keep your eyes open.

One tip: be careful if taken to a shop by a guide. They often get paid commission and may not lead you to the best bargains. One shop offered my wife twenty percent if she persuaded me to buy a saddle!

Crime And Safety In Ulan Bator

You will find Ulan Bator safer than most cities.

But you will need to apply common sense. If you walk round town with a wallet in your back pocket, your money may well disappear!

Check out my Ulaan Baatar safety page for some lifesaving tips - such as, looking both ways and down when you cross the road.

More Mongolian Cities

Want to read more?

Several cities can or have laid claim to being the Capital of Mongolia.

This page describes other leading cities in Mongolia.

And this article describes ancient and remote Mongolian cities, many of which grew up around the Silk Road.



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Have you spent any time in Ulan Bator? Have any tips or a story to tell? Please tell us!

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