My favorite Things To Do Ulaanbaatar – Understand, Sights, Food and Drinks and more
Mongolia is an enormous country spawning almost the whole length of Siberia from Kazakhstan to the Chinese border in the east.
However just 3 million people live in Mongolia and the capital Ulaanbaatar is host to at least 1.5 million Mongolians. The unofficial number is likely much higher as the capital abounds in opportunity compared to the arid and not very fertile steep around it.
Ulaanbaatar is an interesting mix of old Soviet buildings (Mongolia was a communist country until 1990) and modern Asian influences. Mongolia is not just geographically in between Russia and China - also culturally. You will find many similarities between Kazakhstan's Almaty and Astana and Ulaanbaatar.
Mongolia is politically close to the United States of America. Basic English is usually understood well especially by younger folks. Russian to my surprise is a no-go even though Mongolian and Russian share the same Cyrillic alphabet.
Mongolians are the descendants of Ghingis Khan's famous invaders and it shows - there is a unruliness and distrust of authority it is refreshing when coming from China (which is happily on-board with communist authoritarians).
Ulaanbaatar is famous for its super chilly winter days - however the humidity is very low and given the many sunny days it is not as bad the temperature readings suggest.
The price level in Mongolia is generally low - expect to pay about 50% less than in the US for a comparable service.
My favorite Things To Do Ulaanbaatar - Safety
Individual freedom is a thing in Mongolia and this also shows in the crime rate. It is more dangerous than China but less so than Russia (which isn't a dangerous place either). I wouldn't worry about that here.
My favorite Things To Do Ulaanbaatar - Get Around
Taxi apps are not popular in the city. Instead (like in many Central Asian countries) you can just hail any car and ask for a ride. Since most people speak enough English just negotiate a price and make sure the destination is clear. Note that 80% of the cars are Toyota Prius models.
There are also local buses that crisscross the city - ask locals if they go where you want. Fares are cheap.
I ended up walking a lot as it keeps you warm and distances aren't bad. Most of the downtown areas will be in an endless gridlock for most of the rush hour making it the fastest way of transport.
My favorite Things To Do Ulaanbaatar - Connectivity
Most coffee shops and hotels have free WiFi though connection speeds are often slow. Expect 1 Mbit or less. Skyroam does not cover Mongolia but T-Mobile includes it into their free roaming. I did not venture to get a local SIM card but this might be your best bet for fast connectivity.
My favorite Things To Do Ulaanbaatar - Pollution
UB is blessed with hundreds of days of sunshine and high wind speeds typically. However huge power plants fire up coal and many locals have their own fireplace. When the wind stops and it is a cold day the smog can set it and shroud the city badly. During summer you won't really have any issues with pollution.
My favorite Things To Do Ulaanbaatar - Sights
You saw that one coming - UB is not rich in sights.
National Museum of Mongolia
This museum is old and tired. I would have wished to learn more about the stratospheric rise of Mongolian conquests in the 13th century. For some reason Mongols became a powerful 'conquest machine' despite centuries before and after where their conquests did not go anywhere. The museum has a limited number exhibits and never leaves the basic description level. I would have loved a better museum.
This main, central downtown square comes with a big Ghingis Khan statue and is often the center of local festivals.
This monastery looks almost like a group of residential buildings but the interiors are beautiful.
My favorite Things To Do Ulaanbaatar - Food and Drinks
For a 'frontier town' Ulaanbaatar has a good selection of places to eat and drink.
MB Beer Plus
This modern brewery serves delicious and cheap beers and has a lovely outdoor garden (in summer).
UBean Coffee likely has the best coffee in town. The inside had a distinct library feeling to it with many guests whispering instead of talking (this is a thing in Mongolia).
GoVinda's Healthy Vegetarian
Solid vegetarian dishes that come with plenty of flavor is GoVindas motto. It'sj ust $4 for a huge portion. I loved the eggplant dish.
Cafe Bebe is a local coffee chain that has decent espresso, delicious fresh waffles and typically a cozy environment to boast.
Namaste Ikh Toiru
Some of the best Indian food ever can be had at Namaste. It's housed in a non-descript building - do not let the outside distract you. Service is excellent as well and prices are low. Fantastic.
Coffee Esperanto Mongolia
Another solid coffee shop south of the city center. Too bad there is no food or desserts on offer.
Shangri - La Mall
Ulanbaatar only modern mall features a modern food court at the highest level which is well visiting if you are hungry.
My favorite Things To Do Ulaanbaatar - Co-Working
There is no WeWork or Regus in tow but a number of independent co-working places that offer a membership. I checked out CLUB Coworking which looked really nice.