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Mongolia practical info - Mongolia travel tips

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Mongolia Travel Info & Advisor

Have you prepared for the Mongolia holiday? As you know Mongolia has four seasons and every seasons has its own features andmongolia discovery tours, mongolia travel, mongolia tours depending on which month, which season you’re visiting in Mongolia, there are many things to consider, before taking a tour to Mongolia. This Mongolia tourism information page gives you more detailed information about Mongolian currency, banks in Mongolia, electricity of Mongolia, water quality in Ulaanbaatar city and how and where you can shopping in Mongolia. Hopefully will answer some of the questions you might have.

Whether you are travelling on your own or in a group, the information will hopefully make it easier, for you to plan a great travel to Mongolia.
 
Public Holidays: New Year- 31- December -1 January, Lunar New Year- February 12, 2009, International Women’s Day -8 March, Mother and Children’s day -1 June , National Holiday “Naadam”- 11-13 July, Independent day -26 November.
 
Currency: The Mongolian currency is the Tugrug (T or MNT), which is available in denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000, 5000, 10000 and 20000 Tugrug Notes. All notes carry the face of Chinggis Khan or Sukhbaatar on them and because of their age can often look alike.

The exchange rate is constantly changing but quite stable. The rate as of 02 July 2013 is US$1 = MNT1447.51 and for an up-to-date exchange rate visit to 
Mongolian National bank. All major currencies can be exchange at banks and licensed exchange centers in Ulaanbaatar.

Credit cards are accepted at biggest hotels, restaurants and supermarkets and ATM’s are everywhere in Ulaanbaatar, as long as you’ve arrived in Mongolia and use ATM at the airport lobby. Make sure you bring USD bank notes printed after 2000’s to ensure you don't have a problem at banks, and exchange centres in Mongolia.

Mongolian Banks: 
Most banks and the larger hotels in Ulaanbaatar will be able to change the major currencies, although US Dollars are the most widely accepted. It is also possible to change traveler’s cheques and get cash advances on your credit card. American Express, VISA and MasterCard are the most widely accepted. In the Aimag centers, you'll certainly find at least one bank, but they will not be able to accept credit cards or traveler’s cheques. They may be able to change US Dollars but the exchange rate will be a lot lower than that available in the capital. In Ulaanbaatar, one of the most centrally located banks for both travelers cheque cashing and credit card advances is the Trade and Development Bank which is partner bank of Selena Travel Mongolia. If you have US dollars in cash, you can get better rates of exchange from the licensed moneychangers. A number of different currencies can be exchanged.
Language: The official language of Mongolia is Mongolian, although English is now beginning to be widely used by many residents of the capital. Mongol is the language of most of the population of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia and of separate groups living in other provinces of the People's Republic of China.

The modern Mongol language developed after the Mongol People's Revolution of 1921 on the basis of the Khalkh dialect. The Cyrillic script was introduced in the 1940’s and does now most Mongolians use the alphabet. However, there have been several calls during the last ten democratic years for the traditional script to be reintroduced. There are a total of 35 letters in the Mongolian Cyrillic alphabet. There are many phrasebooks and dictionaries available in the capital now.
 
Electricity: The power supply in Ulaanbaatar is now very reliable and there are only the occasional blackouts. Electricity is 220V, 50Hz. The sockets throughout the country accommodate the European-style 2-pin plugs.

In the countryside, the power supply still has frequent interruptions. In many cases this is due to the cost of fuel. Wiring in many places needs updating and so care should be undertaken.

Communications

Country code:
 976 and area code for Ulaanbaatar 11
Mobile phone: GSM 900, 1800, CDMA 450, 800, 1800, 1900.
Mobile phones or hand/cell phones are very popular in the city as well as the countryside. Especially in the countryside, the government is preferring the installation of cell phone base stations over laying land lines, as cell phone base stations are easier to install. Mongolia's Communication Authority has announced a plan to connect all sum center and a number of other settlements to cell phone services.
 
Mobile Operators:

Mobile Users: Mobicom: 1,050,000 Skytel: 255,000 Unitel: 375,000 G-Mobile: 175,000 (2009). In end of 2009, the total number of mobile users was estimated at 1,850,000.
 
Telephones: The Mongolian telephone system is in the process of being modernized but still lacks many of the services we rely on elsewhere. Dialing Mongolia is relatively simple although may take several attempts. Mongolia's national code is '976'. Making international telephone calls from Ulaanbaatar is relatively easy. Most hotels have International Direct Dial Facilities. Alternatively, calls can be made from various telephone exchanges around the city. The 'Central Post' Building located on the southwest corner of Sukhbaatar Square is the largest telephone exchange.
International Call Charges (from communication offices) Cheaper calls are available if calling from other telephones in the city, i.e. offices & hotels, especially between 22.00 and 07.00 weekdays, 17.00 and 07.00 Saturdays and all day Sunday. Domestic Calls also have the same discount rates available. Calls are charged according to distance from Ulaanbaatar and range from MNT 174 to MNT 261 per minute. Calls within the city are around MNT 5 per minute. The large telephone exchange on Sukhbaatar Square has the facilities for you to send faxes and emails. The cost for faxing depends on where the fax is being sent to. As a guide, a fax taking one minute to the United Kingdom would cost approximately MNT 3000.

Postal Services: 
Letters and parcels posted abroad can take anything from ten days to a few months to arrive at their destination, but they do usually arrive. The current rates are relatively expensive; postcards MNT 1000, letters less than 20 grams MNT 550. Registered mail starts at MNT 950. Parcel rates range from around US$14 to US$27, for a 1Kg parcel, depending on the destinations.
Courier services such as DHLTNT or UPS are available in Mongolia. 
 
Shopping in Mongolia: Most of Mongolia's economy is based on natural products. Hand woven carpets, leather, clothing and articles, woolen clothing, furs, cashmere, camel hari products, Mongolian oil and water paintings, and wooden toys, puzzles and games. There are a number of souvenir shops. The most popular items are paintings, antiques, handicrafts, carpets, books, cashmere, traditional Mongolian clothing, leather goods, wall hangings, puzzles, and postcards, snuff bottles and woodcarvings.
The food markets are well stocked on Mongolia, Russian, East and West European products although they may be a little more expensive than you expect.

Many of the shops throughout Mongolia are in fact small kiosks within larger shops. You will find that many shops sell the same things so you'll have to look hard to find exactly what you want. Along the streets of Ulaanbaatar you will find many 'Tuuts', small kiosks that sell snacks and general provisions. The most adventurous traveler may wish to go out to the infamous “black market”, which is a giant flea market on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. Almost anything can be bought at this market, which is always very crowded.

Visitors should be aware however those pickpockets are a problem here and therefore care should be taken with wallets and purses. Time is allowed for shopping in Ulaanbaatar and at the tourist camp. There are many duty free shops where convertible currencies are acceptable. Wide range of goods may be bought for foreign currency at favorable prices-typical Mongolia souvenirs, wines, furs, garments in cashmere, camel wool blankets, national costumes, boots, jewelry, carpets, books, records, horns, etc. In all other local shops local currency must be used.
 
Water Quality:  Many visitors to Mongolia have drunk the tap and well water without boiling or treating it first. They have been lucky. Tourists are advised to buy mineral water or at least boil their water before using it. Giardia and other water-borne diseases can easily be picked up. Mineral water is in good supply in the capital and many of the Aimag centers.
 
Clothing in Mongolia: Mongolia has 4 seasons a year and travel season is from middle of April to middle of October. However, winter tours are available. Depending on seasons, clothing in Mongolia is varies.  

Traditional Attire: 
Mongols do like to wear nice, richly decorated clothes which compensate the simple, ascetic nomadic lifestyle. A harsh climate and uneasy life demand attention to smallest details of clothes.  The nomads' wardrobe is compact but has many variations able to serve for different purposes.
"It is amazing how this nation invented clothes that can fit all seasons and needs, well thought off and used in many different ways," wrote Medieval travelers from Europe. In general, Mongolian clothes follow the principle "What I have, do bear along." Sudden changes of weather with temperatures fluctuating up to 20 degrees, sudden snow or sand storms make nomads to be always ready in any situation. 

When a nomadic herder takes his sheep flock to pastures, he carries along everything needed to survive.However, this does not necessarily mean big bags as riding a horse and tending animals requires freedom of movements, and clothes are designed in such way as to allow freedom. 
Mongolian dress has changed little since the days of the empire, because it is supremely well-adapted to the conditions of life on the steppe and the daily activities of pastoral nomads. However, there have been some changes in styles which distinguish modern Mongolian dress from historic costume. The deel, or kaftan, is the Mongolian traditional garment worn on both workdays and special days. It is a long, loose gown cut in one piece with the sleeves; it has a high collar and widely overlaps at the front. The deel is girdled with a sash. Mongolian deels always close on the wearer's right, and traditionally have five fastenings. Modern deels often have decoratively cut overflaps, small round necklines, and sometimes contain a Mandarin collar.

Depictions of Mongols during the time of the empire, however, show deels with more open necklines, no collars, and very simply cut overflaps, similar to the deels still worn by lamas in modern Mongolia. In addition to the deel, both men and women might wear loose trousers beneath, and women might also wear underskirts. Skirts of the same style are still worn in part of Mongolia and China today; they have plain front and back panels with closely pleated side panels. Paintings of Mongols from Persian and Chinese sources depict men, and often women, wearing their hair in braids. The hair would be divided into two pigtails, each of which would be divided into three braids. The ends of the braids would then be looped up and bound to the top of the braid behind the ears. Men also shaved the tops and sides of their heads, usually leaving only a short "forelock" in front and the long hair behind. The famous boqtaq headdress worn by women seems to have been restricted to married women of very high rank.
Each ethnic group living in Mongolia has its own deel design distinguished by cut, color and trimming. Before the revolution, all social strata in Mongolia had their own manner of dressing. Livestock-breeders, for example, wore plain deels, which served them both summer and winter. The priests wore yellow deels with a cape or khimj thrown over it. Secular feudal lords put on smart hats and silk waistcoats.
 
Hats: There were over 100 types of hats, different in shape and purpose - for young and old, men and woman, fashionable and everyday hats, for summer and winter, holiday and ceremonies. Regular hats like "louz" can serve for all occasions. In winter the hat edges can be lowered and protect against wind or cold. On warmer days sides are rolled up and tied on back side.
Hats are very functional, but also make the main piece of the clothes. Each hat was richly embroidered with silk, velvet, ornaments, furs and even precious stones. Often long tassels and red strips streaming in wind would make the owner look very stylish. That is why an expression "red tasseled Mongols" was often used. The hats embroidery and ornaments would also indicate the social status and even age of its owner.It is advisable to keep one's hat on when entering gher, a traditional nomadic dwelling.
The rules of etiquette forbade greeting or meeting anybody bareheaded. In the olden days neither a man, nor woman was allowed to go into the street or enter someone's house without wearing a hat. In old times it was considered to be a humiliating punishment if the "zangia" - a round shaped knot decoration crown the hat, was torn off. To tread or step over it is considered to be insult to the owner. Greeting another person or wishing goodwill is always done with one's hat on as a sign of respect. Such a traditional importance attached to headdresses in the past is still carries on.

Gutal – Mongolian shoes: The Mongolian shoes are long boots made of cow hide with lifted toes and intricate designs and seams. The lifted toes have both a religious and practical meaning. From the Buddhist viewpoint, the lifted toes allow the person to see where he is stepping in order not to harm all forms of life including the insects. From a practical standpoint, the boots with lifted toes allows the rider to have a good hold of stirrups.

Woman's costume: With the strong European cultural influence over the last seven decades, the traditional Mongolian clothes have become simpler and modern Mongolian women do not need the artistry of their grandmothers. A full women costume can be seen now only in museums, art exhibition of grandmother's trunk.  Traditional woman costume is very bright and lavishly decorated. Especially exotic was the married woman's hair dress resembling wild sheep horns or wings.
Though there is a legend saying that this headdress reminds about a woman who looks like bird with two wings protecting the hearth, it had rather an aesthetic meaning and eventually was replaced with a wig.  Mongolian women traditionally have had long hairs. To maintain and decorate elaborate hair- do, women used many types of golden and silver hair-pins and slides, often precious stones.  Festive clothes look especially decorative using combinations of such contrast colors as red and green. With the time a silk sash was changed into a leather one. A long silken or just an ornamented jacket was put over deel, a traditional clothe. On cold days, there was a jersey available. Women form noble families wore light capote or coat.
 
Women cloth cannot go without a head dress, lavishly embroidered with gold and silver threads, corals and pearls. Other jewelry accessories made of silver and precious stones were also worn.Long earrings with many details completed the head dress decorated with strips.  A full costume won't be complete without a small bag with aromas, cuspidor (spittoon) and small items for treating hands and skin. Many women also used small, lavishly decorated boxes for snuff bottle. Girls and young women wore more modest clothes than married ones. Their deel was of less contrasting colors, more soft and fine. 

Head dress consisted of round, cup shaped hat decorated with a red ball from which long laces hang. Red laces combined with softly shining pearls and silver jewelry were used to attract attention of passing man, while long deel tightly tied on waist, stressed the slender waist.
 
Mongolia Travel Insurance
Mongolia is one of the safest countries in the world to travel, however we recommend you to have travel insurance before you visit Mongolia. 
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