Everything you need to know about traveling to Ulaanbaatar in 2024.
Through this Ulaanbaatar Travel Guide I hope to share my local’s perspective on what it’s like to visit Mongolia’s capital city.
Having called Ulaanbaatar home for the last five years, I understand it isn’t an easy city to navigate. Street names are written in Cyrillic. Getting a taxi is confusing. The Mongolian language is intimidating. I’ve been there!
Keep reading as I share the things you should know to plan the perfect visit to Ulaanbaatar in 2024.
With only one international airport in Mongolia, every tourist flies into Chinggis Khaan International Airport.
Ulaanbaatar’s airport is located located 49 kilometers from Suukhbaatar Square in the city center. Without traffic, it takes 1.5 hours to drive into the city. With traffic, it can take more than 2 hours.
I like this airport transfer service →
Below I’ve put together some of my other favorite guides to help you start planning your trip.
Now that you’ve made it to Ulaanbaatar, you’ll need somewhere to stay.
The capital has a lot of great options when it comes to hotels, guesthouses, and hostels.
When choosing where you’re going to stay, look at where the hotel is located. Is it walking distance to the things you want to do and see?
Lucky for tourists, Ulaanbaatar is a very walkable city. There aren’t any hills and the streets have nice big sidewalks.
While it’s safe for you to use the tap water to brush your teeth in Ulaanbaatar, I don’t recommend drinking it.
While Ulaanbaatar doesn’t have as many restaurants as a city like Seoul, there are still a lot of great choices. Especially when it comes to international cuisines like Italian, Mexican, Japanese, Uzbek, Russian, Korean, and more.
Vegan and vegetarian restaurants are also becoming very popular in Ulaanbaatar. The city has at least a dozen and counting.
It’s become more common to tip in restaurants, bars, and cafes in Ulaanbaatar in recent years.
For example, I usually leave 10% of my bill’s total as a tip. I always hand this money directly to the server who helped me. It can be considered rude to just leave the money on the table, or worse, it can be easily stolen.
If you’d like to eat traditional Mongolian food, I recommend checking out these local restaurants.
I also suggest you try khuushuur, Mongolian fried meat pockets, from one of the food trucks in Sukhbaatar Square. It’s safe to eat these and they’re some of the best in the city.
Last, but not least, be sure to get one of the 2,000 tugrik ice cream cones they sell on the street in the summer. The ice cream is made from natural yogurt and will be one of the best things you’ll eat in Ulaanbaatar. I guarantee it!
That stir fry dish you probably know (and love) as Mongolian Barbecue? Well, I hate to tell you this, but it’s not Mongolian. Not even a little bit.
Mongolian Barbecue was invented by a Chinese comedian living in Taiwan back in the 1950s.
In recent years, coffee culture has really taken off in Ulaanbaatar. When before Mongolia was a strictly tea-drinking culture, it’s slowly shifting to be a coffee drinking one. In the capital, at least.
Today, local roasters are bringing in beans from around the world and coffee shops are as cool as ones you’d find in Seoul or New York. Cups of coffee are reasonably priced, usually costing between 5,000 to 10,000 tugrik. That’s equal to $1.50 to $3 USD.
There are no Starbucks in Mongolia. This means small, Mongolian-owned places can thrive.
Below are 10 of my favorite locally-owned coffee shops in Ulaanbaatar.
While there are plenty of local coffee shops to choose from, chains like Coffee Fellows and Tous le Jours are also very good.
One of the most common questions I get asked about being an expat in Mongolia is about the drinking and nightlife scene. People just have no idea what to expect, and that’s fair. I honestly didn’t either.
What I did discover blew me away.
Ulaanbaatar is a young, lively city with something always going on, especially in the warm, summer months. Locals love to go out and socialize, and they’re always dressed to impress! The dress code for a night out in Ulaanbaatar is usually smart casual meets on trend. This is not a city you’ll want to go out in your hiking boots in!
Whether you’re looking for a chill place to sit outside and have a beer or a night out on the town, Mongolia’s capital city has it all. And I can’t forget karaoke, Mongolians absolutely love it!
Just like coffee culture, Ulaanbaatar’s cocktail scene has really taken off in recent years.
With well-made balanced cocktails becoming the norm, it’s easy to find good drinking bars in Ulaanbaatar. Most cocktail bars have their own menu of specially designed drinks, but you can always order a classic like a negroni. Which is usually my go-to.
These are the places I consider to be the best bars for good cocktails in Ulaanbaatar.
Expect drinks to be priced between 25,000 to 35,00 tugrik, $7.50 to $10.25 USD, at the places above. I promise they’re worth every Mongolian tugrik.
Mongolians aren’t just great beer drinkers, they’re good brewers, too. The best local Mongolian beers are Golden Gobi, Sengur, Chinggis Beer, Niislel, Hops and Rocks, and GEM.
You can usually find these beers on draft or sold by the bottle or can at these beer gardens and restaurants.
You’re going to be surprised to hear this, but Ulaanbaatar has a small but great club scene. You can dance until the early hours of the morning at any of the places on this list.
Even if karaoke isn’t your thing, it’s something you have to do when you’re in Ulaanbaatar.
Karoake bars in Mongolia are private room-style and they’re open all night. You pay by the hour for a room and then you purchase a bottle of whatever you’d like to drink. Mongolians usually go for vodka!
These are some of my favorite karaoke bars in Ulaanbaatar.
The best souvenirs to buy when you’re in Mongolia are cashmere, felt goods, Mongolian chocolate, and vodka!
Since Mongolia is one of the biggest exporters of cashmere, you can buy great cashmere products here for a fraction the price. I personally think Gobi Cashmere is the best, but it’s also the most expensive. Other great Mongolian cashmere brands include Goyol, EVSEG, and Khanbogd, and Negun. There are factory stores on the outskirts of the city that have a bigger selection than what you’ll find in the stores in the city, but don’t expect their prices to be discounted.
You can also find gold at a reasonable price in Ulaanbaatar at the Gold Market on Peace Avenue.
No matter what you’re looking for, these shops and places are great for finding souvenirs to take back home with you.
With the new Chinggis Khaan Museum now open, Ulaanbaatar’s museum scene has been getting increasingly better.
The Zanabazar Museum and Choijin Lama Temple Museum are great if you’re interested in learning more about Mongolian Buddhism. The National Museum of Mongolian History is a captivating display of Mongolia through the years, especially in the last half-century. Get lost in the works of Mongolia’s most prolific artists at the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery. And visit the Bogd Khaan Winter Palace for a look into life as a Great Khaan 100 years ago.
To read more about Ulaanbaatar’s museums, and what to expect when you visit, read my museum guide.
I get this question all the time. Are Ulaanbaatar and Mongolia as a destination safe?
While I wrote a whole guide on the topic of safety in Mongolia, my short answer to you is, yes. Mongolia is safe and Ulaanbaatar is safe to walk and travel alone in.
Mongolia has one of the lowest crime rates in Asia, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take precautions.
Don’t leave your phone, cash or other valuable items on a table and walk away. Pickpocketing is a problem in tourist areas. Be aware of your surroundings and personal items at all times.
When alcohol is involved, keep in mind that aggressions will elevate much easier and faster. This is when most aggravated assaults happen, but not usually out of nowhere. You can easily avoid most issues here by remaining respectful to locals.
Author: Breanna Wilson
Hi! Sain uu! I’m Breanna, an American travel writer and adventurer living in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for more than 5 years. I’ve written for and been featured in Condé Nast Traveler, CNN, Forbes, and the New York Times, among others. Read more of my Mongolia travel articles here.
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