ETIQUETTE: There are a number of behavioural rules for foreigners to remember, although in the city people tend to be more tolerant and allow a wider margin of error. At a function, it is customary for a little bowl of liquor to make the rounds. As a guest in a ger ( traditional tent), do not knock at the door, instead, one should shout loudly, “Nokhoi khor!”. This translates literally as, “hold the dogs!”. Bring a small present. If a present is given upon entering the ger, they will be upset and surprised or worried. The custom is to present a gift before leaving. Greet the family members and sit down. While Europeans show respect by standing, Mongolians show respect by sitting. Lastly, try to avoid pointing at people, as this is considered rude.
DRESS: While Mongolia does not have a set standard for dress, it is wise to come prepared for cold and wet weather. Because the weather in Mongolia is very changeable, it is advisable to have several layers of warm clothing when travelling.
If you are travelling in the summer make sure you bring wet weather gear. Most business meetings are conducted in standard western business attire.
CURRENCY: The Mongolian unit of currency is the Tögrög (MNT). As of October 2011, $1 was equal to MNT1296. Banks and exchange offices in Ulaanbaatar will change money with relative efficiency.
ATMs accept Visa and MasterCard and work most of the time, allowing you to withdraw up to MNT400,000 per day. However, there may be an additional 3% fee charged on credit card transactions.
TRANSPORT: Vehicles are both left- and right-handed with no government restrictions as of October 2011. First time visitors are advised to take taxis or hire a driver. The standard inner city taxi rate is MNT500 per km. Taxis to and from the airport cost approximately MNT15,000-20,000. Air connections are limited to four major airlines, with smaller regional airlines flying to most large regional and mining towns.
TIPPING: Tipping in restaurants, cafes and bars is not expected but staff are always very appreciative of tips.
LANGUAGE: Mongolian is the national language. It is also used in business, government affairs, education and daily conversations. Most medium- and high-level business people, as well as government officials, speak conversational English. Russian is also spoken.
VISA: US citizens visiting for fewer than 90 days do not need a visa. However, all visitors planning to stay in Mongolia for longer than three months require a visa. The visa procedure is standard, requiring a valid passport, one passport size photo and an application form. For business travellers staying six months and beyond, an invitation is required. Visitors for more than 30 days must register with the Mongolia Immigration Agency in Ulaanbaatar within the first seven days of arrival.
The fees are as follows: single entry-exit visa – $25, multiple entry-exit visa, which is valid for six months – $65, multiple entry-exit visa valid for one year – $130, visa extension valid for one week – $15 and $2 per day exceeding a week. Visas are available from any Mongolian embassy. Those failing to register will be stopped at departure and possibly be fined.
HEALTH: Good quality health care is only available in Ulaanbaatar, while in remote regions and rural areas health services are poor. For expatriate health care, there is one international clinic that is equivalent to Western standards and a Korean hospital that opened in 2007 with both Korean and Mongolian doctors. It is not advisable to drink tap water; visitors should consume boiled or bottled water.
ELECTRICITY: The power supply in Ulaanbaatar is now very reliable and there are only occasional blackouts. Electricity is 220V, 50Hz. The sockets throughout the country accommodate the European-style 2-pin plugs. In the countryside, however, the power supply still experiences frequent interruptions.
BUSINESS HOURS: Government offices are usually open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday. Many banks stay open until 7pm in Ulaanbaatar and there are several branches offering 24-hour banking. Most private and state-run businesses are open from 10am to 5pm.
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