The tricky think about Mongolia is that you have to get out of UB and into the countryside to really get a feeling for the country, but it’s hard as hell to get out of UB. The main reason for this is the road system – there isn’t one. Or rather there will be one, there are hopeful signs, they’re working on it, but right now – you can’t get 100 kilometers away from the city and be on pavement the whole time. Supposedly, once complete it will connect one end of the country with the other, and people say every year the roads are getting better, but if this is better …damn.
Your choices in leaving UB then are limited. Here they are in order of preference:
- Fly – Absolutely the best way to travel in a country double the size of Texas having no real road network.
- Train – Connecting only a few points, but safe and reliable
- Hire a Vehicle – If you must venture out on the Yak trails that double for roads here, hire someone to drive you, and only you to your destination and back. Expensive, but in the end worth it. There are loads of people with Land Cruisers and old Soviet era Jeeps and Vans making a living off of people just like you.
- Don’t Go at All – You should seriously consider this option if the above won’t work for you.
- Mini Bus – The worst possible option. Are you familiar with the works of Wesley Willis? “Freak-Out Hell-Bus” is a good description for the Mini-Buses in this country. Mongolians take almost everything the own with them when they travel on these damn things. The bus will be oversold by 50%, the aisles clogged with bags, and unless your sitting next to the door you’ll have to climb over seats to get out of the bus – I am not making this up.
Also, it’s good to go into Mongolia with a plan. Otherwise you’ll like spend a day or three in UB trying to figure out how to get out of UB and into the countryside. Mongolia is a great place, but getting out the the good stuff can be a drag.