A handshake usually accompanies a first introduction in a business setting and is used both as a greeting and farewell. Although people in the urban centres are less strict about local customs when greeting, it is customary and seen as a sign of respect to offer things (business card, pen, etc) with your left hand under your right elbow. Mongolians tend to respect foreigners more who know such local custom.
Most business meetings are conducted in standard Western business attire. Outside of a business environment, and given the extremely cold weather, it is advisable to pack warm clothes. You will find great cashmere clothes in many of the stores around Ulaanbaatar. Camel wool socks, easily found anywhere in the city, help a great deal. The warmer weather runs from around May to September. If travelling in summer, make sure to bring wet weather gear as well.
The Mongolian unit of currency is the tugrik (MNT). As of April 2014, $1 was equal to MNT1788.46. ATMs accept international Visa and MasterCard bank cards and work most of the time, allowing you to withdraw up to MNT400,000 ($280) a day. There may be a 3% fee on credit card transactions.
Given the high volume of used Korean and Japanese cars finding a second life in Mongolia, vehicles’ steering wheels may be on either the right or the left. First-time visitors are advised to take a taxi or hire a driver. The standard city taxi rate is about MNT800 ($0.45) per km, and a taxi ride to or from the airport should cost about MNT15,000-20,000 ($10.50-14.00). Air connections, as of May 2014, are limited to five major airlines: Turkish Airlines, Air China, Aeroflot, Korean Airlines and Mongolia’s national carrier, MIAT.
Tipping is not customary in Mongolia, but staff are grateful for tips from foreigners.
The national language is Mongolian, which is widely used in business, government affairs, education and daily conversation. However, many businesspeople and state officials also speak English. Russian is also occasionally used, mostly by older generations.
A tourist visa is required for all those visiting Mongolia for fewer than 90 days, except for US and Turkish citizens. All visitors planning to stay in Mongolia for three months or more are required to obtain a separate visa, available from any Mongolian embassy. The procedure is standard, requiring a valid passport, one passport-sized photo, an application form and a small fee as follows: single entry-exit visa, $25; multiple entry-exit, six-month visa, $65; one-year, multiple entry-exit visa, $130; one-week visa extension, $15 and $2 per day exceeding one week. For business travellers staying six months or more, an invitation from a host company or institution is required. Visitors staying longer than 30 days must also register with the Mongolia Immigration Agency in Ulaanbaatar within seven days of arrival. Those who fail to do so or who overstay their visas will be stopped on departure and may be fined.
Quality health care is available only in Ulaanbaatar, and health services in rural areas are quite poor. For expatriates, there is one international clinic that meets Western standards, SOS Medica, and a Korean hospital, opened in 2007, that is staffed with both Korean and Mongolian doctors. It is not advisable to drink tap water anywhere in Mongolia; visitors should consume boiled or bottled water. Most expats, and locals who can afford to do so, travel abroad for surgery.
The power supply in Ulaanbaatar is reasonably reliable, but occasional blackouts still persist, especially during the winter. Warm water also stops running occasionally. Electrical outlets throughout the country are 220V, 50-Hz, European-style two-pin plugs. While there is electricity in the countryside, the power supply still experiences frequent interruptions.
Government offices are usually open from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Lunch normally runs from 12:30pm to 2:30pm, during which time it will be hard to find government officials in their offices. Many banks stay open until 7pm in Ulaanbaatar, and some even offer 24-hour banking. Most private and state-run businesses are open from 10.00am to 5.00pm.
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