Bus In Mongolia Advice

thanks to tomongolia for information!

Ps all prices-time-table 2011

Public transport system
The public transport system operates in a star style method.
The main routes go from the capital city in the center to all the aimag (province) centers.
From the aimag center you join a shared van taking you to the sum (district) centers of that aimag.
See the star system on this Google map of public transport
There are a few exceptions, like routes to mines, and border posts.

You have to adjust your transportation plan to the local star system.
For example, going from north to west, you have to first return to the capital in the center.
The public transport system is designed for locals needs, there are no buses directly to the popular tourist destinations.
It is not advised to plan on hoping on and off a route. Simply adjust to the star system, from the capital in the center to an aimag center.

Low cost compared to any other means of transportation.
You get a chance to meet locals, and experience the local way of life.
Locals will be very helpful and in some cases invite you over.

Traveling alone
There is no problem traveling alone. It is safe for single female travelers too.
The advantage when traveling alone is that you have a better chance to mingle with locals.

**Challenges **
Signs - destination signs are in Cyrillic letters like for a van going to "Terelj" look for a sign saying Тэрэлж
Timetable - the buses leave on time in most cases, vans leave when they are full.
Crowded - public transport vehicles are packed to the maximum, with loads of baggage in the middle.
Language - difficult to find English speaking passengers not to mention drivers.

How to
Be more flexible and patient with time.
Plan your route taking into consideration the star system.
Once you get to an aimag center, hire a local jeep to your tourist destination.
If you are a small group, you can share the costs.

Buses go from Ulaanbaatar to all Aimag (province) centers. From the Aimag center you wait with others for a van to fill up going to a Sum (district) center. If you attempt to go to a tourist attraction that is not on the public transport routs, you will find jeeps or vans ready to be hired to take you to a specific location. Any private car can act as a taxi.

Destinations in Cyrillic
To identify the proper van have the destination name in Cyrillic letters with you. The vans display a board with the destination on the windshield.
Example: for a van going to "Terelj" look for a sign saying Тэрэлж

Public transportation vehicles include buses, minibuses, vans and cars.
Buses leave at a set time, minibuses and vans leave when they are full.

Bus Stations
There are four main departure stations in Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator).

  • Dragon (Songino Khairkhan)- buses going north and west.
  • Teevriin Tovchoo (near Idre's guest house)- vans going north.
  • Bayanzurkh- buses going south and east.
  • Narantuul (Black Market) - vans going west and north.

For long distance buses you have to purchase the ticket the night before departure.

The fare to Olgii is 63,000 Togrog which is 1,700 km to the west.
For comparison - locals pay at least 400 Tugrug per Km to hire a jeep and driver, not including petrol cost. To hire a jeep to Olgii would cost 680,000 Tugrug. This is more than 10 times the cost of a bus ticket. (2011)

Travel time
It takes a 18 hours to get to the Gobi town Dalanzadgad, and 34 hours to get to Khoved in the west. The roads to most location are unpaved bumpy dirt roads.
River crossing like on the way to Moron is on a wooden barge.
The vehicles go non stop, with short breaks on the way.

Bus Atmosphere
Vehicles are packed full, with boxes of merchandise in between.

Featured Destinations
There are many routs, here is a sample of a few.

North (Khovsgol lake)

To go to Khovsgol lake take the bus to Moron.
Distance: 684 Km.
Cost: 24,500 Tugrug.
Departure Station: Dragon.
Departure Days: every day.
Departure Time: 15:00
Travel Duration: 20h to Moron + 3h Moron to Khatgal
In Moron you wait with others for a van to fill up-
going to Khatgal, the village on the southern shore of Khovsgol lake.

South (Gobi desert)

To go to the Gobi take the bus to Dalanzadgad leaves from East bus station (Зүүн авто вокзал) from airportthere is a direct bus to east station but ned to change in the center. Taxi waiting outiside will charge 30.000Tugrugs (2018)
Distance: 575 Km.
Cost: 22,500 Tugurug.(2018)
Departure Days: everyday at 8AM and 4PM
Departure Time: 8:00AM.
Tickets purchase:start 3 days before departure
Travel Duration: 18h to Dalanzadgad
From Dalanzadgad hire a jeep to take you to the popular destinations.
Try and go with partners on the bus to share the cost of the jeep.

West (Altai Mountains)

To go to the west take the minibus to Olgii
Departure Days: Everyday
Departure Time: 15:00-20:00 leaves when full
Distance: 1,709 Km
Cost: 68,000 Tugrug
Departure Station: Dragon
Travel Duration: 45h-55h to Olgii
In Olgii hire a jeep to the mountains (i.e. to Tavan Bogd).

East (the steppe)

To go to the east take the bus to Choibalsan
Departure Days: every day
Time for bus: 8:00
Time for Minibus or Van: 9:00-10:00 leaves when full
Distance: 661 Km
Cost: 24,000 Tugrug
From Station: Bayanzurkh
Travel Duration: 12h

Kharkhorin to Tsetserleg

There is a direct road between Kharkhorin and Tsetserleg.
The distance is about 120km.

If you are short in time, I would suggest you hire a Jeep.
In case your visit in Tsetserleg is short, the driver will wait for you to return.

There are some minivans to Tseserleg that pass through Kharkhorin
You should be able to get onto one of them going by.
The only issue is that most vehicles passing through Kharkhorin are full, so it might take some time.

The way back might be easier, as Tsetserleg is the capital of Arkhangai aimag (province) and there are vehicles going out every day. They leave in the morning. Note that most vehicles going to UB take a different route, not through Kharkhorin.

You can also check at the kharkhorin market if there is a minivan filling up to Tseserleg. Look for a sign on the windshield saying Цэцэрлэг (Tsetserleg in Mongolian).