Apartment Living In Mongolia – What To Expect
Mongolia to many is a very interesting and misunderstood place. Some I have spoken to see Mongolia as this mystical country where everyone rides horses and wears traditional clothing, where there isn’t any modern infrastructure and everyone lives in tents called yurts or something. I have even had friends say they really thought Mongolia was in Africa until I told them it wasn’t. Putting aside the concerning geography skills of many, there misconceptions can be understandable, in fact, I was one of those people who thought people rode camels and horses and just lived in yurts (they’re called gers actually). Although I did know where to find Mongolia on the map I knew very little else and when I first travelled there in 2016 it surprised me.
I have lived in countryside and city apartments and have had my fair share of experiences. If you plan to live in Mongolia for a while, or you are just curious about the living conditions of this magnificent country then keep reading! Here’s what to expect from apartment living in Mongolia.
Let me start by unveiling some misconceptions about Mongolia. Firstly, as the post title suggests, there are apartment blocks in Mongolia. Not everyone lives in gers and rides horses. Those in cities live very modern lives and wear modern western clothing. Ulaanbaatar the capital of Mongolia has apartment buildings everywhere you look, with many many more under construction. A large portion of the population in Ulaanbaatar lives in modern or soviet era apartments and in larger cities and towns there will be several apartment blocks that have been built. With that out of the way, what is it really like living in apartments in Mongolia? Continue reading to find out!
Water And Utility Issues
At the time of writing this my hot water had been cut off for over a week, so if you are planning on living here, expect more than the occasional hot water or entire water cut. Often especially in the summer, the hot water will be turned off for maintenance, which isn’t that bad as a cold shower in Summer can actually be quite refreshing. Often in older apartments, you may have several water issues due to poor upkeep of plumbing and drainage. Don’t be surprised if you need to replace several plumbing fittings over several months. An extra tip here as well; if you plan to go away for several days make sure to turn your water off. There is nothing worse than getting a call from your neighbour that water is leaking from their roof because of a burst pipe in your apartment!
Regardless of whether you are in the city or in the countryside living in apartments, you can expect frequent power cuts and of course, they can come at the worst time. Mongolia’s power grid runs on coal-fired thermal power plants, the largest of which was constructed between 1981-1989 and has been through an extensive refurbishment program (learn more here). However, due to its age and expected capacity increases you can expect semi-regular power cuts. To help create as small amount of inconvenience as possible it may pay to have a power bank to charge your phone as it can be off for several hours at a time. It would also be good to have a portable gas cooker, that way you don’t go hungry if the power is off all night.
In the countryside, it can be a lot worst and you can expect power to be off for several days at a time, only coming on periodically in the late evenings. Bad connections and poor maintenance and infrastructure that isn’t as developed can be a lead cause of this. If you plan to live there a while it may be even worthwhile getting a small gas-powered generator. Often many small businesses will do this as a way to continue operating during frequent power cuts.
Warm Apartments – Very Warm!
Hopefully, by this point, I haven’t scared you off and you are still willing to continue reading! With some bad stuff out of the way, let’s look at some of the positives. Apartments in Mongolian are very warm, sometimes extremely warm! As you may be aware Mongolian winters are incredibly cold, as such to stop people from freezing to death apartments need to be warm. The heating is run by a thermal plant and doesn’t rely on electricity so you won’t freeze to death. Apartments in Mongolia are well insulated and warm for winter but unless you have a newer apartment you will not be able to control the heating as it is controlled centrally. This isn’t too bad in winter but during the spring months when the central heating is still on and the days can be hot, you really will want your windows open so you don’t boil. Heating is normally turned on in September and turned off in early May.
Expect To Hear Your Neighbours
Apartment living can be relaxing but on the other hand, there are neighbours. Neighbours can either make or break your living experience. Most of your neighbours will keep to themselves but you can have the occasional loud neighbour and the walls are very thin. Expect to hear children laughing and crying and even the occasional couple having an argument. If you don’t want as much noise try living on the higher floors as you will be away from the hustle and bustle of the street. I have also found that older apartments seem to be less nosy so if you are hunting for apartments you may want to try one of the older soviet apartments.
Because you are in close proximity to others you could also be unlucky enough to have a neighbour do some renovations. Now there are some rules around this. If a neighbour is renovating their apartment they are only supposed to be allowed to renovate their apartment between 10 AM-10 PM. So if you do have that one neighbour at 2 AM banging away with a hammer you can call the police to come and investigate. A good rule is just to be considerate of others around you.
Rent And Utility Payments
Rent for apartments is quite affordable in Mongolia, particularly in Ulaanbaatar. Depending on the area and location you could pay between 700,000-1.5 million turgiks per month for a one or two-room apartment. Rent is normally paid monthly but there can be annual contracts where a full year’s rent is paid upfront. It really depends on your contract with your landlord. You should be very careful with your choice of landlord and signing any contract.
If you have a contract generally you will sign one in Mongolian and English. If you do have a dispute be aware that if there are any differences between the English and Mongolian contracts the Mongolian contract will have more weight. Do your research and a good option may be to go with an official real estate agency that can deal with any issues you have and take the stress out of renting.
Another thing to be aware of which won’t be surprising is that you will pay for your utilities separately. However, this isn’t much of a problem as utilities are cheap in Mongolia. Generally, your utilities for a month will be between 80,000-120,000 tugriks (about $40). This includes your hot water, power and apartment service fees, like your floor cleaner or security guard.
Convenience Of Living
Lastly, with apartment living, you can expect convenience. Most apartment blocks will have small shops on the first floor or basements where you can get your staples. Normally larger supermarkets are within a 5 or 10-minute walk so if you don’t have a car you don’t have to worry too much. You will also find many other stores and services close by like hairdressers, repair shops, schools and even banks. This really does help outway the negatives, to have everything within close proximity.
You can expect all your modern amenities when apartment living in Mongolia. Just be ready for a few surprises and you will enjoy it. The great atmosphere as you leave the apartment, seeing kids playing, and old men sitting, reminiscing, really does feel like you are part of a community. Why not even practice your Mongolian? You won’t have any trouble finding volunteers who will be delighted to talk to you for a few minutes. Here at Goldigobi, we have a bunch of Mongolian conversation phrases you could use. Why not try them today?
Happy living everyone!