Mongolian national tugrik (MNT or ₮) notes come in 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 1000, 5000, 10000, and 20000. Most guesthouses and tours in Ulaanbaatar quote prices in USD, but outside Ulaanbaatar, you will not be able to use dollars. Upscale restaurants may add a VAT that you are obliged to pay, which may or may not go to the server. You will have few opportunities to use credit cards except in some restaurants, hotels, and souvenir shops in Ulaanbaatar. Plan to carry cash.
ATMs & bank
There are plenty of ATMs in Ulaanbaatar at Khan Bank and Trade and Development Bank branches, where you can usually pull tugriks (pronounced “too-grk”) from your home bank account (depending on your bank). Khan Bank, which has branches in every aimag center, is the best bet to find an ATM outside of Ulaanbaatar. Banks in Ulaanbaatar and the province capitals can often change your money and will sometimes cash traveler’s cheques (which are not recommended) into tugriks, but it may be safest to change your money in Ulaanbaatar if you plan to be in remote areas.
The Trade and Development Bank has plonked down ATMs at a few key locations in Ulaanbaatar, Darkhan and Erdenet. These ATMs accept Visa and MasterCard and work most of the time, allowing you to withdraw up to T400, 000 per day. Because most of the Golomt Bank branches are open 24 hours, they don’t have ATMs (just give your card to the teller). Ordinary ATM cards issued from your bank at home probably won’t work; try to get a ‘debit’ card linked to your bank account. It should be associated with a credit card company.
Budgeting & costs
If you take the bus and use a tent, you can keep your costs down to an average of about $ 25-35 per day depending on how far you travel. Guesthouses and ger camps will add about $ 15-20 to your daily budget in the countryside.
You can survive in UB on $ 10-15 per day if you eat in guanzes (Mongolian fast food) stay in guesthouse dorm beds, and avoid alcohol. Most guesthouses have kitchens, and packets of ramen go for less than a dollar at grocery stores. Head to Merkuri, Nomin and Orgil Market by the Circus for deals on fresh produce, dry and canned goods, and fresh meat if you’re in UB. In the countryside, hit up the local delguurs (shops) and outdoor markets while you travel.
If you want a mid-range experience, you’ll probably spend up to $ 115 a day by staying in ger camps, eating in some Westerner-oriented restaurants, and sleeping in some hotels. You can get away with drinking beer and pick up some nice copper and felt souvenirs. You can take taxis and hire private drivers from province capitals to sights further afield, but you won’t be able to fly anywhere.
Lastly, the posh traveler can spend from $ 150 to as much $ 500 a day with organized luxury tours. You’ll be flown around the country to cherry pick the best sights and skip most of the harsher overland travel. You will have plenty of food, and it will usually be recognizable. Your guide will speak English really well, but you will just be along for the ride won’t interact much with regular people. Also remember that more money spent does not make you immune to Mongolian travel hassles like bad roads, flat tires, or food poisoning.