Mongolia's most expensive cities

Hello everyone,

What are the most expensive cities to live in Mongolia? What are the costs of things such as rent, utilities, weekly groceries, dining out, etc.?

What is the lifestyle like in these cities, for expats and locals?

What are the different neighbourhoods like? Are there more affordable areas?

Do you have any experience living in any of Mongolia's most expensive cities? What was it like?

Which cities in Mongolia would you recommend? Are there any that offer particularly good value for money when it comes to cost of living?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


The cost of housing, utilities, and transportation can be anywhere from 20-50% higher in Ulaanbaatar than in other cities. Food costs are also much higher. Conversely, there are imported items that be much more expensive outside of the capital because vendors add in a markup for transporting items to the provinces or buying from wholesalers in UB. In Darkhan, you can find certain Russian imports at much lower prices since it's much closer to the free-trade zone at the Russian border - and then prices go up as those products travel further south. In general, as incomes are lower in the provinces, so is the cost of living. An apartment that may cost 700,000 MNT a month in UB would cost 250-300,000 MNT a month in Darkhan. As far as expats are concerned, depending on what industry your in, salaries in the provinces may be lower. Expat teachers in the provinces get paid lower salaries because tuition at private schools in the provinces are 20-50% lower than they are in the capital. Housing allowances give you a lot more in the provinces than you do in UB, but you sacrifice some conveniences some expats tend to be drawn to in the city. I love living in Darkhan and being able to have a house with a yard, no traffic to speak of, and minimal pollution in the winter. I still find myself needing to go to the capital to shop, see friends and clients, go to the private hospitals, and take care of state documents. A trip in to the city always adds up, but it's an easy trade-off.

so to say there is only one City that meets western standards in all ways.... however it  really depends on the degree of convenience you want how much you need to pay for accomodation.....  and mostly the occupation in Mongolia determines where you have to stay. In downtown it might cost 1000 us$ a month... In the outskirts of UB yu can rent a room for 100$ a month but then be awars that a trip to center city is a 2 hours bus ride or you decide to walk every day....  in case it is free of choice Iwould guess that the smaller cities are easier... I myself staid in Ulaangom for 3 months. Tsetserleg, Darhan or Erdenet are quite nice too. But no western style night club there, no stylish restaurants etc....

The tradeoff is the smaller the city the more difficult it is to find accomodation, especially yu neither speak russian ( all +40 years people understand it)  nor mongolian.... tuat is a hard nut to crack, especially for US people who mostly believe they can go away with english only. 

However the basic needs for life are satisfiede everywhere. Like food, cold water, some electricity and room temperature not below 15 degree celsius....  In case your heart is going to stop beating without mobile internet then you better stay at comfy home,

Both Erdenet and Darkhan have Western style night clubs and restaurants. I also believe the question was about comparing the cost of living in different Mongolian cities, not just the one that everyone seems to think is all there is to Mongolia.

Getting back to that point, renting a single room in a house or an apartment in Darkhan will cost you about 40-60K MNT.

It's also strange to presume that it's just Americans in Mongolia who get flustered with the language barriers they set for themselves by not learning the language. I've certainly encountered plenty of rude Europeans who expect to be treated like Marco Polo for any number of reasons known only to themselves...

I haven't lived in other cities here apart from UB, but I have noticed in my recent road trips here that the restaurants definitely seem to be cheaper in other cities than UB (20-40% cheaper maybe?).  The Mongolian food offerings in the places we visited were fine (sometimes too heavy on the oil though), but the quality of foreign food (Korean & European mostly) we tried at the non-UB restaurants was more iffy.  Though with a relatively small sample size (less than a dozen restaurants outside of UB) I couldn't say this about all non-UB restaurants... just saying it's an observed trend I've seen.  In the supermarkets, the staple foods, vegetables, and locally produced snacks were often cheaper but things like soda, beer, and snacks made in the UB area were more expensive (but not extravagantly so).  In my travels gas/petrol seemed to be more expensive outside of UB (10-25% higher), especially in small towns far west of UB and in the northern area around Moron and Khuvsgul.  Wontoncruelty's comparison of apartment rental costs between Darkhan and UB is eye-opening for me (I didn't realize it was THAT much cheaper outside of UB), so I would guess that taken as a whole apartment/room rental is probably the biggest factor in the higher cost of living in UB.  That being said, overall I think cost of living in UB is a relatively minor factor compared to everything else, at least for expats.  Many, if not most, of the things that draw expats to live for a time in Mongolia (work and business for the most part) are centered around UB and commuting to UB is a terrible option for most.

All that said, if it weren't for personal and business circumstances I would gladly live in one of the smaller cities or towns... the variety of products, restaurants, and shops in UB is certainly nice, but the traffic, pollution, and sheer number of people gets old fast IMHO.  Though I'd ask a question of wontoncruelty or anyone else living in cities/towns outside of UB... how do your DSL Internet connections rate compared to UB?  For some of the things I do, that's more important to me than cheaper beer or more restaurants.   :)

Internet is fine in the provinces, and 4G is expanding for nationwide coverage for most of the cellular service providers. If you're between cities, internet is spotty, but if you're in a settled area with a reliable power supply, you're fine.

Thanks... good to know the smaller cities have comparable internet speeds.  I was actually pleasantly surprised in my road trips last summer to see the level of availability for mobile internet service.  There were a lot of gaps in service, sure, but many of the areas around the paved main roads and just about every town, small or large, had good mobile service.  Data connections are not quite as good as my home DSL of course, but still good enough for most things... and actually better than a lot of areas in the U.S. I've driven through.

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