In Mongolia the currency is called tughrik. Tughrik has no coins, only bank notes. You should supply your wallet with them as soon as you arrive. Why? Because vendors, that accept credit cards are really rare. So… how to get your tughriks cheap and easy?
Where to buy tughriks?
In Mongolia of course. There is no way to buy them abroad. Neither there is a way to exchange them back while staying abroad. Here is the current rate for.
Way No. 1. Currency Exchange Offices
Hurray, they exist! Don’t dare to exchange too much, because later on you may have problems to get your dollars back. Ladies working at exchange offices often claim, that they don’t have any dollars nor euro to sell. It smells to me like a conspiracy ;] So remember, comrade, once you get your tughriks, you will stay with tughricks.
Way No. 2. Border Crossing Hand-to-hand deal (Transsib only)
If you use Transsiberian Railway to enter to Mongolia from Russia, than you don’t need to look for currency exchange counter at all. It will come to you. On border crossing locals with piles of bills in different currencies enter the train and offer their exchange services.
Usually they have Russian rubles, US dollars and sometimes euro too. A guide, who is traveling on this route regularly, assured us the money sold here is genuine. But advised to double check the amount, that you get. Follow that advice, because dealers tend to „forget” about one or two bills.
How about the rate? It’s slightly better, than in exchange offices in Ulaanbaatar.
Way No 3. ATM Withdrawal
Hurray, ATM-s exist! In Ulaanbaatar there is no problem to find an ATM, that accepts Visa or MasterCard plastics. But obviously in smaller towns it will be more difficult. If not impossible. Beware ATM-s, that may swallow your card due to software error or simply bad mood. Try to avoid poor, standing, no-name ATM-s.
And be sure to inquiry in your bank if ATM withdrawal from Mongolia won’t block your card. Sometimes banks try to protect your account from fraud and block the card if they recognize it was stolen. They might consider unexpected withdrawal from Mongolia suspicious and cut you from your savings. Better to inform your bank in advance about your travel.
How about you? Did you had any problems to get cash in Mongolia? Do you know any better ways to exchange $$$ to tughriks? Be sure to leave us a comment :-)