Has anybody worked from Ulaanbaatar?

I have been travelling and working from quite a few of the common places in Europe, Asia, Africa and South America over the past two years and I’m looking for areas that are a little more off the common path of DNs.

Two years ago I was supposed to go to Mongolia for some trip, I already had my visa ready, but then I ended up not going because of some other incident. Since then Mongolia is a place that I really wanted to go to, and basically do some of the things I’ve planned to do two years ago:).

I don’t care much about the pollution in the city or (some people say) high crime rate, but I’m quite worried about the quality of the internet connections there. The speed of the connection is not that important for me, but the reliability is, so I would be very interested in hearing experiences of people who have tried to work from there.

Has anybody here tried working from Ulaanbaatar before?

I haven’t personally, but I just asked a friend who lives there and he says “truthfully they are pretty good…3.5 (so they say) G all over the city and surrounding valleys…and the home wifi providers vary a bit but Univision seems to be the best. far and away”

Good luck!

Oh wow, even in the valleys, that’s way more than I expected:).

Thanks for the Univision tip, going to ask my next AirBnB host for their provider before I book.

Only stayed a few days there in a hostel (Sunpath Mongolia - was okay), but that place had an absolutely usable connection, I even stayed in for a full day of work, and could also back up several GBs of photos from Siberia. Also WiFi was pretty abundant, lots of cafes/restaurants had it, so I didn’t even go for a sim card.

I think I’m convinced, Mongolia is at the top of my list of the next places I’m going to:)

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:slight_smile: Glad to help. Will thank my friend for you.

@Mauro,

I spent a month in Mongolia as part of my RTW Train journey, working from UB was certainly possible although certainly not the most sexiest of places to be remote. The city itself is nice enough for a short stay but apart from a few coffee shops & restaurants it’s not exactly a great hive of digital nomads.

That said it is a great jump of for some of the most amazing journeys i’ve ever taken. But you’ll want to be prepared to down tools for at least a week to enjoy them to the fullest and take into account that there is barely any cell reception once you are really off the beaten path let alone consistant WiFi.

I travelled South to the Gobi on a 10 day road trip + 3 others with Congor tours It was very rough terrain for most of the journey and leaving my laptop and HHD’s in storage at UB was a good descision.

Out in the desert the local people I met were really humbleing and very kind. In UB the younger people we met we’re super friendly and want to help travelers. I met lots of others on the road but most were just passing through from the Trans-Mongolian Train route.

If you can I’d take the train to reach Mongoila, a truely amazing experience. If you take the Train east-west you can get a data sim which works pretty well for most of the Russian stage of the trip on the train. I worked for 10 days like this with no issues, just lower your expectations for speed!

Happy to help if you need more info.

Best of luck!

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@mrbromley

Thanks a lot for the detailed info. I’m glad you had such a great experience in Mongolia.

My requirements regarding coffee shops/coworking spaces are really not high, usually I’m fine if I’m able to find a stable internet connection and get some kind of caffeine, even a bunch of redbulls will do the job. And it seems in UB this should all be possible. I’m afraid I won’t have that much free time to take the train, but my plan is to use UB as my base from Mo-Fr (I’m still quite bound to a schedule) and then go experience the surroundings of the city on the weekends.

You haven’t maybe seen a place to rent motorcycles? I would love to rent some enduro bike to get out of the city on the weekends. I’ve done that about 3 years ago in inner Mongolia and I loved it there.

@replay Try probike-mongolia.com these we’re the only ones I looked at as this was also an option for me but the distance was going to be crazy for the gobi.

oh, great tip, thanks:)

I’ve already attempted it once, didn’t end well, it’s a long story though: http://www.reddit.com/r/travel/comments/1jmhkj/ama_the_chinese_army_rescued_me_and_saved_my/

I worked from Mongolia for 8 - 9 months. Two of those where in the summer of 2012, the rest Q2/Q3 2014.

Stuff in Mongolia is changing FAST. Faster than in other developing countries I’EV been to. In 2012 I usually went to hotel lobbies to do skypecalls, in 2014 it was possible from pretty much anywhere.

I can’t give you exact numbers as I’m not there right now, but usually the issue is not speed but reliability. The thing about UB is that the city is totally over capacity and utilities break down once or twice a week.

I’m not a big mobile internet user, but from what I know that stuff works pretty well in Mongolia. I’ve been pretty impressed with the phone service quality & availability in Mongolia. You even have network in some very remote places. If you got internet on your phone you could probably rely on it and it’d probably be at a decent price too.

Bonus tip: Mongolia has these international call cards that you can use to call abroad for ~2€/hour. That’s also a possible skype alternative for when the internet breaks down.

Now apart from the internet, there are a bunch of really nice cafés in Ulaanbaatar. Try Cermaics, Narya, Coffee Bean, Azumio, Buigus, Café 9, the lobby of the Blue Sky or Ramada Hotel, etc. (Café Amsterdam is not was it once was, full of tourists now and not workable anymore).

Apart from that, Mongolia is a really interesting place that’s definitely worth going. Give me a shout when you get there, I’ll be there again this summer.

And don’t worry about air pollution, that’s just a problem in winter.

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@dpt Thanks for this really great answer and I’m really looking forward to go there.

Regarding the cafes you’ve mentioned, do you maybe know if any of them are open 24h? I have some weird working times because I’m working with a team of mostly Americans while being in Asia. Otherwise I guess I’ll just need to get an Airbnb that has a good connection at home, I’ve already seen some nice looking ones in UB.

I’m now thinking I’ll probably go to UB for a month in September, when the avg temperature isn’t sub zero just yet. Although I’m fine with a little cold, doesn’t bother me much, as long as it isn’t the Mongolian winter -40C:).

Are you gonna be there in Sept?

All the cafés I mentioned close between 20:00 and 22:00. As far as I know, the only thing that’s open during the night time are some fastfood restaurants, but those are useless for work.

You can work very well from hotel lobbies during the night time. I’m not sure about the Blue Sky (though daytime is no problem there), but the Ramada and the UB Hotel have very nice lobbies, very good internet connections, and the night staff usually doesn’t mind (and if they do, just tell them you have a very important skype with your boss in America or something like that, will usually suffice).

September is a very nice month to visit Mongolia. The sky is blue (as always) and the sun is still very warming, but you usually don’t have the strong winds that are common in spring. Expect either around 20°C autumn weather like in Europe or a certain kind of crisp coldness that is extremely refreshing and uplifting (I’m from Europe and hate the cold there, but it isn’t as ‘creeping’ in Mongolia). Towards the middle/end of the month it can start to snow.

I might still be there in early September, don’t know yet. Just update the thread again when you get there. And also feel free to keep asking if you have any questions.

@dpt Thanks for the tips - I’ve only been on the road for a month and am heading to UB in the next week and was wondering how I was going to get on with internet access as I have a week’s worth of freelance work to knock out before I go bicycle touring.

When you recommend working from hotel lobbies, are you actually staying there at the time, or just ‘camping’ to get some quiet space for coding/writing and Skyping?

And do you find that you just can’t get enough quiet space in hostels?

Thanks,
Dan

I meant “camping” at the hotel. Obviously you should look somewhat presentable, but they won’t have any problems with you sitting there. Some hotels have lobby areas that function like cafés.

You can peacefully sit in the Blue Sky, Ramada, UB Hotel, and do you work.

The new Shangri-La Hotel comes highly recommended. Beautiful atmosphere, very super fast and reliable internet, very polite & English-speaking staff, tea there is cheaper than in most cafés (4000 MNT) and often while you’re sitting there they will have someone come and play live music on the piano or violin.

For hostels, I don’t know. They’re absolutely not my thing and I try to stay far away from them.

Some cafés to get work done:

  • Café Camino (!!!)
  • some Tom’n’Toms branches (Grand Plaza is very good, the one in the Twin Towers gets very full around lunchtime, but if you get the seat by the big window can be very pleasant)
  • The Green Zone (next to the Zanabazar Museum)
  • the Caffee Bene branch opposite the Russian Embassy
  • Café Felice (by the circus)
  • Café 9 (in Baga Toiruu)
  • Buigus (in Central Tower)
  • maybe Café Nayra, but it’s not as good as it used to be

Café Amsterdam has a lot of PR, but absolutely unsuitable for work (and, if you ask me, there are much better places for just relaxing).

The internet speed and café density has gotten a lot better recently, so I’m sure you can easily get your work done. If you stay around Seoul Street or Baga Toiruu there are lots of options. When in doubt, just go to Café Camino (though, they’re closed on Sundays) or to the Shangri-La.

@dpt Wow, great info thanks. Moving between different environments might be a good way to stay productive and counter brain fade too.