Public transportation in Ulan Bator is not that complicated to use, the only option is actually to take a bus. It is fairly accessible with numerous bus stops but you might be overwhelmed at first by the number of bus going in every direction. Their destinations are always written on the side of the bus, but does it really matter if you can’t read Cyrillic ?
Unfortunately Google Maps doesn’t provide any information on how to take buses in Ulan Bator, therefore you have only 2 options if you don’t feel like taking a taxi, or walking, everywhere :
- First you can ask a local every time you need to take the bus to ask them which one to take and where to stop.
- Second option is to read this guide and you’ll ride the UB bus system like a champ!
It’s also worth saying that in 2019, there’s no ride sharing app (such as Uber, Grab…) available in Ulaanbaatar.
I asked the tourist information center for a public transportation map, regrettably they didn’t have any left by the time I was there (Naadam 2019). I managed to take a horrible picture of the bus system, but that’s not really helpful. Don’t worry I have much better tips coming right underneath the photo !
Plan your trip : Download the UB Smart Bus app
This app is a life-saver, just enter your destination and they’ll find which bus to take to get there.
Change the language to English
The app comes in Mongolian, therefore you’ll need to change the language to English (the only other option) in order to use it unless you read/speak Mongolian.
First step, you need to click on the settings button then click on Монгол (it means Mongolia) and change the language. Here’s a few pictures :
How to use it ?
To be honest, it’s not the easiest app you’ll ever use. There are quite a bunch of spelling mistakes, but it gets the job done.
In order to use it, you’ll need to activate your location, or enter the nearby bus stop + your destination. You might not know the bus stop’s name, if that’s the case, open the app and go on the map. All the bus stops are included, just find the closest one to you and you’ll get the name! If this step is too difficult, you might want to activate your location.
You can also search per line number if you already know which bus number you need to take.
The app tells you how long you’ll have to wait before the next bus arrives. I found this to be a pretty useful feature.
Ride the bus : Prepare 500₮ every time, or get the UB Smart Card
First option : Pay cash
The bus fare is always 500₮ (less than $0.20). You need to pay cash with the exact fare, because drivers don’t give change. They don’t give you any ticket.
With this method you can’t transfer to another bus, you’ll have to pay every time you’re boarding a bus.
Second option : Get a UB Smart Card
If you’re planning to be in Ulaanbaatar for a while, it might be worthwhile to get yourself the local bus card, named UB Smart Card.
You can buy the card at the little kiosks near the main bus stops.
It costs 3.600₮ ($1.35) for the card. You can top it up with as many tögrög as you want.
It saves you the hassle of preparing small change all the time and you can transfer to another bus for free !
How to transfer to another bus for free ?
Every time you enter a bus, you have to scan the card on the device at the entrance. If you want to transfer to another bus, you’ll need to scan the card again when you’re going down the first bus. Then scan the card one more time when you’re boarding the second bus and get a free ride. Everything is explained in the app though.
Free bus during Naadam
Another advantage if you’re traveling during Naadam, the biggest festival of the year, is that many buses going to the event’s main locations are free with this card.
Now riding buses and public transportation in Ulan Bator shouldn’t have any secrets for you ! If you still have some questions or you want to share your experience, feel free to leave us a message by using the comment box below.