There have been a few adjustments to public transportation around UB since we first posted about how to ride the bus here. When we returned to Mongolia from the US at the end of the summer, we returned to a completely overhauled bus system–new payment method, new bus lines, and new bus numbers/routes. Just to be safe, we avoided riding the buses for the first few weeks until we could figure everything out a bit. Even so, we’ve had a few mishaps–of course!–but nothing too grievous.
The biggest update is the method of payment. Instead of a fare collector moving up and down the bus and getting you to pay up, the system is much more automated. Now, you buy a bus card and put money on it. Once you get on the bus, you let the electronic reader scan your smart card and the reader automatically deducts money from it. It reminds me a lot of the ORCA cards in the Seattle metro area, actually.
When we first bought our cards, we had a hard time tracking down a kiosk where we could purchase them and add money, but now they are much easier to find. Most of the major bus stops have kiosks nearby where you can either purchase a card or refill your card. Just look for the UMoney logo (image below). In a pinch, you can still pay in cash as you get on the bus (there’s a collection box next to the card readers), but I’m not sure if that will be a permanent alternative or not.
Fares themselves don’t seem to have changed. It’s still 500 tugrug to ride the buses. I can’t speak for the trolleys since I haven’t used once since we’ve been back. I suspect that’s the same.
Something we forgot to mention in the last post which is pertinent to riding the bus and being in a crowded area in general. It’s considered rude to step on or kick someone’s shoes/feet in Mongolia. On a crowded bus, especially if you lose your footing and have to stumble to regain your balance, it’s very easy to accidentally stumble into or onto someone else. In that case, if you know whose feet you’ve trampled, a simple hand shake and an “уучлаарай” (pronounced roughly: oh-chla-ray) go a long way. Even strangers tend to smile when foreigners know to do this. 🙂
Another cultural tidbit…most Mongolians are pretty quiet on public transportation, at least compared to Westerners. Most people, if they talk at all, have quiet conversations with their traveling companions. If you don’t want to stand out more than you already do as a foreigner, keep your conversation volume down. Usually I’m so focused on trying not to fall over and keeping an eye on my bag that I don’t have the brain capacity to chat anyway, and anyway, having a conversation means you’re paying less attention to your surroundings, which makes you both more likely to miss your stop and to be a better target for pickpockets.
Hopefully this helps!