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Medical Services

The best place for most of your health care needs is the SOS Medica Mongolia Clinic, but life-or-death emergencies are sent to Seoul or Bĕijīng. Pharmacies (aptek; Аптек) are common in Ulaanbaatar, stocking Mongolian, Russian, Chinese and Korean medicine. Check expiry dates carefully. The US embassy website has an extensive list of medical services.

Environmental Hazards

The Big Smoke

Ulaanbaatar means 'Red Hero'. However, in winter a more apropos name would be 'Kharbaatar', the 'Black Hero', as the city is often cloaked in a thick cloud of noxious smoke that can linger for days until a strong wind blows it away.

By 2011 the air pollution had reached such epic levels that the World Health Organization (WHO) rated Ulaanbaatar the world's second most polluted city, after Ahvaz in western Iran.

But unlike Ahvaz, which is polluted year round, Ulaanbaatar's pollution is packed into the winter months, from November to March, when families in the ger districts furiously burn coal to fend off the extreme cold. Around 92% of the smoke in UB comes from stoves in the ger districts.

In the worst affected areas of the city, the levels of PM2.5 (particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometres or less) can exceed an appalling 2500. According to WHO, 300 or above is considered 'hazardous'. Levels in the city centre aren't quite so horrific but can still regularly exceed 1000 in winter.

To help cut pollution the government has sold around 120,000 subsidised Turkish-built stoves to families in ger areas. The stoves are more fuel efficient and cleaner burning than the traditional Mongolian stove, however they still emit some smoke so the project is considered just a temporary fix.

The longer-term solution is to bring central heat and apartments to the gers areas. But with a short building season and 180,000 families needing modern housing the project could be years, if not decades, in the making.

To see the latest PM2.5 measurements in Ulaanbaatar search for the 'UB Air Quality Info' page on Facebook.