Getting there & away
A few vehicles, most of which are petrol tankers, travel the road between Ölgii and Khovd city. The Ölgii–Ulaangom road is not as busy because most vehicles head east towards Ulaanbaatar and use the southern road via Khovd city. Most vehicles travelling between Ölgii and Ulaangom bypass Tsagaannuur and take the short cut via Achit Nuur.
AeroMongolia and MIAT (Mongolian Airlines) share the Ulaanbaatar–Ölgii route. Schedules are erratic so you’ll need to call and find out who is flying. There are currently two flights a week. AeroMongolia charges US$200/353 one way/return while MIAT charges US$161/281 one way/return. The four-hour flight provides breathtaking views of glacier-wrapped peaks as you approach Ölgii.
Both AeroMongolia (9942 5081) and MIAT (9942 8161) share an office in the Mongol Shuudan Bank, next to the post office. A smaller office opens at the airport on the mornings when a flight arrives.
The airport is 6km north of the centre, on the opposite side of the river. There is no bus, but it’s usually possible to hitch a ride in a truck or on the back of a motorcycle.
Twice a week, Trans Ölgii flies between Almaty and Ölgii via Üst Kamenogorsk in eastern Kazakhstan. This flight (US$112 to Üst Kamenogorsk or US$259 to Almaty, plus T5500 tax) is a little unreliable and you can only buy a ticket in Ölgii, which means there is no guarantee you’ll get on the next flight. If you want to buy a ticket in advance, inquire with tour operators in Ölgii. The ticket agent (9942 8161, 318 000) is in the Government House. You may also want to inquire about the latest details with tour operators in Almaty and Üst Kamenogorsk (see Lonely Planet’s Central Asia for details).
If at all possible, don’t try to change the date of your ticket, as this always leads to ticketing problems and your new ticket may be invalid. Flights are always crowded and you may be asked to pay a dubious health tax (just ignore it). Customs for this flight are done in Almaty.