Packing list for Mongolia
This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in Mongolia and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything we mention, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, remember that you have a 102-pound weight restriction on baggage.
You can find almost anything you need in Ulaanbaatar and many basics can be purchased in aimag centers (provincial capitals). Depending upon your site, you may have limited time to shop in Ulaanbaatar until your first in-service training, which is usually held in December. So think carefully about those essential winter items you will need during your first few months at your site.
Before you move to your site, the Peace Corps will provide you with a space heater, water filter or distiller, fire extinguisher, smoke detector, shortwave radio, good-quality extension cord, many teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) books, sleeping bag (some Volunteers find the sleeping bag bulky and heavy and suggest that trainees bring their own for travel purposes), medical kit (described in an earlier section of this book), and a subscription to Newsweek’s international edition.
Your living allowance should not be considered a source of funding for major clothing purchases, although replacement clothing is factored into the living allowance. The Peace Corps does not provide reimbursement for winter clothing purchased in the United States. However Peace Corps/ Mongolia does provide a settling-in/winterization allowance that covers the purchase of some winter clothing and supplies in-country.
The hard water and strong detergent in Mongolia, not to mention hand-washing, will be harsh on your clothing, so make sure that whatever you bring can stand up to this treatment. Most Volunteers wear their clothes for several days before washing them, so dark colors are a good idea. While dry cleaning is available in Ulaanbaatar, Darkhan, and Erdenet, you may not have regular access to these cities, and the quality of the service is not consistent.
A wide variety of clothes is available here (many of them made in China), but quality can be lacking. If you have a hard time finding your size in the United States, you won’t find it here, and genuine “high-tech” fibers are not readily available. Very warm, Mongolian-made winter clothes can be purchased in-country. Walking will be your main mode of transportation around town, and the terrain here is rather rugged, so you need footwear that can take a lot of abuse.
Note: Many Volunteers suggest packing very light. Basic clothing and toiletries can be bought here. Save room in your suitcase for music, pictures from home, and things that make a big difference when being away from home for two years. Specialty items like quality long underwear and gloves make good sense to bring from home, but heavy jackets can be bought here for under $30. Also pack a separate bag of winter things or things you won’t need during the 11 weeks of summer training. This bag will be stored at the Peace Corps office and you won’t have access to it during summer training.
- One pair (tops and bottoms) of mid-weight long underwear (it is essential that you purchase these before coming to Mongolia)
- One pair (tops and bottoms) of heavy-weight long underwear (it is essential that you purchase these before coming to Mongolia)
- Winter coat or parka (available in Mongolia)
- Fall and spring coat or parka (readily available in Mongolia)
- Gloves or mittens (readily available in Mongolia)
- Scarf (readily available in Mongolia)
- Stocking cap (readily available in Mongolia)
- A few (3–4) pairs of woolen socks (readily available in Mongolia)
- A few (3–4) pairs of cotton socks (readily available in Mongolia)
- Sun hats (readily available in Mongolia)
- Two to three “professional” shirts to work in (readily available in Mongolia)
- Two to three pairs of nice pants for work (readily available in Mongolia)
- One to two pullover sweaters (readily available in Mongolia)
- Two pairs of jeans (readily available in Mongolia)
- Five to six of your favorite T–shirts
- Sweatpants and sweatshirt (readily available in Mongolia)
- Two pairs of shorts (essential for summer and playing sports)
- One formal piece of clothing, such as a suit for males and a dress for women (readily available in Mongolia)
Note: It is very difficult for tall men and women to find clothing that fits them here. Peace Corps recommends purchasing these items while in the U.S. if you are over 6’ tall.
- Bras and underwear (larger sizes are difficult to find and the quality may be lacking)
- Tank tops (readily available in Mongolia)
- Bathing suit
- Underwear (the quality of local underwear may be lacking)
- Swim trunks
- Winter boots (available here)
- Hiking boots (not necessary, but the hiking is great here)
- Sneakers (especially if you like basketball or volleyball since there are plenty of opportunities to play these here)
- Sandals (outdoor “flip-flop” sandals are not available in Mongolia)
- Dress shoes
Note: Men’s shoes larger than size 10 and women’s shoes larger than size 8 are difficult to find in Mongolia.
- Leatherman or Swiss Army Knife
- Sturdy water bottle(s) (e.g., Nalgene)
- Plastic storage bags
- Your favorite cookbook (a Volunteer-compiled cookbook will be given to you at the end of pre-service training) Note: the following items have been recommended, but can be purchased in the capital: garlic press, corkscrew, pie tin, French press (electric coffeemakers are available in the capital), vegetable peeler, can opener, spices of all kinds, parmesan cheese, vanilla extract, and gourmet coffee and tea. These are not necessities and will not be needed during training. You don’t need to waste packing space on these since they can be sent to you in a care package once you arrive at your site or purchased in the capital.
Personal Hygiene & Toiletry Items
Hand and foot warmers (i.e., the charcoal kind that are activated when exposed to air). These are best sent in a care package.
The following items have been recommended, but can be purchased in the capital: Razor, blades (these are hard to find, but cheap ones can be found in aimags and expensive gillette sensor-type blades in the capital), and shaving cream, a towel, contact lens solutions, hair-cutting device, antiperspirant or deodorant, hair fixatives, dental floss and fluoride mouthwash.
Note: Many products are available in Mongolia (e.g., Nivea hand cream, Pantene shampoo, Colgate toothpaste, nail polish, and ALL kinds of cosmetics), but if you are, for instance, a Clinique or Body Shop junkie, bring your own or have them sent.
- A small photo album of family and friends (a must-bring item)
- 220-volt converter (essential if you bring American appliances)
- Rechargeable batteries
- American board and card games
- Solar shower
- Duct tape (highly recommended)
- Camping gear (if you like to camp)*
- Fishing gear (if you like to fish)*
- Backpack (useful for traveling in-country)
- Reading materials (much cheaper if sent using a postal M-bag; also, Peace Corps has an extensive lending library)
- MP3 or iPod player
- Flash disk or thumb drive
(*Available in the capital)
Work Items for English Education Volunteers
Chances are good that your school will not be able to provide you with many resources. Below are a few items that cannot be bought in-country but would be useful in the classroom.
- Colored construction paper
- Catalogs (the pictures are useful when teaching)
- Children’s books, a picture dictionary, songs on tape, and a book about American holidays
- Erasers for chalkboards
- Index cards
Work Items for Health and Community and Youth Development Volunteers
What you need will depend on your experience in your field and the specific job you have. It is best to assess your situation when you get here and then have items sent from home.