Every three months, I’m a millionaire. Peace Corps includes my quarterly rent payment in my monthly stipend and I am responsible for paying my landlord within 5 days. I do it pretty much immediately; I have a bank app on my phone so it couldn’t be easier. And I have no idea if the money in my Mongolian bank account is earning interest. I can tell you that this summer, when our Khan Bank cards were distributed, the boys’ cards had horses on them and the girls’ cards had roses. If it were up to me, I would have chosen the horse.

In November, we completed the annual Living Allowance Survey so that Congress can decide whether Volunteers in Mongolia need more money to meet their basic needs. Inflation is pretty high here but that is a whole other blog topic. Anyway, I have all this data to share concerning the cost of living in Mongolia, specifically in Govi-Altai.

I’ve concluded that the staple groceries are comparable to back home, with just a few exceptions (e.g., peanut butter), but the services are much more affordable (if I think in terms of dollars, not necessarily in terms of my stipend). If there’s something specific you want to know the cost of, just let me know.

togrogs dollars
Rent 250,000  $  178.57
Living allowance 300,000  $  214.29
Monthly expenses
Internet 21,000₮  $   15.00
Phone 5,000₮  $     3.57
As needed
Toilet paper (per roll) 450₮  $     0.32
Baby wipes (70) 2,500₮  $     1.79
Letter—postage to US 1,100₮  $     0.79
Shampoo (Head & Shoulders = pricey) 7,800₮  $     5.57
Having my hair dyed in G-A 8,000₮  $     5.71
Having my hair cut in G-A 3,000₮  $     2.14
3D movie in UB 6,000₮  $     4.29
Hair cut in UB 10,000₮  $     7.14
Eggs (per dozen) 4,200₮  $     3.00
Bread 800₮  $     0.57
Honey 5,800₮  $     4.14
Flour (1 kg) 1,200₮  $     0.86
Cereal (small box) 3,000₮  $     2.14
Oats (1 kg) 1,200₮  $     0.86
dehydrated tofu (good-sized bag) 1,800₮  $     1.29
pasta 1kg 4,700₮  $     3.36
peanut butter (small jar, 18 oz) 5,500₮  $     3.93
Chocolate (regular bar size) 1,400₮  $     1.00
barley 1 kg 2,400₮  $     1.71
Tuna (small can) 2,500₮  $     1.79
milk 1 liter 1,500₮  $     1.07
cheese – pack (8 slices) (the good
cheese is much pricier)
2,500₮  $     1.79
Oil – large bottle 2,400₮  $     1.71
Tofu – block 4,500₮  $     3.21
Sugar 1 kg 900₮  $     0.64
Pickles 2,200₮  $     1.57
Rice – half kilo 1,500₮  $     1.07
Bouillon cube x 8 1,200₮  $     0.86
Juice – 2 liters 4,500₮  $     3.21
Juice – small 2,500₮  $     1.79
Butter 3,500₮  $     2.50
Peanuts (small can, 185 gr) 1,600₮  $     1.14
Canned veggies 2,000₮  $     1.43
Pringles 4,500₮  $     3.21
staple veggies (enough onions,
potatoes, carrots, turnips for a week)
5,200₮  $     3.71
tomatoes/cukes (2-3 of each) 3,000₮  $     2.14
Cabbage (this one was rather small) 800₮  $     0.57
3 bananas 1,800₮  $     1.29
2 peppers 2,000₮  $     1.43


Of note, Volunteers receive a Settling-In Allowance to cover some of those home set-up expenses. I include them here for a big picture of the cost of living. All but the modem and plant came from the Black Market. I still need to pick up more house stuff.
modem 50,000₮  $      35.71
blanket 20,000₮  $      14.29
rice cooker 22,000₮  $      15.71
laundry drying rack 18,000₮  $      12.86
steaming pot 20,000₮  $      14.29
large pan 15,000₮  $      10.71
mug 1,000₮  $        0.71
plant 10,000₮  $        7.14
slippers 1,000₮  $        0.71

9 Responses to money

  1. Robin says:

    Your doing an amazing job at keeping our inquiring minds nourished.

  2. Priscilla A. Arsenault says:

    Are the haircuts in UB better than the ones in G-A? ‘Cause they cost like way more ($7.14 vs $2.14!). Love all the info!

    • eelevol says:

      Good question, PAA. They were not comparable experiences so I should explain. For the G-A haircut, I had just washed my hair (like two days prior, which these days seems like *just*) so I opted for only the cut. (I won’t do that again; still have split ends. When will I finally learn this simple lesson?)

      So, the UB cut included a wash, but I’d bet most of that extra $5 comes from being done in UB.

      Both haircuts included a blowdry and a straight iron as a matter of course. UB was my first time ever getting a straight iron!

  3. Priscilla A. Arsenault says:

    A coworker of mine asked me if your “rent” includes utilities, like heat, hot water, electricity, etc. He asked because you don’t always have running water and you definitely don’t always have hot water. If you have to pay a separate water bill, does it fluctuate, depending on how many days you actually have running water? 🙂 He loves your blog! So do I!

  4. eelevol says:

    No, it does not include my utilities. Each PCV’s situation is different, though. For me, my Host Country Agency (HCA)–the people I work with–are responsible for paying my utilities. Since the bill never comes to me, I have no idea how much it is, but my guess is not much. Those PCVs who do pay their utilities receive an additional amount on a quarterly basis that is an estimate of what utilities should be. If the bills are under that amount, they can keep the rest (for times when it might be insufficient), but I like that it encourages reducing your consumption.

  5. How easy is it to get dried beans?

    • eelevol says:

      Congratulations on your invitation! Food availability will entirely depend on where in the country you are placed for your permanent site. On a few ocassions, I found canned beans in my aimag. More rare are dried beans, though. But, dried beans are available in UB, and if you are assigned to a “fly-site” you will first have to go to UB and may stay several days since flights to any one aimag are only a few times a week. So, you can stock up then. And you will at least go to UB 2 times a year for training/flu-shot/dentist type of stuff so you can plan accordingly.

  6. I ask because I’ve been invited to volunteer in Mongolia May 30, 2013, and I’m trying to envision what the food situation is like.

    • eelevol says:

      BTW, I’m pleased you found my blog and will gladly answer any questions you have. But, if you haven’t already, make sure to join the Facebook M24 group, too. There’s lots of perspective there just waiting to be tapped into… including little-old-me.

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