Mongolian Public Telephones

Public Phones in Ulaanbaatar - click for closer look
A girl uses a public phone outside my office

Mongolian Currency (MNT – Mongolia – Tugriks) has two decimal places. However, due to it devaluing over the years, it no longer has any cents (decimal) equivalents. The smallest denomination in circulation is 10 tugriks and that is a note (it is also worth less than 1 cent US currency) . There are no coins in use.   The lack of coins raises some interesting problems, such has how do you have a coin-operated laundry, public telephones and the like without coins? How do you start a football match – toss a note? I have seen the same thing in Cambodia where coins were not in use. There, there was a big market for telephone cards. Here, in true Mongolian fashion, an alternative solution is in use.   Throughout Ulaanbaatar there are many folks standing with a wireless phone. These attach to a (I believe) CDMA network and these operators provide the public with access to the telephone system. See the image below. You give the operator 200 tugrik and you get to talk on the phone. There are also calling cards available in Ulaanbaatar, especially for overseas calling, but nothing beats a public telephone, especially when the temperature falls.

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