Negative Experience in Mongolia

by Beidjee

Ulaanbaatar - Erlian Train

Ulaanbaatar - Erlian Train

Back on the train again, for the final stretch: 33 hours to Beijing.


It was at the train station where we had our first and only negative experience in Mongolia. When we arrived at the station there were two porters came up to us offering to carry our bags on a trolley cart. Since we had a few euros worth of cash left, which we wouldn't be able to spend or exchange in China, we figured we'd might as well take them up on the offer to wheel our bags to the train. A good decision it seemed, as our carriage was the farthest back.

Once in our carriage however - you guessed it - it turned out this wasn't such a good idea after all. We thanked the porters, handed them the wad of Mongolian cash we had left and started to organize our stuff.

The two porters responded with a very foul and aggressive attitude, saying we hadn't paid them enough. Well, we hadn't agreed on any price beforehand, but I figured that the amount which would buy two people a night in a ger including dinner and breakfast would certainly be enough a tip for two porters pushing a cart with two backpacks for 5 minutes. They did not agree, they demanded we'd pay 10 dollars... per bag!

Are you out of your frigging minds? 10 bucks? a piece? I wouldn't even pay that much to a porter in a 5-star hotel! The men were making quite a ruckus, so several people came to see what the fuss was all about. The lady from the tourist agency who had arranged our train tickets, the railway attendant, a Mongolian lady who we shared our compartment with. Negative Experience in Mongolia.

.. all agreed that 20 dollars was an outrageous amount and that the money we had given them more than covered the work they'd done. The argument went on for half an hour, but the porters would not budge. I tried to explain to them that in the half hour they spent arguing they could have carried a lot more luggage for other travelers - they were not impressed. I tried to call their bluff by agreeing to pay their outrageous fee if they could provide me with an official sign or price-list advertising these prices - they were not impressed. They simply remind in the door opening of our cabin and refused to leave. The two porters responded with a very foul and aggressive attitude, saying we hadn't paid them enough.

Well, we hadn't agreed on any price beforehand, but I figured that the amount which would buy two people a night in a ger including dinner and breakfast would certainly be enough a tip for two porters pushing a cart with two backpacks for 5 minutes. They did not agree, they demanded we'd pay 10 dollars... per bag! Are you out of your frigging minds? 10 bucks? a piece? I wouldn't even pay that much to a porter in a 5-star hotel! The men were making quite a ruckus, so several people came to see what the fuss was all about. The lady from the tourist agency who had arranged our train tickets, the railway attendant, a Mongolian lady who we shared our compartment with.

I felt really awkward after this experience. After two weeks of nothing but highlights this experience came as somewhat a shock. All the more because I did feel somewhat sorry for them, but also because I felt like some sort of cheap bastard for not wanting to pay more money. Fortunately the lady who shared our compartment assured us that they were definitely in our right by refusing to pay the outrageous amount. However, the French tourists in the compartment next to us kept giving us strange looks though.

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