Review: Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

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There were a few hotel options I was considering for my two nights in Ulaanbaatar. Based on my research it looked like the three best hotels were the Shangri-La, Kempinski, and Blue Sky Tower. The Shangri-La looked to be the nicest by far, though was running $400+ per night for my dates, which is a bit crazy.

The Blue Sky Tower, Ulaanbaatar

Since this blog is largely about miles & points, I considered another option that a friend recommended. The Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar is less than a year old, and had rates of under $100 per night. The hotel looked modern and clean, so I figured that would be a good option. I also have IHG Platinum status thanks to the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card.

The drive from the airport to the Holiday Inn took about 30 minutes and cost ~8USD. I’ve heard that traffic in Ulaanbaatar is horrible, but since I was visiting over the Naadam Holiday, it was much better than usual, or so I’m told. My driver, however, was terrible. She was talking nonstop to her friends on the phone on loudspeaker (she must have made five calls, as she talked to each person for only a few minutes), and was barely paying attention to the road.

One thing I found interesting about the drive is that there was a DUI checkpoint enroute. While I’ve seen these before, this one worked differently. Every driver had to roll down their window and blow at the machine before being allowed to continue.

The Holiday Inn has a pretty sterile exterior, and is one of two (almost) identical looking buildings.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar exterior

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar exterior

The lobby was modern and stylish, and one of the nicer Holiday Inn lobbies I’ve seen.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar lobby

To the right of the entrance was a bright seating area along with a small business center.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar lobby

Then there was more seating near reception.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar lobby

Reception was located to the left of the entrance, where I was greeted by a friendly associate. She thanked me for being an IHG Platinum member, and offered me my choice of 500 points or a drink as my welcome amenity. I selected the former. She also informed me that I had been upgraded to a superior room.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar reception

I was given the below letter about the hotel.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar welcome letter

The elevators were located across from reception, so I took one up to the eighth floor, where my room was located. The hallway was also beautiful, and my room (#808) was located near the end of the hallway.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar hallway

The room featured an entryway with the bathroom to the left and closets to the right.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar room entryway

The room exceeded my expectations — it was beautiful! I don’t remember the last time I’ve stayed at a Holiday Inn with such beautiful rooms.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar king room

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar king room

The king bed had a plush mattress with decent size pillows.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar king room

By the window was a chair and side table.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar king room sitting area

Across from that was a desk with a rolling chair, as well as the wall-mounted TV.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar king room desk area

To the right of the TV was a luggage rack, kettle, two bottles of water, and the minibar.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar king room kettle

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar king room minibar

The room had views of what mostly seemed to be housing. The hotel’s location wasn’t great, though more on that later.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar king room view

The bathroom was back near the entrance, and featured a walk-in shower, sink, and toilet.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar king room bathroom

While the water pressure was good, there were some issues with the temperature varying. In other words, even when I selected my temperature it would keep changing.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar king room shower

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar king room toilet

Toiletries were unbranded, at least as far as I could tell, though I appreciated that they had dental kits, which you typically have to ask for.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar king room toiletries

The wifi in the room was fast and free.

Overall, what a fantastic room, both in terms of the design itself and in terms of how fresh it felt.

As far as the hotel’s other features go, there’s a gym on the third floor, which was a good size, and always seemed to be empty. For that matter, this hotel felt empty. Mongolia is highly seasonal (it’s the coldest capital city in the world, so I don’t see myself coming here in winter), but even so it seemed to be empty even over peak dates. If I had to guess, I’d say maybe a dozen rooms were taken.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar gym

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar gym

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar gym

I booked a rate that included breakfast, which was served on the second floor at the hotel’s only restaurant from 7AM until 11AM. The restaurant is modern and has a lounging area that feels like a living room, in addition to the dining area itself. The design didn’t feel especially Mongolian, but otherwise I thought it was nice.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar restaurant

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar restaurant

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar restaurant

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar restaurant

The buffet selection was solid, as you’ll see in the below pictures.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar breakfast buffet

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar breakfast buffet

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar breakfast buffet

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar breakfast buffet

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar breakfast buffet

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar breakfast buffet

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar breakfast buffet

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar breakfast buffet

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar breakfast buffet

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar breakfast buffet

I had a long tour ahead of me, so I tried to have a big breakfast, including a freshly made waffle and an omelet, both of which were delicious.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar breakfast waffle

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar breakfast eggs

There’s also a coffee shop on the ground floor of the hotel. However, I was a bit surprised by the prices. Everything in Mongolia is really cheap, including most things targeted at tourists (at least as a relative matter). So paying ~4USD for an iced coffee was a bit of a surprise.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar cafe

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar cafe

My one bad experience at the hotel was with room service. Due to my crazy work schedule I took a nap one afternoon from 2PM until around 9PM, with the plan to order room service after that. I had checked the TV beforehand, and it indicated that room service is 24/7.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar 24 hour room service, only not

Well, at 9:30PM I called to place an order, and was informed that the kitchen had just closed for the night. That was a bit frustrating, especially as I was counting on being able to work and eat. Oh well.

My one other complaint about the hotel is the location. The location isn’t terrible, in the sense that it’s just a 15 minute walk to Chinggis Square, etc. However, there’s not much in the immediate area otherwise, so you can’t walk out of the hotel and be a minute from great restaurants or parks. This isn’t a big deal to me. I enjoy walking, so I was grateful for the 15 minute walk into the more charming part of town.

Chinggis Square, Ulaanbaatar

For more on my visit to Ulaanbaatar as such, see this post.

Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar bottom line

I had a lovely stay at the Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar. It was clean and modern, my room was large, all the employees were friendly, the wifi was fast, and the breakfast was great. No, the location isn’t ideal, but for the price I thought it was an excellent value, and would recommend it in a heartbeat.

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  1. Not surprised to see how nice this room was. I think the new builds in Asia are quite modern and comfortable. Early this year I stayed at Holiday Inn properties in Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Phuket. All were comparable quality to what you had.

  2. Super review Ben. A example of the tremendous value of your blog in that you provide an overview of a hotel in a city not often visited. It is difficult to find this type of quality information. Thanks for what you do.

  3. What Elteetrav said, I had stayed in a Holiday Inn in Luoyang, China and it was basically the same quality as this review.

  4. Not being facetious, but how else do DUI checkpoints work? In NZ they set up a checkpoint on the road and everyone has to stop and get tested before they can go on.

  5. This might be a standard room design for newer Holiday Inns. I remember staying at one in Switzerland that looked almost identical.

  6. @Harry in the States they just generally have you roll down your window and answer a couple questions – “all good?” “Where you headed?”

    If they smell booze or your eyes are bloodshot or you’re slurring your words etc., they ask you to pull over and then give you the breath test. Believe it’s an issue of them needing probable cause by law before administering the test.

  7. Great review and photos, Ben! Glad you could review some lower-end hotels instead of the typically expensive high-end hotels you stay at.

    This post is making me consider visiting Mongolia sooner than later. And staying at this Holiday Inn is definitely an option with your great review. Thanks!

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