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Turism in Mongolia / How to prepare your trip in a far country

Our travel tips to Mongolia

   

Headings

 

Preliminary warning

 

Tourists requiring full comfort and punctuality should take into consideration that without being an "extreme" adventure a voyage through Mongolia unquestionably requires open mindedness and flexibility. The climate is harsh and the living conditions outside the capital city are rustic. However, such hazards are often the charm and the necessity for travelling in the steppes.

 

Good general health is necessary because local medical means are limited, even quasi null in remote areas, and the conditions of travelling in the countryside can be challenging even if the tour does not require special skills and does not involve a lot of physical efforts (by car!), better some resistance .

 

Do not forget that you will visit one of the most cold, sparsely populated,  and less developped  countries on the planet.

 

But Mongolia still remains a fabulous and unique destination for all those who love wilderness, unspoiled nature and, most importantly, simple human contacts with nomadic herders, heirs of a secular way of life and culture, that are so essential in our hectic age of technology.  

 

 
 

General advices about Mongolia

 

 

Sustainable development of tourism is a major challenge for Mongolia.

 

Currently, Mongolia mainly offers broad opportunities for tourism of adventure due to underdevelopment of appropriate of infrastructures listed below:

   

- few international flights;

- an undeveloped road network made up of battered and dirt tracks;

- slow local transport, often uncomfortable and not very reliable;

- hotels that offer modern amenities in the capital city, but provide minimum comforts in the countryside.

 

Mongolia’s tourism opportunities are largely disadvantaged by its rigorous climate, which allows for 

only one full tourist season comprising the summer months.

 

Tourist flows increase in July-August, especially around Naadam. The tourism industry still remains

weakly developed to have a significant impact on the economy compared to the size of the country.

However, in the recent five years, travel and tourism  have experienced a tremendous growth more than

doubling from 165,000 in 2001 to 385,989 in 2006.

 

Overall, the level and quality of tourist facilities and services as well as the choice and availability of

goods in the stores have dramatically improved in Ulaanbaatar in the last few years. However, life still

goes in another time in the countryside.

 

Lodging options in the countryside are limited to tents that can be installed anywhere along your route or

ger camps that are located near the places of interest and operate all summer round. In Ulaanbaatar, it is

possible to stay in apartments for a few days. Staying with a nomadic family in the countryside is possible

by invitation, however, gers are often quite occupied. Nomadic families tend more and more to charge

for the nights spent in their gers.  However, would you blame them?

   

It is strongly recommended to travel with local guides in the interior of the country, especially in order

to avoid losing yourself as there are no road signs whatsoever in the countryside where tracks cross each

other in a random and endless way. 

However, local drivers and guides have a mysterious ability to orient in the middle of nowhere, choosing 

without any sign exactly the right one among numerous sporadic roads and trails. 

An interpreter is essential to help you communicate with local people. Unforeseen circumstances and 

mishaps due to climatic or mechanical reasons should not be excluded at all.

 

Generally, travel rates and prices are relatively high in Mongolia, mainly, due to the short tourist season

and local difficulties of organisation. However, the price range for the same service may fluctuate within

broad limits. Compare well.

 

Mongolia deserves responsible tourism. Travellers going to Mongolia are still pioneers on almost virgin

lands in a country, which really opened to the world less than 10 years ago. They must all feel respect

and responsibility towards native people with their unique nature and culture that was able to survive and

cross through ages and generations as well as towards other visitors who will come after them.

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How to go in Mongolia

In our e-Shop

Click above

 

We recommend you to book your tickets and transfers to Mongolia as earlier as possible,

especially in July and August when the demand is much higher than the offer. Therefore, start

planning your travel at least 6 months in advance.

 

Visas

 

Tourist visas are valid for 30 days and can be easily obtained from the following embassies:

 

BELGIUM - Brussels

Embassy of Mongolia

18, Besme 

1190 Brussels

Belgium

Telephone: 2 344 6974

Fax: 2 344 3215

 

FRANCE - Paris

Embassy of Mongolia

Robert Schuman 5

92100 Boulogne Billancourt

Telephone: 01 46 05 23 18

Fax: 01 46 05 30 16

 

SWITZERLAND - Geneva

Consulate of Mongolia

4, way of Weakened

1239 Bellevue

Telephone: 22 774 1974

Fax: 22 774 3201  

List of all the Mongolian representations in the world

Flight

 

International flights for Mongolia are made by the following companies:

 

MIAT

Aeroflot

Korean airlines

Air China

 

Principal air routes are:

 

From Europe: Moscow-UB by Aeroflot and MIAT / Berlin-UB by MIAT / Frankfurt-UB by MIAT

 

From America - Asia - Australia: Through the Asian doors from Osaka, Beijing and Seoul to UB by

MIAT, Air China and Korean Airlines

 

Flights are usually overbooked in July and August. Therefore, start planning your trip and making ticket

reservations at the beginning of the year at the latest.  

 

Timetables of domestic and international flights for Mongolia on our special page

 

 Rail

 

You can also come to Mongolia by the famous Trans Siberian Railway. Riding by train to Ulaanbaatar

takes 5 full days from Moscow and 1,5 days from Beijing. This route is an exciting and fabulous

experiment and a smooth way to enter and adapt to the empire of the steppes. 

 

Timetables of domestic and international trains for Mongolia on our special page

 

Local formalities

 

Articles prohibited for importation are illicit weapons and drugs as well as publications against Mongolia

(surprising if you find such!).

 

You can legally import:

600 cigarettes

2 bottles of alcohol

3 bottles of perfume

 

Articles prohibited for exportation are antiquities, furs, archaeological or paleonthological findings except

if you obtain a licence from appropriate Mongolian authorities. Fines are significant and you may risk

being imprisoned in the event of fraud and non-compliance.

 

You can legally export:

2 bottles of alcohol

 

The airport tax at departure is USD 12.50 to be paid in cash in local currency.

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When to go in Mongolia

 

 

The climate of Mongolia is continental with a very long cold and dry winter.

  The best time to travel to Mongolia is certainly the summer months of July and August even if this may associate for some westerners with the "rainy" season.  Unfortunately, unlike in other Asian countries, rains are rare in Mongolia and the last 3 years have been particularly dry for people and livestock. Temperatures often have great amplitude between the day and the night and even during the day. High temperatures are frequent, especially in Gobi (+ 40°C is possible). Snow or hail does not fall in the summer time. However, heavy rains and hailstorms happened last summer in Ulaanbaatar (see our pictures).

 

Although still cold, spring, in European understanding, starts at the end of May and is marvellous when the steppes explode with myriads of flowers hurrying to bloom and take advantage of the short summer sunshine and warmth.

 

Golden autumn is short but splendid.  September is the time for Indian Summer. Nights are already cool and fresh but days are still warm and pleasant, sometimes, tree buds swell again confused by unusual heat. 

 

Travelling in winter is not impossible but should be considered very seriously with regard to extreme temperatures (record 2001 : -57°C) and weather hazards such as snowstorms and blizzards. Violent dust storms often occur in April.

 

 

Average temperatures in Ulaanbaatar during the year

 

 

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What to bring for a trip through Mongolia landscapes

 

 

Solid and warm clothing is absolutely essential irrespective of the season when you travel.

 

A rain jacket is necessary in summer. You should also take with you light clothes such as Tee-shirts, shorts, sunglasses, sunscreen lotions and hats for hot sunny summer days. In summer, do not forget to take a bathing suit if you do not want to miss the chance to plunge in a transparent lake or a fresh river during hot days.

 

The essential pack includes a Swiss knife, a flashlight and leak proof bags to protect your belongings from sand or water. A pair of binoculars is absolutely handy for observing wild animals and birds.

 

Batteries and films are now easily available but it is advisable to bring with extra supplies. An instantaneous Polaroid-style camera is a very good "tool" for making contacts with rural residents and nomads who will be always excited to pose for you. Photographs of their domestic animals usually have a great success among stockbreeders. They will also like to see photographs of your family or your country. However, it is not advisable to show too luxurious things to simple rural people.

 

You will experience unsophisticated cordial hospitality of the steppes. Nomads do not expect anything in return but you will be certainly eager to thank them by offering small gifts which is the traditional way. Sometimes they will offer some to you as well. Offering money or a very disproportionate gift will be regarded by your host as an insult.

 

The usual gifts that you should consider bringing with you are Tee-shirts, scarves and, especially useful things like fabrics for sewing, knives, fishing tools as well as traditional souvenirs of your area or country. Do not forget the children.

 

You can buy for them cigarettes and vodka (always very appreciated but nomads are not alcohol addicts) in local stores as well as candies (not too much, think of children’s teeth) or food (for example, tea). However, you are not obligated at all to act as “ humanitarian aid". Nomads do not await charity from you. Besides not only poor families live in the steppes. You may come across wealthy and successful herders who have Russian jeeps and trucks at their possession.

 

Your guide will provide you with practical advices upon your arrival.

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Health in Mongolia

 

 

Due to its cold climate, Mongolia is a country presenting few medical risks if you have a good constitution and minimum precautions.

 

Although no vaccinations are required to enter Mongolia, it is recommended to have anti-hepatitis, anti-tetanus and anti-typhoid vaccines.

 

A useful and advisable precaution is to undergo a medical check-up, including a visit to your dentist prior to your departure.

 

Typical drugs are available in Mongolia, however, you may not always be able to find a special prescription or you may be confused by different names commonly used in Mongolia. Therefore, we recommend you to bring all your regular medicaments or any drugs and treatments that you think will be required during your trip as well as a medical kit, including at least an antibiotic with a broad spectrum, an anti-inflammatory drug as well as a disinfecting solution. We will provide you with a detailed indicative list.

 

Most frequent problems encountered by travellers are intestinal disorders caused by the change in diet (more meat and diary products).

 

Mongolian food is healthy and clean. Mongolia may be one of very few places on earth where you can confidently drink water from rivers and lakes without particular precautions.

 

You may have heard before of plague warnings. Plague symptoms occasionally occur in certain areas during the marmot-hunting season. In this case, these areas will be quarantined and prohibited for entry or transit. To date, there have not been any precedent of plague infection among travellers.

 

There are  few dangerous plants or animals in Mongolia. Most aggressive are mosquitoes and horseflies often present at near rivers and lakes.

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Mongolian Currency : Tögrög

 

 

The Mongolian national currency is Tögrög (MNT). The average exchange rate is MNT 1,100 per 1 US Dollar. Click here to find out the current rate of exchange of the day.

 

It is preferable to take with you cash in US Dollars (banknotes after 1988) or Euros and to change them locally.

  

It is possible to cash travellers' cheques at a number of commercial banks in Ulaanbaatar. The largest is the Trade and Development Bank of Mongolia. Many banks now offer Western Union or Money Gram services if you suddenly find yourself  in a financial distress as a result of too many good things for shop for or, unfortunately, due to loss or theft. Credit cards are acceptable at most tourist destinations. Most banks are now open 24 hours.  

 

Out of the capital, you will only be able to get and use local currency 

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Shopping in Mongolia

   

You can bring back from your voyage some souvenires memories which you will find to primarily buy in the capital or the souvenir shops now present in the tourist places (Kharkhorin, Terelj, etc). You will find especially traditional clothing , local arts and crafts and more or less true antiquities.

In the capital, a visit in the "Department store", the old state store allow to find a choice about complete of what you can bring back from Mongolia, but not inevitably at the best price. There is also a large Korean commercial gallery (Sky) in the back of the hotel Chingiis Khan.

The large market of UB (black market) offers a good usual object-choice (equestrian boots, deels, hats, music instruments, etc.) at price more accessible than in the shops. Beware of the pickpockets, and keep your cameras off, you are not in a zoo!

The unavoidables items to bring back are : 

Cashmeres of very good quality and at accessible price (shops or Gobi factory in particular). 

Paintings and calligraphies on paper, tissue or leather penmanship of good invoice, on paper, fabric or local Local vodka, including the famous golden one !

 

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Safety and Security in Mongolia

 

 

Mongolia is a safe country with low criminality and without a risk of serious crimes against foreigners, even if the situation deteriorates in the capital.

   

In downtown Ulaanbaatar, the principal danger comes from pickpocketers on the markets and other public places. As in any other large or main city in the world, it is advisable to take reasonable cautions and avoid walking at night without a guide in the suburbs and dark unenlightened areas. Robbery attacks have been also recently (April, 2005) reported around the National Department Store and in the black market where it is recommended to be very careful.

 

Outside the cities (and often in downtown Ulaanbaatar), you will be always welcomed as long as you voluntarily do not offend people, their way of life or temper. The risk of being robbed on the road is very low, however, the human nature is unpredictable and should not be overestimated.

 

There is practically no risk of being attacked by wolves that live everywhere on the territory of Mongolia unless you are absolutely alone and unarmed in the middle of the steppes or woods in winter. These animals flee from man and, unfortunately, they are right to feel themselves in danger as they are considered by herders as the main enemies of domestic livestock.

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How to Call Mongolia ?

   

To call Mongolia from abroad, dial : 00 + 976 (country code) + 1 for Ulaan Baatar + desired call number 

 

If you have a world account, your GSM will operates well in Mongolia : in the capital and in almost all ot the regional capitals

 

Apart of this, post offices are generally opened 24/24 and it is generally possible to make an international call.

 

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Travel in Mongolia with Children

 

 

A family trip is completely possible and you can bring children to enjoy the Mongolian steppes. In fact, such a trip depends especially on the conscience of the parents and the personality and health of the children.

 

Based on our own experience, a medium-pace, not very intensive tour (on the average, no more than 4 hours on road per day) does not pose a particular problem for children, starting from 7 years olds, who are attracted by outdoor activities and are accustomed to full air. 

 

It is obvious that your children should have good general health and a robust constitution for such trips. However, you should also take into consideration that you will be miles away from the nearest medical facilities that may or may not have the required medication or personnel in case of emergency. It is strongly recommended to have your children undergo a medical check-up, including a visit to the dentist prior to your departure.

 

With consideration of such risks, Mongolia is an immense playground for children attracted by space, nature,  animals and flowers.

 

Contacts with nomadic families whom you meet on road are simple and friendly on their own, however, they are facilitated further by the presence of children. They will definitely make little friends. If your children have horse riding skills, they should not miss the occasion to ride with the nomadic children in the infinity of endless steppes.

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Nomadic contacts

 

  

Overall, Mongolians are peaceful, hospitable and friendly people.  

Away from the cities and large settled areas, you will make unforgettable meetings with herders’ families or riders passing by. You will be often visited by herdsmen at campsites and will be accommodated everywhere with simple, discrete and sincere nomadic hospitality.

 

Although nomads get more and more accustomed to meeting and seeing foreign tourists passing by their gers in summer from time to time, they are always excited and have no doubt about the authenticity and sincerity of conversations that you will make with them. Obviously, you will need an interpreter for communication.

 

A Mongolian is not very talkative (unless he is really drunk, however, this probably applies to any nationality!).

 

Glances and especially gestures often tell more than words. It is very likely that you will leave a little of your heart over there.

 

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Society/Customs and Traditions of Mongolia

 

 

Respecting the customs and traditions means respecting the Mongolian people as well as the powerful spirits and forces of Nature.  

The codes of conduct particularly in a ger are numerous, but the tolerant nature of Mongolians makes them forgive deviations. However, serious violations certainly disturb them.

 

Here some rules and advices that should be known when visiting a nomadic family:

 

- do not approach a ger or a rider quickly and directly from front as this may be associated with aggressiveness and be perceived as an intrusion;

 

- be wary of the dogs who do well their job of guarding the family and can be rabic;

 

- never span an urga (pole lasso of the stockbreeders) and generally any instrument or tool in or around a ger;

 

- place your right foot first when entering a ger, however, this tradition is no longer strictly practised;

 

- do not step on the threshold of the door when entering a ger;

 

- do not lean against the support column of the ger;

 

- roll your sleeves down. It is not an obligation to take off your hat, however, if you do it, do not deposit it in the ger because this corresponds to the desire to remain for the night;

 

- head to the left side of the ger. One will invite you to sit down, ask questions, offer to eat (often cheese in summer) and drink tea, sometimes airag and/or homemade vodka;

 

- be natural and open-minded like the hospitality given to you;

 

- do not refuse what the host offers to you as it is a serious insult to refuse hospitality or assistance. At least satisfy him/her by tasting it. Take what is being offered to you with your right hand. It is even better if you take with both hands or if your left hand supports the right elbow, however, never use your left hand. If the host offers you vodka, drink it or soak the lips and return the glass so that it is refilled and offered to your neighbor on the left.

 

- if you step on somebody’s foot, shake immediately his/her hand;

 

- fire is sacred for Mongolians, thus, do not throw anything (water, waste, etc.) there and do not point your feet in the direction of the central stove;

 

- gifts are offered traditionally at the end of the visit, but they will be opened and appreciated only after the departure of the visitor;

 

- Mongolians avoid conversations relating to death or diseases, accidents, divorces….

 

You will be also informed by your guide of the customs and traditions of the rich nomadic culture that you should respect.

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Mongolian Environment

 

   

We practice environmentally friendly tours with a  minimum impact on nature in order to make our contribution to preservation of these marvellous grounds.

 

We encourage you to leave campsites as clean as they were prior to your arrival. We encourage travellers to avoid misusing water where it is rare, to respect wild species and plants and the rules of protection in effect and to carry biodegradable products.

 

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Travel guides about Mongolia

 

 

Lonely Planet

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/

 

 

The most complete

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Useful links about Mongolia

 

 

Mongolia Today, online magazine

 

Lonely Planet, travellers's reports

 

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