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Mongolia

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Experience the outdoors away from the crowds and soak up a nomadic existence that’s barely changed for hundreds of years.

Learn about their national hero, Genghis Khan – a fearsome warrior who founded the Mongol Empire and conquered half the world in the 13th century. Dreamy landscapes are complemented by peaceful people living extraordinary lives. Find the perfect contrast in Mongolia’s vibrant capital, Ulaanbaatar, where bohemian hipsters drive democracy and development into the 21st century, and you can sip on cocktails in a New York style loft.

An eclectic and pulsating centre surrounded by the infinite grasslands of the roving nomads. Here, you’ll find intriguing museums, monk-filled monasteries, and streets thrumming to life with young people trying to map out a prosperous urban future.


Regional Highlights

  • Sight: Ride into lands once ruled by Genghis Khan and take in a panoramic vista from atop a 40-metre statue of the man himself .
  • Taste: The national drink of Mongolia, Airag, is a staple in any celebration. Made from fermented mare's milk it is an aquired taste, just ask for a small amount before taking a whole cup.
  • Taste: Sample hearty local cuisine and for all you dumpling lovers out there, try your hand at making traditional buuz.
  • Listen: Reconnect to nature as you wander the wilderness surrounding our tradtional ger camp, amongst the broken silence of the gentle breeze rustling across the rolling steppe and the wild calls of the local fauna.
  • Experience: Partake in a round or two of knuckle bones a traditional game of the Mongolian nomads.
  • Experience: Visit the Gandantegchinlen Monastery - translated from Tibetan it means ' Great Place of Complete Joy'. Here you can mingle with monks, young and old, going about their daily rituals.

A protected National Park for good reason, you’ll be enchanted by its rolling meadows, turtle-shaped rock formations, and mountainsides to get your climb on. Explore on horseback and try archery, interact with the nomads and marvel at their relationship with nature. Eat, sleep and play like a local with a stay in a nomadic ger camp – and remember folks, look up at the night sky for a galactic explosion that will leave you awestruck.


Regional Highlights

  • Spend the night amid stunning scenery on the Mongolian steppe, under a spectacular canopy of stars and experience life of the Mongolian people that has changed very little in five hundred years.
  • Biking in Mongolia is absolute heaven. Pedal through the vast steppes, rolling hills and the rugged peaks. Meet friendly nomads and a rich culture brimming with history that extends far beyond the famous conqueror and his horde that once inhabited this land.

One of the biggest drawcards to the region is the earliest surviving Buddhist Monastery in Mongolia. Erdene Zuu was constructed in 1585 after a meeting with the 3rd Dalai Lama, beginning a declaration of Tibetan Buddhism as the state religion. Built on the site where ‘the meeting of the clans’ chose Genghis Khan as their leader. Surviving many Mongol wars and Soviet purges, Monks once again call the massive monastery home.  


Regional Highlights

  • Erdene Zuu Khiid Monastery - The beautiful white walls with 108 stupas that surround the monastery house extraordinary collections of Buddhist paintings, priceless religious objects, special dresses for Tsama religious dance and beautifully made Buddhist iconography in true Mongolian and Tibetan style.
  • See ruby-robed monks going about their daily lives, it is fascinating to see, hear and smell the live experience
  • Plan your itinerary around Naadam Festival in Kharkhorin - for a more rustic experience away from the capital city.

A part of the Gobi Desert rich in wildlife with desert flora in greens and golds. Surrounded by mountains, rivers and grasslands, the 80km stretch of colossal dunes almost seem out of place. Hike up the sand and keep your eyes peeled for foxes, deer, wolves and eagles, and imagine what it must have been like for early explorers, roving nomads and Mongol warriors crossing the infinite expanse.


Regional Highlights

  • Spend the night under a twinkling canopy of stars and ee the morning sun beaming across the diverse landscapes.
  • Enhance your experience by exploring Bayangobi and its dunes aboard a camel – the ‘ship of the desert’
  • Being welcomed into the home of a nomadic family is bound to be a highlight of your Mongolian travels.

Inspiration and stories

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The nomadic life in Mongolia

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Mongolia: Daily expenses

FAQs

Capital city: Ulaanbaatar (population 1.2 million)
Population: 3 million
Language: Mongolian
Currency: MNT Mongolian Tugrik
Time zones: GMT+08:00
Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin) Type E (French 2-pin, female earth)
Dialling code: +976

Citizens of the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and most EU countries (German citizens do not require a visa for stays under 30 days) will need a Tourist visa to enter Mongolia, valid for stays that do not exceed 30 days. Citizens of Canada will not need a visa for visits up to 30 days and citizens of the USA will not need a visa for visits of up to 90 days. Citizens of other countries should check with the relevant consulates or contact our Travel Advisors for further information. If a visa is required, you will need to apply for it in advance. It is not possible to obtain a visa on arrival in Mongolia at land or air borders.

Sundowners Overland will provide all required invitation letters including a cover letter outlining your itinerary, travel arrangements and the details of the inviting organisation who will be looking after you while you are in Mongolia. Your visa will be valid for entry 90 days from the date of issue.

Consular/Visa Fee

Please check the appropriate consulate website for specific information on the cost and method of payment. Cash is generally not accepted and often payment will need to be arranged before you apply with the embassy/consulate. The actual application process will vary depending on your nationality and the consulate/embassy at which you will be applying. Please check the appropriate consulate website for specific information.

Travel Insurance is mandatory for all group journeys and Sundowners Overland strongly recommends travel insurance for other journeys. You must ensure that your insurance policy covers you for the entire duration of your journey, for all activities you will be participating in and that you have purchased the highest level of cover available to you for medical emergencies (including repatriation/evacuation cover) which are relevant to ALL the destinations that you will be visiting. Contact us for further information and quotes.

If you are taking special medication, it is a good idea to carry a letter from your doctor and your prescription, to show authorities if necessary. Since some medications can also be affected by changes in temperature or require special care, we recommend you discuss this with your doctor before departure.

Every day of the year offers its reasons to travel to Mongolia, with each season bringing its own special magic.  Imagine waking up to a crisp, winter wonderland on the Mongolian steppe November to February. Springs sprouts carpets of colourful wildflowers covering endless rolling hills.  July brings a flurry of excitement as Naadam Festival commences in the capital. As the temperatures begin to cool (September – October) the annual Golden Eagle Festival kicks into gear in one of Mongolia’s most beautiful wilderness areas. Please refer to our climate chart for more detailed information.

The Mongolian Tugrik is the local currency. As Mongolia has a closed currency, we suggest you carry US Dollars (or your local currency) to exchange on your arrival.  Credit cards are generally not accepted in Mongolia, however there are plenty of ATMs in Ulaanbaatar. We recommend you withdraw cash in Ulaanbaatar before travelling to remote areas of Mongolia.

Ulaanbaatar

  • 2 course meal and a drink in a decent restaurant. USD$20-25
  • Bottle of local beer. USD$1.00-$3.00
  • A Coke. USD$1.00
  • Short taxi ride. USD$0.50 per km
  • A litre bottle of water. USD$1.00-$2.00
  • A Shashlyk. USD$5.00

*Prices are approximate average costs based on prices at 11/03/17 and are based on the equivalent amount of local currency.

Borders are an integral part of our journey – patience, a sense of humour and a positive outlook will ensure you enjoy this experience. Border crossings take a long time due to customs and immigration searching trains – often full of traders – bogey changes (an amazing sight at the China/Mongolia border), and train schedules. Most formalities take place on the train, you should not have to remove your luggage or leave the train.

Upon arrival/departure you will need to complete an arrival/departure card and hand this to immigration officials, with your passport. Once every traveller in Mongolia had to show a customs declaration detailing the amount of currency taken in and out of the country however this is now being phased out.

The officials will then leave the train with your passport and paperwork to process it in the station, and only after they return with your passport, can you leave the train (if you choose).  Be mindful that the train toilets are locked for the duration of your border crossing (can take around 3 hours on each side), and you are not always able to leave the train compartment.

  • Respect and manners go a long way in Mongolian culture, as they do in any culture. Learning a little of the language, reading as much about the history and culture of the region and observing the local conventions is a great way to start.
  • Always receive objects with your right hand. Keep your palm facing up when holding and accepting things.
  • Always accept gifts. And take a bite or a nibble of offered food, even if you are not hungry.
  • Sharing a snuff bottle is quite an occasion. Always accept it with your right hand and with an open palm. You may take a pinch of snuff or just sniff the bottle's top. Before passing the bottle to another person, you should offer it back to its owner. Do not replace the cap firmly before passing the bottle back - simply leave it on bottle, with the snuff blade inside.
  • Never point your index finger at anyone.
  • Avoid touching other people’s hats, they are considered very personal items.
  • Dress modestly and respectfully. Shoulders to knees should be covered, especially when entering places of worship.
  • Be respectful of monks. Refrain from taking photos of them and women should avoid touching or handing items directly to monks.
  • If by accident you tap someone’s foot with yours, immediately shake hands with them (failing to do so will be seen as an insult).
  • Respect local lands, homes and national parks by cleaning up after yourself, leaving no trace of you ever visiting.
  • When Mongolians arrive at a ger, they yell, "Nokhoi khor!" (Нохой хор!). This translates literally to "hold the dogs!", but means "can I come in?"
  • Mongolians do not speak to each other across the threshold of the door, or stand on the threshold of the door.
  • Always enter the a ger in a clockwise direction and never stand on the threshold.
  • Do not lean against the support columns of the ger, the walls, or the furniture. The two centre posts have symbolic significance you should always walk around them, never between them.
  • Stay seated while drinking tea and other beverages.
  • Even when sleeping, the feet never point to the altar (in the back), but always to the door. Don’t whistle inside a ger.
  • Fire is considered sacred and no waste should be thrown in it.
  • The orientation of the ger is also significant, the entrance to the ger always faces south. No need to bring a compass!
  • Try nomadic food.
  • Engage in the daily lives, traditional activities and chores of the nomads.

Drinking tap water isn't recommended in Mongolia we recommend drinking bottled or filtered water. For environmental reasons we suggest filling a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered or boiled water. It's also advisable to avoid ice in drinks and to peel fruit and vegetables before eating to avoid stomach upsets.

A handful of internet cafes can be found in Ulaanbaatar and other cities. A number of restaurants, cafes and hotels have Wi-Fi, however this is less common outside the capital. While travelling through Mongolia it’s a great idea to pick up a SIM card. They are cheap, easy to reload and come in handy. MobiCom tends to offer the most coverage throughout the country, they also have a main office in Ulaanbaatar with some English-speaking staff.