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The following information should give you a good idea of how our Mongolia tours are run. For more detailed information about a particular trip, we encourage you to contact us.
What tours do Mongolia offer?
Tours in Mongolia vary greatly depending on the objective. Some tours are designed to cover a lot of ground - if you like off-road adventures and want to see the most of Mongolia that you can in a short time, these are for you. Other tours focus on specific interests, such as trekking, wildlife watching, or participating in cultural events and nomadic life. These tours move at a slower pace and you have more time to explore, experience your surroundings, and get to know local people. On every tour there is a chance that your guide may have to change plans. Mother nature doesn’t always cooperate with our itineraries, and part of the quirky charm that is travelling in a place like Mongolia is that your vehicle, or even your aeroplane may get stuck in mud, the local lams may consult the moon and decide to move a festival date by a couple days, or you may happen upon an unexpected celebration in a village that just can’t be missed. Don’t worry, our field and office staff are always in contact via satellite phone or other mysterious means, and we will make adjustments accordingly in order to assure your safety and enjoyment.
First travel to Mongolia?
The first-time visitor to Mongolia often feels that there are two different countries under one flag. On one hand, the gateway for most visitors to Mongolia is Ulaanbaatar. The city is under constant development, heavily influenced by the ‘gold rush’ derived from the discovery of some of the world’s largest gold deposits in the Gobi Desert. On the other hand, the infrastructure of the city is based on old Soviet planning and construction, and neglect is widely spread, in common with other post-soviet states. Traffic jams are notorious, and the streets are not particularly clean. Despite this, the city has a charm of its own. It is a fusion of old and new, between east and west, and between unsophistication and rapid development. However, drive a few kilometers out of the city, and you will find yourself taking a journey through time, some 800 years back, to the time when Chinggis Khan united the tribes of the steppes into a mighty empire. You will see the Mongol nomads living their lives based on the old traditions (but with TV sets and motorcycles!), in run-down towns along run-down roads but with an ancient culture which is still vibrant.
How are the tours run?
Our fixed departures are carefully researched tours, designed to maximize your time for leisure, outdoor activities, sightseeing, and… having an adventure! If you request a custom tour from us, we do our best to design an itinerary that will suit your needs and interests, based on the information you provide us and our extensive experience traveling in Mongolia. Some days may look very long, with a lot of driving, while others may seem sparse on activities. Mongolia is a very large country with very little infrastructure, so we may have to make many kilometers in one day in order to reach our camp or to show you the most spectacular sights. Be assured that the days are organized so that overall you will be able to make the most of your time in Mongolia and have a once in a lifetime experience. Adventure travel is always a bit unpredictable due to the nature of the terrain and the experiences we seek. Sometimes, the forces of nature or a change in the dates of a festival will require some changes in the plan. Flight schedules may change at a moment’s notice, or muddy ground may make a route impassable. All of our staff, at the office and in the field, are there for you, and we will make our best effort to handle any situation so that you will have an enjoyable and safe tour. In rare cases it may be necessary to change some places we will visit, the order of days in the trip, the route taken, or the mode of transportation. Flexibility and a resilient sense of humor will guarantee that you have a great experience in Mongolia.
Which cars will we use?
In Mongolia there are approximately 8700 kilometers (745 miles) of asphalt sealed roads. The majority of roads are no more than dirt tracks, some of them sandy, others rocky. 4WD vehicles are a necessity. By default, we will be providing Japanese made Mitsubishi Delica vans for most of our trips. These are rather modern, well equipped all-wheel-drive vehicles. Due to the very short travel season in Mongolia, the possibility of keeping a new top of the line fleet, is literally non existent, and is common to everybody operating in the field of tourism here in Mongolia. These Mitsubishi Delica are very often being purchased as a second-hand car (mostly from Japan), and on top of it, are subject to constant off-road trip, usually several thousand kilometers each summer. We try our utmost to make sure that the vehicle is properly maintained, and that all systems are working properly.
On some of our trips, especially those destined for remote and less accessible areas, Russian made UAZ vans would be provided. Though at first sight they look a bit rough, these vehicles have great off-road abilities, and more importantly they are very simple to repair. The average vehicle used in countryside tour in Mongolia travels every 10 days the same number of off-road kilometers as the average SUV in Western countries would travel in a year or two! And these vehicles do it again and again, throughout the year, in snow, sand, mud, and on ice. You will see luxurious vehicles on the roads outside of Ulaanbaatar, and you might ask yourself “why couldn't we be riding in one of those?” We use Russian vans on all our out-of-the-way trips so you won’t spend your time on holiday waiting for spare parts to be sent to your group, or worse yet, continuing in the back of an open truck while your vehicle is towed back to the capital. Russian vans are equipped with bench seats, and the ride can be somewhat bumpy, so if you experience car sickness please come prepared with appropriate medications.
Where will I stay the nights?
Mongolia you will find different modes of accommodation:
Hotels: In Ulaanbaatar, there is a wide range of hotels ranging from 4* luxury hotels to very simple guesthouses. We tend to use simple and practical 4* hotels which offer comfort and value and which are located in the heart of the city, allowing us to walk to many of the city’s main attractions and avoid the traffic jams. If you do wish to stay in a more comfortable hotel while in Ulaanbaatar, please do let us know, and we will be happy to arrange this for you.
Ger camps: Outside of the city, Ger camps are the most commonly available full-service facilities. Ger camps use the traditional home of steppe nomads, the felt covered Ger, as guest rooms. Each Ger normally has between 2 and 4 single beds in it, along with a traditional stove, a simple table, and sometimes cupboards and wash stands. We plan for a Ger to be shared between two travelers (or for those who have paid the single supplement, a Ger on their own). If you would like to have more than two travelers sharing your Ger, please let us know, and we shall do our best to accommodate your request. There will generally be a central block that houses hot water showers, sinks, and western-style toilets. This block is usually some distance from your Ger. In a separate building, there will be a restaurant or dining room, and sometimes a bar or a recreation room. Many camps have outdoor recreation facilities such as a volleyball or badminton net.
Can I camp in Mongolia?
Mongolia offers fantastic camping possibilities in beautiful landscapes, and often the places we visit will have no Ger camps or local hotels. We provide our guests with high-quality tents on all our camping trips. On treks or kayaking trips, where equipment must be carried by pack animals or boat, the camps will be expedition style. No formal toilet or shower facilities will be available. You will use a field toilet, and we will provide you with water for washing up. Please note that you will need to bring a sleeping bag and mattress if camping is included in your trip.
Can I stay in nomadic family homes?
Most likely, if you have selected one of our fixed departures, you will be staying at least one night with a nomadic family. This gives you a chance to get closely acquainted with the way of life and culture of the Mongolian people. If the group is small, we may stay in the family’s gers, using our mattresses and sleeping bags. If our group is larger, we will set up our tents next to the family’s ger so we have more room to spread out. Most nomadic families do not have formal toilets in their summer camps, so the most you can expect to find is a designated toilet trench that may be screened on three sides. No showering facilities will be available. Nomads wash in basins in their gers, or in a nearby river in warm weather.
What will I eat?
It depends on the kind of trip you are taking. Check your itinerary to see what types of accommodation you will be in. In Ulaanbaatar, you can expect a variety of quality restaurants with international foods. In Ger camps, we generally eat breakfast and dinner in camp and take a packed lunch for the day. Your packed lunch will be carried in appropriate containers to prevent spillage or spoiling. Ger camps serve both Mongolian and international foods, and there will usually be a choice of the main dish. On camping days, what you eat is up to you and the accompanying staff. As the shared costs of an expedition cook are higher in smaller groups, some groups may not be accompanied by a cook. In this case, the guides and drivers will be cooking for you. If you are willing to assist them, they will be grateful for your help. On expeditions where there is no vehicle support, there will be dried and canned foods available, but fresh fruits and vegetables often cannot be transported beyond the first couple of days. For groups of more than seven travelers, we usually send a cook, and the food will be just great! Please let us know if you have any food preferences or restrictions, or if you are following a special diet. If we are given advance notice, we will do whatever we can to meet your preferences and needs. Please note that most Ger camps won’t be very sympathetic towards travelers cooking their own meals in the camp.
Who will be my tour guide?
The short travel season here in Mongolia does not allow tour-guiding to become a full-time profession. Hence, the vast majority of our guides are young students who work as a guide for 3-4 years until they graduate. After leaving university, they then seek a more stable position, which provides a yearly income. We, therefore, run our own lengthy travel guide training, where we try to provide the prospective guides with the skills to be more effective. As well as knowledge of the country’s history, geography, and current affairs, we focus on subjects such as foreign language skills, cross-cultural differences, and first-aid provision.
A distinct advantage every Mongolian brings to a profession such as tour-guiding is the unconditional maternal-like care to guests. This derives from the fundamental values of the nomadic culture. Mongolians have an almost compulsive need to meet expectations and to take great care of each of their guests. Each year we receive around 100 applications to be a travel guide. Of these, around 30 begin the long training process. Only 5 or 6 guides complete their training and become an apprentice. New guides usually run 2 to 3 trips as an apprentice, before leading their own travel group. We do our utmost to prepare our guides to carry out their duties and responsibilities. If your guide is an apprentice, please bear in mind that we all have to make a start somewhere, and your patience and encouragement will be gratefully accepted.
Who will be my driver?
Our drivers, the owners of the vehicles you will be driven in, are fabulous mechanics, navigators, and excellent drivers, and have many years’ experience of driving travelers throughout Mongolia. Some of our drivers have been working for us for over ten years; though in the peak season we also recruit some additional drivers to the team. Our drivers usually don’t speak foreign languages, but all of them have strong interpersonal skills and very good intuition. They do their very best to accommodate the needs of the travelers and ensure you get the very best out of your experience. They know when you need to stop, whether it is for a photo, a toilet break, or to stretch your muscles after a long period of driving. The drivers are an inseparable part of our team. At the head of each group of drivers is a lead driver who is familiar, not only with the travel route and anything surrounding it but also responsible for supervising the other drivers and making sure they operate under the company’s spirit and within our strict code of conduct.
Is this the right tour for me?
Travel to Mongolia does not suit everyone. Mongolia is underdeveloped, the Mongolian diet is very different from what we are used to eating in the west, and the lodging facilities are more basic than in other travel destinations in the region. Journeys can be long and rough, and the Mongolian attitude towards service is very different from our expectations in the west. Mongolia is for the curious, the patient, for those who can laugh at adversity and who accept that life just happens differently here.
Private Tours & Travels throughout Mongolia
Private adventure tours & travels have been our specialty for the past 20 years. Over 80 percent of our customers travel on private adventure tours, either creating their own tour around specific interests and booking it as a private tour, along with some personal touches.Contact us