Just above China and south of Russia, Mongolia is a country tucked away in northern Asia. It’s graced with historical sites, stunning landscapes, and plenty to do for travelers.
You can trek on a camel through the Gobi Desert, observe eagle hunters practicing their craft, and visit some of the last nomadic reindeer herders in the world.
Visiting a remote area of the world can come with its fair share of challenges. So, we’ve put together five tips for travelling in Mongolia that will help you navigate the unfamiliar terrain on your journey.
1. Research Before You Go
This is the most important thing you can do to prepare for your trip to Mongolia. Doing research before you go is integral for making sure to book all the right things at all the right times. Some popular attractions for tourists, like the national Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar, only take place over the summer, so you’ll have to book accordingly if you want to attend. Others, like the eagle hunting festivals of western Mongolia, are autumn events. So, season is an important factor to consider when planning a visit to Mongolia. You’ll also have to book some popular activities in advance. Again, tickets to the Naadam Festival in Ulaanbaatar can sell out quickly, and it wouldn’t hurt to book other popular attractions, like camel trekking in the Gobi Desert, before you go to ensure your spot. And if you’re venturing into the Mongolian countryside, it’s important to know ahead of time what accommodations will be available to you once you get there. Most commonly, ger camps will be the place to stay. At the end of the day, research is helpful so that you know what to expect when you get to where you’re going, whether it’s Ulaanbaatar or elsewhere. Bus rides to remote regions of the country will be long. Accommodations won’t always be glamorous. But, one guarantee is, you’re sure to have an amazing time in Mongolia. You can save yourself a lot of time and stress though by booking a tour with Selena Travel. Let us take care of all the logistics so you can just focus on the adventure of a lifetime!
2. Pick Up a Mongolian or Russian Phrase Book
Since English isn’t widely spoken outside of Ulaanbaatar, it will be useful to have a Mongolian or Russian phrase book at hand to help smooth over regular interactions with the local people. Sure, you can always look up how to say “hello,” “thank you,” and “where is the bathroom” in advance and write it on a piece of paper for easy reference. But you never know what else you’ll trouble have communicating until you’re trying to ask someone for something, and then you’ll probably be out of WIFI connection and out of luck. That’s why carrying around a Mongolian or Russian phrase book is a necessary tip for travelling in Mongolia. You don’t need Internet connection to access it, making it available at any time. Plus, you can browse through it in your spare time to familiarize yourself with the language. And if you opt for a Russian phrase book, it’ll come in handy if you venture to Mongolia’s neighbor up north. Carrying around a phrase book is key for executing a successful trip to Mongolia.
3. Be Prepared to take Long Bus Journeys
And we mean very long bus journeys. Some of them are so long, you’ll save yourself on a night of accommodation. As an example, it’ll take you over a day and a couple of bus or van transfers to get to Tsagaan Nuur and visit the Tsaatan reindeer herders. A journey to Khuvsgol Lake will take close to 24 hours to complete, too. So, whether you have your sights set on a remote attraction or one more popular, be prepared for an extended bus ride. On the bus, you’ll have an opportunity to meet and mingle with the locals, something a plane ride wouldn’t be able to provide. Just make sure you pack plenty of snacks and entertainment, like a book or magazine. There will be few stops along the way, and almost none of them will be at places where you can stock up on food and other long ride necessities. And, of course, bring a positive attitude! A long bus journey isn’t ideal, but it can be a wonderful opportunity to connect with some local people.
4. Go Beyond Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar is the international port for foreigners visiting Mongolia, and most travelers end up basing themselves around here and spending a lot of their time here. Ulaanbaatar is pretty incredible. There are museums, monasteries, historical sites, and easy access to the Gobi Desert for day tours. There’s also a great restaurant scene. But, to really get the most out of traveling in Mongolia, we would advise you to jet out of Ulaanbaatar and into the countryside. Out west, you can explore the Kazakh culture and observe Mongolian eagle hunters in the field. You can also scale Mongolia’s highest peak, Mount Khuiten, and gaze over into China. If you travel up north, you can go hiking, horseback riding, or boating at Lake Khuvsgol, a reflective, ancient body of water. Nearby the nomadic Tsaatan reindeer herders make their seasonal base. And of course, multi day excursions through the Gobi Desert are a must for getting the most out of your trip to Mongolia.
5. Be Respectful of the Local Community
No matter where your travels in Mongolia take you, be sure to always treat the local people with respect. In Ulaanbaatar, tourists are a common appearance. But up north in the Tsaagan Nuur, where the reindeer herders move about, or out west around Bayan Olgii, home of the eagle hunters, tourists are a rare sight. Rather than treating the local people like an attraction, ask for permission before you take photos, be mindful of their customs, and don’t intrude on their space. For you, traveling deep in Mongolia is a cultural experience. For the locals, it’s a regular day. So, do whatever it takes to make sure you give them the space they need, even if it means sacrificing a really cool photo.
These tips for travelling in Mongolia should help you enjoy a wholesome and well-rounded experience. We hope they’re useful to you as you venture over to this corner of the world to take in all of the history and beauty of Mongolia.