As mentioned already, we plan to start our travels in Mongolia before heading through China to South East Asia on the way to New Zealand. As I research for my own trip, I thought I’d share any useful information that I find along the way to help others who are also trying to plan for Mongolia and epic Gobi desert adventures!
I first started looking in to Mongolia when a friend told me all about her travels there and how it was in her top two (along with the Philippines!) of all the places she had ever travelled to. The more I looked in to Mongolia, the more excited I got about visiting; it looks amazing! Bordering Russia and China, Mongolia’s people live mainly in the city of Ulaanbaatar or across the endless countryside surrounding, with the Nomadic population making up around 30%. Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country on Earth and has a lot to offer in terms of natural beauty; from mountains to desert to lush green rolling hills. It’s also known as Land Of The Blue Sky due to enjoying over 250 sunny days each year! Although, don’t be fooled; Mongolia has extreme weather and despite their warm summers (30 degrees C), their winters can be extremely harsh with lows of -45 degrees C!!
We would really like to stay with a Nomadic family during our time in Mongolia, and many small local tours seem to offer this opportunity from Ulaanbaatar. I love the idea of being completely out in the open, staying in Gers (giant, tee-pee style tents!) living like a local, being taught Nomadic handicrafts and farming techniques, pitching in to help with their day-to-day life. You can read about a couple who have stayed with a local family and their hints and tips here. Some people have even decided to create their own ‘tour’, starting at a focal point like a small Sum (village) and trekking along a river to reach another destination – sometimes as much as a week later! Camping and cooking your food as you go (fishing from the rivers if that’s your thing) just sounds like such an amazing back-to-basics experience.
Another thing we’d like to do whilst in Mongolia is climb to the top of Khongoryn Els (the Singing Sands) which are some of the largest sand dunes in Mongolia and provide amazing views across the surrounding desert. We’d also like to visit Gorkhi Terelj National Park which is accessible from Ulaanbaatar, to see the Khagiin Khar Lake, a 20m deep glacial lake and the Yestii natural hot water springs. The park also has a Buddhist monastery that is open to visitors and a variety of wildlife including brown bears and over 250 species of birds!
You can also take a trip to The Flaming Cliffs; red sandstone cliffs in the Gobi desert and most famous for the first discovery of dinosaur eggs. If trekking the acres and acres of beautiful countryside is not your thing – you can always opt to see the sights on one of the many horse treks. You can even hire a horse for the day in some places to make your own way around the hills!
There’s lots more you can do in Mongolia and I plan to do as much as possible in the two to three weeks we hope to spend there. I’ll be posting all about our trip in August 2016!
Other helpful websites to help you plan for Mongolia:
- Lonely Planet
- National Geographic
- Top 10 Things To Do In Mongolia
- World Travel Guide
- Trip Advisor
- Virtual Tourist
Budget is obviously important when planning a trip – especially when you want to be away for a long period of time (hopefully forever in our case! :P). I have researched some accommodation options and have looked through numerous websites to try and work out roughly how much we will be spending in Mongolia. Turns out, Mongolia is one of the cheapest places to travel, with accommodation as little as £3 for the night! Using the links below, we are budgeting £20 per person, per day for Mongolia. Realistically, there will be days where we spend much, much less than this. Eg. Day spent in Ulaanbaatar would be around £3 for accommodation and £2-3 per meal. On the flip-side, a few days on a tour is likely to be more (with fuel and tour guide costs). Personally, we like to over-budget so that we don’t end up in a situation where the cash flow runs dry! £20 per person per day works out at £420 for the month, so we have rounded that up to £500 🙂
We will probably only book our first few nights accommodation in Mongolia, which will allow us to be flexible in where we stay and what we do. However, I have had a brief look in to accommodation to check out the most popular hostels and their prices etc. I’ll list a few below for Ulaanbaatar which look great and have good reviews. Prices below are based on a standard double room.
Treat yourself: not for a backpacker’s budget but great if you fancy treating yourself to a night of luxury at the end of your trip!
- Ramada City Center – Prices from £70 per person per night.
- Kempinski Hotel Khan Palace – Prices from £45 per person per night.
Comfort and Value: Places worth checking out if you prefer to stay in a hotel, but don’t want to go too crazy with your budget.
- Kaiser Hotel – Prices from £30 per person per night.
- Park Hotel – Prices from £27 per person per night.
- Naranbulag Hotel – Prices from £24 per person per night.
There are lots more on Lonely Planet!
Hostel Chic: For all those on a backpacker’s budget! Including us…
- UB Guesthouse & Hostel – From £5.65 per person per night.
- Golden Gobi – From £5.50 per person per night.
- Sunpath Mongolia – From £4.94 per person per night.
- Town Yard Hostel – From £4.94 per person per night.
- Mongolian Steppe Guesthouse – From £3.53 per person per night
Unfortunately, when we went to book, all the hostels listed above were fully booked!! Even though we were booking 10 months ahead…. I did some more research and found Danista Nomads Hostel and Wonder Mongolia – both have great reviews and offer tours. We will be staying in one of these hostels (and reviewing it afterwards!).
For those on a British passport like me, Mongolia did allow stays of up to 30 days without a visa (2015) but you are now required to purchase a visa prior to travel. As with most countries, you will need to have 6 months validity on your passport and a few blank pages spare. For those travelling on any other passport, World Travel Guide has some helpful information about visa requirements and cost (if any).