Tips for the First Time Travelers in Mongolia
Are you planning to travel to Mongolia for the first time and searching for the things to know before you visit Mongolia?
Congratulations that you decide and intend to travel to the remotest, density populated, exotic and country of last remaining nomads. This was my dream to visit this beautiful country. In the city, people will allow foreigner a very wide margin, and many Mongolians don’t strictly follow all the rules either. Every province and ethnic groups have different traditions. So it is better to read or ask from your guide and local team.
Here are "The 10 Tips for the First Time Travelers to Mongolia"
1. Expectation VS Reality
Mongolians are nomads. The main accommodation for tourist is “Ger camp”, the traditional dwelling of the Mongols. I expected that Mongolia is the only country of nomadic people, wide steppes and offers not too many modern comforts for travelers. In facts, for instance, we stayed in tourist ger camp where we could feel good enough comfort. But not all camps are good like that. The felt cover of the Ger dwelling smells naturally during the rainy days. Please try to understand it is their traditional, long-lasting accommodation. I advise you prepare yourself if you travel in Mongolia for a multi-day trip.
2. Mongolian visa process
Do you know about the visa of Mongolia? Check out the visa-free countries here. If you are not a nationality from visa-free countries it has several options.
First please check whether it has Mongolian embassy or consulate in your country? If yes, please go there and apply for your visa. If no please find the second option. It has a chance to get a visa at the airport. For this option, the tour operator company’s invitation is required. The process will be 2 weeks to 2 months.
Finally, I recommend you to choose your right partner in Mongolia
3. Mongolian weather
The climate in Mongolia is unpredictable. The temperature difference between day and night is extreme, especially in the Gobi, the Southern Part of Mongolia. The northern and western part of Mongolia is getting colder from the end of August. So, if you are traveling in shoulder season in Mongolia, pack your warm garments for traveling.
4. Meals in Mongolia
Are you vegan, vegetarian or need gluten-free food in Mongolia? Actually, in the city of Mongolia-Ulaanbaatar has restaurants more than 50 countries meals, and ger camps in the countryside can do those kinds of foods according to your special request as soon as you pre-book it. If you choose a tented camping tour this will be quite hard, when you don’t have experienced cook.
5. Rules in the Ger
It is incredible, even you’re not pre-arrangement you can visit nomadic families and they hospitalized you from the bottom of their heart. When you enter the ger never step on the threshold (Bosgo), and watch out your head to butt a lintel or door jamb.
Middle and north side of the ger is an important part of the family. NO garbage, litter is ever thrown into the fire such as onionskin etc.
The left side of the ger is female’s and the right side is man’s side. Northside is a sacred and holy area such as divinity.
6. Timing in Mongolia
Synonymous to “Island time”. It used to have only morning and evening time when Mongolians didn't have a watch. Sunray inside the ger/yurt/ was used both as a sun clock and a calendar. Generally, elders are still using this timing today. People are less aware of time here and locals are the very relaxed attitude about it. Say your time with extra and reserves to your local team.
7. Bring cash in the countryside
Please prefer Mongolian currency-Tugrik. By the way, during the national holidays, they have 3-5 days of rest and no bank and no currency exchange are working. In this case, it is better to change at the airport. Otherwise, the bank or exchange has a better rate. And Mongolian countryside is cash-based society and ATM in a small town might have no cash even it is the tourist peak season. Also, it has a risk of no electricity in the whole soums or towns, it can happen anytime in any place. No electricity means none of the business goes normally.
8. Small gifts to the children of the countryside
Kids are always curious and bring with you a small gift for children. My advice would be to bring them something they don’t have stationary, books, puzzles, but sweets and toys are just as fine. If you like to take pictures of them, both of the kids and adults appreciate some gifts, to be taken their photos.
9. Tipping for staff
First-time travelers always ask about the amount of tips for their local staffs.
Though by definition a tip is never legally required, it is recommended when you are on tour. This is not spoiling the market or running hospitality, it is simply being fair. Tips will vary depending on the length and complexity of the trip, the number of staff on the trip and the number of clients on the trip. Generally, groups like to meet together before the end of the tour to discuss how much they would like to tip each staff member based on their individual trek experience. Tipping in hotels and restaurants is up to the individual, 10% never goes wrong here.
10. Find Mongolian Tour Company
Finally, I advise you to choose a local tour company that offers a reasonable price and good service. So how to find a good local tour operator in Mongolia? Consider your travel purpose, budget and experience of the local company. For me, I searched on the internet and then filtered them by my travel interest. There are similar agencies found on google and I sent email them and then compared their responses, experiences, reliability and specialties. For me, I chose this company because I prefer adventure and photography specialist.
I hope this advice may helpful for you and your Mongolia Trip would be great even if you are a first timer in Mongolia.