Noble Journeys' Mongolia Travel Tips
You are about to enter a vast and diverse land, with wild landscapes and the Gobi desert. Mongolians have long honored their homeland and believe their fate is entwined with nature. The same harsh conditions that make their nomadic existence so challenging have dictated the need for gracious hospitality and warmth, extended to all travelers and pilgrims in their vicinity. Open your mind and your heart to this unusual destination, be flexible and curious, and you will have an extraordinary experience!
It is always best to check with the US Embassy for up to date information regarding a visa. At this time, U.S. citizens do NOT require a visa, but conditions change. If you book a trip with Noble Journeys, our operator, Nomadic Expeditions, will send you complete and up to date information and forms on visas.
You will definitely need a current passport, valid for at least 6 months after your entry date into Mongolia. Make a copy of the passport and keep it separate from the original document.
No immunizations are required for entry into Mongolia or for re-entry into the U.S. Several preventative measures are generally recommended for international travel: the Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov, go to Travelers' Health) recommends tetanus/diphtheria and polio inoculations be up to date, along with immunization against hepatitis A and rabies, and a possible shot against typhoid fever. CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL TRAVEL CLINIC.
Medical facilities are available in Mongolia, however standards and methods of treatments are not the same as in the U.S. Should you find yourself in need of a Western-style medical facility, go to the SOS Medica Clinic in Ulaanbaatar on Big Ring Rd., telephone 464-325. It is staffed with South African doctors, working with Mongolian doctors.
Always carry an adequate supply of your medications, as you will be traveling in remote areas. Keep them in their original containers, for ease in passing customs. Carry a list of the generic names of any drugs used. Carry with you a list of any allergies or chronic medical problems in case of emergency treatment; also carry your physician's 24-hr. answering service.
Travel, medical and emergency evacuation insurance is essential. As the latter, in particular, can cost $50,000 or more, it is highly recommended that you purchase travel insurance to cover trip cancellation, medical expenses, emergency evacuation, etc. Purchase a policy covering the entire cost of your trip (land and air) and ask about pre-existing conditions. Noble Journeys recommends, but is not responsible for, policies through Travel Insured Interntional at www.travelinsured.com or (800) 243-3174. Our agency # is 46716.
Mongolia is 12 hrs. ahead of EST and 15 hrs. ahead of Pacific Daylight Time. When it is 3 p.m. on the east coast and 12:00 noon on the west coast, it is 3:00 p.m. the next day in Mongolia.
It is 220V. Plugs in Mongolia require a 2-pin plug with round pins. An adapter plug for your U.S. appliances will be necessary. The hotels and gers will not be able to provide them. Electricity in ger camps is very limited, so bring as few electric devices as possible. If you use an electric razor and/or toothbrush, we recommend you bring a battery-powered model, with extra batteries.
International calls from Mongolia can be expensive. Reasonably priced international calling cards are widely available. Roaming cell service available in cities. Those traveling with international cell phones or satellite phones should limit their use, as they can be quite intrusive to people around you, and detract from the experience of traveling through the vast expanses of Mongolia.
Mongolian currency is known as the Togrog. Mongolia is still a largely cash-based society. U.S. dollars are accepted in most places along with the togrog. Bring a credit card as back-up for emergencies, but be prepared to rely on cash for the majority of purchases. It is recommended to have a selection of US$ ones and fives for purchasing small souvenirs and for tipping baggage porters. Old, faded or torn bills will not be accepted. Fifties and one hundreds must be the new issue.
ATMs are available in Ulaanbaatar in a few places. Also, bank tellers at main Mongolian banks can process your card manually. Inform your bank you will be in Mongolia and using your card to be sure you are not blocked.
Traveler's checks can be exchanged at banks, but you will be charged a 2-4% commission.
Visa and Master Card are the cards most widely accepted. Personal checks not accepted anywhere in Mongolia.
Make a photocopy of your ATM and credit cards and keep separate from your cards, along with their emergency phone numbers.
Beware of pickpockets in public places and crowds, as is true anywhere in the world today. Do not bring any valuable jewelry, watches, etc.
Keep your suitcases and carry-ons locked while in hotel rooms and in transit. In ger camps, keep luggage locked, and the ger door locked, as there will be other travelers in the camps.
Although Ulaanbaatar is generally a safe city, we do not recommend walking around on your own after dark. Take only official taxis.
Accommodations & Bathroom Facilities:
Hotels in Ulaanbaatar may not have constant hot water, more likely in the summer when repairs to plumbing networks may take place. Not all hotels have functioning air conditioning or window screens. The hotels have Western-style toilets. If there is a rubbish basket next to the toilet, put your waste paper in that, as the plumbing is usually quite old.
In the countryside, staying in gers, you will find comfortable beds with clean sheets, pillows and blankets. There will be a wood stove should you need heat. Western-style showers and toilet facilities are located in a central building; hot water is available only at certain times of the day, and you will be notified of this. Bring your own soap and washcloth; towels provided are the size of our large hand towels. Some gers at Nomadic Expeditions have toilet facilities en suite, an upgrade, but showers are in a separate location.
Electricity is available at ger camps, but often is turned off during the daylight hours and in the middle of the night to conserve energy. Recommended to bring a flashlight and headlamp.
During daily excursions into the countryside, there won't be bathroom facilities. There may not be a tree or bush for miles, so forget modesty! Avoid sacred cairns of stones, rivers, lakes (water sources for nomads). Bring small packs of tissues or pre-moistened towelettes for these "wilderness rest stops". Please carry out your used tissues in a personal zip-lock bag which can be disposed of at the ger camp or in the capital city rubbish containers.
Food and Beverages:
In Ulaanbaatar there are many international restaurants. In the countryside, meals are typically meat based, and will include noodles, rice and bread; you may also have potatoes, carrots, cabbage, tomatoes and cucumbers. Fruit is mostly canned. Breakfast usually includes eggs, sausage, toast, tea and coffee. Lunch is the main meal of the day.
Do try some of the Mongolian specialties made of goat, mutton, beef, yak, camel; steamed dumplings are also tasty.
Mongolians are big tea drinkers. Vodka is the most popular alcoholic drink; beer and wine are also available. In the countryside, you will be offered airag (fermented mare's milk), which has a low alcohol content. This is brewed in every family ger, and tastes like a more liquid sour cream. Bottled water is available in the cities and at your hotel and ger camps. Boiled water also available at camps.
In this vast country, there are few paved roads. You may spend from two to six hours on dusty, bumpy roads. Recommend bringing a scarf to cover your nose and mouth if necessary. Please note it is customary for drivers to stop and ask directions at local gers. There are no street signs or directions and drivers prefer to confirm with local families that they are traveling in the right direction. These stops may elicit an invitation from the families to visit their ger – a marvelous opportunity to see their way of life.
Bargaining or haggling is not part of the Mongolian culture, as it often is in Asian and Middle Eastern countries.
Cashmere and camel hair sweaters and blankets are readily available, and you can find traditional silk tunics. Felt slippers, typical Mongolian boots and carpets are additional products which can be purchased, along with vodka, landscape paintings and traditional music CDs. Do your shopping in Ulaanbaatar, as little is available in the countryside. Ger camps often have small gift shops, which help support the local families and the rural economy.
Under NO circumstances should you purchase or export fossilized items or uncertified antiques. It is illegal.