What kind of luggage should I bring?

It is important to keep luggage to minimum when on a trek, as this will ease the burden of the drivers, vehicles and packhorses. Baggage should be of the soft sided, duffle bag kind rather than hard expensive suitcases with wheels that are difficult to fit into jeeps and even harder to strap on the backs of camels or horses. Try to bring luggage that is both lockable and water proof as bags can often end up sitting on the roof of the vehicle or on the back of a pack horse, rain or shine.

We recommend you bring an additional smaller, lockable bag so that city clothes not needed on the trek can be left behind at the hotel while you are away on a trip/trek. This also helps to keep city clothes clean and free from dust. You should also bring a small day pack/backpack which can be carried while hiking or riding or can be readily accessible when you are travelling in the vehicles on long drives. Please keep in mind that the free check in allowance per person on internal flights is 1 bag weighing no more than 10kg per person. Carry-on is limited to 1 piece that is not heavier than 5kg. For every additional excess kg airlines will charge around USD $1-$2 per kg when traveling to the Gobi and Central Provinces and USD $2-$3 when flying to the Western Provinces.

What about medical supplies and emergency?

If you have any particular medical problem please consult with your doctor before you come to Mongolia as to what medication you should bring on your trip. This also applies to your own personal first aid kit. If you need help assembling this, we can provide you with a suggested list. All NT&E trips will be outfitted with a basic first-aid group kit but they will not contain any prescription drugs. There are limited medical supplies in Mongolia and they are mostly found in the capital only. You will not be able to purchase them in the countryside when on the trip. Also, most supplies will be Russian or Chinese made and therefore possibly very unfamiliar to western travellers. Do let us know in advance of any medical conditions.

There is one international hospital in UB staffed with western doctors. Also, there are a few additional western doctors in Ulaanbaatar who provide medical services to travellers. These professionals can be contacted in case of an emergency or for a general enquiry. However the rest of Mongolia is remote and medical infrastructure fairly poor. When you are on a trip and there is an emergency situation, professional medical help can be a long way away. Emergency evacuation can and has been arranged in extreme situations but it may take up to 24 hours of wait. Do not forget to purchase appropriate insurance prior to traveling to Mongolia.

What should I pack?

On cultural trips all to bring along is personal things.

On camping trips all revelant equipment will be supplie except for a sleeping bag. You do not need to bring any other camping gear except of course personal belongings. Sleeping bags can be rented if you request it in advance. Once you are signed up we will send you a suggested packing list of things that you wil need to pack for your trip to Mongolia.

This list may not suit everyone's needs but it can be adapted to personal requirements or the type of trip that you are planning to take. Please ask us.

Who will lead my trip?

All groups will be led by an English or German speaking Mongolian guide who is trained and experienced in leading trips in Mongolia. They provide the group with a unique and fascinating insight into their own culture and land and often become lifelong friends with the travellers. Interaction with the local staff is often the highlight of our guests' trips and the guide will be there to translate for you with horsemen, drivers, cook and camp assistants as well as for locals you will encounter along the way. It is a great way to get to know the real life of Mongolia. 

I am not a good rider. Can I go on a horse riding trip?

If you have a reasonable level of fitness, are keen to try new things and are generally an active person - the short answer is yes. Some trips are more challenging than others so please check before choosing a trip and making a booking.

All horse riding treks are supported by local horsemen who are responsible for saddling the horses and helping clients with adjusting tack. We can also give some information about riding in Mongolia and the Mongolian horse in general before you go. Feel free to ask. We will provide saddles which will be either English or Western, but mostly what we use is comfortable Australian stock saddles. Sometimes we may even use Russian saddles. But unless our guests specifically request them, we do not provide traditional wooden Mongolian saddles.

What are the vehicles like I will be travelling in?

Vehicles used are generally 4WD Russian Furgons and German trucks as they are most suitable to the terrain and the drivers are most familiar with these vehicles in case of breakdowns. We also have a fleet of Japanese jeeps. For larger groups Nomads Tours & Expeditions uses 4WD buses in the countryside rather than jeeps as we feel it is not only more economical but also easier for guide and guests to be all sitting in the same vehicle and easier on the environment to take one vehicle on a remote road rather than many smaller vehicles.

NT&E also has 4WD trucks that have been converted into ‘kitchens’ and luggage carrying vehicles.

Many of our drivers are employed full-time by NT&E and have been trained not only in tourism but are also very familiar with the routes we take, experienced in setting up a camp and of course, the vehicle maintenance. Other drivers, especially on the smaller treks are contract drivers, who work part-time for the company. These drivers are always carefully selected, tested, experienced, reliable and very capable in the countryside conditions.

Are there any paved roads outside the capital?

Mongolian roads are often very bad, constantly changing or disappear altogether due to bad weather. Bridges in remote areas are almost non-existent. There are very few road signs in Mongolia and the only way drivers are able to ascertain the current road condition is to stop and ask the locals which they will do on some occasions. There are some paved roads in the countryside but due to the large potholes it is often more comfortable driving on a dirt road.

Where will I sleep and do I need to provide my own bedding?

Ulaanbaatar has a number of 3-4-5 star hotels with all the usual amenities. Accommodation in the countryside is either in ger camps, the traditional Mongolian dwelling, or if you are on a camping trip, you will sleep in lightweight but sturdy 4 season tents. All this will be specified in the detailed itinerary. The ger camps provide basic but comfortable accommodation. There are separate bathroom buildings with western flush toilets, hot & cold water showers and washing facilities. The ger camps provide all bedding, even towels, so you will not be expected to bring your own sleeping bags if you are staying in ger camps.

The tents on our camping trips are 2 person teepee tents. Whenever possible we will provide clients travelling alone with their own tents. A felt sleeping mat will be provided to each person staying in a tent but you will need to bring your own sleeping bags. 

What about the food on the trip?

The food on camping trips is from the best produce available and the menus are possibly the most varied you will find in Mongolia. We cater to the western palate and it will also be plentiful. Mongolia is a meat and dairy eating country but vegetarians can be catered for.  However we require as much advance notice as possible.

Our cooks are all Mongolian and they have a wealth of experience in catering to the western traveller. You will also eat some Mongolian food on the trips. We try to buy as much produce as possible from local people although there is not a lot of variety. Alcohol is not provided on the treks but clients are free to bring their own. Most ger camps will have these for sale.

On trips staying in ger camps the food is typically provided by the camp. Again the cooks are Mongolian but the food may be a little less varied with a stronger emphasis on meat, rice, pasta and potatoes. Vegetarians can be accommodated but will probably end up eating a lot of cabbage, carrots and eggs.

What are the hotel standards?

The hotels used in Ulaanbaatar for group trips are most commonly the Ulaanbaatar Hotel or Bayangol Hotel. Both are very centrally located and are of similar level of service. They are clean, comfortable and provide the best value for money in Ulaanbaatar. They do not provide high class European service, however, and travelers should be patient in difficult situations, such as no hot water or the receptionist not understanding English. These kinds of challenges are common and all part of the travel experience. Hotel accommodation in cheaper or higher category hotels can be arranged upon request.

Can I go out to a good restaurant while I am in Ulaanbaatar?

The number and variety of restaurants is constantly growing and improving in UB and include a good selection of Italian, French, Indian, Mexican, Korean, etc. There are also excellent Mongolian restaurants serving fine traditional dishes. Most of the older restaurants serve typical Russian style food but the variety is widening and many other influences are appearing on menus.

Many travellers would like to dine at real Mongolian style restaurants and try traditional local food. There are a handful of good ones in the city but the best Mongolian food can be found in someone’s home! Our cooks on trek will provide travelers with some Mongolian style food or you can order off the menu at the hotel restaurant.

Will I be able to speak to people in English?

The official and national spoken language of the country is Mongolian. Many people have Russian as their second language as they were taught this at school. An increasing number of people are now also speaking English and even German especially who work in the tourism industry.

It is always appreciated by locals if foreign visitors learn some basic Mongolian before their trip. A few words are surprisingly easy to master and will help tremendously in communicating with local people. Spend a few dollars and minutes before you go and purchase a copy of the Lonely Planet Mongolian phrase book. Or ask your guide to teach you a few words the first day of your trip.

Can I send an email from Mongolia?

Most hotels and restaurants in Ulaanbaatar provide free Wi-Fi.  Most hotels have a business center with PCs that are connected to the Internet. There are also a number of Internet cafes in central Ulaanbaatar. At the Central Post office in Ulaanbaatar you can buy postcards and stamps. The post is reasonably reliable although it may take some time to reach its destination. Telecommunications outside Ulaanbaatar is limited to local mobile phone service but most of the Ulaanbaatar hotels have international fax and telephone service. You can also purchase local SIM cards and install them into your mobile phone. Once away from the city do not count on Wi-Fi accessibility or Internet cafes.

Will I need money in the country and what currency should I carry with me?

The official currency of Mongolia is the Tugrik (MNT). As of August 2014 1 USD was worth approximately 1,822 Tugriks and 1 EURO was worth 2,398 Tugriks.  Bring only crisp new notes. It is better not to bring travellers cheques although they can be changed at any bank. Please ask your bank to provide dollar currency dated 1995 or later, as currency dated earlier may be rejected by currency exchange places. Most hotels, restaurants and tourist shops now accept international credit cards. Local shops and markets accept only Tugriks. Most hotel gift shops and tourist shops still accept US dollars.

US dollars or Euros can be changed at the airport on arrival, at the hotel receptions and at many banks. There are also plenty of ATMs in UB, just make sure you memorize your PIN number.

What can I buy once I get there?

The State Department Store is the main shop in town for everything from food to clothes and Mongolian souvenirs. There are also many smaller shops and local markets. Most of the bigger main hotels will sell a range of food stuffs, gifts and souvenirs.

Interesting art and gifts can be bought at the Art and Craft Shops near the Ulaanbaatar Hotel. Visits can also be made to the two main cashmere factories. Be careful when buying antiques – make sure you receive a stamped certificate from the seller in case you are asked to prove your purchase at the airport. Sometimes in the countryside you will be offered goods from local countryside people for sale. It is alright to bargain with people. Do not assume that you can purchase things out of people's gers in the countryside. This is someone's home.

What will I do at night?

There is a great variety of night time entertainment in Ulaanbaatar. There are a number of concerts and cultural performances, from Opera to traditional Mongolian throat singing that can be seen at the Opera Theater or the Drama Theater and other venues.

There are plenty of bars, some with outdoor seating that can be found in the center of the city and at many of the hotels. Some are on top floors with fantastic views of the Ulaanbaatar (Ramada City Center, Blue Sky Tower, BW Tuushin Premier, etc.).  For night clubbers a number of new venues have opened recently playing a mixture of Western and Mongolian modern music. Dining out is becoming a good option with a variety of international restaurants on offer.

Should I give a tip?

Tipping is not a local custom in Mongolia; it is common only amongst tourists and expatriates who live in the country. Giving monetary gifts to friends or relatives is common both in the city and in the countryside. However as tourism is growing in the country locals who work in the tourism industry are getting used to the idea and are counting on receiving tips and sometimes even expecting gratuities from foreign travelers. Some locals still feel embarrassed to receive large tips from foreigners. We suggest that you do tip in moderation and give with a spirit of gratitude.

Tips will vary depending on the length and complexity of the itinerary, the number of staff on the trip and the number of guests on the trip. Generally groups like to get together before the end of the trip to discuss how much they would like to tip each staff member based on their individual trip experience. If you need help with suggested amounts, please let us know.

Should I give gifts to countryside people?

As you will be visiting local nomadic families in the countryside it is acceptable and a nice custom to offer them small gifts in return for their hospitality. The following items would make suitable gifts - small toys for the children, sweets, hair ribbons, snuff, cigarette papers, tobacco, small bottles of perfume or face cream and sewing kits. As children are an integral part of nomadic life it is acceptable to bring gifts for children. As the change of government has less focus on education many nomadic children are now not attending school. Purchasing educational material in the capital, such as children's books, paper and pencils is also a good idea. It is not acceptable to rely on accommodation from countryside people while travelling independently in Mongolia. Should this be offered to you then it is perfectly alright to accept but you should show gratitude with gifts in return. This should not be in the form of a token postcard but rather something useful and valuable to the local people.

How do I get a visa and do I need an invitation?

Generally, everyone entering Mongolian territory must have a visa unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries. By now there are over 20 countries with visa exemptions. In June of 2014 Mongolia introduced a temporary visa exemption to an additional 16 countries. This is valid until December 31, 2015. Please check with your respective Consulate or Embassy in advance.

All types of visas can be obtained from the Visa and Passport Division of the Ministry of External Relations, in Ulaanbaatar, and also Mongolian Embassies, Consulates, Honorary Consulates, Trade and Permanent Missions abroad. Please note that the visa regulations have recently changed. It is now NOT possible to buy visas at Mongolian borders or at the airport upon arrival. Visas must be obtained in advance. For all types of visa application, you will need your passport, a completed application form and at least one passport-size photograph.

Passports should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months. The standard charge for a tourist visa is US$35 and for a transit visa US$25 if you obtain the visa in advance. If you require the visa urgently or if you obtain your visa at the border points, you will need to pay US$100 and US$70 respectively. There have also been changes recently to Police Registration procedures.  As these regulations change frequently you should find out up-to-date details from your Embassy or Consulate in advance.

Do I need to be fit?

Travel in Mongolia on a standard trip is really for anyone who is of a reasonable level of fitness. Should a particular trip involve some specific activity such as riding or hiking please just ask us about the general level of fitness required. In preparation for your trip it is a good idea to get some regular exercise added into your days. On horse riding or hiking trips usually a minimum of 4-6 hours a day are spent outdoors on the trail. Some riding trips are more arduous than others so again please don't be shy and ask. Days spent driving on bumpy roads may be longer, up to 9-10 hours. This is possible in the summer with the long daylight hours. It should be mentioned though that these days can be quite tiring due to bad roads and rough tracks. So be prepared in spirit for the adventure.

Should I eat the local food when it is offered to me?

When visiting local nomadic families you will generally be offered a cup of tea. This is the salty, milky variety. Sometimes, especially in the summer or if they have become very fond of you, you may also be offered homemade Mongolian vodka called arkhi (traditionally distilled from fermented mares or other milk) or the refreshing local summer drink airag (fermented mares milk). You will also have the opportunity to taste aruul which is dried curd and it can be either soft or very hard.

It is advisable to accept the tea when in someone's ger. It is offered in the spirit of friendship and hospitality so it would be rude to refuse. It is an acquired taste, strange at first time but you get used to it and some people actually end up liking it. Arkhi and airag should be drunk with caution especially airag in large doses as it can do very strange things to your stomach.

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