What luggage will I pack?

It is important to keep luggage to the barest minimum when on trek, as this will ease the burden of the drivers, vehicles and horses. Baggage should be of the round squashy type rather than hard expensive suitcases that are difficult to fit into jeeps and on the backs of camels or horses. Try to use something that is both lockable and water proof as luggage can often end up sitting on the roof of the vehicle or on the back of a pack horse.

It is a good idea to bring another smaller bag so that unwanted clothes can be kept in it at the hotel when you go on trek. This also helps to keep city clothes clean and free from dust. You should also bring a small day pack which can be carried while hiking or riding or can be readily accessible when you are travelling in the vehicles on long drives. It should be noted that the luggage limit per person on MIAT internal flights is 10 kg per person. For every kg over 10 kg it is USD1 per kg to the Gobi and Central Provinces and USD2 to the west.

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 the medication that you should bring on your trip. This also applies to your own personal first aid kit. Again we can provide you with a suggested list for your personal first aid kit.All trips will have a basic first-aid kit but it will not contain any prescription drugs. There are limited medical supplies in Mongolia and they are mostly found in the capital. You will not be able to purchase them in the countryside when on the trip. Also, most supplies will be Russian made and therefore very unfamiliar to western travellers.

There are western Doctors in Ulaanbaatar who provide medical services to travellers. These professionals can be contacted in the case of an emergency or for a general enquiry. Mongolia is remote however and infrastructure is poor. When you are on trip and there is an emergency situation professional medical help is a long way away. Emergency evacuation can and has been arranged in extreme situations but it may be up to 24 hours wait.

What will I pack?

On camping trips all equipment will be provided except for a 4-season sleeping bag. You do not need to provide any other camping gear only personal belongings. We can provide travellers with a rough guide of things that you will 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 provided with an English 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 land and often become life long friends with the travellers. Interactions with staff is often the highlight of people's trips and the guide will be there to translate for you with horsemen and drivers. 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 riding trip?

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

Riding treks are supported by local grooms who are responsible for saddling the horses and helping clients with adjusting tack. Do not be afraid to ask if there are any problems. We can also give some information about riding in Mongolia and the Mongolian horse before you go. Please ask. We will provide saddles which are either English or Western, we also use Russian saddles. Unless clients specifically request them we do not provide clients with Mongolian saddles.

What are the vehicles like I will be travelling in?

Vehicles used are generally Russian or German jeeps and trucks as they are most suitable to the terrain and the drivers are most familiar with these vehicles in the case of breakdown.For larger groups Nomads uses 4WD buses in the countryside rather than jeeps as we feel it is not only more economical but also easier for staff and clients 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. Nomads also have 4WD trucks that have been converted into kitchens and luggage carrying vehicles.

Many of the drivers we use are full-time Nomads staff and have been trained not only in tourism but are also very familiar with the routes we take, the camp setting up 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 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 no 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?

Accommodation is in the traditional Mongolian dwelling, a ger, or lightweight three-man tents and will be specified in the itinerary. The Ger camps provide basic but comfortable accommodation. There are basic showers and washing facilities available and hot water is supplied to all gers. The ger camps provide all bedding and clients will not be expected to bring their own sleeping bags if they are staying in the ger camps.

The tents are either 2 or 3 person tents. As far as possible we provide clients travelling alone with their own tent. A sleeping mat will be provided to each person staying in a tent but clients are asked to bring their 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. Mongolia is a meat eating country but vegetarians can be catered for, however, we require as much 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 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.

On trips staying in ger camps the food is provided by the camp. Again the cooks are Mongolian but the food tends to be a little less varied with a strong emphasis on meat, rice, pasta and potatoes. Again vegetarians can be catered for but will probably end up eating a lot of eggs.

What are the hotel standards?

The hotels used in Ulaanbaatar for group trips are either the Ulaanbaatar Hotel or Bayan Gol Hotels. Both provide a very similar level of service. They are clean, comfortable and provide the best value for money in Ulaanbaatar. Both are also centrally located. They do not provide high class European service, however, and clients should be patient in difficult situations, such as no hot water or the receptionist not understanding English. These kind of challenges are common and all part of the travel experience. Hotel accommodation in cheaper hotels can be arranged.t

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

The number and variety of restaurants is improving to include French, Korean and Indian. Most of the older restaurants serve typical Russian style food but the variety is widening and many other influences are appearing in menus.

Many travellers would like to dine at real Mongolian style restaurants. The only problem with this is that the best Mongolian food can be found in someone?s home! Our cooks on trek will provide clients 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 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 German.

It is appreciated by locals if travellers 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.

Can I send an email from Mongolia?

Internet cafes have hit Ulaanbaatar and there are about 4-5 in the central area of the city. There is a central post office in Ulaanbaatar where you can buy stamps, envelopes and postcards. The post is reasonably reliable although in may take some time to reach its destination. Telecommunications outside Ulaanbaatar are very limited but both the Bayan Gol Hotel and the Ulaanbaatar Hotel have international fax and telephone.

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

The official currency of Mongolia is the togrig. As at 01 Mar 2000 US$1 was worth approximately 1020 togrigs. Bring only USD in currency and it is better not to bring travellers cheques although they can be changed at the 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 togrigs. Most hotel gift shops and tourist shops still accept US dollars.

US dollars can be changed at the airport on arrival, at the hotel receptions or at the bank.

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. The three main hotels, the Bayan Gol, the Ulaanbaatar and the Ghengis Khan all 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 that 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 performances that can be seen at the Opera Theater or the Drama Theater.

Recently several new bars, some with outdoor seating have opened in the centre of town. For nightclubbers 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, however, both in the city and in the countryside.As tourism is growing in the country locals who work in the tourism industry are getting used to the notion of tipping and sometimes even expecting a tip from clients. 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 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 trek to discuss how much they would like to tip each staff member based on their individual trek experience.

Should I give gifts to countryside people?

As you will be visiting local nomadic families in the country it is acceptable and desirable 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. However, because of bilateral agreements made with some countries, this is not always the case. 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$25 and for a transit visa US$15 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$50 and US$30 respectively. There have also been changes recently to Police Registration procedures. You are advised to 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. We have had 82 year old people participating in some of our more arduous trips so this will give you an indication. Should a particular trip involve some specific activity such as riding or hiking please just ask about the level of fitness you need. It is advisable that you exercise regularly for a period of time before the departure of any trip especially if you lead a sedentary life. On riding or hiking trips usually 4-6 hours a day are spent outdoors on the track. Some riding trips are more arduous than others so again please don't be afraid to ask. Days spent driving 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 are quite tiring due to bad roads and rough tracks.

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

When visiting local nomadic people 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 will also be offered Mongolian vodka or the local drink 'airag' (fermented mares milk) There will also be visitors to camp offering 'arul' which is dried curd and is very, very hard.

It is advisable to drink the tea when in someone's ger. It is offered in the spirit of friendship and hospitality so would be rude to refuse. It is not the best taste first time but you get used to it and some people actually end up liking it. Vodka 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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