Thursday, December 8, 2022
Mongolia travel guide - Travel S helper

Mongolia

travel guide

Mongolia is an East Asian landlocked sovereign state. Its extent is approximately equal to Outer Mongolia’s historical territory, and the name is sometimes used to refer to the present state. It is bounded on the south by China and on the north by Russia. While Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, the distance between the two countries is just 36.76 kilometers (22.84 mi).

Mongolia, with a population of approximately 3 million people, is the 18th biggest and most sparsely populated completely independent nation in the world, covering 1,564,116 square kilometers (603,909 square miles). Additionally, it is the world’s second-largest landlocked nation. The nation has relatively little arable land, since the majority of its territory is covered by grassland steppe, surrounded by mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Ulaanbaatar, the country’s capital and biggest city, is home to about 45% of the population.

Around 30% of the population is nomadic or semi-nomadic; horse culture is ingrained. Buddhists make up the lion’s share of its population. The second biggest category is the non-religious. Among ethnic Kazakhs, Islam is the predominant religion. Although the majority of the state’s inhabitants are Mongols, the nation is also home to Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other ethnicities, particularly in the west. Mongolia joined the World Trade Organization in 1997 and is actively seeking membership in regional economic and trade organizations.

Various nomadic empires have reigned over what is now Mongolia, notably the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Rouran, and the Turkic Khaganate. Genghis Khan established the Mongol Empire in 1206, which grew to be the world’s biggest continuous land empire. Kublai Khan, his grandson, invaded China and established the Yuan dynasty. After the Yuan collapsed, the Mongols returned to Mongolia and resumed their previous pattern of factional warfare, with the exception of the eras of Dayan Khan and Tumen Zasagt Khan.

Tibetan Buddhism expanded across Mongolia in the 16th century, aided by the Manchu-founded Qing dynasty, which annexed the nation in the 17th century. By the early 1900s, Buddhist monks accounted for almost one-third of the adult male population. Mongolia proclaimed independence from the Qing dynasty in 1911 and de facto independence from the Republic of China in 1921. Shortly thereafter, the nation was annexed by the Soviet Union, which had helped in the country’s independence from China. Mongolian People’s Republic was established as a Soviet satellite state in 1924. Mongolia had its own peaceful democratic revolution in early 1990, after the 1989 anti-Communist uprisings. This resulted in the establishment of a multi-party system, the adoption of a new constitution in 1992, and the transition to a market economy.

Mongolia has the lowest population density of any independent country, with only 1.7 people per square kilometer, and it is this vast and majestic emptiness that is the country’s enduring appeal, bringing the traveller into close communion with nature and its nomadic inhabitants. Mongolia is a landlocked country sandwiched between China and Russia. With good reason, the country is known as the “Land of Blue Skies.” Each year, the sun is said to shine for about 250 days. Winters are bitterly cold, with temperatures as low as -40°C in some areas. The weather in the summer varies from region to region, but is generally hot, thanks to the diverse terrain, which ranges from desert to verdant mountains. This time of year is marked by many rains in some areas outside of the Gobi desert, and it can get quite cool at night.

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Mongolia - Info Card

Population

3,353,470

Currency

Tögrög (MNT)

Time zone

UTC+7/+8

Area

1,564,116 km2 (603,909 sq mi)

Calling code

+976

Official language

Mongolian - Cyrillic

Mongolia | Introduction

People In Mongolia

Mongolia is nearly the same size as Alaska and more than twice the size of Texas. It covers 1.6 million square kilometers (603,000 square miles), more than four times the size of Japan and nearly twice the size of Eastern Europe.

Mongolia is the sixth-largest country in Asia and the nineteenth-largest country in the world, but its population is only 2,727,966 (as of November 9, 2009), making it one of Asia’s least densely populated areas.

When you consider that Ulan Bator, or Ulaanbaatar (“UB”), is home to 40% of the population, there is plenty of room for you to explore the countryside. Gobi, on the other hand, is even less dense.

With their 56 million sheep, goats, cattle, horses, and camels, almost another 40% of Mongolia’s population is dispersed across the country. Aimag refers to the 21 provinces that make up the country. You’ll know which aimag and which soum you’re in because each aimag has a central city or town and about 15-22 sub-provinces called soum.

Mongolia’s population is 70% under the age of 35. The male-to-female ratio is close to one-to-one. 84 percent are Khalkha Mongols, 6% are Kazakhs, and 10% are from other ethnic groups.

More than half will claim to be Buddhists, a religion that is heavily influenced by Shamanism, close to ten percent will claim to be Christians in any form, four percent will claim to be Muslims, and the remaining half will claim to be atheists. Bayan-lgii province is home to almost all Kazakhs and Muslims.

Geography and climate Of Mongolia

Mongolia is the world’s 18th biggest nation, with 1,564,116 km2 (603,909 sq mi) (after Iran). It is far bigger than Peru, the next-largest nation. It is mainly located between 41° and 52°N (with a tiny region north of 52°) and 87° and 120°E longitudes. Mongolia’s northernmost portion is approximately on the same latitude as Berlin (Germany) and Amsterdam (Netherlands), while its southernmost part is generally on the same latitude as Rome (Italy) and Chicago (USA) (USA). Mongolia’s westernmost region is approximately parallel to Kolkata (India), while its easternmost region is parallel to Qinhuangdao (China) and Hangzhou (China), as well as the western edge of Taiwan. Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, although it is just 36.76 kilometers (22.84 miles) away at its westernmost point.

Mongolia is renowned as the “Land of Eternal Blue Sky” or “Country of Blue Sky” because it boasts over 250 sunny days each year (Mongolian: “Mönkh khökh tengeriin oron”).

Mongolia has a diverse topography, with the Gobi Desert in the south and frigid, mountainous areas in the north and west. Mongolia is mostly made up of steppes, with wooded regions accounting for 11.2 percent of the total land area, which is greater than the Republic of Ireland (10 percent ). At 4,374 meters, Mongolia’s highest peak is the Khüiten Peak in the Tavan bogd massif in the extreme west (14,350 ft). The Uvs Lake basin, which is shared with Russia’s Tuva Republic, is a natural World Heritage Site. The majority of the nation is scorching in the summer and very cold in the winter, with January temperatures as low as 30 degrees Celsius (22 degrees Fahrenheit). In the winter, a large front of cold, heavy, shallow air arrives from Siberia and accumulates in river valleys and low basins, resulting in very cold temperatures on the mountain slopes owing to the effects of temperature inversion (temperature increases with altitude).

During the winter, the Siberian Anticyclone affects the whole country of Mongolia. Uvs province (Ulaangom), western Khovsgol (Rinchinlhumbe), eastern Zavkhan (Tosontsengel), northern Bulgan (Hutag), and eastern Dornod province are the areas most impacted by the cold weather (Khalkhiin Gol). Ulaanbaatar is also badly impacted, but not as badly. As one travels south, the cold becomes less severe, with the hottest January temperatures recorded in Omnogovi Province (Dalanzadgad, Khanbogd) and the Altai mountain area bordering China. The rich grassland-forest area of central and eastern Arkhangai Province (Tsetserleg) and northern Ovorkhangai Province (Arvaikheer) has a distinct microclimate, with January temperatures that are on average the same as, if not greater than, the hottest desert regions to the south. The Khangai Mountains contribute to the formation of this microclimate. Nighttime January temperatures in Tsetserleg, the hottest town in this microclimate, seldom drop below 30 °C (22 °F), whereas daytime January temperatures range from 0 °C (32 °F) to 5 °C (41 °F).

Zud, or severe climatic conditions, occur on occasion throughout the nation. Ulaanbaatar is the coldest capital city in the world, with an annual average temperature of 1.3 °C/29.7 °F. Mongolia is a mountainous, cold, and windy country. It has a continental climate with long, cold winters and brief summers, when the majority of the year’s precipitation falls. The nation has an average of 257 cloudless days each year and is typically in the middle of a high-pressure area. The north gets the most precipitation (an average of 200 to 350 millimeters (7.9 to 13.8 in) per year, while the south receives the least (100 to 200 millimeters (3.9 to 7.9 in) each year. The greatest annual precipitation of 622.297 mm (24.50 in) was recorded in the woods of Bulgan Province near the Russian border, while the lowest was recorded in the Gobi Desert at 41.735 mm (1.64 in) (period 1961–1990). The sparsely populated far north of Bulgan Province gets an average of 600 millimetres (23.62 in) of annual precipitation, which is higher than Beijing (571.8 mm) or Berlin (571.8 mm) (571mm).

The word “Gobi” comes from a Mongol phrase for a desert steppe, which is a kind of dry rangeland with enough flora to sustain camels but not enough to support marmots. Outsiders unfamiliar with the Mongolian environment may not be able to tell the difference between the Gobi and the desert proper. Overgrazing may quickly damage Gobi rangelands, resulting in the development of the real desert, a rocky waste where not even Bactrian camels can thrive. The Himalayan rain shadow effect is responsible for the dry conditions in the Gobi. Mongolia was a thriving home for important species before the Himalayas were created by the collision of the Indo-Australian plate with the Eurasian plate 10 million years ago, although it was still relatively dry and chilly owing to its distance from evaporation sources. Apart from the more well-known dinosaur fossils, sea turtle and mollusc fossils have been discovered in the Gobi. Even now, tadpole shrimps (Lepidurus mongolicus) may be found in the Gobi. The Amur river basin, which drains into the Pacific Ocean, includes the eastern half of Mongolia, including the Onon and Kherlen rivers, as well as Lake Buir. The Eastern brook lamprey, Daurian crayfish (cambaroides dauricus), and Daurian pearl oyster (dahurinaia dahurica) may all be found in the Onon/Kherlen rivers, while the Siberian prawn (exopalaemon modestus) can be found in Lake Buir.

Demographics Of Mongolia

Mongolia’s overall population was estimated by the United States Census Bureau to be 3,000,251 persons in January 2015, placing it approximately 121st in the world in terms of population. However, the United States Department of State’s Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs relies on UN estimates rather than Census Bureau estimates. Mongolia’s overall population, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division, was 2,629,000 in mid-2007 (11 percent less than the U.S. Census Bureau figure). The UN figures are similar to those of Mongolia’s National Statistical Office (2,612,900, end of June 2007). Mongolia’s population is expected to increase at a pace of 1.2 percent each year (2007 est.). Around 59 percent of the population is under the age of 30, with 27 percent of them being under the age of 14. Mongolia’s economy has been strained by its relatively youthful and increasing population.

In 1918, the first census of the twentieth century was conducted, with a population of 647,500 people.

According to current UN estimates, Mongolia’s total fertility rate (children per woman) has declined at a faster pace than any other nation in the world after the collapse of socialism: in 1970–1975, fertility was projected to be 7.33 children per woman, falling to approximately 2.1 in 2000–2005. However, that tendency has recently been reversed, and between 2005 and 2010, the projected fertility value rose to 2.5 before stabilizing at about 2.2–2.3 children per woman.

Ethnic Mongols make up approximately 95% of the population and are divided into Khalkha and other groups, all of which are differentiated by dialects of the Mongol language. 86 percent of the ethnic Mongol people are Khalkha. Oirats, Buryats, and others make up the remaining 14%. The Turkic peoples (Kazakhs and Tuvans) make up 4.5 percent of Mongolia’s population, with the remainder coming from Russia, China, Korea, and the United States.

Religion In Mongolia

According to the 2010 National Census, Buddhists made up 53% of Mongolians aged 15 and above, while non-religious people made up 39%.

Mongolian shamanism has been practiced extensively throughout the history of what is now Mongolia, with comparable beliefs held by Central Asian nomads. They lost way to Tibetan Buddhism throughout time, but shamanism has remained a part of Mongolian religious tradition and is still practiced. The Kazakhs of western Mongolia, as well as certain Mongols and other Turkic peoples in the nation, practice Islam.

Throughout most of the twentieth century, the Mongolian people’s religious activities were largely suppressed by the communist government. It was aimed at the Mongolian Buddhist Church’s clergy, who were closely linked to the old feudal government institutions (e.g. from 1911 on, the head of the Church had also been the khanof the country). Khorloogiin Choibalsan’s government liquidated nearly all of Mongolia’s 700 Buddhist monasteries in the late 1930s, killing at least 30,000 individuals, including 18,000 lamas. From 100,000 in 1924 to 110 in 1990, the number of Buddhist monks has decreased dramatically.

The collapse of communism in 1991 allowed for the reintroduction of public religious activity. Tibetan Buddhism, which had been the main religion before to communism’s emergence, has once again risen to become Mongolia’s most commonly practiced religion. Other faiths were able to spread in the nation when religious persecution ended in the 1990s. The number of Christians increased from four in 1989 to approximately 40,000 in 2008, according to the Christian missionary organization Barnabas Fund. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), which has 10,900 members and 16 church buildings in Mongolia, conducted a cultural event in May 2013 to commemorate 20 years of LDS Church history in Mongolia. Mongolia has around 1,000 Catholics, and Mongolia’s first Catholic bishop was appointed in 2003 by a missionary from the Philippines.

Language In Mongolia

Mongolian is the official language, and everyone in the nation speaks it as their first language, with the exception of the westernmost province, where Kazakh is spoken. Even after months of immersion in the culture, Westerners find it very difficult to acquire and speak the language. It takes a minimum of 9-18 months of full-time Mongolian language training for Westerners to become fluent. Most Mongolians will welcome efforts to speak Mongolian, even though the tourist will always pronounce the words incorrectly. It’s a good idea to get a phrasebook and practice a few phrases. The numerical system is consistent and simple to understand.

Russian is a required second language in all schools in Mongolia, and it is the most commonly spoken foreign language. This is due to Mongolia’s long history of alliance with the Soviet Union, and Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In metropolitan regions, travelers who speak Russian should have little trouble getting about. English is not commonly spoken, but it is growing in popularity among the younger generation, many of whom study it as a third language in school, and it can be seen on signs around the city. However, unless you understand Mongolian or Russian, traveling outside of Ulaanbaatar without a guide is almost difficult.

Internet & Communications in Mongolia

Mongolian is the official language, and everyone in the nation speaks it as their first language, with the exception of the westernmost province, where Kazakh is spoken. Even after months of immersion in the culture, Westerners find it very difficult to acquire and speak the language. It takes a minimum of 9-18 months of full-time Mongolian language training for Westerners to become fluent. Most Mongolians will welcome efforts to speak Mongolian, even though the tourist will always pronounce the words incorrectly. It’s a good idea to get a phrasebook and practice a few phrases. The numerical system is consistent and simple to understand.

Russian is a required second language in all schools in Mongolia, and it is the most commonly spoken foreign language. This is due to Mongolia’s long history of alliance with the Soviet Union, and Russia following the collapse of the Soviet Union. In metropolitan regions, travelers who speak Russian should have little trouble getting about. English is not commonly spoken, but it is growing in popularity among the younger generation, many of whom study it as a third language in school, and it can be seen on signs around the city. However, unless you understand Mongolian or Russian, traveling outside of Ulaanbaatar without a guide is almost difficult.

Economy Of Mongolia

Mongolia’s economy has historically been focused on herding and agriculture, but the discovery of large mineral reserves of copper, coal, molybdenum, tin, tungsten, and gold has become a major source of industrial output. Apart from mining (21.8 percent of GDP) and agriculture (16 percent of GDP), wholesale and retail commerce and service, transportation and storage, and real estate activities are the most important sectors in the GDP composition. According to estimates, the grey economy is at least one-third the size of the formal economy. Mongolia exported 68.4% of its exports to the PRC in 2006, while the PRC imported 29.8% of Mongolia’s imports.

The World Bank classifies Mongolia as a lower middle-income country. On a daily basis, 22.4 percent of the population lives on less than US$1.25. The GDP per capita in 2011 was $3,100. Despite the fact that the population has grown, the percentage of people living in poverty has risen from 35.6 percent in 1998 to 36.1 percent in 2002–2003 to 32.2 percent in 2006.

Mongolia had strong growth rates in 2007 and 2008 due to a mining boom (9.9 percent and 8.9 percent , respectively). The local currency fell 40% versus the US dollar in 2009 due to significant declines in commodities prices and the impact of the global financial crisis. Two of the sixteen commercial banks have been placed under receivership. GDP growth is projected to reach 16.4 percent in 2011. Inflation, on the other hand, has continued to erode GDP increases, with Mongolia’s average rate of 12.6 percent anticipated by the end of 2011. Despite the fact that GDP has been gradually increasing since 2002, at a pace of 7.5 percent in an official 2006 estimate, the government is still trying to close a large trade imbalance. The Economist projected that Mongolia’s 14 percent GDP trade deficit will turn into a surplus in 2013.

Mongolia was never classified as an emerging market country until Citigroup researchers decided in February 2011 that Mongolia was one of the “global growth producing” nations, which are those with the most promising development prospects for 2010–2050. The Mongolian Stock Exchange, based in Ulaanbaatar, was founded in 1991 and is one of the world’s smallest stock exchanges in terms of market capitalization. After quadrupling from US$406 million in 2008, it has 336 businesses listed in 2011, with a total market value of US$2 billion. Mongolia improved its ease of doing business significantly in 2012, rising to 76th place from 88th place the previous year in the International Finance Corporation’s “Doing Business” report (IFC).

Entry Requirements For Mongolia

There are just a few methods to enter Mongolia since it is a landlocked nation that shares a border with two other countries, Russia and China. You have the option of flying or obtaining a visa for China or Russia and traveling by rail, bus, or car.

Foreigners may cross the border at four locations: three near the Russian border and one near the tiny town of Erlian on the Chinese border.

The following countries/territories do not need a visa to enter Mongolia:

  • For up to 90 days: Belarus, Brazil, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Macau SAR, Serbia, Ukraine and United States
  • For up to 30 days: Canada, Cuba, Germany, Israel, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Russia, Thailand and Turkey
  • For up to 21 days: Philippines
  • For up to 14 days: Hong Kong SAR, Singapore

Be advised that the temporary visa exemption program for citizens of most European and certain additional American nations in 2014-15 has expired, and that if you are not a citizen of one of the countries listed above, you will need to apply for a visa once again.

The procedure of getting a thirty-day visa for other foreign nationals is very easy, needing just a short form and a modest fee at your nearest Mongolian embassy. Longer visas are possible, but they need a letter of invitation from a Mongolian business. These may be arranged via travel firms on occasion. In addition, an expedited visa may be obtained in a couple of hours at the Mongolian embassy in Erlian, but this option comes with a hefty USD50 cost. In the Russian city of Irkutsk, the Mongolian embassy offers a similar service. Although Indian nationals are not needed to apply for a visa, the cost is waived.

An invitation letter is required for tourist visas of longer than 30 days.

How To Travel To Mongolia

Get In - By plane

Chinggis Khaan International Airport (IATA: ULN) in Ulaanbaatar is currently linked to most major airport hubs in Asia and a few in Europe, thanks to a growing mining industry. MIAT Mongolian Airlines, the national airline, offers daily flights (daily during certain peak seasons) from Beijing and Seoul, as well as twice-weekly flights from Hong Kong, Berlin, Moscow, and Tokyo (during some peak season – from Narita).

It boosts flight frequency and conducts flights from Berlin to Osaka through Moscow during the summer high season. Berlin, Moscow, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, and Beijing all have branch offices. Hunnu Air, headquartered in Mongolia, has begun flying three times a week to Bangkok, in addition to five times a week to Hong Kong and two times a week to Shanghai.

Korean Air has nearly daily flights from Seoul, as well as additional routes through Beijing and three flights each week to Istanbul. Ulaanbaatar may also be reached by flying from Tokyo’s Narita Airport. If you’re traveling to Mongolia, don’t purchase a non-refundable or non-changeable ticket since planes don’t always happen.

Eznis Airways also offers three weekly flights between Choibalsan, Mongolia and Hailar, Inner Mongolia.

Get In - By train

The famous Trans-Siberian Railway’s Trans-Mongolian Line connects Mongolia’s capital Ulaanbaatar with Moscow and Vladivostok, Russia, and Beijing, China. This is Mongolia’s sole railroad, with the exception of a small line between Choibalsan and Russia in the east.

Because each train car has a tiny water boiler that distributes free hot water, it’s a good idea to stock up on instant noodles and tea for the journey. On the train and at the stops, don’t expect to see any English-speaking personnel.

From Russia

In the Russian town of Naushki, the Trans-Siberian train crosses the Mongolian border. Trains depart from Moscow or Irkutsk and go to Ulaanbaatar or Beijing, making numerous stops along the way. Ulan-Ude, Naushki, Dozornoe, and Khoit are located between Irkutsk and the border. Sühbaatar, Darkhan, and Zuunkharaa are located between the Russian border and Ulaanbaatar, with potential stops at Erdenet and Salkhit.

From China

From Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, second class (hard sleeper) costs about USD200 (March 2011). Although the journey takes almost 30 hours, you will be provided a berth in a sleeping vehicle. The train departs Beijing twice a week. Tickets are now unavailable for purchase at the Beijing station (as of March 2011). Instead, you will be referred to the Beijing International Hotel’s China International Tour Service (CITS) office on the 2nd floor (10 min walk north of the station; large, white building).

Beijing to the Border

If the Beijing – Ulaanbaatar train is sold out, as it often is, or you require a more regular alternative, you may take a local train from Beijing to Erlian, as detailed below, and then take a bus and train to Ulaanbaatar. As of March 2011, morning flights from Beijing to Erlian departing from Capital Airport Terminal 1 cost just 160 yuan, much less than the bus.

Beijing to Jining (Inner Mongolia) or Hohhot trains operate every day. You may change trains there for Erlian, a border town on the Mongolian-Chinese border. The K89 travels from Beijing to Jining in the morning and returns in the evening. Jining offers a plethora of hotels near the railway station, as well as karaoke bars to keep you occupied while you wait. A leisurely train runs from Jining to Erlian, departing in the morning and passing by the Great Wall many times before arriving in the early evening. This will take an extra night compared to using the sleeper bus.

Crossing the border

Be cautious of border scams when uniformed individuals try to sell you “necessary travel insurance.” You may safely disregard them since there is no such thing. Then, as stated in Erlian to and from Mongolia, cross the border from Erlian in China to Zamiin-Uud in Mongolia. Once you’ve crossed the border, follow the instructions for getting from Zamiin-Uud to Ulaanbaatar in Zamiin-Uud get in.

Get In - By car

Every year, a large number of daring individuals opt to drive to Mongolia, typically from Europe. Many of these individuals are supported by the Mongol Rally and the Mongol Charity Rally. In many ways, driving to Mongolia may be very difficult. Not only are there few highways in Mongolia’s western half, but car registration, import taxes and paperwork, visas, and everything else must be prepared for each nation along the route. There are four land border crossings with Russia and three with China for individuals who still want to go by vehicle. It should be emphasized, however, that driving through, into, or out of China with your own vehicle is considerably more costly and complicated.

From Russia

The major border is open 24 hours a day at Altanbulag-Kyakhta (Sühbaatar), which is closest to the capital. The Tsagaannuur-Tashanta crossing in Bayan-Olgii, which is open 09:00-18:00 except Sunday and is the most popular with adventure drivers, is located in the extreme west. Borshoo-Khandgait crossing between Uvs and Tuva Republic, also in the west, is open 09:00-18:00, excluding Saturday and Sunday. The Ereentsav-Solovyovsk crossing at Choibalsan, in the east, is accessible daily from 09:00 to 18:00.

Get In - By bus

Mongolia has just recently completed a paved road linking Ulaanbaatar to the Chinese border, although one has existed between UB and Russia for many years. More buses linking to the borders are likely to be added shortly, but at the moment only buses run between Altanbulag (Sühbaatar) and Ulaanbaatar.

From Russia

One-way elektrichka (regional train) tickets from Irkutsk or Ulan Ude to Naushki are available for those who want to save money. For USD0.50 per hour, one may spend the night in Naushki’s newly refurbished railway resting rooms (komnati otdiha). From there, a marshrutka may be taken to the Russian land border crossing town of Kyakhta. Although crossing the border by foot is banned, travelers have little trouble arranging for Mongolia-bound vehicles to transport them over the border for a modest price or at no charge. As all southbound traffic is directed towards Sühbaatar or UB, hitchhiking, taxiing, or taking the bus to those cities is quite simple.

It is possible to cross the land border at Tsagaannuur, Bayan-Olgii, from the west, from Russia. There are daily Russian Kamaz trucks transporting fuel and wheat bound for Olgii, and it is feasible to hitchhike to Tsagaannuur or perhaps Olgii. Regular buses and marshrutkas also run from the border, but owing to the absence of a timetable, service is erratic. Every ten days, a bus runs between Astana or Almaty, Kazakhstan, to Olgii.

From China

The bus ride from Beijing to Erlian costs CNY180 and takes 12 hours.

The bus ride from Hohhot costs CNY88 and takes 6-7 hours. Every day, there are numerous buses.

After arriving in Erlian, go to the Crossing the Border and From the Border to Ulaanbaatar sections.

If you’re traveling during a popular period (e.g., around Naadam on the 11th/12th July) and want to be sure of obtaining tickets for the last part of your journey in Mongolia, you may take advantage of one of the packages offered by Beijing’s guesthouses. These will set you back about CNY570 (July 2009). They will include a cab to Beijing’s coach station, a sleeper coach from Beijing to Erlian, a night’s stay in a hotel near the bus station, a bus from Erlian to Zamyn-Uud across the border, and a soft sleeper overnight from Zamyn-Uud to Ulaanbaatar. The tickets would cost approximately CNY360 if purchased individually. The Saga guesthouse in Beijing offers them, and despite the fact that they claim the train is a hard sleeper until they’re blue in the face, it’s really a soft sleeper!

Get In - By thumb or foot

At the border town of Zamyn-Uud, the road comes to a halt and gives way to an open desert, with trails leading in different directions but primarily north toward the capital city. Hitchhiking in Mongolia is difficult, and a tip for the driver is customary. Every hour, one vehicle is driven into the desert on average. The rules at the border stipulate that you must pass by bus or vehicle, not by foot. They are, however, unconcerned with how you get there or where you go afterwards.

How To Travel Around Mongolia

Take a GPS and some maps if you want to go about the countryside without a guide. The “Mongolia Road Atlas,” which is almost 60 pages long and covers the whole nation, is available in many bookstores. Note that there is a Latin character version and a Cyrillic character version; most people in the countryside will not comprehend the Latin version. The Mongolian Government Map Store has more comprehensive maps accessible. The scale of these maps is 1:500,000. There are also several additional special purpose maps, as well as a very excellent map of Ulaanbaatar’s downtown area. On Ih Toiruu St., there is a map shop. Go two blocks west on the main street, Peace, Peace and Friendship, or Ekhtavan Ave, from the State Department store to the big junction with traffic lights. The map shop is approximately half way down the street on the right (North). The Elba electrical appliance shop, a yellow and blue structure set back from the street, is followed by a huge Russian style office building with four stories, the map store entrance is on the west side, near the south end of the building, and it lines up with the Elba building’s north wall.

Keep in mind that whichever mode of long-distance travel is selected, everything in Mongolia has a propensity to break down. Don’t be surprised if a component of the suspension fails and the driver substitutes a carved wooden block for a mount. It may take a whole day or more for someone to come along and assist with more severe problems, so allow plenty of slack in schedules. Finally, Mongolians have a reputation for being tardy. A bus scheduled to depart at 8:00 a.m. will most likely not leave the city until almost 11:00 p.m.

Get Around - By plane

Using one of the local carriers, such as AeroMongolia, Eznis, or Hunnu Air, is the most convenient method to travel large distances. Almost every aircraft connects Ulaanbaatar with the Aimag centers. The majority of flights utilize turboprop small aircraft like the Fokker-50, with the exception of mines in the south Govi and Choibalsan, which use B-737s. AeroMongolia has a two-tier pricing system, with foreigners paying considerably more than locals, while Eznis and Hunnu share a single charge. There isn’t much of a difference between the airlines apart from pricing. In Mongolia, air travel agencies, guest houses, and hotels can assist you in obtaining a domestic flight ticket.

Get Around - By train

Mongolia has just one railway firm, Mongolian Railway, which is jointly controlled by the Russian and Mongolian governments. It’s definitely the greatest way to get a taste of communist times, even though it’s changed a little since then. The passenger is seen by Ulaanbaatar train agents as a possible rule breaker rather than a customer. The railway network is inadequate, consisting mostly of the Trans-Mongolian route between Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar, with a few expansions. Trains move at a glacial pace. They typically depart on time and arrive on time or within 20 minutes of the scheduled time. Intercity bus lines on approximately parallel paved highways will bring you to your destination considerably quicker.

Many tiny stations in the countryside serve as stops for local trains. For example, the tiny town of Batsumber is approximately 34 kilometers north of Ulaanbaatar (as the crow flies) and takes about an hour and a half on the train. Take your camping gear and go east of town to the mountains, which are approximately 10 kilometers away. Two streams run west out of the mountains, and you may walk and camp along them. The village has a modest restaurant and a few grocery stores.

Train tickets

You may pay for your rail ticket using a credit card. You pay an additional charge if you book in advance, as well as an additional fee if you purchase it on the train, which is the only option if you have less than 10 minutes before the train departs. A passport is needed to purchase a ticket, however one passport may be used to purchase tickets for many individuals. “Coupé,” “sleeping,” and “public” are the three classes (translated into English by “economic” by the company). The only one with doors is “Coupé.” On busy days, it’s conceivable that you’ll have to spend your night in “public” and even with little space. Although the tickets are numbered, the firm overbooks public seats with tickets numbered “0” at the same price when the seats are sold out. Tickets for “public” seats are much less expensive (and significantly slower) than coach, minivan, and taxi rivals. The schedules may be found on the business’s website. You will be charged for extra bed sheets if you travel in a coupé at night.

Inside a train

Inside the train, you will be offered beverages and Mongolian cuisine by both official company vendors and private individuals boarding the train for that reason at the larger stations with longer pauses. Many conductors are present. Expect Mongolian and perhaps Russian to be the only languages they speak. Keep an eye on your belongings: thefts are fairly uncommon. However, there are police officers on board each train. On a lengthy journey, your ticket will be checked repeatedly, and you may be awakened up in the middle of the night to do so. If you have to get off during the journey, no one will wake you up; but, if you get off at the terminal, you will be awakened up, perhaps more than an hour before arrival, depending on the agent. The train bathrooms are supposed to shut 30 minutes before the terminal, but they often close before.

Get Around - By bus

raveling by local bus is another a possibility, but these buses usually only connect the province capital with UB, and finding public transit that connects two provincial capitals is challenging. The bus situation has just improved significantly. The name of the city or town, or the name of the Aimag (province) or Soum, are used to refer to most cities and towns (county). Dornod, Dornod Aimag, or Choybalsan, for example (the actual city name). The destination of most buses is printed on a card in the front window. If you have either name written in Mongolian Cyrillic, present it to the drivers or assistants, and they will direct you to the correct bus.

Depending on the route, there are two kinds of buses: micro vans and big buses (some large buses are ancient Russian types and some are contemporary western types). The big buses adhere to a strict timetable, while the microbuses are considerably more flexible. There are two bus terminals in Ulaanbaatar, one on the west near the Dragon Shopping Center and the other on the east near the Botanical Gardens. On each side of the city, both stops are located on Peace Avenue. There are many buses that operate between them. Write instructions with the help of a local. Buy your tickets for the big buses the day before.

Ulaanbaatar, local soums (small county seats), and typically the next Aimag Center will be served from the Aimag centers. However, not all places may be accessible at the same time. Seek assistance from the locals. For example, there is bus service between Ondorkhaan and UB from a central bus station in Khentii Province’s capital, but via buses from UB to Dornad and Sukhbaatar Aimags (Choybalsan and Baruun-Urt) will stop at a gas station on the city’s north side.

Bus tickets

Your ticket is purchased at the station, not on the bus. Expect only Mongolian and perhaps Russian to be spoken by any cashier, driver, or conductor. It is not feasible to make a payment using a credit card. To purchase a ticket, you will need your passport. If the weight or size of your baggage exceeds the standard (as stated on your ticket), you will be charged an additional cost by the conductor. This is something you can work out.

Inside a bus

On certain routes, the driver and conductor unlawfully add additional passengers in order to pocket the money. They may even attempt to cram three people into two seats, in which case you have the right to object. Your ticket entitles you to a complete seat, which is what most coaches provide. The coach will typically stop at a local café or cafeteria for a short lunch or supper.

Get Around - By minivan

Purgons and mekrs, or public rural taxis and minivans, provide more destinations than coaches and many more than trains, particularly across regions. They’re riskier than buses and trains, and they’re usually overcrowded. The majority of motorists disobey traffic laws. When taxis and minivans in the countryside are full, they depart. They usually say “now” (“odo”), but this is seldom the case, and you may have to wait hours before they really go. To estimate how long you’ll have to wait, count how many individuals are already inside the car. Before leaving town, drivers often pledge to pick up more passengers and goods.

Get Around - By chartered jeep

A Jeep and driver may also be chartered for private usage. Typically, prices are negotiated by the kilometer. While this mode of transportation is much more costly than taking a ride with the locals, it is lot more handy and enables you to explore more distant locations. It is also possible to hire a guide to accompany you for the duration of your stay. As a result, you won’t have to worry about taxi drivers overcharging you up to 10 times simply because you’re a foreigner.

Get Around - By taxi

Taxis in cities should charge about MNT700 per kilometer. The drivers will charge according to the trip meter they have set.

Get Around - By foot

Another excellent option is to just stroll. Resting is never an issue since camping is available everywhere. There are nomads everywhere there is water, and if you stick to the main dirt roads, you’ll come across lots of guanz, who can give you with large, inexpensive meals to keep you going. Wrap yourself in wool blankets and then cover yourself with a Russian raincoat (basically a tarp in the shape of a trench coat) and just plonk yourself down on the ground, like Mongolians do. Sleeping in a sleeping bag or bivvy sack/tent for one night gives you a whole new respect for the marvels of sleeping bags and bivvy sacks/tents.

Destinations in Mongolia

Regions in Mongolia

Based on culture and geography, the nation may be divided into five different areas. There are 21 provinces and one special municipality that make up these areas.

  • Central Mongolia
    Ulaanbaatar and Arkhangai, a famous tourist destination, are included.
  • Eastern Mongolia
    Genghis Khan’s birthplace and the Mongolian steppe’s heart
  • Gobi
    as the name implies, home to the immense Gobi Desert
  • Northern Mongolia
    Much of Mongolia’s woodland and the huge Hövsgöl Lake are located here.
  • Western Mongolia
    The most varied area, with a dozen distinct tribes including the Kazakhs, is home to Lake Uvs Nuur and the Tavan Bogd Mountains.

Cities in Mongolia

  • Ulaanbaatar is the country’s capital and the starting point for most trips.
  • Choibalsan is a major industrial city in the eastern part of Korea.
  • Erdenet is Mongolia’s second largest city, and it is home to one of the world’s largest copper mines as well as a well-known carpet manufacturer.
  • Hovd is a historic city in the nexus of Mongol and Kazakh cultures.
  • Karakorum was the Mongol Empire’s first capital, founded by Genghis Khan’s son Ogedei.
  • Mörön – Capital of Hövsgöl province.
  • Ölgii – capital of the Kazakh Region, Bayan-lgii province, in Mongolia’s extreme western region.
  • Ondorkhaan is located near Genghis Khan’s birthplace (and perhaps burial site).
  • Tsetserleg is the capital of the province of Arkhangai.

Other destinations in Mongolia

  • The Khognokhan mountain range is a highly protected area. A lovely and peaceful region with cultural attractions such as Kharkhorin, the Mongolian Empire’s capital after Genghis Khan.
  • The highest peak and biggest glacier in Mongolia are found in Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, which also houses Eagle Hunters and a World Heritage Site: Petroglyphs.
  • Uvs Nuur Lake, Uvs province – Uvs Lake is Mongolia’s biggest lake and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve – a place to visit for ecotourism
  • Gorkhi-Terelj National Park – A national park located 70 kilometers east of Ulaanbaatar.
  • Khovsgol Lake – A big alpine lake with fresh water.
  • Darhad Valley – The Reindeer people call this place home.
  • Khustain Nuruu National Park – Takhi wild horses (also known as Przewalski’s Horse) may be found in Khustain Nuruu or Hustai National Park. These horses have never been tamed and are genuine wild horses.
  • Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park. Khongor Sand dunes, Yol Canyon, Bayanzag-Red Flamming Cliffs, Khermen Tsav.

Accommodation & Hotels in Mongolia

In Ulaanbaatar, there is some western-style lodging, although it is at western rates. There are a few excellent guest houses in UB for less than USD10 a night (as low as MNT3,000 if you’re willing to share a room), but they’re busy and difficult to get into during the tourist season.

The majority of the hotels in the area are run-down Soviet-era relics. Tourist gers, which have been put up by different enterprising residents, are a better choice. A night’s stay in one of them costs about 5000 tugrik per person. Breakfast and supper are often included. The traditional gift-giving traditions may be avoided while staying in one of these guest gers.

Last but not least, there are ger-camps. They are mostly run by tour organizations, although they do rent out space to individual travelers on occasion. Unfortunately, they are both costly (USD35 per person per night with three meals) and inconvenient.

Except for the cities and bigger villages, all land is held by the government. This means you can set up your tent almost anywhere. Maintaining a safe distance from existing nomad encampments is a matter of courtesy. You shouldn’t pitch a tent in the center of or too near to a road, according to common sense.

There are more than 300 hotels in Mongolia nowadays, ranging from 1 to 5 stars according to international standards. The tourism service is provided by hotels with three or more stars. In order to operate, 3–5 star holders must acquire specific authorization. The Ministry, travel industry organizations, and tourism researchers form a “accommodation grading committee” to classify lodgings according to Mongolian standards.

Things To See in Mongolia

Mongolia is a large nation that, until recently, was out of reach of tourists and the trappings of civilisation. Even now, getting between the few ‘existing’ locations may be challenging. There isn’t much interesting architecture in the nation. With the exception of the Mongol Empire’s short-lived capital at Karakorum, Genghis Khan’s descendants did not leave much trace of their dominance in their motherland. Genghis Khan, who razed towns from the Yellow Sea to the Caspian, is believed to have only constructed one permanent structure during his lifetime: a storehouse to hold his vast wealth.

Archeology

Though this building is no longer standing, his son Ogedei’s capital, as well as numerous items at the National Museum in Ulaanbaatar and hundreds of stone monuments and drawings scattered throughout the country, some going back thousands of years, do. Following the Mongol Empire’s slow collapse, a significant number of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries were constructed, serving as the most conspicuous reminders of Mongolia’s past. After Stalin’s religious purges, just a handful remain today. The Amarbaysgalant Monastery in Selenge, the Erdene Zuu Monastery in Karakorum, and the Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar, all active religious locations with a high number of resident lamas, need special mention. More recently, during the communist period, the Russians assisted in the establishment of huge modern towns and modern enterprises, which aren’t very attractive but are interesting, notably Erdenet, Asia’s largest open-pit copper mine.

Monasteries

Mongolia had approximately 750 monasteries and was a theocracy until the religious purges. Many were demolished, while others were converted into museums by the communists to showcase Mongolian art or the luxury of previous religious leaders. The Choijin Lama Monastery and the Bogd Khan Winter Palace are now museums dedicated to the Lamas’ art and the previous king’s toys. Other old monasteries, like as the Amarbaysalant in Selenge Province and the Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar, are slowly reopening and recuperating. The majority of monasteries now are tiny, freshly constructed temples in communities that did not exist before to the purges.

Museums

Apart from the monastery museums, Ulaanbaatar has a number of fascinating and notable museums worth seeing before heading to the countryside. The National Museum of Mongolia is by far the finest, with extensive collections of items dating from the Mongol Empire through the 1990 Democratic Revolution. If you plan on staying in the city for a long period of time, there are many more excellent art museums as well as lesser known historical and nature museums. Outside of the capital, every provincial city has a modest museum, most of which were constructed by communists and haven’t been renovated since they departed. These museums are inexpensive and offer interesting exhibits on local cultures and history.

Nature

The pristine environment of Mongolia seems to be much the same as it has always been. Because of its very low population density, which is among the lowest in the world, it is possible to drive for days without seeing anything except endless undulating steppes, the enormous Gobi desert, or the snow-capped Altai Mountains. Up north, in Hövsgöl province, Siberian woods surround the 2nd biggest freshwater lake in Asia by volume, Hôvsgôl (or “Hövsgöl”) lake, which is extremely attractive. The Flaming Cliffs in Dalanzadgad are not only beautiful to look at, but they also house some of the most significant dinosaur discoveries.

People

The people will undoubtedly be the most unforgettable aspect of any vacation to Mongolia, regardless of what brought you here. Mongolians are extremely welcoming to visitors. No journey to this region is complete without dining with nomadic herders or spending the night with them. Around a third of the population still lives in gers (yurts) on the open steppe as semi-nomadic herders. While their diets are limited to meat, wheat, and dairy, they will attempt to offer a feast of boiled or fried meat and hot milky tea to visitors, along with traditional entertainments such as music, singing, and perhaps dancing. There is some variety depending on the tribe or area you are in, with Kazakhs around lgii having the most distinct language, cuisine, and clothing, as well as the tradition of eagle hunting. While the Tuvans have a lovely, spooky singing form known as Throat singing, and the Tsaatan people herd reindeer near Lake Hövsgöl, the Tuvans have a beautiful, eerie singing style known as Throat singing. Then there are the Lama Monks, who are becoming more popular in monasteries and elsewhere, and the Shaman priests, who follow old animist religions of nature and earth worship and are well-respected in Mongolia.

Things To Do in Mongolia

Spend the night with a nomadic family, learn about their lifestyle, and share a dinner with them. They provide a true Mongolian experience. This is the most memorable aspect of any vacation, whether you travel just outside of the city or fly to the remote reaches of the nation. Depending on the tribal group, there are various differences in the experience.

The country is crossed by the Trans-Siberian Railway. Follow Marco Polo’s footsteps through Europe and Asia to Mongolia, where you may see Karakorum, the Mongol Empire’s historic capital.

Mongolia is the world’s least densely inhabited nation, with minimal growth outside of the capital and a handful of tiny towns. In many cases, there are no highways linking these communities. Mongolia’s clean setting means that adventurers will find plenty of open places to enjoy the outdoors. Tourists and adventurers alike travel through this huge region by vehicle, motorbike, bike, horse, camel, or foot. Typically, this entails camping by a river’s edge, traveling with a nomadic family, or staying in tiny wayside motels in provincial towns. There is excellent fishing along the route or on one of the numerous natural rivers and nature parks, especially fly fishing in the summer. Climbing the western highlands is popular, as is shooting the animals, flowers, and the many species that live or migrate through Mongolia.

Winter Activities

In Western Mongolia, join Kazakh eagle hunters on a hunt. The Kazakhs of western Mongolia employ eagles to hunt for foxes and hares, which are easier to spot against the snow, during the harsh winter months. Most people are put off by the freezing weather and the lengthy days spent riding Mongolian horses. Seeing an eagle released from a man’s forearm swoop down and kill a fox from a mile away is a memorable experience for those who do.

Outside of Ulaanbaatar and Western Mongolia, skiing From October until early May, it snows. Outside of Ulaanbaatar, there is one ski resort with a ski lift, equipment rentals, instructors, and all the other amenities of a ski resort. Although the lift is sluggish and the courses are challenging, it provides enjoyable amusement for visitors to UB during the long, harsh winter months. Western Mongolia’s many major mountain ranges provide excellent back-country skiing for the more daring. The months of April and May get the most snow and provide the greatest skiing conditions. Consider attending a tour or bringing all of your own gear. In the surrounding settlements, there are no ski stores.

Food & Drinks in Mongolia

Food in Mongolia

Mongolians eat mutton or sheep as their primary source of protein. Beef may also appear on the menu from time to time. A big plate piled with fried noodles and slivers of mutton would set you back around MNT2,000-4,000. A big bottle of ketchup will be on the side. Khuushuur (huushoor), a fried dumpling filled with pieces of mutton and onion, is a delicious and greasy meal served. A normal dinner serves three to four people. Also available in every cafeteria in town or in the countryside is the ubiquitous buuz (booz). Buuz are large dumplings filled with mutton and onion, similar to khuushuur, except they are steemed rather than fried. A serving of 6 buuz costs MNT1,200-2,000 (USD1.00-1.60).

The boodog, also known as a goat/marmot barbeque, is a must-try. A nomad will go out with his rifle, kill a marmot, and then roast it for you on hot stones in its skin without using a pot for approximately MNT15,000-20,000. In the same vein as boodog, khorkhog (mutton stew) is cooked as follows: build a fire; toss stones into fire until red hot; place water, hot stones, onions, potatoes, carrots, and, finally, mutton chops in a large vacuum-sealed kettle; let the kettle simmer over a fire for 30-60 minutes; open kettle carefully, as the top will inevitably explode, sending hot juices flying everywhere; once the kettle is opened, and all injuries have been treated, eat contents of ketchup This technique of cooking renders mutton soft and juicy, similar to slow-roasted turkey. Inquire with your guide to see if one can be arranged (but only during summer).

The boodog, like the khorhog, is made of other meat, typically goat, and is identical to the khorhog except that the meat, veggies, water, and stones are cooked within the animal’s skin. They gently peel it, then tie up the openings at the legs and back, stuff it with food and hot stones, close the neck, and roast it for approximately 30 minutes.

Drinks in Mongolia

Airag is the national beverage. (As of September 2010, it was sold in traditional Mongolian “ger” tents in Ulan Bator near the main gate of Gandantegchinlen Monastery, GPS decimal coordinates N47.92069 E106.89467 for MNT1,500 and at the West Market, GPS decimal coordinates N47.91118 E106.83569 for MNT1000 per bowl.) This is a summertime seasonal drink prepared from fermented mare’s milk that takes some getting used to. Although the alcohol level is lower than that of beer, it may still have an impact. If you aren’t used to consuming sour milk products, be aware that the first time you do so, it may cause diarrhea while your stomach adjusts. However, this should only happen the first time. Your digestive system should no longer protest after you’ve finished the procedure. The flavor has been described in a variety of ways, ranging from bile-like to lemonade and sour cream-like. The texture, which may be somewhat grainy, can also be off-putting to certain individuals. It’s important to remember that Airag is milk and a nutritional source. Once you’ve developed a taste for it, it may really feel very refreshing after a long day of riding.

When you visit a ger, the first thing you’ll be given is milk tea, which is basically a cup of boiling milk and water with a few of bits of tea leaf tossed in for good measure. You should build up your tolerance by drinking enough of milk in advance of your stay, since they don’t drink anything else except boiling water if you specifically request it during a prolonged visit. In addition, most traditional nomadic meals, such as dry yogurt and the like, require milk acclimation. In the countryside, there are no cold beverages (unless you intend to drink straight out of a river, generally not recommended).

Try their National Home Made Vodka if you’re in Mongolia, particularly if you’re in the countryside. It’s typically prepared using milk or distilled yogurt. It doesn’t have a peculiar flavor. You won’t feel anything after your first shot of vodka, but it will hit you in the head a few minutes later. The majority of Mongolians consume this for medicinal reasons. The vodka is heated first, then a little amount of special oil, which is also produced from milk, is added. Make sure you don’t overheat it or you’ll become blind. Mongolians refer to their native vodka as nermel areehk (“distilled vodka”) or changa yum (“changa yum”) (“tight stuff”). There are many Russian-style Vodkas available for purchase throughout the nation. Chinggis Khaan vodka, Soyombo, and Golden Chinggis are the finest.

Most Western beers, from Miller to Heineken, are available in Ulaanbaataar. They sell Budweiser, but not the American version, but the Czech version. It’s acceptable to drink local beer like Chingiss, Gem Grand, Borgio, or Sengur.

Money & Shopping in Mongolia

Currency

Mongolian currency is the tögrög, tugrik, tôgrôg, tugrug, or togrog (Mongol: тp, sign: MNT), ISO 4217 international currency code. The letters “tg” or “T” may also be seen.

MNT1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000 banknotes are in circulation.

Tipping

Tipping is seldom required in Mongolia, with the exception of tourism-related services such as tour guides. Waiters, taxi drivers, and hotel staff do not demand gratuities. Taxis may sometimes try to overcharge you by refusing to return your change, but this has nothing to do with gratuities. Service fees are often added to the bill at some of the city’s better restaurants and hotels, particularly for bigger parties.

Shopping

Mongolian cashmere is often regarded as the finest in the world, so look for clothing and blankets in one of the numerous cashmere shops.

Mongolia’s copper mines, Erdenet and Oyu Tolgoi, are world-famous. Copper bookmarks are excellent souvenirs, and you can readily buy them at Ulaanbaatar tourist stores for $1.

Many gift stores in Ulaanbaatar sell Kazakh Embroideries produced in lgii utilizing traditional Kazakh patterns.
Mongolian paintings by local artists are great investments.
Erdenet has feel poker-work available.

Taking antiquities out of the nation without a specific permission is prohibited.

Narantuul (“The Black Market”), Ulaanbaatar’s massive open-air market, provides the best deals on just about everything. Be wary of the many pickpockets and even assailants in the area. This is a fantastic place to go if you’re looking for a nice pair of riding boots. You may choose from a range of Mongolian designs, ranging from opulent to utilitarian, or invest in a nice pair of Russian-style boots.

Festivals & Holidays in Mongolia

For many Mongols, the annual Naadam celebration (11–13 July) is the most important day of the year. It’s the time of year when Mongolians celebrate their “three masculine sports”: wrestling, horse racing, and archery, either in Ulaanbaatar or on television or radio.

Throughout July, several smaller Naadam celebrations take place in various aimags (provinces), and these more intimate festivals may allow you to get much closer to the action.

It is believed that the Naadam festivities began with the establishment of the Great Mongolian Empire. They were employed by Chinggis (a.k.a. Genghis) Khan to maintain his soldiers in top physical condition. The competitions were conducted during religious holidays after the empire fell apart, and since the communist revolution, they have been held on its anniversary.

According to legend, a woman once disguised as a male and won a wrestling match. Long-sleeved wrestling outfits, known as “zodog,” feature exposed chests to indicate that all participants are male. Wrestlers wear “shuudag” short trunks and “gutal” Mongolian boots. The number of times a wrestler has been a champion in Naadam will be shown by the yellow stripes on the stories of wrestlers’ hats.

Wrestlers are only given recognized titles by Naadam. Mongolian wrestling competitions are divided into 9 or 10 rounds, depending on the number of 512 or 1024 wrestlers that have entered for that year’s competition. The wrestler will be given the title “Nachin” (bird) if he wins 5 rounds, Hartsaga (hawk) if he wins 6 rounds, Zaan (elephant) if he wins 7 rounds, Garuda (Eagle) if he wins 8 rounds, Arslan (lion) if he wins 9 rounds, and Avarga if he wins 10 rounds (Titan).

Zaan (Elephant) Sumyabazar won 9 rounds in 2006, earning him the title of Garuda, although that year 1024 wrestlers competed in 10 rounds, which he won all of. As a result, he was granted Avarga. Alternatively, Arslan (Lion) must win two games in a row to become Avarga (Titan). The titles are permanent. If Avarga (Titan) continues to win in Naadam, he will gain more and more qualities to his title.

In Mongolian wrestling competitions, there are no weight divisions, but there is a 30-minute time restriction. If the wrestlers cannot overturn one other, the referees employ lots for superior position, which often decides the fight. The person who falls or whose body comes into contact with the ground loses the contest.

Mongolia Wrestling bouts are attended by seconds, whose job it is to help their wrestlers in whatever way they can and to urge them to win by slapping their butts. After 5 and 7 rounds, they also chant praise songs and titles to the top wrestlers from both wings, west and east. The regulations are monitored by the referees, but the people and supporters are the ultimate arbiters. They will continue to talk and spread the word about who is who until the next year.

Smaller Festivals

Tsagaan Sar (White Moon) is a three-day public holiday that begins on the Lunar New Year. It is not popular with visitors due to the fact that it is held during the coldest month of the year. Families gather to eat a large meal of sheep’s tail, mutton, rice with curds, dairy products, and buuz. Drinking airag and exchanging presents are also customary.

The Golden Eagle Festival, held on the 5th and 6th of October in lgii, is the world’s largest gathering of eagle hunters. Typically, 60 to 70 Kazakh eagle hunters participate in the competition. Their golden eagles will fly to them on order, and they will capture a fox fur being dragged by a horse from a perch on a neighboring mountain. Traditional Kazakh games such as Kokpar (tug-of-war over a goat carcass while on horseback), Tiyn Teru (a timed race to pick up a coin on the ground while on horseback), and Kyz Kuar (a timed race to pick up a coin on the ground while on horseback) are also included during the event (“girl chase,” is a race between a man and woman where the woman whips the man while he tries to hold on). The event also includes a traditional Kazakh concert, camel racing, and exhibits of Kazakh art. On September 22nd, a smaller eagle festival takes place in the neighboring hamlet of Sagsai.

Nauryz, also known as lgii, is the Kazakhs’ traditional new year’s festival, which takes place on March 22nd. During the celebrations, there is a parade, a concert, and horse racing. Though the majority of the festivities revolve on visiting friends and family and eating Nauryz Koje (soup) and boiling mutton and horse meat.

Each February, the Ice Festival takes place on the frozen surface of Lake Hövsgöl, just outside of Mörön. Wrestling, reindeer sleighs and riding, ice skating, shaman ceremonies, folk concerts, and cultural activities of the Tsagaan reindeer people are all part of the two-day celebration. You should be aware that February in Northern Mongolia is very chilly.

On July 23rd, between Karakorum and Arvayheer, there will be a Yak Festival. With a full day of Yak races, a rodeo, and other events, the celebration honors the unusually hairy cow that survives in the harsh Mongolian winters. In the midst of the steppe, there is a market, tourist gers, and an entire makeshift town.

Public Holidays

  • New Years- January 1
  • Tsagaan Sar- January/February (3 days, depends on Lunar New Year)
  • International Women’s Day- March 8
  • Soldiers’ Day- March 18 (Not a day off, just lots of parades)
  • Mothers’ and Childrens’ Day- June 1
  • Naadam Festival- July 11–13
  • Genghis Khan’s Birthday- November 14
  • Independence Day- November 26 (No longer a day off, replaced by Genghis’ Birthday)

Working hours are nearly usually shown in a 24-hour format. Shops are typically open from 10:00 a.m. until 21:00 or 22:00 p.m., with Sunday and Monday being exceptions. Banks are typically open from 8:00 a.m. to 17:00 p.m., but they are often closed for an hour for lunch. However, stated timings are not always accurate, particularly in rural areas. Expect stores to open around 10:15 or 10:30 a.m. on most days. Restaurants shut around 22:00, while bars remain open until midnight or later. In the capital, a few fast food restaurants remain up until 3 a.m., but no stores stay open beyond midnight.

Traditions & Customs in Mongolia

Mongols, like their progenitor Chinggis Khan, used to dwell on the steppes and raise horses. Following Western niceties will, predictably, have the opposite impact in Mongolia. However, there are a few ground rules to observe. Receiving things should always be done with the right hand, palm facing up. Drink from your right hand as well, palm up. It’s impolite to reject a gift. Take at least a tiny bite from anything on a platter of welcome nibbles. You should never point your index finger at someone because it conveys contempt.

You will unknowingly violate one or more of the numerous cultural, religious, and superstitious norms if you approach a nomadic family or visit a ger. Don’t worry if you become confused; small blunders will be overlooked and forgiven. The dos and don’ts listed below will aid in minimizing cultural disparities.

Do

  • When you come, say hello (sain bainuu) (but repeating it again when you see the same person is considered strange to Mongolians)
  • At the very least, take a drink or a sample of the delights on offer.
  • With your palm pointing upwards, pick up everything with an open hand.
  • Hold a cup by the bottom rim rather than the rim at the top.
  • If you accidentally tap someone’s foot with yours, shake hands with them right away (failing to do so will be seen as an insult).

Don’t

  • Lean on a pillar for support.
  • Whistle within a german german german german german german
  • Lean over the threshold or stand on it.
  • Put out a fire by smothering it with water or dumping trash on it (fire is sacred to Mongolians)
  • Turn your back on the altar or holy artifacts, or walk in front of an elderly person (except when leaving)
  • With your left hand, take food from a shared dish.
  • Touch the hats of others.
  • In front of your hosts, have a lengthy discussion in your own language.

Stay Safe & Healthy in Mongolia

Stay Safe in Mongolia

Mongolia, with the exception of Ulaanbaatar, is a safe destination to visit. Pickpocketing and bag slashing have been more common in recent years, so keep your personal possessions secure (money belts are highly advised), particularly in busy locations or places where your attention is distracted, such as internet cafés. The Black Market (bazaar), the train station, and busy bus stations are notorious for thievery.

Outside of the main city, violent crime is rare, although care is nevertheless advised at night, with dark or abandoned alleyways and streets in particular to be avoided.

In Mongolia, corruption is a major issue, and many believe that the police are untrustworthy.

Small groups of Mongolian ultra-nationalist thugs, posing as neo-Nazis, have attacked outsiders, including whites, blacks, and, in especially, Chinese. Foreigner contact with Mongolian women particularly agitates them. They’re mainly found in the capital, particularly at the more affordable pubs and nightclubs.

Lone or female travelers, in particular, must be more alert of their surroundings, since being grabbed in the breast or behind is a frequent occurrence. Some acts, such as dancing close to a guy, will be seen as an open invitation since Mongolians seldom dance in this manner.

Mongolian dogs are known to be hostile and to run in groups. It’s a good idea to be cautious of them since they’re not likely to be as docile as domestic dogs. Most enclosed yards and gers have a guard dog who is generally all bark and no bite, but it is recommended that you make it aware of your presence so that it does not attack you, and that you bring a rock in case it does.

Manhole covers — or, more accurately, the absence thereof — are an incredibly frequent source of injury among foreigners and (particularly intoxicated) visitors. A significant number of missing or improperly positioned coverings may be found in smaller towns and outlying regions of the city. It’s a good idea to avoid walking on any manholes and to constantly be aware of your surroundings.

Stay Healthy in Mongolia

Mongolia has the world’s worst air pollution, with 279 micrograms of “PM10” particles per cubic metre on a yearly basis. It is recommended that you should not attend if you have asthma or any other respiratory condition. Appropriate medical care may be difficult to come by.

Rabies may be present in the canines of nomads. Consider getting a rabies vaccine before arriving as a precaution.

Because marmots may transmit the bubonic plague, they should not be eaten at certain times of the year. However, since the illness is spread by marmot fleas, the infected are mostly fur merchants, and marmot isn’t a popular dish even in Mongolia.

In Mongolia, hepatitis and TB are widespread.

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