Last Modified: 24 Sep 2013
Xi'an to Ulaanbaatar
Trip code: CDOXC
Validity: 01 Jan 2012 to 31 Dec 2013
Embark on a journey through two of North Asia’s most fascinating countries. From the hustle and bustle of Xi'an to Ulaanbaatar’s laid-back modern vibes, these ancient Asian kingdoms are full of contrasts and surprises. Witness the best of contemporary and classical China and travel across the countryside into Mongolia, a land of rich natural beauty, fascinating nomadic cultures and evolving modernity. Be captivated by the sprawling Gobi Desert, stoic Terracotta Warriors and always-inspiring Great Wall of China on this Overland tour of a lifetime.
This trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Dragoman shares Intrepid's ethos for adventure travel and has many years' expertise in overlanding.
Table of Contents
To save you money and the hassle of booking multiple trips, this journey is a combination of some of our most popular adventures so your leader and the composition of your group may change.
- The best value journeys on the planet! On a Basix trip you can expect amazing experiences, but none of the inclusions that you may not want. Which means budget (1-2 star) accommodation, plenty of free time, activities that are optional and the freedom to choose meals to suit your budget. On some trips you may be camping and required to set up your own tent. You'll also have access to a group leader to offer advice and help you uncover the region's hidden gems. On a Basix journey, the way you travel is all a part of the adventure. Depending on the destination and the itinerary, you could find yourself travelling on anything from a donkey to a bus or a private safari vehicle. These trips are ideal for first-time travellers seeking fun and independence with the support of a group leader. They're also ideal for independent travellers looking to make the most of their travel time with minimum hassle and maximum experiences.
Days 1-2 Xi'an
Nimen Hao! Welcome to China.
The trip starts at 10am with a welcome meeting in our hotel in Xi'an:
Xi’an Garden Hotel西安唐华宾馆
40 Yanyin Road (to the east of Dayan Pagoda), Xi'an
+86-29-87601111 Fax: +86-29-85261998
You can arrive at any time as there are no activities planned until this important meeting; please ask the hotel reception where it will take place. If your flight arrives too late, we recommend that you consider arriving a day early and book a night's accommodation prior to the trip so you are able to attend. If you are going to be late please inform the hotel reception. We'll be collecting your kitty, insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all details on hand to provide to your leader.
The imperial centre of China for 2,000 years, Xi'an is now a vibrant, modern city dotted with many interesting historical sites. A monument pays homage to the fact that this was the start of the famous ancient trading route of the Silk Road and the city is still surrounded by city walls.
In the afternoon take a guided tour of the Terracotta Warriors.
The most popular attraction in Xi'an, and the place that has made the city most famous around the world, is the Terracotta Warriors. The Warriors are certainly an incredible archaeological find, discovered by farmers digging a well in 1976 after being buried for thousands of years. These clay statues of soldiers, horses and chariots all standing in battle formation were commissioned by the emperor of the Qin dynasty as part of his mausoleum and a number of pits are now on view to the public. More pits were recently opened so you may even be lucky enough to see archaeologists at work, carefully unearthing and restoring these ancient relics.
The next day is free to explore. You may wish to cycle around the ancient wall, visit the Bell and Drum towers or perhaps walk to the night market to buy some last minute souvenirs or catch a cultural show over a dumpling banquet.
- Xi'an - Terracotta Warriors guided tour
- Bell & Drum Towers - CNY50
- Cycling on City Wall - CNY80
- Great Mosque - CNY25
- Big Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY80
- Small Wild Goose Pagoda - CNY50
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 3-4 Yan'An
Today we make our way to Yan'An. Yan'An is famous for being the final resting place for those on the Long March, and became the CCP headquarters for a brief period. During our time here we visit the Revolution Museum & the headquarters site.
When the diminished communist armies pitched up here at the end of the Long March, it signalled the beginning of Yan'An's brief period in the sun. For twelve years from 1935 to 1947, this backwater town was the CCP headquarters. During our time here we will have a chance to step back into history as we explore the area.
- Yan'an - Revolution Museum & CCP Headquarters site
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 5 Lijiashan
Today we visit the ancient village of Lijiashan, famed for its settlement of cave dwellers. It is still home to more than 600 families.
Lijiashan, located in China's Shanxi province is famed for its cave houses. This remote 550-year-old village, hugging a hillside set back from the Yellow River, has hundreds of cave dwellings scaling nine storeys.
We stay overnight in a cave room.
Cave house (1 nt)
Days 6-7 Pingyao
We set off early this morning for a visit to the Black Dragon Temple. We then drive to China's best preserved ancient walled town of Pingyao. There will be plenty of time to explore this ancient town during our time here.
A former commercial and military centre of the Ming and Qing dynasties, Pingyao is a well-preserved Han Chinese walled city. Its streets remain in the traditional 'bagua' (octagonal) layout with centuries-old houses lining its narrow streets. The unique and wondrous architecture is the reason for city's well-deserved Unesco heritage listing.
- Lijiashan - Black Dragon Temple
- Bike hire - CNY20
- Shuanglin Temple - CNY25
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 8-9 Wutai Shan
This morning we make our way to the stunning mountainous area known as the Five Terrace Mountains, or Wutai Shan. Tomorrow we have a full day to explore the area.
The sacred mountain Wutaishan, located in Shanxi Province, is believed to be the earthly abode of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushri, and for a thousand years it has been a focus of transnational pilgrimage for the Chinese, Tibetans, Mongols, and Manchus alike. This multi-culturalism, endemic of Himalayan art, is reflected in the objects in the exhibition coming from Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, and China, including paintings, sculptures, masks, book covers and features a six-foot wide woodblock print, a panoramic view of Mount Wutai filled with temples and miraculous visions.
While here we visit temples in the area known as the Taihuai Temple Cluster. There are many opportunities for hiking in the area.
- Wutai Shan - Taihui Temple Cluster
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 10-11 Datong
Today we drive to the city of Datong, visiting the Hanging Monastery en route.
Visit the Hanging Monastery, which dates back over 1400 years, beautifully located right on the edge of a cliff. The monastery consists of over 40 different halls and is home to an impressive array of bronze, stone, clay and iron statues.
Tomorrow we will visit the Yungang caves.
The Yungang Grottoes, are a UNESCO World Heritage complex of 21 caves containing over 50000 statues, some of which are the oldest of this type in China. Looking at the rock art you will be able to pick out influences from an amazing variety of different cultures, including Greek, Persian and Indian.
- Datong - Hanging Monastery
- Datong - Yungang Grottoes
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 12 Jinshanling
This morning we drive to the Great Wall. This afternoon there will be time to explore.
- Great Wall, Entrance, Jinshanling section, Beijing
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 13-14 Chengde
We spend the morning at the Great Wall before an afternoon drive to Chengde. While in Chengde we will visit the Puning Temple and Bisu Shanzhuang.
Chengde is located in Hubei Province, the heavily populated region that surrounds Beijing. Once a royal city, this 18th century imperial resort town has plenty of historic monuments to boast about. The imperial family would have moved here during the hot summer months, because of the cool and refreshing mountain air. There are many historical sites to explore, including the regal gardens (the largest in China), the Imperial Summer Villa and a profusion of temples. Many of the temples and monasteries have a Mongolian and Tibetan feel, this is largely because of the legacy of Emperor Qinlong, who wanted to assimilate both regions into his empire. In recent years, mirroring the city's history, Chengde has become a very popular weekend retreat for the wealthy of Beijing - and so it's home to some excellent restaurants.
- Chengde - Puning Temple
- Chengde - Bisu Shanzhuang
Hotel (2 nts)
Days 15-17 Beijing
After breakfast we get back in the truck for our drive to China's capital, Beijing.
The capital of the most populous country on earth, Beijing is quickly shedding its historical face in favour of modernity. However, there are still plenty of places to go that will give you a great insight into the nation's ancient past as well as sights that showcase China's contemporary culture.
The next morning there is a guided tour of the Forbidden City. The rest of our time here is free to explore the many sights, sounds and flavours of Beijing.
- Temple of Heaven - CNY40
- Lama Temple - CNY30
- Beijing - Acrobat show - CNY250
- Summer Palace - CNY40
- Hutong cycling tour - CNY150
Hotel (3 nts)
Day 18 Erlian
Today we leave the capital behind us and begin our overland journey towards Mongolia. This will be a long driving day (approx 600 km) as we try to get as close to Erlian as possible, which is where we will cross the border into Mongolia. We will spend the night in a local hotel, or bush camp if conditions allow.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 19 Sainshand
This morning we cross the border into Mongolia at Zamiin Uud. Please be aware that border procedures could take up to 5 hours here. Once we have made it into Mongolia we will continue our overland journey to Sainshand (approx 200 km) where we will camp the night.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 20 Choir
This morning we may have the opportunity to visit the Dechinchoinkhorlin Monastery before we continue our drive towards Ulaanbaatar. We will camp tonight near Choir.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 21-22 Ulaanbaatar
Arrive into Ulaanbaatar where we will have a group meeting at 6pm and welcome any new travellers joining us for the next leg of the trip.
Crammed between superpowers Russia and China, the independent nation of Mongolia is a true Intrepid destination. The capital, Ulaanbaatar (affectionately known as UB), is a city where new meets old as elderly Mongolians in traditional dress mingle with the nation's young business elite. Mongolia's past close relationship with the USSR is evident in the Soviet-style architecture and city layout. Explore the city's many museums to learn about the country's turbulent history, including the reign of history's most famous Mongolian - the feared and respected Genghis Khan.
Next morning we head out on a guided tour to see some of Ulaanbaatar's best and most treasured sights including the Gandan Monastery and the National Museum. This afternoon is free to explore more of this city.
As this is a combination trip, your group leader and the composition of your group may change at this location. There will be a group meeting to discuss the next stage of your itinerary, meet your new fellow travellers, and collect the next part of your kitty.
- Ulaanbaatar - Gandan Monastery - MNT4000
- Ulaanbaatar - Intellectual Museum - MNT3500
- Fine Arts Museum - MNT3000
- Ulaanbaatar - Cultural Performance - MNT10000
- Ulaanbaatar - Black Market - Free
- Winter Palace Museum of Bogd Khan - MNT3000
- Ulaanbaatar - National History Museum - MNT2500
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 23 Baga Gazryn Chuluu
After breakfast we drive to Baga Gazryn Chuluu in the Gobi Desert.
This granite rock formation in the middle of the dusty plains sheltered Zanabazar during conflicts between the Khalkh and Oirat Mongols. Later it was home to two 19th-century monks who left rock drawings in the area. The rocks are worshipped by locals who sometimes make pilgrimages here. Mountains, trees, caves and mineral water springs surround Baga Gazryn Chuluu making it a great area to camp.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 24 South Gobi
After a relaxing start to the day we continue our overland journey south through the Gobi Desert. Tonight we will camp under the stars.
Taking up around a third of Mongolia the Gobi is not a desert in the usual sense but 33 different Gobis according to soil composition and colour. Littered with dinosaur remains the Gobi is a veritable wilderness within a wilderness, offering vast spaces, dramatic scenery and a variety of weird and wonderful fauna. This is a place where “off the beaten track” is the norm not the exception.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 25 Yolin Am (Vulture Canyon)
After breakfast we make our way to Yolin Am via Dalanzadgad to resupply. Yolin Am is better known as the Gobi Glacier which is part of the Great Gobi National Park. After lunch we will hike down the valley to take a better look at the glacier and nearby wildlife.
Tonight we stay in a ger camp.
Yolin Am could be described as an 'oasis' in the desert. Due to the steep valley walls, thick rock and lack of wind, this area remains cool even in the height of summer, allowing a glacier to survive, and hence the name 'Iced Valley'. The waterfalls caused when it rains make this a very attractive area to numerous species of birds, the largest of which, the bearded vulture, gives the valley its nickname of 'Vulture Canyon'.
- Visit to Yolin Am Ice Canyon
Yurt (1 nt)
Day 26 Bayan Zag
Moving on from Yolin Am we overland to Bayan Zag, where we camp near the cliffs.
Bayan Zag is more commonly known as the 'Flaming Cliffs' and is renowned worldwide for the number of dinosaur bones and eggs found in the area. The natural beauty of the surrounding landscape is a good reason to visit in its own right. It is a classic desert of rock, red sands, and scrub.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 27-28 Khongorin Els
Today we head to some of the largest and most spectacular sand dunes in Mongolia, known as Khongorin Els or the singing dunes. Tonight we will wild camp near the dunes.
Next day is a full day for optional activities in and around Khongorin Els including an optional camel ride over the sand dunes. Tonight we stay in a ger camp.
Khongorin Els are some of the largest and most spectacular sand dunes in Mongolia. Stretching for 185 kilometres, the classic dunes of Khongorin Els, sometimes called the singing dunes, reach heights of over 200 metres. Although slightly arduous, a climb to the top will reward you with superb views.
- Camel Ride, Khongorin Els - Free
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt), Yurt (1 nt)
Day 29 South Gobi
Today we overland through the heart of the Gobi camping en route.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 30 Arvaikheer/Bush Camp
Today we head to Arvaikheer and visit the local market in order to re supply. We then set up camp en route to The Orkhon Valley, visiting the ruins of Ongii Monastery along the way.
Ongii Monastery was the largest in the Gobi until the Communist purges in the 1930s drove the monks out of the area and destroyed the monastery, leaving it in ruins.
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 31-32 The Orkhon Valley
We spend the day in a beautiful valley surrounded by pine trees and If the weather is suitable we have the option to climb down to the bottom of the gorge. Tonight we will stay in a ger camp.
On the following day we visit the nearby waterfalls then hike to the Tuvkhon Monastery. The Monastery was established in the 1650s by Zanabazar, One of Mongolia's most respected religious leaders. Views of the Orkhon Valley are worth the climb. Tonight we camp in the valley near the Monastery.
The Orkhon Valley has some of the best examples of Mongolia's legendary historical sites, monuments and monasteries, as well as areas of breathtaking natural beauty. The valley is home to many religious and cultural antiquities, and a number of sites that form a key part of Mongolia's fascinating and varied history.
- Orkhon Valley - Tuvkhon Monastery
- Visit to waterfalls
- Orkhon Valley - Hiking - Free
Yurt (1 nt), Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Days 33-34 Tsenkher Hot Springs
After breakfast we head north, crossing the Hangai Nuruu mountains through a series of passes until we reach the area Mongolians call 'the paradise of the horse herders' for its lush grasses and open valleys. Overnight in ger camp.
The second day here is free for optional activities including a horse ride and a visit to a nomadic family.
This part of the journey takes us through some of Mongolia's most stunning scenery. Hiking opportunities abound, and what could be better than soaking away the day's exertions in the hot springs, rising from the ground at 86.5 degrees Centigrade.
- Hiking - Free
- Tsenkher - Hot Springs - Free
- Horse riding, Tsenkher Hot Springs - Free
Yurt (2 nts)
Day 35 Karakorum
An early start as we head to Mongolia's ancient capital. We should arrive early in the afternoon. This afternoon we will visit Erdene Zuu, the first Buddhist Monastery in Mongolia. Tonight we will set up camp near the ancient site.
The city of Karakorum began life as a command point for Genghis Khan's military conquest of China, but later became the capital of his son Ogodei Khan. It is perhaps best known to us, thanks to the recordings of Marco Polo, as the capital of Genghis Khan's grandson, Kublai Khan, before he moved on to Beijing.
Built out of the ruins of the city, the Erdene Zuu Monastery was the first great northern Mongolian monastery. Largely destroyed in the communist purges of the 1930s, the monastery is now a museum.
- Karakorum - Erdene Zuu Monastery
- Karakorum - Old City ruins
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 36 Ugii Lake
This morning, if time permits we will visit the ancient ruins of Karakorum. We then drive to Ugii Lake where we will set up camp. Ugii Lake is famed for it's great bird watching opportunities, and it is not uncommon to spot swan geese, white spoonbills and Dalmatian pelicans.
Ugii Lake is a great place to spot the local birdlife. Cranes and ducks, among other species, migrate to the area around late April. The lake is also renowned for its fishing.
- Turkish Museum
- Ogii Lake - Kultigen Monument
Camping (with facilities) (1 nt)
Day 37 Khustain National Park
Today we arrive at the Khustain National Park. This park is famed for the wild horse (takhi) reintroduction project and now boats more than 200 tahki. Tonight we will stay at a ger camp.
Khustain National Park is famed for reintroducing the takhi, Mongolia's wild horse. Today there are more than 200 takhi in Khustain, as well as Asiatic red deer, steppe gazelles, boars, manuls, wolves and lynx.
- Visit to the Takhi (wild horse) reintroduction project
- Nomad family visit - Free
Yurt (1 nt)
Days 38-39 Terelj National Park
Leaving the takhi behind us we now make our way to Terelj National park. This is one of the closest parks to Ulaanbaatar. The alpine scenery is magnificent and there are many activities available here such as rafting, hiking and horse riding. Tonight we will wild camp in the National Park.
Terelj National Park features unique rock formations, scenic valleys, a winding river, and restful groves of trees. Many nomads live in the park itself, where they find good grazing for their animals.
The following day is free for optional activities including rafting and various hikes. Tonight we again camp in the National Park.
- Hiking - Free
- Rafting - Free
Camping (with facilities) (2 nts)
Days 40-41 Ulaanbaatar
After breakfast we will return to the capital (approx 2 hrs), visiting the Chinggis Khan Monument en route. The afternoon is free. We stay in a great hotel for the final night of our trip.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time. Please check the 'Finishing Point Hotel' section for checkout times and luggage storage possibilities.
Hotel (1 nt)
We must emphasise that the routes, activities and places visited described in these trip notes are intentions and are meant as a rough guide only. We intend following the route detailed but exact night stops cannot be guaranteed. It sometimes happens that we decide to make a change to our basic planned itinerary. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, road or bureaucratic conditions may demand it. Or it may be because we find a better, more interesting route. While actually en route, unexpected hospitality, a local festival or a great place to chill out can determine our exact route and itinerary on any given trip.
Overnight stops and driving distances each day may vary to best suit the needs of the group.
The comforts of home are more of a rarity. English isn't common and the food will be quite different to home. It's important to observe some of the local customs to not cause offence. Many of the locals’ standard of living may be confronting.
This trip will raise your heartbeat. Moderate physical activities are included and a good level of fitness is required.
In these parts of the world you'll need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climate; from hot deserts through to the cold of high mountain areas.
Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days and dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You'll need to be fit enough to help every day with the camp chores (cooking, washing up, general camp set up) as well as putting up, and taking down your own tent. There are some long driving days and some early morning starts. The step-up into the overland vehicle, while not overly high, can become tiring. You need to judge if you are physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
On this trip it's compulsory to contribute to a kitty. The kitty is an on-ground payment put into a central fund and overseen by travellers and the crew. It helps fund accommodation, camp meals and some included activities. Kitty amounts are subject to change to reflect local price increases. Please check our website for the up-to-date amount 48 hours prior to your trip commencement.
Your kitty will be collected when you arrive for your trip, either on day 1 or, if on a combination trip, in stages throughout your trip.
You may pay your kitty in a mixture of US Dollars cash and the rest in local currency (amount and type of currency to be agreed by the leader at the start of the trip). Most of our travellers chose to bring a cash passport with them for withdrawing local currency (you can visit www.cashpassport.com for further information on these). This is a very secure way of carrying your money whilst travelling. You treat them exactly like an ATM card and draw out local currency from an ATM to give to your leader within each country.
If you do choose to pay part in local currency your trip leader will confirm the current exchange rates with you so you will know exactly how much to hand over.
Travellers cheques have become increasingly difficult to change around the world with passengers and our leaders experiencing huge frustration and numerous hours spent trying to find a bank which will change travellers cheques. For this reason we no longer accept them on our trips.
Kitty does not cover food while staying in hotels and hostels.
We constantly monitor local price changes and exchange rate fluctuations that could affect kitty expenses. Final kitty contributions are likely to be different from those quoted in the brochure or at the time of booking so you must check the final amount just before departure.
As our kitty is flexible the indicated amount is indicative only. Follow the link below to view the kitty amount for your departure date.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are for entrance only and don't include transport costs to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Optional activities aren't necessarily endorsed or recommended by Intrepid nor included in price of this trip. If you do any optional activities, you do so at your own risk and it must be clearly understood that your participation is your own decision and doesn't form part of your contract with Intrepid. You may be required to sign/complete a waiver form or a receipt for some optional activities.
The official currency in China is the Yuan or Renminbi (CNY). 1 renminbi (yuan) = 10 jiao (mao).
We strongly advise against bringing travellers cheques as in China they can be extremely difficult or impossible to change.
ATMs are widespread, so the easiest way to access cash on your trip is to bring a credit card. Please check with your bank about overseas withdrawal fees before you depart. Some banks will allow a cash advance against a major credit card which will incur a service charge of 5% or more.
Currency exchange is available at major banks and some hotels. The easiest foreign currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, however please be aware of the security risk of carrying large amounts of cash. In any case, some money should be taken as cash in case of emergencies - we recommend around US$400 per person. Commission is sometimes charged for currency exchange. Check the rate before you exchange and carefully check the amount you are given and ask for a receipt.
Please note that due to restrictions on currency conversion for foreigners in China it may not be possible to change left over CNY back into foreign currency, so please plan your budget and spending money well by withdrawing/exchanging what you need as you go.
The official currency of Mongolia is the Tugrik (MNT).
Tugrik may only be obtained within Mongolia. The safest way to carry your money is as traveller's cheques which can be exchanged at most banks and currency exchange points in Ulaanbaatar. The easiest currencies to exchange are USD and EUR, although it is possible to exchange RUB, CNY and other currencies at some exchange points. Larger denomination notes often attract a better exchange rate.
Please be aware that there are no reliable banking or exchange facilities outside of Ulaanbaatar. Major credit cards may be accepted in some shops and restaurants in the capital. Some banks will allow cash advances against a credit card but cash withdrawals are subject to a 5% or more service charge.
In Ulaanbaatar you may be able to find ATMs that accept international cards and use them to withdraw local currency; however these should not be relied on as your sole financial source. Some souvenir sellers and tourist restaurants may accept USD or EUR as payment but all other purchases in Mongolia must be made in local currency.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you are happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it is of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations. We recommend that any tips are given to the intended recipient by a member of your group, rather than collected and passed on by the group leader.
Tipping is entirely voluntary. The crew may be travelling with you for many weeks and usually they become good friends with most members of the group. It is sometimes easy to forget that they do work hard to ensure that you do have a great trip. If you feel you would like to tip them, they certainly would appreciate it. On a number of our trips, we also use a local guide as well as our own crew. These guides live and travel with you through their home country and it is usual to tip them when they leave. We recommend USD10 to USD15 per person
If you are leaving Mongolia by air, the departure tax is T12,500 (approx US$10). A small foreign exchange counter, next to the place where you pay your departure tax, will change US dollars into Tugrik if you don't have any left.
Please note this Intrepid trip is operated by our experienced local partners Dragoman Overland. Your departure will be run in a Dragoman vehicle with a Dragoman crew.
The minimum age for this trip is 18 years old and bookings for minors, even if accompanied by a parent, cannot be accepted.
CHINESE NATIONAL HOLIDAYS:
Please note that China's national holidays are the peak travel season for Chinese nationals. During this time, literally the whole country is on the move - that's over a billion people. Although these are fascinating and exciting times to travel in China, please be aware your group will almost definitely experience transport delays and massive crowds at tourist attractions and train stations. It's common for there to be difficulties in securing train or flight tickets at our preferred times, hotels become overbooked, traffic chaotic and changes to the itinerary are often necessary as a result. If clockwork organisation is important to you we advise you book outside of the weeks of the extended Chinese New Year in January/February, in the first week of May and the first week of October. If you decide to travel during this period please come with an open mind and be prepared for changes on the ground.
The Mongolian National festival 'Naadam' takes place in mid July every year. Thousands of nomads spend weeks travelling from all parts of the country to take part in the celebrations in and around Ulaan Baatar. After the spectacular opening ceremony, areas both in Ulaanbaatar itself and on the city outskirts become venues for the various events which include traditional wrestling tournaments, archery competitions and perhaps most exciting of all, horse racing in which up to 500 horses take part. It's the main national holiday of the year and many rural Mongolians make the journey to the capital to take part. Please note that there may be slight changes in the itinerary for trips running during this time to enable us to best experience the festival.
Maximum of 19 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit:
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own room (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
Hotel (20 nts), Camping (with facilities) (10 nts), Yurt (6 nts), Bush camp (no facilities) (3 nts), Cave house (1 nt)
The type and variety of accommodation is determined by conditions on each of our routes. Each route is different - on some we use a mixture of campsites and wild camps; on others we also use hotels.
Where it's not practical to camp (ie: in towns and cities), we use hotel accommodation and eat out in local restaurants. The frequency and regularity of hotel stops depends on the route and area.
Campsites will range from rather basic to those with excellent facilities, including swimming pools, restaurants and bars. In some cases it may also be possible to upgrade locally to bungalows, lodges or even tree-houses. One of the highlights of overlanding is that in more remote areas we will wild-camp. This allows us to get far away from the tourist crowds to some beautiful, secluded spots. We will also arrange as many village or local homestays as possible, allowing us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities.
While travelling with us you'll experience the vast array of wonderful food available in the world. Your group leader will be able to suggest restaurants to try during your trip. On our camping trips we often cook the region's specialities so you don't miss out. To give you the maximum flexibility in deciding where, what and with whom to eat, generally not all meals are included in the trip price. This also gives you more budgeting flexibility. As a rule our groups tend to eat together to enable you to taste a larger variety of dishes and enjoy each other's company. There's no obligation to do this though.
All meals when camping
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
All meals while camping are included.
On all of our Dragoman-operated Overlanding trips you will be accompanied by two Western crew members who are responsible for the group and the overall organisation of the trip.
While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad knowledge of the places visited and to offer suggestions of things to do and see. In East and Southern Africa we will also have an African camp master/cook who is in charge of running the camp and organising all of the meals. Their knowledge of the local produce makes shopping at the markets great fun and you will learn how to prepare and cook some unusual dishes. In the rest of Africa, South America and the majority of Central Asia and China we use local guides who may stay with us for just a few hours or will actually travel with us for some or all of the journey. In these cases they become a third crew member and are able to offer their local knowledge as well as a real insight into the lives of the local people. Our crew are chosen for their leadership skills, and most importantly have a passion for the region and its people.
We endeavour to provide the services of an experienced leader and crew; however, situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders
On any Overland trip, there are a number of tasks that need to be done. Our overland trip leaders will organise the group into smaller groups of two or three who will take turns in the daily shopping and cooking, vehicle cleaning, disposing of rubbish, etc. There are also a number of other jobs that need doing e.g. collecting water and firewood, luggage loading, supervising the kitty and food stores, which may be assigned to particular people or on a rota system according to group size, make-up, and so on. You must come prepared to 'pull your weight' and share in these duties; you will become very unpopular with other group members if they have to do your share. The more you put into a trip, the more you'll benefit.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your trip as scheduled, please refer to the emergency contact section below for who to contact depending upon your starting location.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
CHINA (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):
Most nationalities require a visa for China. You must obtain your Chinese visa in advance. It is not possible to get a visa on arrival or en-route. You will need a Single Entry Tourist Visa valid for 30, 60 or 90 days depending on the duration of your trip.
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
Please list the destinations you will visit in China in chronological order on your application form. Do not mention Kashgar, Turpan, Urumqi or Tibet anywhere on your application form. While these areas are not off limits to travellers, they are considered politically sensitive, so including these on your visa application could lead to significant delays or your visa being denied.
Name of Host/Inviting Organisation:
Sichuan China YTS, 2nd Floor
19 Dongchenggeng Street
+86 28 8907 5414
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
* Most embassies request a Hotel List be submitted with your application. A few nationalities may require a Letter of Invitation (LOI). These can be requested from Dragoman by emailing email@example.com
* Photocopy of your passport
* Passport size photo (up to 4)
* Please check with the embassy for any other specific requirements
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR TIBET PERMIT APPLICATION:
Tibet permits are be arranged en-route with the help of our local partners. If you are travelling on an itinerary that visits Tibet you will need to email the following documents to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible after booking and no later than 2 months before your departure:
* Clear, colour scanned copy of the personal details page your passport
* Clear, colour scanned copy of your Chinese visa
WARNING – TRAVEL TO TIBET & XINJIANG:
Please be aware that these are politically sensitive areas of China which have in the past been closed to foreign travellers without warning. A change in the political situation can also lead to unforseen delays in issuing visas and permits. We aim to keep our travellers as up to date as possible with any changes, however these are often made without any official announcement by authorities and as such are out of our control.
MONGOLIA (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: Yes - in advance
Canada: Yes - in advance
Germany: Yes - in advance
Ireland: Yes - in advance
Netherlands: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Yes - in advance
United Kingdom: Yes - in advance
USA: Not required
US nationals can travel in Mongolia for up to 90 days visa free. Most other nationalities require a visa.
LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI):
Most embassies do not require a LOI. However, should you be required to present one with your visa application please contact us. There may be a fee for this service. In order for us to provide a LOI through our local partners we will require a clear, colour scan of your passport along with indicating at which embassy you will be applying for your visa. Please allow up to 2 weeks for your LOI to be processed.
VISA ON ARRIVAL:
Visas are not available on arrival at any land borders into Mongolia. Due to changes in visa regulations we are no longer able to provide visa invitations for visa on arrival at the Chinggis Khan International Airport.
You may be able to apply for your Mongolian visa in Beijing en-route if you are travelling on a long combination trip. A LOI is required for applications in Beijing.
INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You will need to apply for a Single Entry Tourist Visa (J) that covers the duration of your stay in Mongolia. Visas are usually valid for 3 months from the date of issue and enable to you to stay for up to 30 days.
Name and address of host person or organization in Mongolia:
Mongolian Ways Ltd.
5th Khoroo, 6th Khoroolol
Bldg. 17, door 39
+976 11 330351
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You may be required to provide a copy of your Dragoman itinerary, indicating the dates of your tour, along with your application.
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
What you need to bring will vary according to the trip style you have chosen, the countries you are visiting and when you are travelling. Generally speaking you should pack as lightly as possible. On the vast majority of our trips you are expected to carry your own luggage and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
The size of baggage that can be brought on this tour is limited by the locker space on the truck. Different trucks have different sized lockers however to be safe we recommend that your bag be no larger than 66cm deep, 30cm wide, and 30cm high. You will need to bring your own lock for your locker. We recommend a 20-30mm sized padlock with a long shackle.The weight limit for luggage on all trucks is maximum 20kg. Backpacks shouldn't have an external frame unless it can be easily removed and stored separately to avoid damaging other people's luggage.
CAMPING EQUIPMENT / MATTRESS:
A sleeping bag (we recommend a 3–4 season). It can get very cold at night in winter months in desert and mountainous regions. If you're travelling during the hot season you may wish to also pack a sleep sheet so you will be comfortable no matter the weather. Pillows are NOT provided so please bring a travel pillow along.
We don't provide a mattress so please bring your own (a Thermarest / inflatable mattress is recommended).
A simple plastic bag / waterproof toiletry bag (that can hang on a nail on the back of a door) will be useful to keep your clothes dry inside basic camp shower structures.
Temperatures in Mongolia range from 10-25 C during the day to close to or below freezing at night, especially in April-May and September-October. We recommend that you bring warm clothes including a windproof jacket, scarf, gloves and warm hat as well as some lighter clothes for milder temperatures.
Most of our trips have access to power to recharge batteries for phones and cameras every couple of days. We always recommend that you carry an extra battery for your camera just in case. Your vehicle will be equipped with a 12 volt “cigarette lighter” socket which may be used at the crew’s discretion, however, do bear in mind that only one piece of equipment can be charged at a time and it will not be allowed if there is a risk of running the vehicle’s batteries low. Batteries may also be recharged from hotel room wall sockets. We suggest you bring a mix of normal and rechargeable batteries and the appropriate recharging unit. Hotels and many campsites have electricity and charging of batteries is advised before checking out the following day.
Please try to avoid bringing unnecessary valuables, and use your hotel safe and the safe on the overland truck to store the bulk of your money, passport, and airline tickets. It’s also a good idea to purchase a money belt or pouch that is easily hidden.
We strongly recommend that you photocopy all important documents e.g. air tickets, passport, vaccination certificate, etc. and keep the copies separate from the originals. While not valid, a photocopy makes it very much easier to obtain replacements if necessary.
Consider bringing your own water bottle to refill along the way. The sale of bottled water contributes to an enormous environmental problem around the world. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. A large proportion end up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Please avoid the purchase of bottled water by using the chemically sterilized water stored in the purpose-built storage tank or in water jerry cans in your overland vehicle. You're free to refill your bottle as many times a day as you like.
All Intrepid travellers need to be in good physical health in order to participate fully on this trip. When selecting your trip please make sure you have read through the itinerary carefully and assess your ability to cope with our style of travel. Please note that if, in the opinion of our group leader or local guide, any traveller is unable to complete the itinerary without undue risk to themselves and/or the rest of the group, Intrepid reserves the right to exclude them from all or part of a trip without refund.
You should consult your doctor for up-to-date medical travel information or for any necessary vaccinations and anti-malarial requirements before departure. We recommend that you carry a first aid kit as well as any personal medical requirements (including a spare pair of glasses) as they may not easily be obtained at the locations on this trip. For legal reasons our leaders and guides are prohibited from administering any type of drugs including headache tablets and antibiotics. Please ensure that you are adequately prepared.
People with allergies to animals should be aware that Mongolians live in very close proximity with their live stock and while staying in family gers you may be exposed to many animals such as dogs, horses, goats and yaks.
The diet and hygiene standards of Mongolia may be very different from what you are used to so please take care with washing hands before meals etc and bring some medication/re hydration salts etc should you experience stomach problems.
In spring and early summer in rural areas Mongolia ticks are prevalent. Please take precautions when walking in these areas by wearing long trousers and boots and check your clothes and body thoroughly.
It is also worth noting that outside of Ulaanbaatar medical facilities are virtually non-existent. It can take up to a few days to reach any modern facilities should you require medical attention whilst on the road.
There have recently been a number of isolated cases of Bird Flu in Asia. While the risk to travellers is very low, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of local authorities and the World Health Organisation. WHO recommends basic hygiene practices to limit the risk of infection:
• Avoid visiting live animal markets and poultry farms
• Avoid contact with surfaces contaminated with animal faeces
• Do not eat or handle undercooked or raw poultry, egg or duck dishes
• Do not attempt to bring any poultry products back
• Do not pick up or touch dead or dying birds
• Exercise good personal hygiene with frequent hand washing
For further information please visit: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/avian_influenza/en/index.html
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Where we use a local partner to fully operate one of our itineraries, we use the travel advisory of the country where that operator is based rather than the Australian DFAT advisory. This itinerary is operated by our local partners Dragoman, and as such will follow the British Government (FCO) Travel Advice. To view these travel advisories please log on to:
The vehicle has fully lockable doors and windows, which is an obvious advantage, but it will probably be necessary to guard it at times and everyone should be prepared to share in this responsibility.
In most areas there is very little to fear from the point of view of violence. But in all areas 'tourists' are a tempting target for pickpockets and con-men. Always be aware of this and be especially careful when leaving banks or money-changers, in any crowded areas, etc. NEVER leave things lying around - they will almost certainly get stolen. We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to always be security conscious and to take all necessary precautions. Great inconvenience and distress can be caused by having your documents or possessions stolen.
A few of our past group members have had the unhappy experience of having their belongings stolen before the trip starts. Beware of carrying your passport and other valuables around with you in cities. We strongly suggest you deposit your valuables in your hotel safe on arrival.
Horse riding is an option available to groups on this trip. Please note however that horse riding is usually not covered by your travel insurance and helmets are not always available. If riding without a helmet is a concern then you should bring our own.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
Dress standards are conservative throughout Asia, especially outside major cities. To respect this and for your own comfort, we strongly recommend modest clothing. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees. Loose, lightweight, long clothing is both respectful and cool in areas of predominantly hot climate. In many rural areas women will need to wear modest clothing even to swim. Singlets, tank tops and topless sun bathing are all unacceptable. When visiting religious sites men often need to wear long trousers and women a long skirt or sarong.
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Responsible Travel projects
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in China include:
* Beijing Huiling offers innovative services to youths and adults with learning disabilities and teaches people to respect what those with disabilities can do, rather than what they can't. Their activities and training facilitate independence and improve daily living and employability skills in a family-like group home environment.
* Xi'an Huiling provides adults with learning disabilities opportunities to develop their personal abilities and life skills, enabling them to achieve independence as a fully integrated member of the community.
Organisations and projects currently supported by The Intrepid Foundation in Mongolia include:
* The Lotus Children's Centre cares for children who are the victims of abandonment, neglect or abuse. Currently housing some 150 children, the centre provides for basic health, shelter and educational needs. Employment and effective life skills are also imparted as the children grow, in an attempt to break the cycle of poverty.
Lotus is always happy to receive donations of a wide range of items: clothing of all sizes, shoes, underwear, socks, coats and scarves; arts and craft supplies for school activities; child-care goods and toiletries such as nappies/diapers, nappy rash, anti-fungal and scabies creams, soap, shampoo, sunblock, insect repellent etc. Please advise your leader if you have brought something to donate, so that they can arrange for it to be passed on to Lotus.
Financial donations will be doubled by Intrepid Travel. Donations can also be made via your leader or via The Intrepid Foundation donation box at the Lotus Hostel. More information about Lotus can be found on their website here: www.lotuschild.org
Carbon Offset C02-e 1681.00 kgs per pax.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! This is so important to us that we'll give you 5% off the price of your next trip if your feedback is completed online within 4 weeks of finishing your trip.