Last Modified: 30 May 2016
Trip code: CDOM
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2016
Discover the magic of Mongolia on an overland tour through this remote country. Beginning in Ulaanbaatar, travel to Mongolia’s colourful towns, ancient ruins and stunning national parks. Learn about the conquests of Genghis Khan, bathe in effervescent hot springs and spot bountiful wildlife as you traverse this epic country's great plains. Tucked away between Russia and China, Mongolia remains one of the world’s enigmas, a true Intrepid destination with a fascinating mix of cultures and landscapes. See ancient Karakorum, quirky Ulaanbaatar and the legendary grasslands on an unforgettable overland journey through Mongolia.
Table of Contents
Why we love it
- Visit the fascinating Erdene Zuu Monastery.
- Take in the phenomenal natural beauty of the Orkhon Valley
- Soak in the Tsenkher hot springs.
- Take a guided tour of Ulaanbaatar's and see the best sights.
- Overnight in traditional Ger Camps.
Day 1 Ulaanbaatar
Border information: If you are joining in Ulaanbaatar, you will most likely enter Mongolia at Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khaan International Airport. There will be a group meeting today at 6:00pm - please look out for a note from your tour leader at the hotel reception with more information about this
important meeting, but please do not be alarmed if the note is not there as this is often a travel day for the tour leader and they may arrive in the afternoon. If you arrive early, the rest of the day will be free to explore the Mongolian capital! In Ulaanbaatar we will stay in a comfortable local hotel.
Hotel for the night: Zaluuchuud Hotel
Tel: +976 11 325544
Mongolia's 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 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 the most famous of Mongolian historical figures - the feared and respected Genghis Khan. One of the most fascinating is the Intellectual Museum where you can learn about the history and culture of this intriguing country through puzzles, toys and magic tricks! There are plenty of things to do and see in Ulaanbaatar, visit the Museum of Natural History with its excellent dinosaur display, the Fine Arts Museum with its impressive selection of local art and traditional works or the Winter Palace Museum of Bogd Khan, which is stocked full of fascinating artefacts. Mongolia's largest and most important monastery, the lively Gandan Khiid, is well worth a visit to learn about the main religion of Mongolia - Tibetan Buddhism.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Ulaanbaatar
This 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 we will spend a few hours exploring the Black Market. This huge market contains every single item a Mongolian may need, so a trip here will certainly give visitors a fascinating insight into peoples lives, whether they are
nomads or urban apartment dwellers.
Take a guided tour of the Gandan Monastery, the largest Buddhist Monastery in Mongolia Included in Kitty
Visit the infamous Black Market in Ulaanbaatar, and explore the traditional clothes stalls and saddle markets within Included in Kitty
Head out for a cultural show or a performance from a traditional folk band, featuring the unique art of throatsinging USD 12
Visit the intriguing International Intellectual Museum, dedicated to puzzles and games made by local artists MNT 3000
Discover a remnant of Mongolia's imperial past at the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan MNT 6000
See the superb collection of paintings, carvings and sculptures at The Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts MNT 5000
Explore the incredible history of the country from the Neolithic era to the present day, at the National Museum of Mongolia Included in Kitty
Discover the unique showcase of religious art and learn about the Buddhist history of Mongolia at the Chojin Lama Temple Museum MNT 5000
Visit the Grand Chinggis Khan Square and see the statue of Damdin Sukhbaatar, one of the leaders of the struggle for independence in the 1920s Climb to the Zaisan Memorial, an interesting remnant of
Mongolia's communist past that affords incredible views over Ulaanbaatar
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 3 Ogii Lake
Today we drive out of the city and into the vast plains of Mongolia. We hope to arrive at Khar Bukh Balgas ruins in the early afternoon. Khar Bukh Balgas was built during the Kitan period in about 1000CE, and was part of a chain of fortresses that were used to govern and control the northern
region and borders of the Kitan state. Upon arrival at the site, we will explore the ruins and learn about the various kingdoms that dominated Mongolia during that era. After our visit to the ruins we will drive to Ogii Lake where many nomadic families spend their summer. The Lake is famed for it's great bird watching opportunities where it is not uncommon to spot at Swan Goose, White Spoonbill and Dalmatian Pelicans. In Ogii Lake we will stay in a local nomadic ger-tent camp set up for guests. These are large gers, each usually containing 2 or 4 beds. Please note that we cannot give any accurate drive time estimations for our Mongolia trip as the journey times are heavily dependent on the state of roads, which is in turn heavily dependent on the weather. The roads in Mongolia are mostly dirt tracks in very poor condition, which means that an even greater degree of flexibility is needed for this trip in all regards
See the ancient Orkhon Inscriptions, two large monoliths with inscriptions in Old Turkic script Included in Kitty
Explore the ruins of the 10th-century Kitan fortress of Khar Bukh Balgas, an interesting slice of Mongolia's pre-
Genghis Khan history Included in Kitty
About Ogii Lake:
This wonderful lake is a great place to to spot the local birdlife. Cranes and ducks, among other species. migrate to the area around late April. The lake is also renowned for it's fishing. There are some beautiful areas around the lake that makes this a perfect location to camp Overnight.
Yurt (1 nt)
Day 4 Karakorum
An early start as we head to Mongolia's earliest capital, Kharkhorin or otherwise known as Karakorum.
Our first stop on the way to Kharkhorin will be at the Kultigen monument. This massive stone tomb was built in honor of a Turkic prince and warrior killed in a battle that took place close to the site. We then continue on a fairly short drive to Kharkhorin.
Kharkhorin, better known as Karakorum, was famed throughout Asia at the capital of the Mongol Empire. Withing the walls of this spectacular city Kings were chosen, laws made and the fate of the next city to be conquered were determined. We will visit the ruins of the old city, the Erdene Zuu monastery and other historical monuments in the area.
We will overnight in a ger camp by the Orkhon River.
Yurt (1 nt)
Day 5-6 Orkhon Valley
Today we head south, driving into the stunning region of the Orkhon Valley. We will drive to the beautiful volcanic canyon that runs along the Orkhon River and we can take an easy hike along the canyon ending near a pool at the bottom of the Red Waterfalls where we can take a cool swim!
We will wild camp in a remote area of the Orkhon Valley tonight. The following day we will continue our journey through the Orkhon Valley to the Tuvkhon Monastery, which we can embark on a two and a half hour trek to visit (the first hour will be uphill!). This monastery was established during the 1650s by Zanbazar, one of Mongolia's most respected religious leaders. The monastery's wooden buildings are integrated with a natural system of caves perched near a hilltop, from which you have beautiful views of the Orkhon Valley and the surrounding pine forests. After our visit we will wild camp nearby.
Please note that on occasion it is impossible to rech the Tuvkhon Monastery due to river flooding or the ground being impassable - the roads are in a particularly bad state here and are very susceptible to being rendered impossible to drive on if there has been rain recently. Although we will do our
best to make this visit, your understanding is appreciated if we cannot Please also note that the order of our visits to the 2 main highlights in the Orkhon Valley is interchangable, depending on the road conditions.
Explore the stunning volcanic and forested landscapes of the Orkhon Valley and see Ulaan Tsutgalan, Mongolia'slargest waterfall Included in Kitty
Hike up through the forests to the beautiful Tuvkhon Monastery on the summit of Ulaan Uul mountain
Included in Kitty
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nt)
Day 7-8 Tsenkher Hot Springs
Today our trip heads north, crossing the Khangai Nuruu Mountains through a series of passes until we reach an area that Mongolians call 'The Paradise of the Horse Herders' due to its lush grasses and open valleys. We drive to the Tsenkher hot springs, where water flows out of the ground at 82°C, and where we can enjoy a relaxing soak. The following day we will take a short, easy walk to meet one of the many nomadic families that spend their summers in the region. The afternoon is free to explore the valley and surrounding hills either by foot or by horseback. In Tsenkher we will stay at a ger camp.
Head out horse riding through the incredible forest scenery surrounding Tsenkher (if helmets available) USD 32
Walk around the surrounding valley and visit one of the local nomadic families to learn all about their way of life (if available) Included in Kitty
Enjoy a relaxing soak in the natural hot springs Included in Kitty
On this stage of our jouney we will be travelling through some of Mongolia’s most stunning scenery.
Spending two nights at the Tsenkher hot springs we will have time to go hiking or horse riding. Then what could be nicer than soaking away the day’s exertions in the indoor or outdoor hot springs, coming out of the ground at 82 degrees centigrade.
Yurt (2 nt)
Day 9 Tamir River
This morning we drive to Tsetserleg, the provincial capital, where we will make a short visit to the local market. If time permits, we will also visit the provincial museum. We will then continue our journey north past the Tamir river, and will wild camp tonight.
See a variety of fascinating exhibits about the Mongolian way of life at the Arkhangai Aimag Museum in Tsetserleg (if time allows) MNT 5000
See the huge rock monolith of Taikhar Chuluu, covered in inscriptions in a myriad of different scripts dating from the 6th century to the modern era Included in Kitty
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 10 Chuluut Canyon
Today we continue noth past Taikhar Chuluu (a massive rock which is connected to local mythology) and the Chluulut Canyon to arrive at our ger camp near the Khorgo volcano. In Khorgo we will stay at a nearby ger camp.
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 11 Khorgo Volcano
This morning we will take a hike to the top of the Khorgo Volcano and take in the incredible views over its perfect crater. From the top of the volcano we continue our hike though fields studded with pine trees, stopping off en route at the Yellow Dog Cave, an interesting volcanic phenomenon. We will then return to the truck and continue our journey north. We will aim wild camp tonight in the remote plains north of Khorgo.
Explore the incredible volcanic landscape of Khorgo and Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake by foot Included in Kitty
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 12-13 Zuun Lake
Over the next few days we continue driving north on one of Mongolia's most beautiful routes, crossing high mountain passes, vast grasslands, and small creeks! We will pass by the beautiful alpine Lake Zuun en route. We hope to arrive at Murun, the provincial capital, the following afternoon. We will visit the local market, Danzadarjaa Monastery and the local museum. If we don't have time on this section of the trip, then we can visit the town after coming back from Lake Khovsgol. We will aim to wild camp near Zuun Lake and near the town of Murun
Discover the mysterious ancient Deer Stones near Murun, erected by Bronze Age nomads over 3000 years ago Included in Kitty
Bush camp (no facilities) (2 nt)
Day 14-15 Lake Khovsgol
This morning we will drive out to an ancient burial site featuring Mongolia's
mysterious deer stones, these are memorial stones representing important
leaders and warriors, carved with deer motifs. After visiting the site, we
continue our trip northward to one of the world's biggest fresh water sources,
the stunning Lake Khovsgol.
Lake Khovsgol and its amazing surroundings are home to several of Mongolia's ethnic minorities as well as a refuge for a wide variety of wildlife. One of the most interesting ethnic groups living near the lake is the Tsaatan, also known as 'The Reindeer People'. A small tribe of Tsaatan consisting of about 40 families lives with its herds of reindeer in the forests around the lake. These graceful animals provide the tribe with all its basic needs - milk, meat and transportation. As there are very few Tsaatan left and this is a mobile population, we may meet them but there are no guarantees - however, the
scenery of the area is well worth the exploration. The following day we will take a hike around the forests and meadows near the lake. Lying at about 1650m above sea level, surrounded by mountains rising above 3100m, the waters of Khovsgol are deep and spectacularly clear and pure. We will hike through thick pine forests carpeted with flowers and explore the setting of Mongolia's 'Blue Pearl'.
In Lake Khovsgol we will stay at a ger camp.
Yurt (2 nt)
Day 16-18 Murun, Selenge River, Bulgan
Take a horse ride through the incredible Siberian forest scenery surrounding Khovsgol Lake (if time allows) MNT 10000
Walk through the beautiful area of Khovsgol and try to meet the local Tsataan Reindeer Herders (if available) Included in Kitty
We will spend the next 3 days crossing central-northern Mongolia on our way back towards the capital of Ulanbaatar. The long road offers diversified landscapes, from vast, open steppes to beautiful sand dunes. We will aim to wildcamp in the plains east of Murun on the first day of this journey, by the Selenge River on the next day, and on the outskirts of the town of Bulgan on the day after that.
Yurt (3 nt)
Day 19 Amarbayasgalant Monastery
This morning we will try to visit the Amarbayasgalant Monastery. Built between 1727 and 1736 by the Manchu Emperor Enkh Amgalan, Amarbayasgalant is among the largest monasteries in Mongolia to have survived the purges of the 1930s. With about 60 monks living and studying here, the monastery functions today as one of Mongolia's central religious institutions, and consists of 29 different temples, all built in the classic Tibetan style. Tonight we will wild camp near the monastery.
Visit the Chinese-style Buddhist monastery of Amarbayasgalant near the Selenge River Included in Kitty
Bush camp (no facilities) (1 nt)
Day 20 Ulaanbaatar
Today we have a full day drive from northern Mongolia back to the city of Ulaanbaatar. This evening is free to relax and explore, and to have a wellearned final meal and drinks in one of the city's many restaurants! In Ulaanbaatar we will stay in our comfortable joining hotel.
Explore the incredible history of the country from the Neolithic era to the present day, at the National Museum of Mongolia USD 10
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 21 Ulaanbaatar
Border information: If you are leaving in Ulaanbaatar, you will most likely exit Mongolia at Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khaan International Airport. Today is a free day to further explore the city of Ulaanbaatar. Please note that if you are leaving in Ulaanbaatar, today is the last day of the trip and there is no accommodation included tonight
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.
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 approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
In Asia you will need to be healthy enough to cope with extremes of climates from the hot deserts through to the colds of the high mountains. Overland travelling can be demanding - long, rough travel days, dusty conditions can be challenging to some. You will 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 and you need to judge yourself to be physically fit enough to haul yourself up and down the step at least 8-10 times a day. By and large our Asia trips have a good range of hotel accommodation mixed up with camping so that life is not too rough.
1. Please note that this trip requires minimum numbers to depart, and may be cancelled up until 56 days prior to departure. The places showing on the dates and availability page are an indication only so please contact Intrepid to check if your preferred date will depart before making any final arrangements, such as booking non-changeable flights.
2. 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.
Maximum of 22 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.
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 accommodation (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.
Bush camp (no facilities) (10nt), Hotel (3nt), Yurt (7nt)
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 hostels or hotels. Where it's not practical to camp (ie: in towns and cities), we use hostel or hotel accommodation and eat out in local restaurants. The frequency and regularity of hostel and 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. On some of our trips we are able to stay in villages or local homestays, which allows us to get close to indigenous populations and ensures our money stays within local communities.
Please note that camping is participatory, which means you will be expected to set-up and pack down your own tent.
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.
Vegetarians may choose to supplement meals with supplies bought from home, ie protein bars, dried fruits, etc although vegetarian options (while limited) are always offered for all included meals.
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 all included activities. Kitty amounts are subject to change to reflect local price increases.This Kitty price indicated on the trip notes below is indicative only. Please refer to the 'Check availability' page on the 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.
The official currency of Mongolia is the Tugrik (MNT).
Tugrik may only be obtained within Mongolia. 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 will 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.
When it comes to spending money on the trip, every traveller is a little different. You know your spending habits better than we do, so please budget a sensible amount for things like meals not included, drinks, shopping, optional activities and laundry. It's always better to bring a little more than you think you'll need. Also make sure you've read your trip details thoroughly so you know what's included in the trip price and what isn't. This should make budgeting a little easier. You'll find this info in the Inclusions section of your Essential Trip Information (that's this document).
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 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.
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$500, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (e.g. a natural disaster, civil unrest, strike action or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
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. Dragoman trips 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.
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 and ensure that your travel insurance covers you for all areas your itinerary covers. 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 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 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:
DRAGOMAN TRANSPORT SAFETY
• Our own vehicles have fully fitted seat belts; make sure you always belt up.
• If you find a safety belt inoperable or missing on one of our vehicles, please inform the crew immediately.
• Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that other vehicles we may use or recommend in some countries will be fitted with seat belts on every seat as it is not a legal requirement in much of the world.
• Please remain seated on board vehicles at all times when the vehicle is in motion
• Never place luggage in the aisles or foot wells
• Ensure you know where your nearest Emergency exit is; this may be a designated emergency exit, a window or a roof hatch.
• Check the location of the fire extinguisher and first aid kit.
• Follow any safety instructions provided by the crew/driver
• Our vehicles are fitted with roof seats which can be used in certain conditions, such as when driving at low speeds, off main tarmac roads, etc. They can only be used with the express permission of the crew and you must never sit in them without seat belts.
• Ensure you know where your nearest fire exit is and check to ensure that it is operative.
• Check the location of the nearest fire extinguisher.
• Study the fire instructions in your room if available.
• Identify how to raise the alarm if a fire occurs.
• If a fire occurs, leave immediately; do not stop to collect your effects.
• Proceed to an assembly point well away from the building.
• Electrics in hotels in many of the places that we visit will not be up to the same standards as at home. Please ensure that you check rooms, especially bathrooms and are aware of any issues that look unsafe. If in doubt inform the crew who will endeavor to sort the situation out.
• Staircases and stairwells are often built to a very different design than under Western building standards. There may be no guard rails, be excessively steep, etc. At all times be aware and take appropriate and prudent care.
• We often stay in homestays and farmstays. These may range from a traditional yurt through to a tree house or a town house. As these are traditional homes they may well not adhere to our western standards of safety and so it is important that you make yourself aware of potential risks.
• If in doubt please inform the crew of any safety issues with the hotels/hostels or home stays
CAMPSITE FIRE SAFETY:
• Ensure you know where the nearest source of water or fire extinguisher is.
• Know how to raise the alarm.
• Extinguish all camping fires fully before retiring to bed.
• Observe any regulations regarding fires and bushfires in dry conditions.
• Proceed to an assembly point away from the tented accommodation/affected campsite.
OTHER CAMPSITE SAFETY
• Familiarise yourself with the campsite and any known hazards.
• Group tents around our vehicle wherever possible.
• No open flames, smoking or flammable liquids in or near the tents.
• Ensure cooking area is well away from the tents.
• Ensure all water for cooking and drinking is purified first.
• Ensure any soil toilets are min 50m away from tents & cooking area.
• All food waste should be burnt or buried – min 100m away from the site.
• Ensure local advice is followed concerning any wildlife.
• Keep valuables locked in the vehicle.
• Be aware of any local security issues that might be important.
• Do not set out tents close to perimeter fences which may be a security risk.
• Be aware of the security arrangements and local guards for campsite and if in doubt ask them where and where not to pitch tents.
• If in doubt please inform the crew of any safety issues with campsite.
• When wild camping, ensure that you do not wander away from the camp alone. If you do leave camp ensure that you have notified the leader or other members of the group.
• We prepare many meals during the tour and our crew are hygiene trained; however, some general tips can help in order to avoid the possibility of stomach upsets;
• Make sure your food has been thoroughly cooked.
• Hot food should be hot, cold food should be cold.
• Avoid any uncooked food, except fruit and vegetables, (notably those you can peel or shell yourself).
• In many countries you should only drink bottled water or purified water and ensure any seal is intact when purchasing bottles.
• On the Dragoman vehicles we have a tank of drinking water that is kept purified by the crew.
• Avoid ice in drinks as this can cause upset stomachs in hot climates.
• Make sure you wash your hands in antibacterial product when preparing and/or eating food.
• Restaurant Food: This is grassroots travel and many of the restaurants that you will eat in, either as a group or as
individuals, will NOT have the same standards of food hygiene as we have in the Western World. Unfortunately this is
part of travel in these regions. Therefore think carefully about what food you order and be aware of the risks.
DRAGOMAN PERSONAL SAFETY:
One of the real advantages of overland travel is that the vehicle provides a very real level of security when travelling.
There is no doubt that a properly equipped overland vehicle, with safes, fully lockable doors and windows is an obvious advantage when travelling in much of the world. We recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt whilst travelling for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items (although most of these can be locked in the safe whilst you are on the trip) and advise you to leave any valuable jewellery, watches, etc, at home. Generally speaking, you will not be travelling on local public transport and will have the added security of travelling in a group with experienced crew on hand to offer advice. We have come up with a few pointers that we recommend you follow:
• Follow the crew’s specific safety advice in each destination.
• Be aware, stay away from situations where you do not feel comfortable.
• Avoid carrying too much money.
• Use of a money belt / neck wallet or is encouraged at all times while travelling for the safe-keeping of your passport,
air tickets, cash and other valuable items.
• Avoid walking in poorly lit areas.
• Ensure your valuables are left secure when you go out.
• In any hostels/hotels, place all valuables in a safety deposit box, where available or with reception or locked away
by the crew.
• Do not take any valuable jewellery/watches etc. away with you.
• If possible avoid walking around on your own; it is always safer to explore with others.
43 Baga Toiruu St
Joining point instructions
Zaluuchuud hotel is located east of the city centre. It's a 30-minute drive from the international airport and 15-minute drive from the railway station. If you are arriving at the airport during the day, a taxi rank operates from outside the arrivals area. Expect to pay about MNT15,000-20,000 (about US$15) to the hotel. If you are arriving late at night when the official rank is closed you may have to bargain with the taxi touts who charge about MNT30,000.
Normal check in time at the hotel is after 1pm.
43 Baga Toiruu St
Finishing point instructions
Zaluuchuud hotel is located east of the city centre. It's a 30-minute drive to the international airport and 15-minute drive to the railway station. A taxi to the airport should cost about MNT15,000-20,000 (about US$15).
A departure transfer is available - please enquire at time of booking.
Normal check out time is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. Entry requirements can change at any time, so it's important that you check for the latest information. Please visit the relevant consular website of the country or countries you’re visiting for detailed and up-to-date visa information specific to your nationality. Your consultant will also be happy to point you in the right direction with acquiring visas. Visas can take several weeks to process, so familiarise yourself with any requirements as soon as you have booked your trip to allow for processing time.
MONGOLIA (DRAGOMAN OVERLAND):
Citizens of the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and most EU countries will need a visa to enter Mongolia as a tourist for up to 30 days. Citizens of Canada will not need a visa for visits up to 30 days, and citizens of the USA will not need a visa for visits of up to 90 days. Citizens of other countries should check with the relevant consulates as to whether a visa is required.
If a visa is required, you will need to obtain it in advance – this will not usually require a Letter of Invitation. You can either apply yourself directly to the embassy, or hire The Visa Machine to make the application on your behalf (which is recommended, especially if you are applying for several visas).
There are certain circumstances where the visa can be obtained on arrival at Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khan International Airport (usually when there is no Mongolian Embassy in your country of residence).
If you are on a longer combination trip (such as Istanbul to Ulaanbaatar) and you need a visa, we advise you to obtain it in the Mongolian Embassy in Beijing en route with the help of your crew.
If you are asked to provide an address in Mongolia on your visa form, please use the address below:
Tel: +976 11 325544
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, although you won't be required to walk long distances with it (max 30 minutes).
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.
Below we have listed the essentials for this trip:
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: length 15 inches, height 9.5 inches and depth 26.5 inches. 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. 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.
Climate and seasonal information
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.
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.
As a rule we recommend you don't drink tap water, even in hotels, as it contains much higher levels of different minerals than the water you may have at home. For local people this is not a problem as their bodies are used to this and can cope, but for visitors drinking the tap water can result in illness. Generally this isn't serious, an upset stomach being the only symptom, but it's enough to spoil a day or two of your holiday. Bottled water is widely available and your leader can recommend safe alternatives when available. Water consumption should be about three litres a day. Rehydration salts, motion sickness tablets, and diarrhoea blockers are available from many pharmacies.
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 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.
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 or local representative has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
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 by wearing sleeves and long trousers. 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.
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$1,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year, excluding emergency appeals). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
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.
For more information, or to make a donation please visit: www.theintrepidfoundation.org/projects/?projectcountry=mongolia
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.