Last Modified: 06 Aug 2014
Trip code: CBSF
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Experience the raw beauty and traditional ways of remote Mongolia. Hidden from the world for many years, it is hard to imagine that this secluded country once created the largest land empire ever known. Fantastic geographical diversity, pristine grasslands, crumbling ruins and roaming herdsmen riding tough Mongolian horses - see it all on this journey through a land that time almost forgot.
Table of Contents
- Original trips are classic Intrepid adventures. With a mix of included activities and free time, they offer plenty of opportunities to explore at your own pace and take part in activities that really get beneath the skin of a destination. While the occasional meal may be included, you'll have the freedom to seek out your own culinary adventures. Accommodation is generally budget or tourist class (2-3 star), but you're as likely to find yourself as a guest of a local family as staying in a hotel or camping. Transport will vary as well. Depending on the destination and the itinerary you could find yourself travelling on anything from a camel to a train or a private safari vehicle. It's all part of the adventure! Original travellers have a desire to make the most of their travel time and really get to know a place, its people and cultures.
Festivals and Events
Day 1 Ulaanbaatar
Sainbainuu! Welcome to Mongolia.
You can arrive at any time on day 1 as there are no activities planned until the important welcome meeting at 6:00pm. We will be collecting copies of your passport and visas, your insurance details and next of kin information at this meeting so please ensure you have all details on hand to provide to your leader. Your group leader will leave a note at reception telling you where this important meeting will take place. Please ask a member of reception for this information.
In Ulaanbaatar our accommodation is in a hotel located in a quiet residential area of the city within walking distance of the main Sukhbaatar Square. Rooms are twin share with private bathrooms. Please note that due to the fact that much of Ulaanbaatar's infrastructure lacks regular maintenance, we may only have access to cold water at our hotel.
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 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 and as we have little time here once our trip begins we definitely recommend arriving a few days earlier to explore. 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 also well worth a visit to learn about the main religion of Mongolia - Tibetan Buddhism.
After our group meeting tonight, you have the option to join your fellow travellers for a dinner at a local restaurant chosen by your leader.
- Informal Mongolian Language Lesson
- Fine Arts Museum - MNT5000
- Ulaanbaatar - Gandan Monastery - MNT4000
- Ulaanbaatar - National History Museum - MNT5000
- Winter Palace Museum of Bogd Khan - MNT3000
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Amarbayasgalant Monastery
We leave the capital early in the morning on day 2 for the beautiful Mongolian countryside and to begin our Mongolian journey.
We set off in what will be our transport for the rest of the trip - sturdy and reliable Russian vans, known as 'furgon'. These are definitely the best way to tackle the Mongolian roads that await us! Please note that depending on the size of the group we may be split into a number of vans. Your leader will take it in turns spending time with each van and you are welcome to swap around so that you get a chance to spend the travel time with different members of your group. There's plenty of driving on this trip across some rough terrain but the experience of our drivers will make the journey pass as smoothly as possible.
Our drivers and leader also often double as our cooks in those places where we prepare meals ourselves. You are always welcome to lend a hand too!
Driving times will vary and any times listed here are approximate only. Actual travel time will rely heavily on weather and road conditions. As we have our own vehicle it may also be possible to make some stops along the way for photos, meals or to chat with locals however we need to aim to complete our drives before nightfall for safety reasons. Most days we drive up to 9 hours total. Mongolia is a vast and sparsely populated country so in order to see as much of the landscape and culture in the two weeks that we have we cover some large distances on this trip.
Most of our 340 km drive today (approx. 9 hours) is on paved roads but the final turnoff to the remote Amarbayasgalant Khiid will definitely be bumpy. Your leader and drivers can teach you through some basic Mongolian words on the way - the best way to prepare for greeting and chatting with the locals we meet throughout our journey as few people speak English.
Our final destination is Mongolia's second most important place of worship after Gandan Monastery in UB and is located in the beautiful Iven Gol River valley, at the foot of Burengiin Mountain in Selenge province. It was built under the orders of the Manchu emperor, Yongzheng, between 1726 and 1736 and dedicated to Undur Gegeen Zanabazar, the great Mongolian Buddhist and sculptor whose museum you can visit in UB.
After seeing the monastery we start our experience of nomadic life at our first ger camp of the trip. This is the way that the majority of Mongolia's population has always lived - away from the city and in the wide open spaces of seemingly endless countryside - and it's the quintessential Mongolian experience! Although such camps are set up for visitors, this type of accommodation is still used around the country, even in the capital where you'll have seen many 'ger suburbs' surrounding the city centre.
The gers at our holiday camps where we stay most nights vary in standard and facilities. Most sleep up to 6 people with comfy beds and plenty of blankets. In the colder months you might want to stoke up the stove in the centre of the ger and you'll be toasty warm in no time! Some have generator or mains electricity although not all have power sockets in the gers to charge electronic equipment.
We share our meals together in the dining quarters. Vegetarians can be catered for although choices may be limited - please let us know if you have any specific dietary requirements at time of booking. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided each day until our return to Ulaanbaatar. Some food will be traditional Mongolian style but as the traditional diet consists solely of meat and dairy products, most meals are less challenging and based more on Russian or Western meals which are now also common in the Mongolian diet.
Bathroom facilities here are usually very simple. Camps have showers but not always hot water and all have flush or pit toilets and basins with cold water in a support building outside. Other tourist ger camps on our trip may vary slightly in set up and some may have access to showers and hot running water. Your leader can give you more detailed information about the upcoming accommodation in the daily briefing.
- Amarbayasgalant - Monastery
Ger (1 nt)
Days 3-4 Selenge River
Today we continue to the beautiful Selenge River via the copper mining town of Erdenet (approx. 8 hours total). On the way we may have the opportunity to spot some of Mongolia's diverse wildlife - from marmots to a huge array of different birds. In the afternoon, we arrive at our basic ger camp in the settlement of Unit.
We stretch our legs after arrival with a walk up the Togoo Uul (Pot Mountain) - an extinct volcano looming over the surrounding steppe. The hike to the top rewards us with views of the crater's lush interior and from here with a bit of imagination we can try to picture what the landscape must have once looked like millions of years ago.
On day 4 we continue our trip with another long drive (approx. 9 hours) to what is consistently a highlight for Intrepid travellers - our first stay with a local nomad family in the in the mountainous outskirts of Ikh Uul.
This is a rare opportunity to see how modern Mongolian nomads are preserving an ancient way of life while still making some concessions to modernity. The conditions are very basic and as our dinner and breakfast are taken together with the family things are unlikely to be what you are used to at home! Please note that nomad families have no toilet "facilities" as such. Your leader will show you which direction you should head when you need to use the "bathroom".
We are welcomed into the family ger and shown traditional Mongolian hospitality. As we are introduced to our hosts, a bowl of salty milk tea and perhaps some aaruul (dried curds) will be passed around for everyone to take a sip.
Together with our hosts we help prepare dinner and have opportunity to learn to make a traditional dish, such as buuz (steamed dumplings) or barbeque.
Although the conditions may be eye opening and a cultural shock for some, the landscape is incredible, our hosts welcoming and the experience is without a doubt one of the highlights for our travellers on this trip.
If we are lucky our hosts might teach us some Mongolian games, maybe even how to shoot arrows from a local style bow and we have a chance to take part in typical family life.
Many nomad families keep animals so don't be surprised to have some local interaction with goats, dogs, horses and sheep too!
Tonight we sleep in one of the family's gers on mattresses on the floor. You will need to bring your own sleeping bag with you. It can get very chilly here in the evenings so make sure you have some warm clothes ready.
We are in a very remote location and with no nearby settlements or light pollution you should definitely take the opportunity to look up at the night sky - if the weather is clear, you'll be astounded by the sheer number of stars!
Please note that in order to keep the experience of our stay as positive as possible and allow us to better engage with our hosts we implement a "one camera" policy when staying with nomad families. This means that one group member is nominated to be photographer on behalf of the rest of the group to avoid cameras becoming an intrusion and limit to our authentic interaction. This is one way we can live the philosophy of responsible travel while in Mongolia. Once back in UB, we can copy the photos taken onto CD for each group member who wishes to have a copy.
- Selenge - Uran Togoo hike
Ger (1 nt), Homestay (1 nt)
Days 5-6 Lake Khovsgol
This morning after breakfast with our family we bid them farewell and continue on our way. It's a long, rough driving day today (approx. 9 hours) to Khovsgol Lake, perhaps Mongolia's most beautiful destination.
This pristine wilderness area is home to many ethnic minorities and it boasts spectacular scenery with stunning fir forests, lush green grasslands and meadows peppered with wildflowers. It's a popular destination for both foreign tourists and local holiday makers alike so it is likely we will encounter other travellers here, especially in the peak travel months of June and July.
We stay in a tourist ger camp near the lake. There might be many visitors here but it's not hard to see why! Settle in for the night and sleep well because there are plenty of optional activities to choose from tomorrow.
On day 6 you might like to hike up to one of the nearby peak or visit a local shaman or take a boat trip on the lake.
While here you may be offered the option by camp staff of going to visit a settlement of local reindeer herders. Many travellers are of the opinion that this area is not the best environment for the reindeer as they are native to much colder climates and are brought to Lake Khovsgol so the herders can benefit from tourism. For these reasons Intrepid Travel does not recommend this activity.
- Boat hire per hour Khovsgol Lake - MNT10000
- Visit a local Shaman - MNT3000
Ger (2 nts)
Days 7-9 Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake
On day 7 we set off early to drive back through the town of Murun on the way to Shine Ider (approx. 10 hours) for our second family stay of the trip.
Now that we know what to expect from our first nomad stay, we should be able to feel much more comfortable during our stay here. Get to know our hosts, help with the preparations for dinner and maybe even have the chance to watch as the family's livestock are milked and herded. We have dinner and breakfast with our family.
On day 8 it's around 7 hours from our family stay to Lake Terkhiin Tsagaan (Great White Lake), a natural volcanic lake surrounded by mountains and a surreal sight. Using our tourist ger camp at Maikhan Tolgoi as a base, we can drive to one of the volcanic craters and hike to the top for spectacular views.
We spend 2 nights here and there are plenty of other walks to give us a break from the road and a chance to soak in the natural beauty.
Ger (2 nts), Homestay (1 nt)
Days 10-11 Tsenkher
On day 10 we travel to the Tsenkher Hot Springs (approx. 6 hrs), situated in the valley of the Delger River. On the way, we stop at Tsetserleg, a lovely provincial town with a local market and a unique little museum housed in a former temple which we visit with a local guide. There's a chance to wander around the town to have a glimpse at what provincial Mongolian life is like, stock up on some snacks and drinks for the travels ahead and if there is time and the connection is good, a chance to quickly get in touch with family and friends back home at an internet café.
We then continue another hour on to the springs and check into our tourist ger camp. Enjoy soaking in the thermal waters of these natural hot springs while surrounded by the remote beauty of the landscape. Don't forget to pack your swim wear so you can take part in this relaxing activity!
- Tsetserleg - Local Museum
- Tsenkher - Hot Springs
Ger (2 nts)
Days 12-13 Karakorum/Khogno Khan
On day 12 we drive (approx 4 hours) to the ancient capital of Karakorum, built by the legendary Genghis Khan in the 13th century. Ask your leader and drivers to tell you some stories about this great man on the way - he's the nations' hero after all!
In Karakorum we visit the first Buddhist centre of Mongolia, the impressive Erdene Zuu Monastery. This is an immense walled compound which retains much of its former glory, and within it, we can inspect the three temples dedicated to the three stages of a Buddha's life: as a child, an adolescent and an adult.
Nearby Karakorum is a sudden strip of sand dunes - surprising as they are a huge contrast to the landscape we have previously been travelling through. What better location to take a short guided camel trek along the dunes?
Late afternoon we drive to the granite Khogno Khan Mountains, the location of our tourist ger camp where we stay for the night. Here we often have a chance to practise the art of Mongolian archery under the tutorage of some local experts. It's certainly much harder than it looks and requires good strength as well as aim!
- Karakorum - Erdene Zuu Monastery
- Khogno Khan - Camel ride
- Archery at Ger Camp - MNT5000
Ger (2 nts)
Days 14-15 Ulaanbaatar
Today we travel back across the rolling grasslands to Ulaanbaatar (260 km, approx. 8 hours) past 'ovoos' (roadside shrines) and ger suburbs. Arriving in the "metropolis", we check back into our hotel.
Depending on what time we arrive there may be time to shop for some local handicrafts such as cashmere and felt products or check out some more of the city's sights and museums.
Tonight we celebrate our journey around Mongolia with a night at a cultural performance of throat singing and traditional dancing followed by an optional final dinner at a local restaurant chosen by your leader.
Day 15 is departure day and we say 'bayartai' to our group. There are no activities planned for today and you are able to depart the hotel at any time. Check out time is 12 noon. If you are departing later, you can arrange luggage storage at the hotel. If you would like some more time to explore the intriguing city of Ulaanbaatar, we recommend you book accommodation well in advance to extend your stay.
- Ulaanbaatar - Cultural Performance
Hotel (1 nt)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
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.
You need to have a good level of fitness and be in excellent health to take part in this trip. It's important that you are able to carry your own luggage (pack light!) as you will need to be able to take it on and off vehicles.
You also need to be able to cope with varying temperature as we will be experiencing climates from warm days to cold nights. Travel days can also be long, rough and in cramped conditions.
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.
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.
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.
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're 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.
The following amounts are based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: - we suggest 5% to 10% of your bill, however check if a service charge has already been added. In China tipping in restaurants is not common practice.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest US$1-2 (Central Asia), CNY5-10 (China) per person per day for local guides with the amount adjusted accordingly for guides who are with you for less than a full day.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your leader. We suggest RUB30-50 (Russia)/US$1-2 (Mongolia, Central Asia)/ CNY5-10 (China) per person per activity day for local guides. Adjust the amount accordingly for guides who are with you for less than a full day.
Porters: In some hotels in China a porter may offer to carry your bag to your room. We suggest CNY5 per bag for porters.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group however a base of RUB50/US$2 (Russia/Mongolia/Central Asia) or CNY5 (China) per person per day is generally appropriate. Adjust the amount accordingly for drivers who are with you for less than a full day.
Your Group Leader: You may also consider tipping your leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference; however as a guideline $US3-5, or the equivalent in any currency used on the trip, per person, per day can be used.
Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
This is a trip that includes extensive travelling in some remote terrain away from modern facilities and conveniences. As we spend a lot of time on the road each day, it is important to realise that the emphasis on this trip is on the journey, travelling through amazing landscapes and staying in some stunning locations. As we travel by private transport for the duration of the trip we spend a lot of time together with our group members. If you are looking for an active or independent trip with lots of choice for physical and cultural activities daily then you might want to consider whether this trip is the right one for you. However, if you are keen to explore a fascinating country "road trip" style, take in the scenery as you go and are willing to sit back and enjoy the ride (however long it takes to get there!) then this will definitely add to your experience of our Wild Mongolia trip.
Please note this trip is operated by Intrepid's experienced Mongolian partners. Should you experience any problems or difficulties at any time while on this trip please contact Timur +976 991 83751, Batbayar +976 990 86929 or Bata +976 99764509.
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.
NAADAM 2014 ITINERARY CHANGES:
In 2014 the Wild Mongolia trips departing on 28th June and 10th July will be in Mongolia for the Naadam Festival. This is the biggest festival of the year in Mongolia and involves elaborate parades and concerts, wresting and archery competitions and spectacular horseback events and races.
As Naadam is the busiest and most popular time for foreign travellers to visit Mongolia, the tourism industry is stretched to the limits and prices for services such as accommodation and transport increase. For this reason a surcharge applies for Naadam departures. Tickets to Naadam events are included in the price of your trip and will be booked for you in advance. In order to make the most of our time at the festival these departures run with adjusted itineraries. Final itineraries will be confirmed by your leader at the group meeting. An indication of alternates for the Naadam tours are as follows but please be aware these are subject to change:
Wild Mongolia (CBSF) - 28 Jun to 12 Jul 2014
Days 1-9 as per normal itinerary
Day 10 Tsenkher Hot Springs
Day 11-12 Karakorum/Khogno Khan
Day 13 Return to Ulaanbaatar for Naadam events
Day 14 Ulaanbaatar - Naadam events
Day 15 Depart
Wild Mongolia (CBSF) - 10 Jul to 24 Jul 2014
Days 1-3 Ulaanbaatar/Naadam events
Day 4 Amarbayasgalant
Days 5-6 Selenge
Day 7-8 Khovsgol
Day 9-11 Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake
Days 10-11 Khorgo
Day 12 Tsenkher Hot Springs
Day 13 Karakorum/Khogno Khan
Day 14 Return to Ulaanbaatar
Day 15 Depart
Maximum of 12 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: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
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.
Ger (10 nts), Hotel (2 nts), Homestay (2 nts)
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
Please note that in many cities in Russia, including Moscow, hot water is turned off for up to one month during summer for routine maintenance. During this time only cold water may be available. In Ulaanbaatar due to the fact that much of the city's infrastructure lacks regular maintenance, we may only have access to cold water at our hotel year round.
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.
13 Breakfasts, 13 Lunches, 12 Dinners
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.
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.
LONG TRAVEL DAYS
There are some long travel days and some of the transport can be quite cramped and without air-conditioning.
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operator's emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
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.
MONGOLIA - INTREPID:
Australia: Yes - in advance
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Nationals of Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Japan, Ireland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and the United Kingdom can for tourist purposes visa free for 30 days. US passport holders can travel in Mongolia for up to 90 days visa free.
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 have time here before your trip. Please plan carefully and check the current embassy requirements.
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:
Suite 103, Baga Toiruu street 43
+976 9918 3751
DOCUMENTS REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You may be required to provide a copy of your Intrepid 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).
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.
TRAVELLING ON LOCAL TRANSPORT:
It's important that your bags can be locked, as on local transport it may be necessary to store your luggage separately (and unattended) from the group. The smaller your bag the better for you and other passengers, for when it comes to travelling on local buses and trains it's often only the smaller bags that will fit into the storage areas. If your bag does not fit in these areas then often the only place to put it is on your bed or seat. To ensure maximum comfort, try to pack small and light.
Where Intrepid covers the cost of luggage storage for included day trips, we allow for one bag/backpack only, so it's advisable that you travel lightly and keep luggage to a limit of one item (plus your day pack). Extra luggage storage will be at your own expense.
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 ends up in limited landfill or discarded in waterways and natural environments. Although it can be difficult to avoid bottled water when travelling, please consider water purification techniques such as iodine or micropur and use the water dispensers which are provided at some of our accommodation. When unable to avoid bottled water it is better to buy the largest available and distribute into your smaller bottle for the day
IMAGES FROM HOME:
During our trip there will be many opportunities for you to meet and talk with locals. One way to start any conversation is with pictures. We recommend that you bring some photos / postcards of your family, home, city or country where you live, animals peculiar to your country etc.
A sleeping bag is required for some nights on this trip. If you do not wish to bring your own from home, you may be able to purchase one in Ulaanbaatar however availability and quality is not guaranteed.
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.
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:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Some hotel balconies don't meet UK standards in terms of the width of the balcony fence being narrower than 10cm.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
Pay attention on all roads, even small streets and alleyways. Vehicles find their ways into impossibly small passages leaving no room for both you and the traffic. Traffic can be very noisy and horns are used to signal turning, overtaking and to announce going through intersections.
Please be aware that local laws governing transportation safety may differ from those in your home country and not all the transport which we use is able to provide seat belts.
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Please note that helmets and professional riding equipment cannot be provided on the camel safari.
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:
We recommend that you dress respectfully at all stages of the trip especially when in and around religious sites such as Buddhist temples. This means clothing that covers your shoulders and knees for both men and women.
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 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 1190.00 kgs per pax.
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.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.