Perhaps for you the challenge will be the daily distance you have to cover on trek / bike / horse, or the unpredictable weather, the lack of regular creature comforts like TV, en suite bathroom, or your favourite food. But a challenge is a challenge and you will feel great about yourself once you’ve done it.
Other than grocery stores and markets selling essential goods for local people, there's not much in the way of shops. Having said that, a few "supermarkets" are popping up in the larger towns, selling a wide variety of vodka and sweets. In the city there are designer stores and souvenir shops, but our itineraries do not revolve around shopping expeditions.
If you prefer that kind of holiday where you relax all day and dinner is the daily highlight, then a vacation in Mongolia is perhaps not suitable for you. If you want to do something different that you’ve never imagined before, see some amazing or peculiar things, take up opportunities that spontaneously arise, and accept mishaps or disasters as part of the adventure package, then you will enjoy Mongolia.
If someone offers you something to eat or drink, you must politely accept and taste it, or pretend to taste it. If you don’t finish it all, that’s perfectly fine and not rude at all. To refuse something offered to you would be rude. And whatever is offered, you must accept it with your right hand or with both hands. Not with your left hand. And if you give anything, you must give with your right hand. As regards food on the tour: some people will say that the food in Mongolia is great and some people will consider it just OK, it is a matter of opinion, but you won’t have to eat boiled mutton every day as some travel guides suggest. Also there’s always plenty of vodka and beer. And if you like tasting new stuff there’s airag (fermented mare’s milk), camel’s milk yoghurt, dried goat cheese, goat’s testicle soup, yak cream and so on.
Mongolia is the perfect holiday destination for people who enjoy the outdoors. The scenery, flora and fauna are amazing and varied. Most of the trips we run are active outdoor adventures like horse riding, hiking, cycling or motorbike riding.
The ancient nomadic culture of the Mongolian people is fascinating and has changed little since the days of Genghis Khan. The people are tough and the lifestyle has developed to cope with the extreme climate and harsh environmental conditions. The Buddhist religion brought to Mongolia by Lamas from Tibet in the 16th Century, is closely interwoven with the nomadic way of life and despite 8 decades of Communist rule the beliefs and traditions of most families continue to play an important role.
Our tours do not involve lying around in the sun scantily clad getting a tan. The sun is hot and the air thin, so you would get burnt to a crisp quite quickly. It is much more comfortable to wear a hat and clothes to protect yourself from the sun.
Whether you are truly vegetarian, or whether you just become one whilst travelling in order to be on the safe side, that is OK and we can manage that. But do not change your mind at breakfast time when you smell the bacon frying. Our tours are in remote places and the cook has to buy everything in Ulaanbaatar before we start because (on most trips) there's no possiblity of replenishing supplies along the way. The cook calculates everything carefully and it might be difficult if someone's dietary requirements change.
Mongolia is not cheap and cannot be compared with popular destinations which have hoards of tourists all year round. The tourist season in Mongolia lasts just 4 months, from June to September, so travel companies have to keep running despite hardly any visitors during the extremely cold winter months. On top of that, the cost of living is quite high and consumer goods like food are costly to transport over vast distances to remote parts of the country.
If you enjoy boasting about the weird and wonderful places you have been to, Mongolia is a good one. It only opened up to foreign travellers in the mid-1990s and tourism is still not well developed. Sometimes we travel to places where other tourists never go, and none of our trips are anything like mass tourist destinations. It is the nature of adventure travel, particularly in Mongolia, that the unexpected often happens and that is one of the joys of this kind of experience.
Hopefully it won’t spoil your holiday if a hot shower is impossible. If you choose a tour where the accommodation is at ger camps, there is a good chance that you will be able to have a shower every day. Many ger camps use solar power, so it depends on the weather and how many other people also want a shower as to whether you get a hot one. On camping tours there are no washing facilities, except sometimes rivers or lakes to bathe in, so you have to bring wet wipes. Like it or lump it.
Mongolian people do not like displays of anger, impatience or superiority. They prefer visitors who are modest, polite and genuinely interested in the country, it’s people and culture. If you experience Mongolia under your own steam – on foot, horseback or bike, they really appreciate your efforts and will welcome you. On the other hand, if you treat the local people disrespectfully, they will laugh at your arrogance. Mongolians cannot be paid to be subservient.
Every day you have to get up in time for breakfast at 8 o’clock and if it’s a camping tour you will have to get your tent down and packed away by then. We rarely start off later than 9am, except if you choose to do a private tailor-made tour and a lie-in is planned into the itinerary. Otherwise there’s not enough time to do everything, and as mentioned before, you have to allow time for the unexpected to happen each day.
People often dress their son’s in girl’s clothes and tie their hair up in ribbons until the age of 3 years old, sometimes older. This is to fool the spirits into thinking that the child is a girl; the spirits are less interested in girls. In other words, the male child will live until he is strong and healthy enough for its parents to feel confident that he will survive infancy and then he can be dressed as a boy.
Many tourists have travelled in the Himalayas before they come to Mongolia. Then they expect Mongolia, or rather the services in Mongolia, to be similar. This is a mistake. The population in Mongolia is very low (only 3 million people in a country the size of Western Europe) and there will not be enough staff to wait on you hand and foot.
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Off The Map Tours (UK Representative)
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