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What to expect
Mongolia is a fascinating destination with a strong, proud heritage. The people are traditionally nomadic, and for centuries have roamed the wide stretches of grassy plains. Despite this, Mongolia's cities are rapidly modernizing and offering the people more opportunities for employment and trade.
Mongolia's people are friendly and warm, and eager to extend their hospitality. Perhaps get to know more about the traditional Mongolian way of life with a homestay in a traditional dwelling called a ger.
The accommodation options and services standards in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, can be of an international standard, though most of the country features basic facilities and service standards, along with some uncomfortable roads. A flexible attitude will help you make the most of your time in Mongolia.
From Los Angeles, New York
approximately 13 hours
Banks, public offices and some tourist sites will be closed on the vacations listed here. As major vacations are set according to the lunar calendar, dates change every year. Please check with our USA-based Asia specialists for details.
1 January is New Year's Day
, a public vacation. Banks, public offices and some businesses will be closed.
January/ February (two months after the first new moon following the winter solstice) is Tsagaan sar or White Moon
, which is the Mongolian Lunar New Year. Families and friends visit each other and exchange gifts, dress in traditional costumes and perform traditional rituals such as burning candles.
8 March is International Woman's Day
, a public vacation celebrating the contribution of women to Mongolian society.
18 March is Men’s and Soldiers Day
, marking the establishment of the country's military. Women around the country give thanks to the men in their family on this day.
1 June is Mothers' and Children's Day
, a day of celebration for families with parades, concerts and traditional food eaten. Rural-dwelling Mongolians often travel to the nearest town to partake in activities their children enjoy, such as going to the cinema.
11-13 July is Naadam Festival
, a three day national vacation where traditional games are played. People compete in three key sports - Mongolian wrestling, horse racing and archery, and the associated parades, costumes and crowds are quite a spectacle.
26 November is Independence Day
, celebrating Mongolia becoming an independent country in 1924 after centuries of Chinese rule.
31 December is New Year's Eve
, a time of much celebration in Mongolia, as in the rest of the world.
Health & Fitness
Travelers to Mongolia should be aware of health and safety risks just as they would elsewhere in Asia. Medical facilities in Mongolia's remote areas can be very basic. Diseases known to be found in the country include hepatitis A & B, typhoid, malaria, tuberculosis, dengue fever, diphtheria, Japanese encephalitis, tetanus, rabies, polio and HIV/ AIDS.
We strongly advise that you take sufficient precautions against potential health risks. It is recommended that you visit your doctor at least a month before departure for current health advice.
Citizens of the US traveling to Mongolia for less than 90 days do not require a visa, while citizens of Australia, UK, EU Countries, New Zealand and Canada and most other nationalities do. Tourist visas must be obtained from a Mongolian embassy or consulate in your home country before you enter Mongolia. Visas are valid for all international points of entry into the country.
Please note Mongolian visa regulations are subject to change, and you must have a valid visa before you travel. We strongly advise that you check with the relevant embassies in your country of residence for current visa information.
Safety and security
Mongolia is a relatively safe country to visit, although incidents of petty street crime in urban centers are rising as the number of visitors increase. It is advisable to catch cabs at night for safety reasons, and to ensure drivers activate the meter and understand your destination. A hotel address card is useful to show the driver, as many cannot understand English.
It is a good idea to keep copies of important documents such as airline tickets, your passport and credit card details in a safe place separate to the originals. Valuables should be secured in hotel safety deposit boxes whenever available.
It is best to wear minimal jewelry and to keep cash concealed close to your body when out. On trains, you can take extra care by keeping valuables in a money belt. Read our safety guidelines for further information.
Odyssey Guide Mongolia by Carl Robinson
is a beautifully illustrated book providing insights into Mongolia's fascinating history and rich culture.
Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford
tracks the story of Genghis Khan and his descendants by the only Western scholar to be allowed into Genghis Khan's burial site.
In the Empire of Genghis Khan, A Journey Among Nomads by Stanley Stewart
is a humorous account of the author's adventure crossing Mongolia on horseback.
Modern Mongolia, Reclaiming Genghis Khan by Paula Sabloff
is a factual look at Mongolia, with Mongolian and American perspectives offered, some of a scholarly nature.
Modern Mongolia, From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists by Morris Rossabi
is a look at the political economy of Mongolia over the last decade.
Lonely Planet Mongolian Phrasebook
is an essential guide to the key phrases that will help you navigate the intricacies of travel in Mongolia, from basic greetings to ordering food.
Useful words & phrases
Hello (literally 'how are you')
Sain bai-na uu?
I'm fine.How are you?
Sain ta sain bai-na uu?
Excuse me/ I'm sorry
Thanks (this is a bit curt)
What is your name?
Ta-ny nee-riiig khen ge-deg ve
My name is...
Mi-nii ne-riig ...ge-deg
What country are you from?
Ta a-li ul-saas ir-sen be?
How old are you?
Ta khe-den nas-tai ve?
I am ...years old
Can I take your photograph?
Bi ta-ny zur-giig avch bo-lokh uu?
Do you speak English?
Ta an-gliar yair-dag uu?
Arrival and departure transfers
Road journeys in Mongolia's urban areas are in minibuses or medium-sized coaches, while comfortable 4WD vehicles are used in rural areas. Road conditions outside the towns may be less developed than those in Western countries.
There is also a train travel component of your Mongolian journey. Two nights are spent on the famed Trans-Mongolian railway, where you sleep in 4-berth soft sleeper compartments. You may also travel on domestic flights, by walking or hiking, or on horse or camel.
Internet access is readily found in Mongolia's major centers. Hotels mostly provide internet services, though this can be more expensive than outside your hotel. International phone and fax services are available in Ulaanbaatar, but these may be costly.
International direct dial phone calls can be made from most hotels, and reverse charge calls can be made from many major centers. It usually takes international post around 14 days to reach its destination, and postage costs are slightly more affordable than in Western countries. Customs staff at the post office will usually inspect the contents of packages before they are sealed, and packaging is for sale at most post offices.
Food & drink
Mongolia's cuisine consists of simple, filling fare, with more emphasis on sustenance than flavor. It is very carbohydrate and meat heavy, with influences from Russia and China. Meat, rice, bread, dairy products and small additions of vegetables and spices can be found. The cuisine is suited to Mongolia's harsh climate and the people's nomadic lifestyle.
In the countryside, mutton is commonly consumed, usually with a staple like bread or rice with some vegetables, or eaten in a dumping form. Other dishes found include meat and noodle stews, soups and a dried meat snack.
Dairy products including yoghurt, cheese, curd and fermented mare's milk may be offered by local families. Fresh blueberry jam is a seasonal treat in summer. It is not recommended to drink the tap water in Mongolia, although bottled water is readily available. Local beer and vodka brands are also readily found.
Tipping is not essential in Asia, though is always appreciated as a gesture for recognizing great service. At the commencement of your trip, your local guide or Western tour leader will ask for a small fee (such as 50 cents per day) to be used as tips for service staff throughout the trip, such as porters and boat crew.
This prevents excessive tipping and also means you don't have to have small change with you. There is no compulsory tipping for Travel Indochina representatives, though if you wish to show your appreciation you may decide to tip.
Mongolia is a landlocked nation, yet despite this there may be occasions when swimming is possible. Hotels, particularly those in Ulaanbaatar, sometimes feature swimming pools, and there may be swimming opportunities in the countryside in picturesque lakes, depending on the time of year.
If traveling with children it is important to be aware of their safety. As pools and waterways are unpatrolled, it is essential to remain vigilant and to remain within sight of other people.
Although we only have a couple of Small Group Journeys operating in Mongolia each year, we have endeavored to include opportunities to support local communities and retain our commitment to responsible tourism practices.
You will have the chance to visit a local family's home and share a traditional meal with them. This enables meaningful cultural exchange and helps to support their livelihood. Learn more about our focus on responsible travel.