Essential Mongolia Travel Tips
I want to share with you a list of things that you should know before going to Mongolia to see the Gobi Desert, experience nomadic way of life, or meet the eagle hunters. I was aware of some of this Mongolia travel advice before I landed in Ulaanbaatar, but many others came as a shocking surprise, once I got there.
Packing Travel Tips for Mongolia
- Carry loose fitting, light weight cotton material clothes for warm days and thermal layers, fleece tops and jumpers for cold days.
- Also Pack a waterproof/ windproof jacket for inclement weather.
- If you plan on going horse-riding or camel trekking wear trousers and ensure they are not loose to prevent them from rubbing. Safety helmets are rarely provided, so ensure you check first before you arrive in Mongolia.
Travel for families in Mongolia
- Mongolia is not necessarily an ‘easy’ family holiday destination.
- Mongolia is ranked the 18th largest country in the world and to experience its vast variety of landscapes prepare for some long travelling days.
- Ask for accommodation provided by rural families – They can arrange for you to have a day spent helping a nomadic family with chores. Local hotels have a surprisingly low number of family suites, so if you don't book well in advance you may not be able to share space with your kids.
- Mongolian roads are rough and require 4WD. If your family is large you may end up separated into different vehicles.
- Activities in Mongolia are not the usual, they include collecting dung to dry for fuel, collecting water from the well and rounding up the sheep and goats for milking. Mongolian families are usually delighted and appreciate much if you show an interest and get involved.
Food whilst traveling in Mongolia
- Some (but not all) Mongolian food is very difficult to handle for a foreigner taste-wise.
- In rural Mongolia, you'l get only basic vegetables (potatoes, cabbage, onions) and very little to no fruit. Nomadic cuisine is dairy and meat based. You have been warned. If you travel on your own take some extra food provisions from Ulaanbaatar to cope with the food situation.
- Otherwise, let your travel company know about your dietary restrictions so they can make necessary arrangements. A good travel operator will be able to cater to variety of diets (gluten free, vegan, keto, and so on) although sometimes they may be forced to hire a private chef for you.
Health and safety during travel in Mongolia
- Visit your doctor at least 6-8 weeks before departure to ensure you have all the necessary vaccinations and that they are updated.
How bad is air pollution in Ulaanbaatar
- Like all cities in this part of the world, Ulaanbaatar has polluted air, particularly in winter.
- During summer the pollution is significantly reduced but can still aggravate respiratory problems. If you are asthmatic you should bring all your medication needs.
- Fortunately, the air is not polluted in the rest of Mongolia, so you will be safe from pollution for the vast majority of your Mongolia travel.
Bring an insect repellent during Mongolia travel
- It is advisable to wear long-sleeved tops, long trousers, a hat and closed shoes.
- In addition, if you plan horse riding, its advisable to wear boots with trousers tucked in to prevent bites from insects like ticks. Apply insect repellent to skin and clothes to prevent bites.
Water Safety, when you travel Mongolia
- I recommend drinking bottled water and not risking drinking for example from the tap.
- Bring your own water bottle. If bottled water in not available you can boil fresh water and carry it in your own container. It will be convenient during hikes or festivals and will help to reduce plastic pollution.
Healthcare for travel in Mongolia
- The standard of healthcare is variable, especially outside Ulaanbaatar, where often only basic healthcare is available.
- Western medicine can be rare to find so bring whatever you may need from home (especially prescriptions.)
- Most travellers experience at some stomach upsets so bring some rehydration and diarrhoea remedies.
Safety for travel in Mongolia
- Crime rates are low however in the major cities pick pocketers and bag slashers are common in crowded spots.
Standards of driving and movement
- The standards of driving in urban Mongolia are poor and the roads are badly maintained. Mongolia is known to have the most consistent bumpy roads that are so rough all over.
- If walking around be cautious when crossing the roads.
Nomadic culture 'training'
- Be ready to let go and enjoy being in a very different authentic existence.
- Be ready for Do pre-tour exercises to strengthen the thigh muscles and practice bobbing under low doorways for the ger entrances. Seriously - expect to hit your head at least a couple of times when entering or exciting the ger. The door is much lower than what you're used to in regular households.
Take matches or a lighter with you, whilst in Mongolia
- If you travel alone, you may end up needing to light up the stoves in the ger that make your accommodation. Better, though, ask a Mongolian person to do that for you.
Take Power Banks to Mongolia
- Also bring a good camera with large memory and bring a few spare power banks batteries to make sure you can charge your equipment anytime.
Bring a scarf with you
- If you're a woman it's always a good idea to carry a scarf with you. It 'll protect you from sun and wind and serve as caver if you suddenly need to take a public pee break.
- Toilets in the countryside are basically none-existent, so sooner or later you will have to get out of the car and look for a tree or a large rock to hind behind. Sometimes, however the ground will be completely flat. In such a case, a scarf wrapped around your hips may save the day.
Cultural etiquette in Mongolia
- Do not touch the central poles in the ger, whistle indoor, take food with your left hand, throw any trash in a fire, walk in front of an old person, turn your back to the altar or touch anyone’s hat. These things are considered disrespectful and are thought to bring bad luck.