Frequently asked Questions Mongolia
Why should I travel to Mongolia, and what should I see? We answer these frequently asked questions and more below.
What are the main reasons to visit Mongolia, and what does it have to offer travellers?
The main reason to travel to Mongolia is to experience its vast open spaces and wilderness – something few destinations are able to boast. Of course, this means it's an excellent country for the more adventurous traveller to visit. Exploring the desert and steppes, and staying in a cosy ger with only intermittent electricity, provides the opportunity for real adventure.
What are the country's top destinations, and what sort of holidays/experiences is each good for?
Several destinations can be considered among Mongolia's best. Covering much of the south of the country, the Gobi Desert is home to some incredible natural wonders, while Terelj National Park offers travellers the chance to see beautiful green landscapes and some more unusual natural attractions, such as Turtle Rock.
Known as Melkhi Khad by the locals, Turtle Rock is an impressive rock formation that, of course, resembles a vast turtle. A manageable drive from the capital city, Ulan Bator, Terelj National Park makes a fantastic day trip.
The ancient capital under Genghis Khan, Karakorum is another top destination. While in its heyday it was the epicentre of power, today there is little left. But, visiting this Unesco World Heritage Site, admiring the beautiful green valley and imagining the throng of activity here all those years ago is a magical experience.
When's the best time to visit Mongolia? Does this differ from destination to destination and if so, how?
The best time to visit Mongolia is from mid-May to the end of September or beginning of October. Generally speaking, the climate at this time of year is mild – though the southern Gobi Desert is quite hot over these months. This is also when the desert sees the most rain, though by UK standards there is not very much (approximately 40mm during this period).
Do you need a visa to visit Mongolia?
You do need a visa, and this has to be arranged before you depart the UK.
Do you need any vaccinations to visit Mongolia?
Officially, no vaccinations are required for visiting Mongolia. However, it is a good idea to get routine shots such as typhoid and hepatitis A – you can discuss this with your doctor before travelling.
What is a ger?
A ger is a traditional Mongolian felt tent, which is constructed around a wooden frame.
Is it worth staying in a ger camp, and if so, what should travellers expect?
It is definitely worth staying in a ger camp, and in fact, if you are travelling outside of the capital city, doing so will almost certainly be a necessity, as you won't find any hotels or similar accommodation.
Tourist ger camps are extremely well set-up. While you shouldn't expect luxury, you will be very comfortable. These traditional tents are warm and well equipped. Your ger will not have a bathroom, but there will be shower and toilet blocks (divided into male and female sections) nearby – similar to a campsite. Electricity will usually be provided in the mornings and evenings, but not throughout the day.
Is there anything travellers particularly need to take with them (outside of the usual holiday packing list)?
It is important to pack for a range of weathers and temperatures when visiting Mongolia. Things like shorts are essential for hot days, but long trousers, a lightweight jacket and the like are important in case it rains. What's more, it can become quite cold on summer evenings, so even if you're travelling during a typically hot period, you need to be prepared to wrap a little once the sun sets.
It's also worth packing a torch or head torch, as these can make life much easier when you're without electricity – especially when you're trying to find something in the dark! Be sure to bring plenty of batteries, too, because you won't be able to get these outside of the city.
What's the national cuisine like?
The cuisine in Mongolia is very meat-based, with mutton being a particular staple. Expect to come across a lot of meat broths and soups, as well as mutton pancakes, which are something of a delicacy. Small, steamed meat dumplings known as buuz are the national dish, so you can expect to enjoy these at some point during your trip.
As local dishes are so meat-focused, vegetarian food is not typical of national cuisine, but don't worry – you will find any dietary requirements can be catered to during your trip.
What are the country's top attractions?
Most itineraries tend to feature the country's top attractions – the steppes and the Gobi Desert. Taking place from July 11th to 13th every year, the Naadam Festival is another real highlight and something that's well worth timing your visit to coincide with if possible.
The Naadam Festival is held in a number of places, but the best is staged just outside the capital. It is a showcase of the three national sports: archery, wrestling and horse riding – an incredible spectacle.
Khongoryn Els in the Gobi Desert is another top attraction. Famous for its singing sand dunes, Khongoryn Els has towering sand dunes, which are backed by beautiful green valleys and mountains. When the wind blows, a strange whistling sound can be heard – an unusual and wonderful phenomenon that deservedly draws people here.
Just to the east of Khongoryn Els is Yol Valley – a steep, picturesque canyon that's famous for its birdlife, particularly vultures.
Is there anything else worth bearing in mind before visiting?
Mongolia is a place of wilderness and adventure – and before booking it's a good idea to remember that travel here can, at times, be a little uncomfortable. While your accommodation will always be very comfortable, expect quite long drives over uneven terrain (owing to the lack of transport infrastructure) and few toilet stops along the way.