In this article I would like to talk, in general, about the first country I visited – Mongolia, where I spent overall 25 days (7.-31.7.). I must admit that I liked Mongolia very much and although the initial plan changed a lot, I was able to visit all the places I intended to and even much more. In the following posts I will talk more in detail about the concrete places.
We (my girlfriend Diana and I) arrived to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, on the 7th of July, after nearly two days and three long flights. The first few days we spent in UB and then we went to a nearby National Park called Terelj. In the plan was to stay there only for 2-3 days, but due to the fact that we were getting the Chinese Visas much longer than we originally expected, it prolonged to 6 nights but it was worth it!
After this amazing experience we went back to UB to pick up our visas and to meet with new friends we made in the National park.
Our next stop was Khovsgol Lake – a huge lake in the northwest of the country. Before we came to Mongolia we found a project there via workaway.info, to stay and help a nomadic families with their everyday chores. Unfortunately they cancelled our stay there shortly after we arrived to Mongolia. On the other way we were able to find adequately interesting alternative.
From Khogsvol we got back to Ulaanbaatar and spent the last days there. We left in the morning on the 31st for Beijing, China.
General impression of Mongolia
I was very interested in this country ever since I can remember. I was mostly fascinated by the nomadic lifestyle and also by the fact that this huge country has such a low population. Not to mention that half of the inhabitants are living in UB. That leaves the rest of the country an unspoiled natural beauty. I was not wrong, although we only saw a tiny part of Mongolia, the nature was simply astonishing! The only setback was the ever-present garbage along roads, cities and actually pretty much everywhere where people could go by car.
The people in Mongolia are in general very friendly and helpful. Despite the language barrier they are always trying to help, invite you for a dinner or a cup of tea, milk, etc… During our stay we did not encounter any hostile reactions to our presence.
Language barrier is the main problem in Mongolia. If you are using English, I mean. The old population doesn’t speak English at all. Surprisingly, the young generation also has problems to communicate, though they are taught English at school. Mostly they just don’t use it and forget it. Luckily there were some exceptions.
On the other hand if you can speak Russian, you will have no problem with communication in Mongolia. As an ex-soviet country, Russian was compulsory so the elder generations speak it well and also nowadays many students and youngsters choose it rather than English as it is just more useful to them.
Transport in Mongolia is relatively cheap. For public busses in UB you pay 500 TRG (less than 25 cents) a ticket. The long distance buses have also an acceptable price.
My advice – just DON’T take Taxi!! They are extremely expensive and if you are a tourist they will take advantage of you.
BTW. The traffic is really crazy, especially in the cities. It seems like they have no rules at all! One interesting thing is that they are importing a lot of cheap cars from Japan with the steering wheel on the left, but they are still driving on the right side. That makes driving there very dangerous – from my point of view- because they almost never can see properly while overtaking.
I found food in Mongolia very delicious but very unhealthy in the same time. What Mongolians mostly eat is meat which is in every meal. They also like milk products and alcohol. I would’ve gained a lot of weight there, should I stay more than 3 weeks. I had no problem eating chunks of meat but my companion Diana did. She doesn’t eat mutton and sadly for her that is the most common meat there. If you are invited by a family it is almost always mutton and even in restaurants they mostly serve it. But don’t worry, you can find some chicken and beef as well.
The food in restaurants is a little expensive there but it also depends on the locality. Usually we were able to have a dish for 15-20 000 TRG in UB and between 10-15 000 at countryside. (1USD = approx. 2 000 TRG) For a meal in fast food you will pay a bit more.
I strongly recommend booking hotels in UB in advance. We paid 40 000 TRG a night for a very decent double room. But all the other hotels were nearly twice the price! There was no air-condition but the room was clean, it had wi-fi, sitting toilet and the breakfast was included.
When paying for tent in a camp they will charge between 20-25 000 TRG but this includes shower and electricity (3 hours per day) and surprisingly even wi-fi.
Mongols love sweets and cigarettes. They never reject to smoke and it is the best icebreaker in a conversation.
To sum it up, Mongolia is a very interesting and beautiful country and I can’t wait to come back to see more of it.