I’ve visited enough countries to know my preferences, and a month Mongolia is at the top of my list of best trips. The people are incredibly friendly, the culture is fascinating, and the vast and sparsely populated green and golden landscapes of central Mongolia and Gobi Desert are unbelievable. I could have spent another month in Mongolia visiting the north, east, and far west (Altai Mountains). As it was, I visiting Gobi Desert and horse trekked the steppe.
Mongolian food is different than anything I’d eaten before, since it was my first foray into a nomadic culture, where people herd yak, horse, cashmere goats, camels, and reindeer. Mongolian barbecue is not actually Mongolian.
The Trip That Knocked My Socks Off
I would visit again in a heartbeat. You should visit, too! I absolutely loved my month in Mongolia and cannot recommend it more highly. The roads are very bumpy. In the truck or Russian van I left my seat and nearly bumped my head on the ceiling a few times, and I’m not very tall. So, fellow women: take your jogging sports bra, not just your walking one. Enjoy!
How to Travel Solo in Mongolia (or with others)
I’ve gathered information on Mongolia to kickstart research for your own upcoming trip on these pages.
- Do It Yourself Mongolia – For the DIY traveler from Gobi Desert to Orkhon Valley.
- My Mongolia Trip Summary – Things I loved and the things I’ll do differently next time.
My short stories on my month in Mongolia are on the blog. Here is the background on this trip:
I first heard of Mongolia as a kid, and always intended on visiting. When I was 16 years old, I selected Mongolia for my year abroad as an exchange student. Unfortunately, Mongolia was not an option.
I met Dolgormaa (pronounced dole-gore-mah, and roll the ‘r’ slightly as though speaking Spanish) while attending university in the USA. Upon graduation, she returned to her hometown, Ulaan Baatar in Mongolia. I told her that I’d visit one day and we remained Facebook friends. Now here I am, finally visiting the land of Genghis Khan! She told me that I’m the first friend from her time in the USA to visit her country.
Unfortunately the date of my arrival in Mongolia coincided with Dolgormaa’s business trip to Japan. She arranged for me to stay at her Japanese boss’ apartment, who would also be in Japan on a business trip. The apartment, located in the city center, is convenient location for a tourist like me. However, when Dolgormaa’s boss left town, she forgot to leave the apartment key with Dolgormaa. So, Dolgormaa arranged for me to stay in her bedroom at her family’s house my first few days in-country. What a great host!
For the start of the trip, it was arranged that Dolgormaa’s brother, Dasha (or Dashka), would drive me in the countryside. Of course I paid costs, the same as if I went with a travel agency, the difference being that I got a private driver, so that I could do my photography. Dolgormaa made it crystal clear that I absolutely should not rent a car and drive myself around the countryside. Dolgormaa knows her country, so I trusted what she told me, although I think I’m a perfectly capable solo traveler. I lived and learned.
Spoiler: I live through the trip.
Internet + Electricity
Wifi + Internet in Mongolia
Is there good internet in Mongolia? Nope. There is wifi in some hotels, especially in Ulaan Baatar. Otherwise, Mongolia’s rural countryside has extremely limited internet access, so blogging from the road while camping and staying at ger camps was not an option. For example, I found WiFi at the monastery cafe at Erdenzuu, and again a full day’s drive away in Tsetserleg at the Fairfield Hotel. The hostels in UB, like Golden Gobi, generally have wifi, too. In the vast Gobi Desert, if public wifi exists, I did not find it.
Electricity in Rural Mongolia
Electricity for charging electronics is limited. Primary options are a car’s cigarette lighter charger or a car battery connected to a solar panel.
I learned that although a car battery connected to a solar panel charges mobile phones and many other devices, it requires a certain adaptor to charge a smartphone— an adaptor which I did not have when horses became my mode of transportation. Therefore, the original version of the blog posts were written 100% in the Notes app of my iPhone while in airplane mode.
Writing was a task completed during long, bumpy, dusty car journeys or in cozy gers at 4am (jet lag always wakes me up early), sometimes located 3 days horse ride from a rural hospital, should the need arise for one of those. If you’re looking for a method of improving your 2-thumbed typing skills, I can advise that writing over 30 pages helps in that area. ;-)
This entire journey was paid for by myself. No discounts or free items were provided or requested in relationship to this writing. Anyone traveling at the same time as me, in the exact manner, would have paid approximately the same. I negotiate when prices are not fixed, depending on the cultural expectations.
For my Pinterest fans