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Terelj Hotel Ulaanbaatar
Terelj Hotel Ulaanbaatar - dream vacation

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Mongolia, known as Mongol uls (Cyrillic: ?????? ???, Script: ??????? ????) in Mongolian, is a landlocked country located between China and Russia. It's a vast emptiness that links land and sky, and is one of the last few places on the planet where nomadic life is still a living tradition.

Mongolia may have geopolitical, cultural and geographical meanings. Modern day Mongolia consists of what was historically Outer Mongolia (so called when it was part of China). The province of Inner Mongolia is politically separate and is in the northern part of China, sharing common borders with modern-day Mongolia.


The country can be categorized into five distinct regions based on culture and geography. These regions are further divided into 21 provinces and one special municipality.


  • Ulaanbaatar (Ulan Bator, Mongolian Cyrillic: ???????????) – the capital and starting point for most travel in this country.
  • 2 Choibalsan (Mongolian Cyrillic: ?????????) – large industrial city in the East.
  • 3 Erdenet (Mongolian Cyrillic: ???????) – Mongolia's second largest city and home to one of the world's biggest copper mines and a famous carpet factory
  • 4 Hovd (Mongolian Cyrillic: ????) – A historic city at the crossroads of traditional Mongol and Kazakh culture.
  • 5 Karakorum (Mongolian Cyrillic: ????????) – the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire, established by Genghis' son Ogedei.
  • 6 Mörön (Mongolian Cyrillic: ?????) – Capital of Hövsgöl province.
  • 7 Ölgii (Mongolian Cyrillic: ?????) – a town in Mongolia's far western corner - capital of the Kazakh Region, Bayan-Ölgii province.
  • 8 Öndörkhaan (Mongolian Cyrillic: ?????????) – near the birthplace (and possible burial site) of Genghis Khan.
  • 9 Tsetserleg (Mongolian Cyrillic: ????????) – the capital of Arkhangai province.

Other destinations

  • Khognokhan mountain specially protected territory – A beautiful, and calm area that includes cultural sightseeing places as Kharkhorin, The capital of the Mongolian Empire after Genghis Khan
  • 1 Altai Tavan Bogd National Park (Mongolian Cyrillic: ????? ????? ???? ????????? ????????? ?????) – The tallest mountain and largest glacier in Mongolia, with Eagle Hunters living in its shadow and a World Heritage Site: Petroglyphs.
  • 2 Uvs Nuur Lake (Mongolian Cyrillic: ??? ????), Uvs province – The largest lake in Mongolia and a World Heritage Site: Uvs Lake.
  • 3 Gun-Galuut Nature Reserve – An ecotourism destination
  • 4 Gorkhi-Terelj National Park (Mongolian Cyrillic: ?????-??????) – A national park 70 km east of Ulaanbaatar
  • 5 Khövsgöl Lake (Mongolian Cyrillic: ??????? ????) – A very large freshwater alpine lake.
  • 6 Darhad Valley (Mongolian Cyrillic: ???????? ??????) – Home to the Reindeer people.
  • 7 Khustain Nuruu National Park (Mongolian: ??????? ?????) – Khustain Nuruu or Hustai National park is home to the Takhi wild horses (also known as Przewalski's Horse). These are true wild horses which have never been domesticated.
  • 8 Gobi Gurvan Saikhan National Park (Mongolian Cyrillic: ???? ?????? ?????? ????????? ????????? ?????) – Khongor Sand dunes, Yol Canyon, Bayanzag-Red Flamming Cliffs, Khermen Tsav.


With only 1.7 people per square kilometre, Mongolia has the lowest population density of any independent country, and it is this vast and majestic emptiness that is the country's enduring appeal, bringing the traveller, as it does, into a close communion with nature and its nomadic inhabitants. Mongolia is entirely landlocked, between China and Russia. The country is nicknamed the "Land of Blue Skies," and with good reason. There are said to be about 250 sunny days throughout each year. The weather is bitterly cold during the winter, dropping down to -40°C in some parts. With many types of terrain — from desert to verdant mountains — the weather during the summer varies from region to region, but is generally hot. Outside of the Gobi desert, this time of year is marked with many rains in some areas, and it can become quite cool at night.

For several letters, the ISO 9 standard transliteration of Cyrillic is not widely used and there is no consensus either in Mongolia nor in Wikivoyage. Particularly, the same Cyrillic letter "?" is transliterated "h" or "kh", the letter "?" is transliterated "ô", "ö", "o" or "u", but Latin "o" is also the transliteration of the Cyrillic "?", and Latin "u" is also the transliteration of Cyrillic "?" and "?" (the latter should be transliterated "ù" according to ISO 9, but this is rarely done). So, if you can't find a name as you wrote it, try other spellings.

See also: Mongolian phrasebook


See also: Chinese Empire, Mongol Empire

The recorded history of ancient Mongolia dates back to the third century BC when the Xiongnu came to power among many other nomadic tribes. Due to illiteracy and nomadic lifestyle, little was recorded by the Xiognu of themselves; they first appear in recorded Chinese history as "Barbarians" against whom the walls were built. Those walls later became known as the Great Wall of China.

Xiognu history is controversial. Different historians attribute them to several quite different ethnic groups. Some claim Xong Nu is cognate to Hun Nu or even that these are basically the same group known as Huns centuries later in Europe, but both claims are contested.

There have been several Empires in Mongolia after the Xiognu. For example, the A Tureg Empire around 650 AD, with its capital approximately 110 km north of Har Horin (Kharkhorum). There was also the Uighur Empire, with its capital Har Bulgas (Khar Bulgas or Xar Bulgas) near Har Horin. The Khitans who controlled North China around 1000 AD as the Liao Dynasty had an administrative centre (Har Bukh) 120 km to the northeast. The Government of Turkey has been promoting some Turkish Empire monuments and there is a museum full of artifacts at the Bilge Khaan site.

The struggle for mere existence and power over other tribes kept going until the time of Genghis Khan. Chinggis Khan, as he is known in Mongolia, came to power and united the warring tribes under the Great Mongol Empire in 1206. He was proclaimed Genghis Khan (Chingis Haan), meaning ruler of all Mongol tribes. The Mongolian Empire was extended all the way to eastern Europe under Genghis Khan. His grandson, Kublai Khan, subsequently conquered much of China, to establish the Yuan Dynasty. Marco Polo travelled through much of the Mongol Empire in Kublai Khan's time. The Mongols were, however, driven back to the steppes by the Chinese Ming Dynasty under Emperor Hongwu. They were later conquered by the Manchurian-Chinese Emperors Kangxi and Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty.

An independent Mongol nation would only emerge again in 1924 but was not recognised by China until 1945, as the Chinese were forced to grant independence to Outer Mongolia by the Soviet Union, in exchange for Soviet assistance in fighting the Japanese invasion. Thus, the historic region of Mongolia was split into two, with Outer Mongolia becoming the independent nation of Mongolia, while Inner Mongolia remained a province of China. Since that time, Mongolia has had a close relationship with the Soviet Union (and Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union). Mongolia even replaced its traditional script with the Cyrillic alphabet. (The traditional script, however, continues to be used by ethnic Mongols in China). As Inner Mongolia was the more populated area before the partition, to this day the number of ethnic Mongols living in China outnumbers the population of Mongolia.

Following independence, the Soviet Union installed a communist government in Mongolia. Following the fall of communism in Europe, Mongolia enacted democratic reforms, which resulted in the first democratic multiparty elections in 1990. The democratic reforms eventually culminated with the first peaceful transfer of power in 1996, when the incumbent Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party lost the elections, and handed over to the victorious Democratic Union.

The Secret History of the Mongols is one of the great recordings of Mongolian history. Every Mongolian reads the book in the modern Mongolian language. This is one of the oldest books in the Mongolian language. There are vivid similarities with the Bible in literary style, wording and story telling. It is speculated that the author could have been a Christian or at least was very knowledgeable about the Bible. According to Hugh Kemp, Qadag is the most likely candidate for authorship of Secret History of the Mongols. He writes about the history of ancient Mongolia and connects the modern reality with the ancient world. Even though the book is about the history of Christianity in Mongolia, it paints a view of ancient Mongolia from the height of 21st century. The History of Mongolia by B. Baabar is a good source for the modern history of Mongolia.

On the trail of Marco Polo covers some travel through the Mongol Empire in the time of Genghis' grandson, Kublai Khan.


Mongolia is more than twice as big as Texas and nearly the same size as Alaska. Its area is 1.6 million square kilometres (603,000 square miles), four times the size of Japan and almost double that of Eastern Europe.

This makes Mongolia the sixth-largest country in Asia and 19th in the world, but the population is only 2,727,966 (as of Nov 2009), which makes Mongolia one of the least densely populated areas in Asia.

If you consider that 40% of the population lives in the capital city of Ulan Bator or Ulaanbaatar ("UB") that leaves lots of room for you to travel in the outback. Of course, Gobi is even less dense.

Almost another 40% of population are scattered all over Mongolia with their 56 million head of sheep, goats, cattle, horses and camels. There are 21 provinces, called aimag. Each aimag has a central city or town and about 15-22 sub-provinces called soum, so you will know which aimag and which soum you are in.

70% of Mongolia is under the age of 35. The gender ratio is close to 1:1. Ethnicity: 84% Khalkha Mongols, 6% Kazakhs and 10% other groups.

More than 50% will say they are Buddhists which is very much mixed with Shamanism, close to 10% will claim to be Christians of all forms and 4% follow Islam, the remainders will say that they are atheists. Almost all the Kazakhs and Muslims live in Bayan-Ölgii province.

Holidays and festivals

The annual Naadam festival (11–13 July) is the biggest day in many Mongols' calendars. It is when Mongolia celebrates its "three manly sports": wrestling, horse racing, and archery by either watching the festivities in Ulaanbaatar or by following them on television or radio.

Many other smaller Naadam festivals also take place in different aimags (provinces) throughout July, and these more intimate festivals may let you get much closer to the action.

The Naadam celebrations are said to have started with the rise of the Great Mongolian Empire. Chinggis (a.k.a. Genghis) Khan used them to keep his warriors strictly fit. After the fall of the empire, the contests were held during religious festivals, and since the communist revolution it was celebrated on its anniversary.

Legend has it that a woman once dressed like man and won the wrestling competition. That is why the long-sleeved wrestling costumes, called "zodog", have open chests - to show that every participant is male. Wrestlers wear short trunks, "shuudag", and Mongolian boots, "gutal". The yellow stripes on tales of wrestlers' hats will indicate the number of times the wrestler became a champion in Naadam.

Only Naadam gives official titles to the wrestlers. Mongolia wrestling tournaments have 9 or 10 rounds depending on the number of 512 or 1024 wrestlers registered for the competition that year. If the wrestler wins 5 rounds, he will be awarded title "Nachin" (bird), 6 rounds - Hartsaga (hawk), 7 rounds - Zaan (elephant), 8 rounds - Garuda (Eagle), 9 rounds - Arslan (lion) and 10 - Avarga (Titan).

In 2006, Zaan (Elephant) Sumyabazar won 9 rounds that made him Garuda but that year 1024 wrestlers had 10 rounds which he won all. This entitled him to Avarga. Or Arslan (Lion) must win 2 in a row to become Avarga (Titan). The titles are for life. If Avarga (Titan) keeps winning at Naadam more and more attributes will be added to his title.

There is no weight categories in Mongolian Wrestling tournaments but there is a time limit of 30 minutes, if the wrestlers can not overthrow each other, referees use lots for better position which often settles the match. One who falls or his body touches the ground loses the match.

Mongolia Wrestling matches are attended by seconds whose role is to assist their wrestlers in all matters and to encourage them to win by spanking on their butts. They also sing praise songs and titles to the leading wrestlers of both wings, west and east, after 5 and 7 rounds. The referees monitor the rules but the people and the fans are the final judges. They will speak and spread the word of mouth about who is who till the next year.

Smaller festivals

  • Tsagaan Sar (White moon) - starts on the Lunar New Year and is a 3 day public holiday. Its not big with tourists for the obvious reason of being during the coldest month of the year. A time when families reunite and have a large meal of sheep's tail, mutton, rice with curds, dairy products, and buuz. It is also typical to drink airag and exchange gifts.
  • Golden Eagle Festival in Ölgii on October 5th and 6th is the largest gathering in the world of eagle hunters. The event typically has 60 to 70 Kazakh eagle hunters displaying their skills. The events include having their golden eagles fly to them on command and catching a fox fur being pulled being a horse from a perch on a nearby mountain. The event also features traditional Kazakh games like Kokpar (tug-of-war over a goat carcass while on horseback), Tiyn Teru (a timed race to pick up a coin on the ground while on horseback), and Kyz Kuar ("girl chase," is a race between a man and woman where the woman whips the man while he tries to hold on). The festival also has a traditional Kazakh concert, camel race, and displays of Kazakh art. A smaller eagle festival is held on Sept 22nd in the nearby village of Sagsai.
  • Nauryz also in Ölgii is the traditional new year's celebration of Kazakhs held on 22 March. There is a parade, concert, and horse races during the several days of celebrating. Though most of the celebration involves visiting friends and relatives to eat Nauryz Koje (soup) and boiled mutton and horse meat.
  • Ice Festival is held on the frozen surface of Lake Hövsgöl outside of Mörön each February. The 2 day festival includes wrestling, reindeer sleighs and riding, ice skating, shaman rituals, folk concert, and cultural events of the Tsagaan reindeer people. You should be warned; It is very cold in Northern Mongolia in February.
  • Yak Festival on July 23rd in between Karakorum and Arvayheer. The festival celebrates the extremely hairy cow thrives in the cold Mongolian winters with a full day of Yak races, a rodeo, and other competitions. There is a market, tourist gers, and a whole temporary village set up in the middle of the steppe.

Public holidays

While most business still takes place on most holidays, it should be noted that Tsagaan Sar and Naadam tend to last much longer than the official 3 days. Work may stop for weeks in the countryside for Tsagaan Sar. Also, election days are always public holidays and dry days. Alcohol is not sold on election days or the 1st of each month nationwide.

  • New Years- January 1
  • Tsagaan Sar- January/February (3 days, depends on Lunar New Year)
  • International Women's Day- March 8
  • Soldiers' Day- March 18 (Not a day off, just lots of parades)
  • Mothers' and Childrens' Day- June 1
  • Naadam Festival- July 11–13
  • Genghis Khan's Birthday- November 14
  • Independence Day- November 26 (No longer a day off, replaced by Genghis' Birthday)

Working hours are almost always posted in 24 hours. Shops are usually open 10:00 to 21:00 or 22:00, and sometimes closed or shortened hours on Sunday or Monday. Banks usually open 08:00 or 09:00 to 17:00, though often closed for an hour for lunch. However, posted times are not always reliable, especially in the countryside. Expect shops to open at maybe 10:15 or 10:30 more often than not. Restaurants typically close around 22:00, while bars stay open until midnight or later. There are a few fast food restaurants in the capital that stay open until 03:00, but no shops open past midnight.


The ideal Mongolia travel season starts in May and hits its highest peak in July, during the Naadam holiday, and in August when the weather is most favourable for travelling. This is the best time if you like the culture and can bear the crowds of other tourists. It is not a good time if you want to get away from your busy lifestyle because you will experience traffic, busy schedules, waiting in lines, etc.

September is also a very good time to visit, and October is not too late to travel to Mongolia. It is still warm during the days but a bit chilly during the nights. In the autumn, Mongolia is not very crowded, and this is time for late-comers and last-minute, unplanned trips. You will get to sightsee, enjoy the culture, and taste mare's milk, a bitter and at first somewhat unpleasant drink, throughout the country.

For visitors not afraid of cold or fermented mare's milk, travelling to Mongolia from November till the Lunar New Year is still an option. Winter tourism is a developing area of the Mongolian tourism industry.

The most rewarding experience will be visiting the nomads, as this is the time when you will experience their culture first-hand during "Tsagaan Sar" or the traditional (Lunar) New Year celebration.

Travellers will have the opportunity to watch lots of cultural activities: singing, dancing, wrestling, and winter horse racing.

Mongolia is known to have 250-260 sunny days throughout the year, so you will need good UV protection. During winter, protect your eyes, and during summer, protect your skin.

Get in

As Mongolia is a landlocked country that shares a border with 2 other countries, Russia and China, there are only a limited number of ways to get in. You can either fly, or you can get a visa for China or Russia and take the train, a bus, or drive.

Entry requirements

There are four border crossings open to foreigners, three by the Russian border and one near the small town of Erlian on the border with China.

Foreign nationals of the following countries/territories can enter Mongolia visa-free:

Be aware that the temporary visa-excemption scheme for citizens of most European and some additional American countries in 2014-15 has ended, and that if you're not a citizen of the above countries you once again have to get a visa.

For other foreign nationals, the process for obtaining a thirty day visa is relatively painless, requiring a simple form and a small fee at your local Mongolian embassy. Longer visas are available, but require an invitation letter from a Mongolian company. These can sometimes be arranged through tour companies. Also, it is possible to acquire an expedited visa in a matter of hours at the Mongolian consulate in Erlian, though there is a steep USD50 fee for this service. A similar service is available in the Mongolian consulate in the Russian city of Irkutsk. Indian nationals are required to apply for a visa, although the visa fee is waived.

For more than 30-day tourist visa you will need an invitation letter.

The Embassy of Mongolia in the UK website is useful for updates, with the visa page offering information on visa applications at the embassy.

The Embassy of Mongolia in China website hosts the form you will need if you are applying for your Mongolian visa in China, although the consulate does have them. If you're going to stay more than 30 days, you have to get registered at the Mongolia Immigration.

By plane

Thanks to a booming mining sector, Chinggis Khaan International Airport (IATA: ULN) in Ulaanbaatar is now connected to most major airport hubs in Asia and a few in Europe. National air carrier MIAT Mongolian Airlines operates daily flights (during some peak season - twice a day) from Beijing and Seoul, twice a week flights from Hong Kong, Berlin, Moscow and Tokyo (during some peak season - from Narita). During peak summer season it increases flight frequencies and operates flights from Berlin, via Moscow, and Osaka. There are branch offices in Berlin, Moscow, Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing. Mongolia-based Hunnu Air flies 3 times a week to Bangkok, 5 flights a week to Hong Kong, and 2 a week to Shanghai.

There are almost daily flights from Seoul on Korean Air as well as other flights through Beijing, and 3 flights a week to Istanbul. It is also possible to fly to Ulaanbaatar through Tokyo's Narita Airport. Don't buy a non-refundable or unchangeable ticket if you are going to Mongolia, because flights don't always actually happen.

By train

The Trans-Mongolian Line of the legendary Trans-Siberian Railway links Mongolia's capital Ulaanbaatar with Moscow and Vladivostok, Russia and Beijing, China. With the exception of a short railway in the east linking Choibalsan with Russia, this is the only railroad in Mongolia.

There is a small water boiler at the end of each train car which dispenses free hot water, so it's a good idea to stock up on instant noodles and tea for the trip. Also, don't expect to encounter any English-speaking staff on the train or in the stations.

From Russia

The Trans-Siberian train crosses the Russia/Mongolia border at the town of Naushki, Russia. Trains start from Moscow or Irkutsk going to either Ulaanbaatar or Beijing, with several stops on both sides of the border. Between Irkutsk and the border is Ulan-Ude, Naushki, Dozornoe, and Khoit. Between the Russian border and Ulaanbaatar is Sühbaatar, Darkhan, and Zuunkharaa, with possible stops in Erdenet and Salkhit.

From China

Second class (hard sleeper) costs about USD200 (2011) from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar. The ride takes almost 30 hours, but you are given a berth in a sleeper-car. The train leaves twice per week from Beijing. Tickets cannot be purchased from the Beijing station (2011). Instead you will be directed to the China International Tour Service (CITS) office on the 2nd floor of the Beijing International Hotel (10 min walk north of the station; large, white building).

Beijing to the border

If the Beijing - Ulaanbaatar train is sold out, as seems to be common, or you need a more frequent option, you can make your way from Beijing to the border at Erlian by local train as described below, and then on to Ulaanbaatar by bus and train. As of March 2011, there are morning flights from Beijing to Erlian out of Capital Airport Terminal 1 that only cost ¥160, which is cheaper than the bus.

Trains run daily from Beijing to Jining (Inner Mongolia) or Hohhot. You can change there for a train to the border town of Erlian near the Mongolian-Chinese border. The K89 leaves Beijing in the morning and arrives at Jining in the evening. Jining has many hotels near the train station and has karaoke bars to keep you entertained while you wait. From Jining to Erlian there is a slow train that leaves in the morning, passes the great wall multiple times, and arrives in the early evening. This will take a night longer than getting the sleeper bus as described in "By Bus".

Crossing the border

Be wary of scams at the border where people in uniform will attempt to sell you "required travel insurance." There is no such thing and you can safely ignore them. You should then cross the border from Erlian in China to Zamiin-Uud in Mongolia as described in Erlian to and from Mongolia. Once you have crossed the border, you will need to get from Zamiin-Uud to Ulaanbaatar as described in Zamiin-Uud get in.

By car

Many adventurous people every year decide to drive to Mongolia, usually starting somewhere in Europe. The Mongol Rally and Mongol Charity Rally sponsor many of these people. Driving to Mongolia can be extremely challenging in many respects. Not only are there virtually no roads in the western half of Mongolia, but vehicle registration, import fees and paperwork, visas and everything has to be ready for every country along the way. For those that still wish to make the journey by car, there are 4 land border crossings with Russia and 3 with China. Though it should be noted that it is much more expensive and difficult to drive through, into, or out of China in your own car.

  • See Driving in China for issues for driving to Mongolia from China.

From Russia

The main border is in Altanbulag-Kyakhta (Sühbaatar), nearest to the capital, is open 24 hours a day. In the far west is the Tsagaannuur-Tashanta crossing in Bayan-Olgii, is open 09:00-18:00 except Sun and is the most popular with adventure drivers. Also in the west is Borshoo-Khandgait crossing between Uvs and Tuva Republic, is open 09:00-18:00, except Sat-Sun. In the east is Ereentsav-Solovyovsk crossing near Choibalsan is open everyday 09:00-18:00.

By bus

There is a paved road connecting Ulaanbaatar to the Chinese border, and one between UB and Russia.

From Russia

  • Those interested in saving money can book one way elektrichka (regional train) tickets from Irkutsk or Ulan Ude to Naushki. In Naushki, one can spend the night in the train resting rooms (komnati otdiha) for USD0.50 per hour. From there, it is possible to take a marshrutka to the land border crossing town of Kyakhta, Russia. Walking across the border is prohibited, but travellers have no problems arranging for Mongolia bound cars to take them across the border, either for a small fee or for free. Upon crossing into Mongolia it is relatively easy to hitchhike, taxi, or bus to Sühbaatar or UB, as all southbound traffic is headed towards those cities.
  • From the West, from Russia, it is possible to cross at the land border in Tsagaannuur, Bayan-Olgii. There are daily petrol and wheat-carrying Russian Kamaz trucks headed to Olgii and it is possible to hitchhike to Tsagaannuur or even Olgii. Regular buses and marshrutkas also operate from the border, though service is unpredictable due to the lack of a schedule. There is also a bus every 10 days between either Astana or Almaty, Kazakhstan and Olgii.

From China

From Beijing to Erlian by bus costs 180 Chinese yuan and takes 12 hr. Several buses depart from different bus stations in Beijing bound for Erlian:

  • Liuliqiao long-distance bus station (???????? or lìu l? qiáo kè yùn zh? sh? n?u?, phone +86 10 8383-1716, address: A1, Liuliqiao Nan Li, Fengtai District. Departure at 16:30. These are supposed to run every day, but may not. You can phone at 10:00 on the morning of departure to see if the bus is running and to reserve a place.
  • Muxiyuan long-distance bus station ( ?????????? ), phone +86 10 6726-7149, location: go to Liujiayao Metro Station and get a cab. Departs 17:00.
  • Lizeqiao long-distance bus station ( ???????? ), phone ( ???????? ) Address ??, ??????????????????? +86 10 6340-3408, address ??, ???????????????????. Location is difficult to get to. Departs 17:00.

From Hohhot by bus cost 88 Chinese yuan and takes 6-7 hr. There are several buses each day.

Once you've got to Erlian you should then follow the Crossing the border and From the border to Ulaanbaatar steps above.

Should you be travelling at a busy time (e.g., around Naadam on the 11th/12th July) and want to be sure of getting tickets for the last leg of the trip in Mongolia, you could take one of the packages from the guesthouses in Beijing. These cost around 570 yuan (July 2009). They will include a taxi to the coach station in Beijing, Beijing to Erlian by sleeper coach, a bed in the hotel in the bus station for a few hours, a bus from Erlian to Zamyn-Uud across the border, then soft sleeper overnight from Zamyn-Uud to Ulaanbaatar. Purchased separately the tickets cost about 360 yuan. The Saga guesthouse in Beijing sells these, and although they insist till they're blue in the face that the train is a hard sleeper, it's actually a soft sleeper!

By bicycle

At Zamyn-Uud you have to put you bicycle in a car. You are not allowed to cycle through the 3km wide border area. Prepare to bargain. They will start at USD100 and more. You should be able to get them down to USD20 or less. If you are lucky and get up early, you might catch a truck. They will take you for free. Usually you have better chances with Mongol drivers, if you want to cross into Mongolia.

At Altanbulag you also have to put the bicycle in a car, but prices are reasonable and usually fixed. Enjoy watching your driver smuggle goods in or out of Mongolia.

By thumb or foot

The road stops at the border town of Zamyn-Uud and gives way to an open desert, with tracks going in various directions but generally heading north toward the capital city. Hitchhiking in Mongolia is not easy and a little bit of money for the driver is expected. There is an average of one car every hour heading into the desert. Rules at the border require that you ride a bus or car across the border, no walking across. However, they do not care how you get there or where you go afterwards.

Get around

If you plan to travel around the countryside without a guide, take a GPS and get some maps. The "Mongolia Road Atlas" is available in many book stores, it is over 60 pages and covers the whole country: note there is a Latin character version and Cyrillic character version, in the countryside most people won't understand the Latin version. More detailed maps are available at the Mongolian Government Map Store. These maps are 1:500,000. Also some other special purpose maps and a very good map of downtown Ulaanbaatar. The map store is on Ih Toiruu St. Go west from the State Department store on the main street, called Peace, Peace and Friendship, or Ekhtavan Ave, two blocks to the large intersection with traffic lights, Turn right (North) and the map store is about half way along the block. There is an Elba electronic appliance store set back from the street, a yellow and blue building, the next building is a large Russian style office building 4 floors in height, the map store entrance is on the west side, toward the south end of the building, it lines up with the North wall of the Elba building.

Whichever method of long-distance travel is chosen, keep in mind that everything in Mongolia has a tendency to break down. Don't be shocked if part of the suspension breaks and the driver jimmy-rigs a carved wooden block in the place of a mount. For more serious breakdowns, it can easily take an entire day or longer for somebody to come along and help, so leave plenty of slack in itineraries. Finally, Mongolians are rather notorious for being late. A bus that is scheduled to leave at 08:00 will probably not be out of the city until almost eleven.

By plane

The easiest way to travel long distance is using one of the domestic airlines; AeroMongolia or Hunnu Air. Almost all flights are between Ulaanbaatar and the Aimag centers. Except for mines in the south Govi and Choibalsan, which use B-737s, most flights use turboprop regional planes like the Fokker-50. AeroMongolia uses a two-tier price structure, with the costs for foreigners being significantly higher than for locals, while Hunnu has only one price. Other than price, there isn't much difference between the airlines. Air travel agents, guest houses, and hotels can help you to obtain your domestic air ticket in Mongolia.

  • AeroMongolia (1st floor, Monnis tower, Ulaanbaatar), ? +976 11 330373 (Ulaanbaatar), e-mail: reservation@aeromongolia.mn. M-F 09:00-18:00; Sa 10:00-18:00. It is generally cheaper, but uses older planes. Charges foreigners double the local rate.
  • Hunnu Air (Chinggis avenue 10-1, Sukhbaatar district, Ulaanbaatar), ? +976 7000 1111 (Ulaanbaatar), e-mail: info@hunnuair.com. Formerly Mongolian Airlines.

By train

There is only one railway company in Mongolia, owned by the Russian and Mongolian governments, "Mongolian Railway". It is probably the best way to experience something of the communist time, even if it has evolved a bit since then. Ulaanbaatar railway agents more often consider the passenger as a potential rule breaker than as a client. The railway network is poor, consisting mainly in the Irkutsk-Ulaanbaatar-Beijing Trans-Mongolian way with a few extensions. Trains are extremely slow. They usually leave on time, and arrive on time or less than 20 min late. Intercity bus routes on the roughly parallel paved roads will get you there much faster.

The local trains stop at many small stations in the countryside. For example, there is the small town of Batsumber, located about 34 km north of Ulaanbaatar (as the crow flies) longer on the train. Take your camping gear and hike to the mountains about 10 km east of the town. There are two streams flowing west out of the mountains, hike and camp along the streams. There is a small restaurant, and food shops in the town.

Train tickets

It's possible to pay your train ticket by credit card. For online booking of train tickets you can contact to Train To Mongolia. You pay an extra fee if you book in advance, and also an extra fee if you buy it in the train, which is the only possibility left if there are less than 10 min left before the train departure. Your passport is required to buy a ticket, but you can buy several people's tickets with one passport.

There are 3 classes: "coupé", "sleeping", "public" (translated into English by "economic" by the company). "Coupé" is the only one with doors. In "public" it's possible you have to spend your night sitting and even with little space on crowded days. The tickets are numbered, but, when the seats are exhausted, the company overbooks public seats with tickets numbered "0", at the same price.

The "public" seats tickets are much cheaper (and much slower) than the coach, minivan and taxi competitors. The schedules are on the company website. In a coupé at night, you'll be charged for compulsory additional bed sheets inside the train.

Inside a train

You will be proposed drinks and Mongolian food inside the train, both by official sellers of the company and, at the big stations with long stops, from private people getting in the train for that purpose. There are many conductors. Don't expect them to speak anything else than Mongolian and, possibly, Russian. Be careful of your belongings: thefts are not rare. But there are policemen in each train. On a long trip, your ticket will be checked again and again, and you'll be woken up in the middle of the night for that.

Nobody will wake you if you have to get off during the trip, but if you get off at the terminus, you'll be woken up, even more than one hour before arrival, depending on the agent. The train toilets close 30 min before the terminus, and sometimes even before that.

By bus

Travelling by local bus is also an option, though these buses tend only to connect the provincial capital with UB, and it is quite difficult to find any public transportation linking one provincial capital with another. Lately the Bus situation is much better. Most cities and towns are referred to in two ways, their name or the name of the Aimag (province) or Soum (county), e.g. Dornod or Dornod Aimag or Choybalsan (the actual city name). Most buses have their destination on a card in the front window. If you have either name written down in Mongolian Cyrillic, you can just show to the drivers or helpers and they will get you on the right bus.

There are two types of buses, micro vans and large buses (some large buses are old Russian types and some are modern western type), depending on the road. The large buses run on schedule, but the micro-buses are much more lax. In Ulaanbaatar, there are two bus stations, one on the west near the Dragon Shopping Center and one on the East near the Botanical Gardens. Both stations are on Peace Avenue on either side of the city. Multiple buses run between them. Get local to write directions. For the large buses buy your tickets the day before.

In the Aimag centers, there will be service to Ulaanbaatar and to local soums (small county seats) and usually the next Aimag Center. However, all locations may not be available at one location. Ask for help from the locals. For example, In Ondorkhaan, the capital of Khentii Province, there is bus service between Ondorkhaan and UB from a central bus station, however the through buses going to/from UB to Dornad and Sukhbaatar Aimags (Choybalsan and Baruun-Urt) will stop at a gas station on the North side of the city.

Bus tickets

You purchase your ticket at the station, not in the coach. Don't expect any cashier, driver or conductor to speak anything but Mongolian and, possibly, Russian. It's not possible to pay by credit card. Your passport is required to buy a ticket. If you have a luggage exceeding the standard (written in your ticket) in weight or size, you'll be asked for an extra fee by the conductor. You can negotiate this one.

Inside a bus

On some destinations, the driver and the conductor illegally add extra passengers and get the money for themselves. They might even try to make 3 people sit on 2 seats, for instance: you can protest in such a case. Your ticket gives you the right to a full seat and this is what you get in most coaches. The coach will usually stop for a rather quick lunch or dinner at a local snack or canteen.

By minivan

Public countryside taxis and minivans, often called purgon or mekr, offer more destinations than coaches and many more than train, especially between provinces. They are more dangerous than coaches and trains, and always overloaded. Most drivers don't respect the traffic rules. Countryside taxis and minivans leave when full. They always say they will go "now" ("odo") but it's rarely true and you can wait hours before they really go. See how many people are already sitting inside the vehicle to have an idea of how long you'll wait. Drivers also usually promise to pick up additional passengers and cargo before leaving town.

By chartered jeep

It is also possible to charter a Jeep and driver for private use. Prices are typically negotiated by the kilometer. While far more expensive than sharing a ride with the locals, this means of transport is considerably more convenient and allows you to visit more remote sites. It can also be quite convenient to hire a guide to use during the length of your stay. Doing so can allow you to travel without worrying about taxi drivers wanting to overcharge up to 10X just for being a foreigner.

By car

Road accidents are frequent. The bigger the vehicle is, the safer it is. Outside of the capital, there are few paved roads.

By taxi

In the cities, taxis should charge about 700 ? per km. The drivers will set their trip meter and charge accordingly.

By horse

For local travel, horse-back is a good option. Mongolians ride on wooden saddles, so if you value your buttocks it's probably a good idea to pick up a leather, Russian saddle in UB.

By foot

Another great alternative is to simply walk. Since camping is possible anywhere, resting is never a problem. Wherever there is water there are nomads, and if you stick to the major dirt-roads you will encounter plenty of guanz, who can provide huge cheap meals to keep you going. Adopting the Mongolian style of sleeping outdoors is also an option - wrap yourself in wool blankets and then cover yourself with a Russian raincoat (essentially a tarp in the form of a trench coat), and simply plop yourself down on the ground. One night sleeping this way gives a whole new appreciation for the wonders of sleeping bags and bivvy sacks/tents.


See also: Mongolian phrasebook

The official language of Mongolia is Mongolian, and with the exception of the westernmost province where Kazakh is spoken, everybody in the country speaks it as their first language. The language is extremely difficult for Westerners to learn and speak, even after multiple months of being immersed in the culture. Westerners typically take a minimum of 9-18 months of full-time Mongolian language study to be conversant. Most locals will appreciate attempts to speak phrases in Mongolian, although the traveller will inevitably pronounce them wrong. Picking up a phrasebook and practising a few phrases will help. The numbering system is regular, and fairly easy to learn.

Due to Mongolia's long history of alliance with the Soviet Union, and Russia after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russian is a compulsory second language in all schools, and is the most widely spoken foreign language in Mongolia. Travellers who speak Russian should not have a problem getting by in urban areas. English is not widely spoken, though it has been becoming more popular among the younger generation, many of whom learn it in school as a third language, and can be seen in signs all over the capital. That said, it is next to impossible to travel outside of Ulaanbaatar without a guide unless you speak Mongolian or Russian.


Mongolia is a big country that has been beyond the reach of travellers and the normal trappings of civilization until very recently. Even today it can be difficult to travel between the few places that 'exist'. There is not a whole lot of noteworthy architecture in the country. Except for the short-lived capital of the Mongol Empire at Karakorum, the descendents of Genghis Khan did not leave much evidence of their power inside their native homeland. Genghis Khan, who leveled cities from the Yellow Sea to the Caspian, was said to have only built one permanent building during his life, a warehouse to store his stupendous amount of loot.


Though this structure no longer exists, the capital built by his son, Ogedei, does, as does countless artifacts that occupy the National Museum in Ulaanbaatar, and thousands stone monuments and drawings spread throughout the country, some dating back thousands of years. After the gradual disintegration of the Mongol Empire, large number of Tibetan Buddhist monasteries were built, providing the most visible signs of Mongolia's history. Today only a few still stand after Stalinist religious purges. Of particular note is the Amarbaysgalant Monastery in Selenge, the Erdene Zuu Monastery in Karakorum, and Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar, all active religious sites with large number of resident lamas. More recently during the communist era, the Russian helped establish large modern cities and modern industries, which aren't very pretty, but are of some interest, particularly the biggest open-pit copper mine in Asia at Erdenet.


Before the religious purges, Mongolia had around 750 monasteries and was a theocracy. Many were destroyed, while some were turned into museums by the communist to display Mongolian art or the opulence of the former religious leaders. Today the Choijin Lama Monastery and the Bogd Khan Winter Palace are preserved as museums for the art of the Lamas and the toys of the former king. Other ancient monasteries are slowing reopening and recovering like the Amarbaysalant in Selenge Province or the Gandan Monastery in Ulaanbaatar. Most monasteries today are small newly built temples in towns that didn't even exist before the purges.


Besides the monastery museums, Ulaanbaatar hosts several interesting and noteworthy museums to see before going off to the countryside. The best one by far is the National Museum of Mongolia with large collections of artifacts from the Mongol Empire through the Democratic Revolution of 1990. Several other good art museums and lesser history and nature museums also exist in the city if you will be there for an extended time. Outside of the capital, every provincial center also has a small museum usually built by the communist and mostly not updated since they left. These museums are cheap and do have useful displays on local cultures and history.


One thing that does look much the same as it always has is the unspoiled nature of Mongolia. Due to its very low population density, the lowest in the world, it is possible to travel days with only seeing the occasional nomadic herder interrupting endless rolling steppes, the vast Gobi desert, or the snow capped Altai Mountains. Up north, Siberian forests surround the 2nd largest freshwater lake in Asia by volume, Hôvsgôl (or "Hövsgöl") lake, in Hövsgöl province, which is very beautiful. The Flaming Cliffs near Dalanzadgad are stunning just to see, but also contain some of the earliest and most important dinosaur discoveries.


The most memorable part of any trip to Mongolia, regardless of what drew you here, will certainly be the people. Mongolians are incredibly hospitable to guests. No trip here is complete without having dinner or staying the night with nomadic herders. Around a third of the population still earns a living as semi-nomadic herders living in gers (yurts) on the open steppe. While their diets are not very diverse, consisting of meat, flour, and dairy, they will seek to serve guests a feast of boiled or fried meat and hot milky tea, with traditional entertainments of music, singing, and maybe dance. There is some variation depending on which tribe or region, with Kazakhs near Ölgii being the most different with different language, diet, and dress, including the practice of eagle hunting. While the Tuvans have a beautiful, eerie singing style of Throat singing, and the Tsaatan people live isolated lives herding reindeer near Lake Hövsgöl. Then there are the Lama Monks that are increasingly common in monasteries and elsewhere, and the Shaman priests, who practice the ancient animist religions of worshiping nature and the earth, and are widely respected in Mongolia.


Experience the culture, have a meal or spend the night with a nomadic family. They are an authentic Mongolian experience. Whether you go just outside of the capital or fly to the far corners of the country, this is the most memorable part of any trip. There are some variations on the experience, depending on the tribal group.

The Trans-Siberian Railway passes through the country. Also follow the path of Marco Polo across Europe and Asia into Mongolia to visit the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire in Karakorum.

Mongolia is the least densely populated country in the world and has very little development of any kind outside of the capital and a few small towns. There often isn't even roads connecting these towns. This pristine setting means that Mongolia has wide open spaces for experiencing the outdoors for those who want adventure. Traveling across this vast country is often an adventure in itself with tourists and adventures alike going by car, motorcycle, bike, horse, camel, or foot. Most often this means camping on the shore of a river or with a nomadic family or in small roadside hotels in provincial towns. Along the way or on one of the many wild rivers and nature preserves, there is great fishing, particularly fly fishing during the summer. Climbing the mountains in the west are popular as well as photographing the wildlife, flora, or the multitude of birds living or migrating through Mongolia.

  • Mongolia Canoeing, ? +976 99826883. River Tours, Canoe down some of Mongolia's major rivers
  • Visit Reindeer Herders (Tsaatan Community), Tsagaannuup, Khovsgol (West of Khovsgol lake, From Moron drive WNW, Past the Airport, Go to Ylaan Uul and continue north. High water can make the roads difficult.). Reindeer herders living in High Alpine mountains. Must ride horses or reindeer from Tsagaanuur. It can be a long hard ride.
  • Local Bonda Lake Camp in Khatgal village near Lake Khovsgol offers various nature and cultural featuring: fishing, hiking, winter tours, nomad visits, horse back riding, visiting reindeer herders and Darhad valley. Horse riding, you have chance discover Lake Khovsgol and its beautiful waters, meet Tsataan (nomadic reindeer herders) living in yurts in the north of Khovsgol area. This region is incredibly scenic, perched at 1645 m altitude in green mountains, covered with thick pine forests and lush meadows with grazing yaks and horses, and rich with wildlife: the lake has 9 species of fish and its surroundings are full of sheep, goats, elk and more than 430 species of birds. There are 5 Mongolian tribes nearby: Khalh, Darhad, Buriad, Hotgoid, & Urianhai. The Camp has a hot shower, sauna, internet and a restaurant with Mongolian and European meals.
  • Mountain Climbing, All over Mongolia. Best to climb the highest peaks in July and August. While much of the country is rolling steppe, there are several mountain ranges. The Altai Mountains in the west have several peaks of over 13,000 ft (4,000 m) up to 14,201 ft (4,328 m) inside Altai Tavan Bogd National Park. The highest mountains have snow-capped peaks, glaciers, and require special equipment and experienced guides. Smaller mountains throughout the country can be hiked in an afternoon, including many surround the capital of Ulaanbaatar.

Winter activities

  • Join Kazakh eagle hunters on a hunt, In Western Mongolia. During the cold winter months, the Kazakhs in western Mongolia use eagles to hunt for foxes and hares, which are easier to see against the snow. Freezing temperatures and long days on Mongolian horses discourage most people from attempting this adventure. For those that do, seeing an eagle released from a man's forearm swoop down and kill a fox a mile away is a truly unforgettable experience.
  • Skiing, Outside Ulaanbaatar and Western Mongolia. Snows from October to early May. There is one ski resort outside of Ulaanbaatar with a ski lift, equipment rentals, instructors, and all the other features of a ski resort. The lift may be slow, and the runs a bit hard, but it does provide good entertainment for those visiting UB during the long, cold winter months. For those more adventurous types, Western Mongolia's several large mountain ranges provide great back-country skiing. Spring months of April and May get the most snow and make the best skiing. Plan on joining a tour or lugging all your own equipment. There aren't any ski shops in the nearby villages.



The Mongolian currency is the tögrög or tugrik or tôgrôg or tugrug or togrog denoted by the sign "?" (Mongol: ??????) (ISO international currency code: MNT). You may also see the notation "tg" or "T".

Banknote denominations in circulation are 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 ?.


In Mongolia tipping is rarely ever expected except in tourism related services like tour guides. Waiters, taxis, and hotel attendants do not expect tips. Sometimes taxis will attempt to overcharge you by refusing to give change back, but this has nothing to do with gratuity. Some nicer restaurants and hotels in the capital do often add fees to the bill for service, especially for larger groups.


  • Mongolian cashmere is known as the best in the world, so consider buying garments and blankets from one of the many stores that sell cashmere products.
  • Mongolia is famous for its copper mines Erdenet and Oyu Tolgoi. A copper bookmark might make an ideal souvenir and you can easily find this USD1 metal souvenir in Ulaanbaatar souvenir shops.
  • Kazakh Embroideries made in Ölgii using traditional Kazakh designs are sold in many gift shops in Ulaanbaatar.
  • Paintings by local artists are excellent buys in Mongolia.
  • You can find felt poker-work in Erdenet.
  • It is illegal to take antiques out of the country without a special permit.
  • The huge open-air market, Narantuul ("The Black Market") in Ulaanbaatar offers the lowest prices on just about anything you could want. Be very careful of the many pickpockets and even attackers there. This can be a great place to get a good pair of riding boots. You can opt for a variety of Mongolian styles, from fancy to the more practical, or even get a good set of Russian style boots.
  • In Erdenet is an ISO 9 001 certified carpet factory, making and selling also slippers made in carpet.


The main diet in rural Mongolia is mutton or sheep. Beef might also hit the menu occasionally. Here, about 2,000-4,000 ? will buy you a large platter heaped with fried noodles and slivers of mutton. On the side will be a large bottle of ketchup. A tasty and greasy dish served is khuushuur (huushoor), which is a fried dumpling stuffed with bits of mutton and onion. Three to four make a typical meal. Also, the ubiquitous buuz (booz) can be had at any canteen in town or the countryside. Buuz are similar to khuushuur in that they are big dumplings stuffed with mutton and onion, however they are steemed rather than fried. About 6 buuz cost 1,200-2,000 ?, and serves one.

The boodog or goat/marmot barbecue, is particularly worth experiencing. For about 15,000-20,000 ?, a nomad will head out with his gun, shoot a marmot, and then cook it for you using hot stones in its skin without a pot. Along the same lines as boodog is khorkhog (made of mutton), which is prepared like so: build a fire; toss stones into fire until red hot; place water, hot stones, onions, potatoes, carrots, and, finally, mutton chops, into a large vacuum-sealed kettle; let the kettle simmer over a fire for 30-60 minutes; open kettle carefully, as the top will inevitably explode, sending hot juices flying everywhere; once the kettle is opened, and all injuries have been tended to, eat contents of kettle, including the salty broth. This cooking method makes mutton taste tender and juicy, like slow-roasted turkey. Ask your guide if he or she can arrange one (but only during summer).

The boodog is also made of other meat, usually goat, and is similar to the khorhog with one major difference: the meat, vegetables, water and stones are cooked inside the skin of the animal. They skin it very carefully, and then tie off the holes at the legs and back side, put the food and hot stones inside, tie off the throat, and let it cook for about 30 minutes.


The national drink is called Airag. (It is available in for example in traditional Mongolian "ger" tents in Ulan Bator at the main entrance of Gandantegchinlen Monastery, GPS decimal coordinates N47.92069 E106.89467 for 1,500 ? and a the West Market N47.91118 E106.83569 for 1000 ? per bowl as of September 2010) This is a summer seasonal drink made from fermented mare's milk, and is certainly an acquired taste. The alcohol content is less than that of beer, but can have noticeable effects. Be careful, if you aren't accustomed to drinking sour milk products the first time might give you diarrhea as your stomach gets accustomed to it. This should only happen the first time though. Once you've completed the ritual, your digestive system shouldn't complain again. There are numerous ways to describe the taste, from bile-like to a mixture of lemonade and sour cream. The texture can also be offsetting to some people since it can be slightly gritty. It is worth keeping in mind that Airag is milk and a source of nutrients. After a day of riding it can actually be quite refreshing, once acquiring a taste for it.

The first thing you will be served every time you visit a ger will be milk tea, which is essentially a cup of boiled milk and water, sometimes with a couple pieces of tea leaf thrown in for good measure. You might want to build up your tolerance by drinking lots of milk in preparation for your stay because they don't drink much else, except perhaps boiled water if you specially request it during a longer stay. Also, most traditional nomadic foods such as dried yogurt and the like require acclimatization to milk as well. Cold drinks don't actually exist in the countryside (unless you intend to drink straight out of a river, generally not recommended).

If you are in Mongolia especially in the country side try their National Home Made Vodka. It's usually made from distilled yogurt or milk. It doesn't have any weird taste. After you have your first shot of the vodka you won't feel anything, but few minutes later it will get to your head. Most people in Mongolia usually drink this for medical reasons. First you heat up the vodka then put in a little bit of special oil which is also made from milk. Careful don't overheat it, you might get blind. Mongolians call their national vodka nermel areehk ("distilled vodka") or changa yum ("tight stuff"). There are lots of Russian type Vodkas sold all over the country. The best ones are Chinggis Khaan vodka, Soyombo and Golden Chinggis.

In Ulaanbaataar you can find most of Western beers, from Miller to Heineken. They sell Budweiser -- not American Bud but the Czech Budweiser. Local beer, such as Chingiss, Gem Grand, Borgio or Sengur is fine.


Some western-style accommodation is available in Ulaanbaatar, but it goes for western prices. There are a few nice guest houses in UB for less than USD10 per night (even as cheap as 3,000 ? if you're willing to share a room), but they are crowded during the tourist season and hard to get into.

Out in the countryside, most of the hotels are rundown leftovers from the Soviet era. A better option is tourist ger, set up by various entrepreneurial locals. Staying at one of these costs about ?5000 per person per night. They often include breakfast and dinner as well. When staying in one of these guest ger, the usual gift-giving customs can be skipped.

Finally, there are also ger-camps. Set up by tour-companies, they do occasionally rent out space to independent travellers. Unfortunately, they tend to be both expensive (USD35 per person per night with 3 meals) and out of the way. If you would like to stay at ger camp use the online booking portal Mongolian Ger Camps Network

Except for the cities and larger towns, all of the land is publicly owned. This means you can pitch a tent pretty much anywhere. Courtesy dictates that you keep your distance from existing nomad encampments. Common-sense dictates that you don't pitch a tent in the middle of or too close to a road.

In Mongolia, nowadays there are more 300 hotels and these are graded between 1 to 5 stars in the international standards Hotels holding 3 stars or more are for tourist service. 3 – 5 star holders must obtain special permission in order to operate. “Accommodation grading committee” consisting of the Ministry, travel industry associations and tourism researchers categorize an accommodation according to Mongolian standards.


There are some language schools in the capital. The two most well known ones to foreigners are Bridge School and Friends School. Both schools offer group study classes or individual tutors. Also, the National University of Mongolia offers courses.

It usually takes Westerners about 9 to 18 months before they acquire good conversational abilities in Mongolian. Speakers of Altai-Turkic languages, such as Turks or Kazakhs, tend to pick it up quicker due to the similarities in grammatical structure.


There is a huge demand for "native" English speakers as English teachers. Anyone who is interested in teaching English will have no trouble getting employment and a work visa through a school or organization. However, the pay is generally low compared to other countries. Though it'll usually be just enough for room and board plus a little extra.

Local English-language media are another source of employment for native English speakers, offering work as editors, proof-readers or photojournalists.

Volunteer work is available teaching English, assisting with charity work and joining archaeological digs. These jobs are easy to find and are very rewarding.

Stay safe

Apart from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is generally a safe place to travel. However, incidents of pickpocketing and bag slashing have been on the rise, so always keep your personal belongings in a safe place (money belts are highly recommended), especially in crowded areas or in places where your attention is diverted, such as internet cafes. Notorious places for theft are the Black Market (bazaar), the railway station and crowded bus stops.

Violent crime is uncommon outside the capital city, but still caution is required at night, and dark or deserted alleys and streets, in particular, should be avoided.

Corruption is a huge problem in Mongolia, and locals are convinced that the police are not to be trusted.

There are small bands of Mongolian ultra-nationalist thugs that style themselves as neo-Nazis and have assaulted foreigners including whites, blacks, and particularly Chinese. They are especially provoked by foreigner interaction with Mongolian women. They are mostly found in the capital, especially in the cheaper bars and night clubs.

Lone or female travelers obviously need to exercise a higher degree of awareness of their surroundings as getting groped in the chest or behind regions is not uncommon. Some actions like dancing close to a man will be seen as an open invitation as Mongolians generally don't dance this way.

Dogs in Mongolia can be aggressive and may run in packs. It is a good idea to be wary of them since they are not likely to be as tame as domestic dogs elsewhere. Most fenced yards and gers have a guard dog that is usually all bark and no bite, though it is advised to make it aware of you as to not surprise it, and carry a rock in case it does charge you.

Manhole covers — or more properly, the lack of such covers — is a surprisingly common cause of injuries among foreigners and (especially drunk) tourists. In smaller cities and outlying areas of the capital, there are a large number of missing or poorly placed covers. It is a good idea to avoid stepping on any manhole and always pay attention to where you walk.

Stay healthy

  • Mongolia has the worst air pollution in the world, with an annual average of 279 micrograms of "PM10" particles per cubic metre. If you are an asthma patient, or suffer from any other respiratory diseases, it is best for you not to come. Appropriate medical attention may not be easy to get.
  • Nomads' dogs may have rabies. As a precaution, consider having a rabies shot before coming.
  • Marmots should not be eaten at certain times of the year because they can carry bubonic plague. That said, the disease is carried by the marmot's fleas so the afflicted tend to be fur traders, and marmot is not a mainstream dish even in Mongolia.
  • Hepatitis and tuberculosis are common throughout Mongolia.


Mongols traditionally live on the steppes, breeding horses, just like their ancestor Chinggis Khan. Not surprisingly, following Western pleasantries will not have the intended effect in Mongolia. That being said, there are still a few rules to follow. Always receive items with the right hand, palm facing up. Drink from the right hand with the palm up as well. It is very rude to refuse a gift. If offered a plate of hospitality munchies, take at least a small nibble from something. You should never point at anyone with your index finger since it implies disrespect.

Whenever you approach a nomadic family, or enter a ger, you will, without knowing, break one or several of the many traditional, religious and superstitious customs. If you do become confused, don't panic, minor indiscretions will be tolerated and forgiven. The following do's and don'ts will help minimize cultural differences.


  • Say hello (sain bainuu) when you arrive (but repeating it again when you see the same person is considered strange to Mongolians)
  • Take at least a sip, or a nibble, of the delicacies offered
  • Pick up everything with an open hand, with your palm facing upwards
  • Hold a cup by the bottom, and not by the top rim
  • If by accident you tap someones foot with yours, immediately shake hands with them (failing to do so will be seen as an insult).


  • Lean against a support column
  • Whistle inside a ger
  • Stand on, or lean over, the threshold
  • Stamp out a fire, or put water or any rubbish on it (fire is sacred to Mongolians)
  • Walk in front of an older person; or turn your back to the altar, or religious objects (except when leaving)
  • Take food from a communal plate with your left hand
  • Touch other people's hats
  • Have a long conversation in your own language in front of your hosts


There are plenty of Internet cafés and nicer restaurants with Wi-Fi in the capital. The postal service is slow and most people have a PO Box if they want to get anything. It is possible to buy phone cards that can be used to call abroad very cheaply from domestic phones, but not all phones can do this. (You can ask for MiCom or MobiCom cards). In the countryside, cell phone carriers cover random villages. Between Mobicom, Unitel, and GMobile, all village or Soum Centers are covered. Internet cafés are plentiful in Aimag Centers (Province Capitals) now, with all Aimag Post Offices having one, plus many smaller cafés. There is internet in some Soums (villages), but this is rare, slow, and prone to frequent outages.

To make local calls in Ulaanbaatar use a phone of one of the many entrepreneurs with cellular telephones on the street corners. Expect to pay 150-200 ? per minute (June 2009 prices).

Go next

To China

From Ulaanbaatar there are several options.

Firstly, the International train. Tickets at the international ticket office located across the street from the train station. The ticket office is on the second floor in the VIP lounge.

The second option is to get on the Hohhot international train and transfer at Erlian or Jining (Inner Mongolia), see the travel agency located on the 1st (ground) floor of the International ticket office for details.

The third option is to take the daily train to Zamiin-Uud, Mongolia at the border and take a bus or jeep to China. You can then go to the bus or train station in Erlian, China.

To Russia

There are buses and trains to Ulan Ude, from where you can explore the region around Lake Baikal or go along the Trans-Siberian Railway in either direction.

Hear about travel to the Silk Road in China's Gansu Province as the Amateur Traveler talks again to Lee Moore from Silk Road Hitchhikers about his trip to this historic and remote part of China.

Kate in Senggigi

What does budget travel mean to you?

For some of my friends, it means downgrading to a three-star hotel instead of a luxury property. For others, it’s giving up their private rooms for hostel dorms.

Budget travel is unique to everyone. The broadest definition of budget travel is being financially conscious during your travels.

I asked my Facebook fans a question: how low-budget would you go? Hostel dorms? Couchsurfing? Never eating in a restaurant, ever? They had a lot of great answers and I’ve included them throughout this post.

Leon Nicaragua

Extreme Budget Travel

I define extreme budget travel — or what I like to call traveling “on the hobo” — as traveling while spending the least amount of money possible.

“I had some Couchsurfers come stay with me that are doing a long term trip with a $0 budget for accommodation. If they can’t find CS hosts they camp. One was sleeping in temples in Myanmar. He said his average is $5/day but oftentimes only spends $3. They also only hitchhike everywhere.” –Nathan

Accommodation? Free only. Couchsurfing or camping in their own tent or van. Possibly sleeping in churches, temples or mosques. Free lodging via working gigs. Hostel dorms if there’s no other option.

Transportation? Free or very cheap only. Hitchhiking or traveling in their own vehicle. If anything, an occasional bus ride or public transit.

Food? Cheap only. Supermarket fare or cheap street food. No restaurants, ever. Maybe an occasional takeaway kebab.

Attractions? Free only. In cities, walking around and taking photos, enjoying free museums and attractions. In the countryside, hiking and exploring. Forget about paying for a ticket.

How to get by? Working from time to time. WWOOFing, Workaway gigs, working in hostels or bars, busking, random gigs along the way.

And while there are occasional exceptions, the above is largely how extreme budget travelers spend their time on the road.

Here are some examples:

We Visited Over 50 Countries In Our Van Spending Just $8 Per Day

This is How a Guy Traveled Through Southeast Asia On Just $10 Per Day

I just came back from a 5-months travel. I’ve done hitch-hiked over 15 000km, and have been living as a homeless for pretty much 4 months.

Amman Skyline

The Pros of Extreme Budget Travel

Travel longer. See more. The less you spend, the more time you have to see everything the world has to offer. The price you would pay for a midrange two-week trip could grow into a multi-month extravaganza when traveling on the hobo.

Enjoying the same sights at a fraction of the price. Nobody charges you to walk through the piazzas of Florence, nor do you pay anything to enjoy the white sand beaches of Boracay. It feels awesome to look around and know that you paid far less than everyone else!

Expensive destinations aren’t off-limits. One thing I noticed was that extreme budget travelers don’t shy away from expensive countries. You find just as many extreme budget travelers in Norway and Australia as you do in Laos and India.

“Curiously enough it’s easier to spend less in expensive countries. It’s easier to say no to a $25 hotel room and camp, than to say no to a $5 hotel room and camp. In Europe I’d go camping and couchsurfing all the time out of necessity, but here in Asia I’d happily pay for accommodation, because it’s cheaper. But of course that adds up and in the end I pay more. I remember spending 6 months in the US and Canada and I spend $0 on accommodation. :D” –Meph248 on Reddit

Having more local experience. You’ll get to know locals more intimately, whether it means couchsurfing in locals’ homes, working with locals, hitchhiking with locals, or shopping at the local markets. Plenty of travelers will pass through the same town without having a conversation with someone who wasn’t a waiter or hostel employee.

The time of your life — on very little cash. You’ll have great stories to tell your kids someday!

“I did $5 a day while touring the Balkans for a month. I managed! -Free lodging and food by volunteering at a hostel (even had my own room at the top floor) -Free private beach access through a guy I was seeing -Free drinks every night at the bar across the street because the owner swore I was Serena Williams

That about covers all bases! Lol” –Gloria, The Blog Abroad

The possibility of extending your trip indefinitely. If you pick up enough paid gigs in between, you can keep on traveling forever. This especially works well if you pick up gigs, either officially or under the table, in high-paying countries like Australia.

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro

The Pitfalls of Extreme Budget Travel

Reduced safety. If you don’t have funds allocated for accommodation or private transportation, what happens when none of the Couchsurfing hosts in town appeal to you? What happens if your bus is delayed, you show up in Tegucigalpa late at night, and you can’t afford a cab to your accommodation?

Not having money for instances like these sacrifices your safety.

“I would never want to absolutely rely on couchsurfing for the whole of my trip. I couchsurf where I can but when I can’t find a decent host I book a hostel. I think when you get too desperate to couchsurf you end up pushing the safety limit a bit and staying with dubious people.” –Britt, Adventure Lies in Front

Just how bad can the result be? Read this heartbreaking post by Trish on Free Candie.

Missing cool activities and social events. You meet a cool group of fellow travelers and they’re all going whitewater rafting. They want you to join — but you can’t do that. And sure, you can walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge if the $300 Bridgeclimb is out of your price range, but would you go to Leon, Nicaragua, and skip $30 volcano boarding? What about a $5 wine tasting in a Tuscan town? And even if it’s just a $4 hostel shuttle to the beach, which all your friends from the hostel are taking, you’re stuck on the much longer 25-cent local bus.

Less exposure to local cuisine. Yes, there’s fresh produce and markets and supermarkets can be their own adventure, but if you’re making pasta in the hostel every night, you’re missing out on one of the best parts of traveling — the food.

“As a student in EU having a long-term schengen visa on a third-world passport, I think I have hit the bottom after sleeping at airports, night buses, railway stations, common areas of hostels. taking pictures of food in local markets and then coming back to cook pasta in hostel kitchen :-(” –Anshul

No backup savings. In the event of an emergency — say, you need to fly home for the funeral of a dear friend — you don’t have the cash to do so. Most of the time, travel insurance will only reimburse you if it’s a member of your immediate family.

Isolation and discomfort. If you’re not comfortable in your accommodation, you have fewer options and may be far from the city center or tourist zone. If you’re limited with money, you can’t just pick up and leave — you might need to stick it out for at least a night.

“Ive couchsurfed once and they tried to convert me to their religion so i just left.” –Christipede

No alone time. If you’re a natural extrovert, this probably won’t be an issue, but traveling on the hobo requires you to socialize with lots of people on a daily basis, especially if you’re couchsurfing. If you’re an introvert, you’ll have difficulties carving out alone time to relax your mind. (Camping solo is one way around this, however.)

Mooching off others. Conversely, depending on others day after day can wear away at you. Sure, you can help cook and clean, or play music, and you know you’ll pay it back to other travelers someday, but you might get uncomfortable having strangers host and feed you for free on a regular basis.

“It’s funny. I’m open to going extremely low budget. As long as I can be self-reliant about it. Meaning I’d rather sleep (legally or semi-legally) on an abandoned beach or in a corner of a park than ask for someone’s couch. This is strange, I know, since the spirit of travel is tied so intrinsically into the good will of others. I guess I’d rather rely on others for their company (and their rum!) and then slip off to my tent for the night.” –Bring Limes

Resentment. Is this the trip you had in mind? Is this even the kind of trip you’d want? Wouldn’t you rather be in a nice hotel room, eating in restaurants, doing cool activities, and not having to work every now and then? After weeks of depriving yourself, over and over, you could end up feeling resentful. It might not be worth the savings.

“I feel like [extreme budget travel] would detract from the travel experience itself. If I was wrapped up in my head worrying about money and a budget the whole time it would take away from experiences. I certainly don’t travel luxuriously, but I choose to travel within my means without missing out on things.” –Megan, Forks and Footprints

Blue Night Shadows

A Lot of People Think They Can Do This

I’m an avid Redditor but don’t comment often. What makes me comments are posts like these:

“Me and my cousin are going on a trip in 2015 for 16 months around SE Asia. we plan on visiting 19 countries in that time: Bangladesh, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri lanka, Tawain, Thailand, Vietnam, Bhutan

We dont really know what months to go to the different countries and theres not much info online about it, so im asking you we kind of want summer all the time around. Also what places should we see in different countries? Im thinking that 12k USD will be enough for this trip? no including air fare, is that close to accurate?”

Oh God.

First of all, no, $12K will not be nearly enough. I really hope he meant $12K each, because even $24k for two would not be enough for a trip like that, especially with countries like Bhutan and Japan on the list. The only way it would be possible would be through extreme budget travel, and just the idea of traveling that way for 16 months makes me want to curl into a ball and hide.

I get emails all the time from travelers who want to travel as long and as much as possible, so they squish their budget down to the bare minimum. They tell me that yeah, they really want to see as much as possible, so they’re going to couchsurf and camp and they’ll be able to stretch their trip to as long as possible. I give them advice, wish them luck, tell them to buy travel insurance.

Some of them end up traveling this way — and have a fabulous, life-changing trip. Others end up miserable and return home much sooner than planned.

My worry about these travelers is that they won’t end up enjoying themselves on what should be the trip of a lifetime. I believe that far more people think they can handle long-term extreme budget travel than can actually handle this style of travel on a long-term basis.

It doesn’t help that traveling on the hobo is romanticized in popular culture, complete with scenes of waking up on a farm in Provence, harvesting olives all day, then having huge dinners with wine every night before hopping on a train to the next idyllic destination.

In short, it’s fun to travel on the hobo if you’re doing it for fun. It’s not so fun if you’re doing it because you can’t afford anything else.

Bike Lady in Ferrara

Special Concerns for Women Travelers

I feel like there needs to be an asterisk when talking about extreme budget travel as a woman. Just like there needs to be an asterisk with almost every kind of travel.

If you haven’t read Why Travel Safety Is Different For Women, please read it now.

In that piece, I talk about how women are attuned to the risk of sexual assault every minute of every day. It never leaves our minds, and each day we make dozens of micro-decisions for the sake of self-protection. For that reason, we need to be extra careful when it comes to extreme budget travel.

“extreme budget travel is a luxury that men can have I think. as a woman, I always need to have a little extra to get myself out of a bad guesthouse or take taxis rather than walk. I’m sure some women have managed it, but i wouldn’t feel safe on a low low budget. I usually budget $50/day with an extra $500/month of travel, although I rarely use it all. it gives me enough cushion to get a single room rather than share a dorm with just one man, etc.” –Lily

Camping alone or sleeping outside leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Staying in a sketchy guesthouse with a badly locking door leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Hitchhiking with strangers leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Taking public transportation in a rough city at night leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

Accepting food and drinks prepared by Couchsurfing hosts leaves us vulnerable to sexual assault.

That doesn’t mean that women can’t do extreme budget travel — I know women who do it and love it. I know that some take extra precautions, like carrying pepper spray and a knife. And even then, many of them have done so safely; most of them have only had a few scary but ultimately non-dangerous incidents, like I have.

But it doesn’t mean that the risk isn’t there. You need to evaluate that risk closely.

Kyoto Apartment

It’s Not For Everyone

If you want to try out extreme budget travel and you think you would enjoy it, go for it! I’m happy for people to travel in any way they’d like, as long as it’s not harmful to others.

There are plenty of people for whom extreme budget travel is a great choice. And they’re a surprisingly diverse group of people.

My issue with it is that I think a lot of people underestimate how difficult it is to live this way on a long-term basis. In short, it’s not for as many people who think it’s for them. So many people attempt it, burn out, and leave their trip with regrets.

Costa Brava Mountains

Short-Term Extreme Budget Travel

What if you only did the extreme budget travel thing for a shorter time? Say, for a two-week trip or just for a month or two out of a yearlong RTW trip? What if you just did it when you traveled in Australia and went back to spending more money in Southeast Asia?

I think that’s actually a very smart idea. This way, you get to try it out, reduce costs in the most expensive destinations, and see if you are interested in doing it long-term.

“I don’t mind dorms for cheap travel, although a few weeks is the max I could do that without at least a few nights in a private. I’m planning to couch surf and WWOOFing a lot in Japan, since I want to go for a while without spending thousands and thousands. I can’t live on that low though- it’s boring to only have enough to eat and stay in the hostel!” –Alexandria

Marigolds in Pienza

How to Maintain Your Sanity While Traveling on the Hobo

Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Walking a mile out of the way for loaves of bread that cost 20 cents less is the definition of insanity. Instead, reduce your big expenses like accommodation and transportation, or stick to cheap countries.

Travel slower. Spending more time in fewer destinations will majorly cut down your costs. When you spend longer in a destination, you’ll get to know the cheaper places, you’ll spend less time sightseeing, and your transportation costs will be lower.

Stick to cheaper regions — not just cheaper countries. Most people consider Thailand a cheap country but don’t take into account that the beach resorts in the south are MUCH more expensive than the rest of the country. Stick to rural, less-visited areas for lower costs. In Thailand, you’ll find the cheapest prices in the north.

Set up a separate bank account for splurges. Use it for special activities like seeing Angkor Wat, getting scuba certified, or having a restaurant meal in a fabulous food region.

Plan on getting private accommodation every few weeks or so. Just a few days in a room to yourself will make you feel so much better, especially if you’re an introvert.

Have a re-entry fund saved up and don’t touch it. This is money to cushion your return home. How much do you need? Depends on your situation. Some people like to have enough to secure a new apartment and pay for a few months of frugal expenses; others just need a thousand dollars or so. The choice is yours.

Don’t scrimp on travel insurance. Even if you’re committed to spending as little as possible, you don’t want to put yourself in a position where you weigh your health against saving money. Not to mention that it will save your ass financially in the event that you get severely injured and need an air ambulance to another country. I use and recommend World Nomads.

Leaving the Generalife

One Last Tip: Check Your Privilege

When you’ve been traveling on the hobo for awhile, there will be dark days. You’ll be down to your last few dollars and unable to eat anything but rice and pasta. You’ll be tired. You’ll be lonely. You’ll be treading water and you won’t know when you’ll earn enough to leave town.

This happens to all travelers. We all go through tough times, but extreme budget travelers are additionally vulnerable because of their lack of money.

Even when you’re at your lowest, it’s important to remember that you hold enormous privilege. You’re living this lifestyle by choice, and you’ve experienced far more than the vast majority of the world will ever be able to.

Don’t refer to yourself as poor. Don’t take food donations meant for the needy. And for the love of God, don’t compare yourself to the homeless.

Instead, practice gratitude each day. Be kind. Use what you’ve learned to create a better life for everyone you meet, both on the road and at home.

And if you choose to settle down for some time — whether it’s just for a few weeks or something more permanent — open up your home to vagabonds like yourself. Feed them, give them a place to sleep, show them your favorite spots in town. It’s time to repay the kindness that you’ve been gifted on your journey.

Have you ever tried extreme budget travel? Did you enjoy it?The truth about extreme budget travel


Photo: Miguel Aguilera

ONCE AGAIN, VALENTINE’S DAY is upon us and I must take a few minutes to reflect on my love life (mostly because my mom is calling from Bulgaria again asking why I’m still single). Since I graduated college in the States, I’ve been passionate mostly about travel or planning it, which has made dating me close to mission impossible. Here’s why.

1. I freak men out because I want to meet their moms on the first date.

I mean, come on, you can’t just tell me you’re from Valencia and leave it at that. Knowing that your mom most likely possesses some unreal paella recipes and that seeing my 5’3” frame will instantly trigger her instincts to feed and nurture me, of course I’m going to want to meet her. I’m often guilty of showing more interest in moms than their offspring. Can’t help it, girl’s gotta eat.

2. I use dates as private language tutors.

Because practice is the best way to learn, am I right? Why spend hours on Duolingo when I can buy you a few beers and ask you to teach me how to ask for a sandwich in Catalan or the FC Barcelona hymn? To be fair, I offer English lessons as well, so we’re even.

3. I criticize 9 to 5 jobs to oblivion.

I’m a job-hopper, I’m not gonna lie. The only “job” I’ve done steadily for years and will continue to do so even if I wasn’t paid is writing. Otherwise, I’ve dabbled with banking, sales, hotel management, fitness, tutoring and juice making to fund my travels. I can’t physically handle sitting in a chair for more than 2 hours at a time and I’m the worst employee ever because I hate corporate structures and bosses. Repetitive office tasks can easily be executed by a monkey in a diaper, am I right? You can imagine that once I explain this to my date, he’s embarrassed to tell me that he works in marketing and immediately scopes the room out for another girl.

4. I’ve got too many random hobbies.

I seem to add new hobbies as I travel, which is why I’m very much into cooking, rollerblading, fishing, yoga, spending hours at a time in museums, hiking, photography, belly dancing, studying maps and reading news on 10 different foreign sites per day. Taking me to a bar for a beer spells boredom in my head, so if you’d like to date me, you have to get creative. Someone is yet to take me to a traditional Catalan calçotada or to rural Ireland where I can chase and photograph sheep. I’m a pure pain in the ass if you ask me.

5. World politics always come up in conversations.

Once, a very nice young man took me on a beach date. Instead of quietly drinking my calimocho and listening to what he had to say, I ended up awkwardly standing in the sea, talking to his friend about Catalan secession and tourism for a half hour, tuning out everything else. Needless to say, the guy never called me back. This year, there’s plenty of material to discuss, starting with Brexit, through Italian and Bulgarian elections to Trump. You better prepare, boys.

6. I’m super blunt about my intentions.

Prolonged travel has taught me expedience and honesty. There’s no time to f*ck around on the road and you have to be very clear about your plans. This mentality translates directly into my dating style, which is why I’ll always let the guy know whether he’s a one night stand for me or whether I’m interested in settling down in his city and making us a thing. I don’t play any games, but unfortunately for me, some people are into that, which is why they’d never date me.

7. I care more about his camera lens than about him.

The other night I was at a blind date event. The matchmaker chose a half-Chinese, half-Mongolian date for me based on our mutual love for photography. Instead of me asking about his occupation and paying a few compliments as most people would do, I opened with: “Wow, Mongolia is on my travel list this year! Do you have photos? Ooooh, these are gorgeous, what lens do you use?” Although this romance will never blossom, I may have found a partner for my upcoming projects.

8. I can’t answer basic questions like a normal human being.

Why, oh why, does everyone start with “so, where are you from?” Oh maybe I should ask myself why I always criticize this question as the worst way to get to know someone. Instead of simply saying Bulgaria, I give this whole speech on how they should ask where I’m a local instead. Travel has taught me to think deeper and avoid applying stereotypes on people at all cost, so dating is a real struggle.

9. I always choose other travelers over homebodies.

You could be the best guy in Boston, hell, you could even be my soulmate, but if you’ve never left the country, I can’t identify with you. I always prefer to go out with travelers as I find it much easier to connect. Naturally, not everyone has a thoroughly stamped passport which minimizes my dating pool to about 3 people at the bar.

10. I run my dates like travel itineraries.

I take great care of preparing my itineraries to make sure I’m getting the best out of my trip. Unfortunately, this seems to make me a little alpha-ish on dates. I get anxious if we haven’t moved on to the second location of the night on time or if the restaurant I took you to has run out of pork for banh xeo. What can I say, I’m a real piece of work.


This post was produced in partnership with our friends over at Roadtrippers, a simple but powerful road trip planner that helps you discover, plan, & book your adventure.

I’VE BEEN FORTUNATE ENOUGH to have traveled to some amazing places around the world over the last 10 years: Bolivia, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Mongolia, Jordan, and the list goes on. But I’m not exaggerating in the least when I say that some of my favorite trips have taken place here in the US — typically behind the wheel of my car, on a lonely state highway.

America is just massive. At 3.8 million square miles, it’s three times larger than all the countries listed above combined. So it’s kind of a given that our country would be home to spectacular deserts, mountain ranges, volcanic features, ancient forests, waterfalls, canyons, glaciers, caves, and swamps. But that fact doesn’t diminish the awesomeness of these places.

As spring approaches, my wife and I can’t wait for our next opportunity to hop into our little Mazda with the dog and go find a spot we haven’t been to yet in our thousands of miles of driving around this country that keeps on giving. Hope to see you out there.

1. Death Valley, CA

death valley california

Zabrieskie Point, Death Valley

death valley california

A section of the Mojave Desert, Death Valley is the lowest, driest, hottest place in North America. (1) Trey Ratcliff (2) Pedro Szekely (3) Gleb Tarassenko

2. Kilauea, HI

kilauea hawaii

kilauea hawaii

Kilauea, on the Big Island of Hawaii, sends streams of lava steaming into the Pacific Ocean. (1) Tumanc (2) Esten Hurtle

3. Monument Valley, UT

monument valley utah

monument valley utah

monument valley utah

The sandstone buttes of Monument Valley stand like towers in the Four Corners region of the Western US. (1) Wolfgang Staudt (2) Trey Ratcliff (3) clockwise L to R: Bosure, Wolfgang Staudt, Jason Corneveaux, Kartik Ramanathan

4. Niagara Falls, NY

niagara falls

niagara falls

niagara falls

The tourist vessel “Maid of the Mist IV” does a float-by of the American Falls. (1) Arne Bornheim (2) paul bica (3) Daniel Peckman

5. Redwoods, CA

redwoods california

redwoods california

redwoods california

The tallest trees on the planet hide out in a few remaining tracts of Northern California’s old-growth coastal forests. (1) m24inStudio (2) clockwise L to R: Giant Ginkgo, Mike Baird, jjgardner3 (3) Justin Brown

6. Grand Canyon, AZ

grand canyon

grand canyon

Grand Canyon

A mile down from the canyon’s rim, the Colorado River is still cutting. (1) Ignacio Izquierdo (2) Randy Pertiet (3) Steve Dunleavy

7. Mammoth Cave, KY

Mammoth Cave

mammoth cave collage

Mammoth Cave National Park protects a portion of the longest known cave system in the world. (1) Peter Rivera (2) clockwise L to R: clarkmaxwell, Peter Riviera, Insley Pruitt, Peter Riviera

8. Florida Everglades

Florida Everglades

Everglades cypress

florida everglades

The Everglades are a 60-mile-wide, super-slow-moving subtropical river covering the tip of Florida. (1) Timothy Valentine (2) Brian Koprowski (3) crow 911

9. Hubbard Glacier, AK

hubbard glacier alaska

hubbard glacier alaska

hubbard glacier alaska

Where Hubbard Glacier meets the sea, its 6-mile-wide face calves huge blocks of ice. (1) Alan Vernon (2) Mike McElroy (3) Rich Englebrecht

10. Black Hills, SD

black hills south dakota

black hills south dakota

black hills south dakota

Harney Peak (pictured at top), within the Black Hills National Forest, is the highest east of the Rockies. (1) blucolt (2) Ryan O’Hara (3) Dave Morris

11. The Mississippi

mississippi river

mississippi river

This monster river system drains 31 US states and is the fourth longest in the world. (1) Jon Haynes Photography (2) Adventures of KM&G

12. Bryce Canyon, UT

bryce canyon utah

bryce canyon utah

bryce canyon utah

Bryce can be more accurately described as an immense eroded amphitheater, populated with hoodoos (pictured at middle). (1) Todd Petrie (2) Wolfgang Staudt (3) Sam Gao

13. Mt. Desert Island, ME

mt desert island

mt desert island

mt desert island

The island is protected by Acadia National Park and is all rocky shoreline and crumbly mountain woodland. (1) Scott Kublin (2) clockwise L to R: Andrew Mace, Scott Smitson, Jim Liestman, Howard Ignatius, Frederico Robertazzi (3) A.D. Wheeler

14. Crater Lake, OR

Crater Lake, Oregon

crater lake oregon

crater lake oregon

Collapsed volcano, now a deep blue lake in southern Oregon. (1) Ninad (2) Howard Ignatius (3) Andy Spearing

15. Arches, UT

arches utah

arches utah

arches utah

The national park preserves land that’s home to over 2,000 of these weathered sandstone arches. (1) Keith Cuddeback (2) Katsrcool (3) Kartik Ramanathan

16. Yosemite Valley, CA

yosemite valley

yosemite valley

yosemite valley

Looking down the Yosemite Valley, you can see Bridalveil Falls and the granite cliff of Half Dome in the distance. (1) John Colby (2) Nietnagel (3) clockwise L to R: Craig Goodwin, Scott, Nietnagel

17. Carlsbad Caverns, NM

Carlsbad Caverns

Carlsbad Caverns

Hall of Giants

The caverns’ “Big Room” is the third largest cave chamber in North America. (1) FMJ Shooter~Off to the last frontier (2) G (3) J.J.

18. Old Faithful, WY

old faithful

old faithful

old faithful

This geyser in Yellowstone National Park erupts a 140-foot spout of water at regular 45- to 120-minute intervals. (1) David Kingham (2) Scott Kublin (3) frazgo

Roadtrippers The open road. That’s what it’s all about. Driving down long stretches of asphalt, pulling over at a local diner for some grub, and discovering the most incredible roadside wonders. Roadtrippers is a simple but powerful road trip planner that helps you discover, plan, & book your adventure.

Photo: Pexels

Russia’s in the news a lot, but most of our images of it are hopelessly outdated Cold War cliches. The largest country in the world has 6.5 million square miles of mind-blowing mountains, lakes, dense forests and thriving cities. Here’s a selection of experiences to have in the nation.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

The Transsiberian

 The TranssiberianKhuzhir, RussiaMagic view over one of the must-do stops along The Transsiberean road #transsiberean #russia #trains

Travel the world’s longest and most famous train ride. Start in Moscow and make a number of stops on the way to either Vladivostok or Beijing through Mongolia.

Lake Baikal

 Lake BaikalIrkutsk, RussiaThe magic of Baikal in winter #extreme #snow #ice #russia

Baikal is the world’s deepest freshwater lake. If you come in winter, the lake will be completely frozen, peppered with picturesque cracks and bubbles of air. I’d recommend hiring a four wheel drive and cruising over the ice, you won’t forget that in a while.

The Circumbaikal Railway

 The circumbaikal railwayListvyanka, RussiaGet on the train at Listvyanka station and go around the deepest freshwater lake in the world. #railway #trains #siberia

To see more of Baikal you can take a Circum-Baikal railway. It does not actually circle the whole lake but it gives you a chance to get away from the more touristic places and find your own secret spot.

Curonian Spit

 Curonian SpitKonigsberg, RussiaYou can witness some peculiar ways of the nature not far from Kaliningrad, the most Western city of Russia #hiking

Curonian Spit separates Curonian Bay from the Baltic Sea. I recommend visiting The Dancing Forest — one of the strangest natural phenomena on Earth. The unusual pine forest is made of trees of various shapes, most of them twisted in circles and spirals, along the ground.

Red Square

 Red SquareMoskva, RussiaShow off your ice skating skills on the main square of Moscow! #sport #winter #iceskate

When in Russia, you won’t escape Red Square. So make it a little more entertaining. Every year Moscow builds skating rink on its central square. If you happen to be there, join the locals in one of the most popular winter activities!

Kola Peninsula

 Kola PeninsulaMurmansk, RussiaThe utmost north of Russia has fantastic landscapes #nature #extreme #snow

The Russian North might seem very stern, but here you can see one of nature’s greatest miracles — aurora borealis. Kola Peninsula behind the polar circle is the best place to see it, but if you are lucky you might even spot aurora borealis near St.Petersburg.

The Valley of Geysers

 The Valley of GeysersPetropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, RussiaFar far away and nine hours ahead of Moscow, there lies the land of volcanos, Kamchatka

Kamchatka Peninsula is on the bucket list of most Russians. The Kamchatka River and the surrounding central side valley are flanked by large volcanic belts containing around 160 volcanoes, 29 of them still active. The hazardous beauty of around ninety geysers and the highest active volcano in Russia gave the area its nickname: the Land of Fire and Ice. You can reach The Valley of Geysers only by helicopter, but it is absolutely worth the effort.

Kronotsky Nature Reserve

 Kronotsky Nature ReservePetropavlovsk-Kamchatskiy, RussiaKronotsky Nature Reserve boasts over 800 bears – best place to meet this symbol of Russia #nationalpark #bears

The Kamchatka brown bear, also known as the Far Eastern brown bear, is native to the Anadyrsky District, the Kamchatka Peninsula, Karaginskiy Island, the Kuril Islands. One of the safest times to view bears in the wild is Kamchatka during salmon spawning season.

Mount Elbrus

 Mount ElbrusMineralnye Vody, RussiaDaily transfers from Mineralnye Vody through picturesque valleys to the highest peak of Europe (5642 m) #extreme #mountains

Mount Elbrus is the highest peak in Europe, and one of the Seven Summits. It’s located just in Russia, though it is only a few miles/kilometers from the border of Georgia. Though Elbrus is the highest summit in Europe, it is one of the technically easiest of the higher peaks on the continent.

Moscow Metro

 Moscow MetroMoskva, RussiaCheck out some metro stations of 1930s – 1950s for the bronze statues, mosaics and marble colonnades.

Muscovites take their metro for granted, but they really shouldn’t as it is not only super efficient and fast it is also stunning. The 44 stations are part of the cultural heritage of the city.

Oymyakon Town

 Oymyakon TownOymyakonskiy ulus, RussiaOymyakon is for the bravest and the most cold-resistant.   #extreme #winter

Visit the coldest inhabited locality on the planet, Oymyakon village, where the average temperature in winter is -50F and lower.

Winter Palace

 Winter PalaceSankt-Peterburg, RussiaNow Winter Palace hosts one of the largest and most astonishing museums of the world, It just has everything and even more #gallery #history #palace

Now the main residence of Romanov dynasty, Winter Palace, is one of the largest museums in the world. While walking through Winter Palace it is easy to imagine yourself in belle epoch, dancing minuet or waltz.

Trinity Bridge

 Trinity bridgeSankt-Peterburg, RussiaTrinity bridge across the Neva River became a symbol of Saint Petersburg. It is opened every night to provide clearence for boat traffic.

Your experience of St.Petersburg won’t be complete without viewing the drawbridges. During June-July 22 bridges in St.Petersburg are drawn, cutting the connection between two parts of the city.

Cosmonaut Training Center

 Cosmonaut Training CenterKorolev, RussiaFind out if you can be an astronaut! (The tour has to be booked in advance).

Once communist space program was top secret. Now it is possible not only to learn all the details about space exploration, but you can visit the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center.


 SandunyMoskva, RussiaRussian banya is an important part of the culture and the social life. One of the oldest public banyas in Moscow is Sanduny in the historical building of the 19th century.

Banya (Russian sauna) is one of the oldest traditions of the country, dating back to the 10th century. There are public banyas in large cities, but locals prefer to have their own private banyas. An important part of the experience is socializing, after banya it is common to have take tea.

The Ural Mountains

 The Ural MountainsPerm, RussiaThe Urals are the world’s oldest mountain range on our planet. They separate Russia into the European and the Asian part.

The Ural Mountains are probably the richest mountain range of their size in the world. Trekking in The Urals requires a guide as the terrain is varied and the weather can change quickly without warning.

The Iset River

 The Iset RiverYekaterinburg, RussiaYekaterinburg’s best: embankments of the Iset river, museums, high rises, avant-garde architecture.

Visit Yekaterinburg, the hometown of Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin. Yekaterinburg is not only Russia’s forth-largest city, it is like a piece of conceptual art with a fascinating historical sub-text.

I was among the first Westerners to document the Mongolian Taiga.

What I found was amazing.


Text and photographs by Jeff Colhoun

Around this time last year I was approached by a non-profit to film a documentary in northern Mongolia. I had just gotten back a few months prior from Lake Khuvsgul, Mongolia and was not too excited at the premise of spending 5 weeks without running water again. Then they told me where I would be going and what I would be filming. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I spent the next 7 months preparing.

My journey started at the San Francisco International Airport. A quick 11 hours to Seoul and after a snack, a short 5-hour flight to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I landed around 1 AM. I was picked up by my friend Binderya who brought me to my hotel room and told me I had to be up in 4 hours for the drive to Khuvsgul. I went through all my gear and double-checked if the drones made it safely as I was taking them into the taiga in a few hours. I did not sleep.

I met my traveling companions at the car that morning. Joe, Les, and Peggy. They were scientists brought over from the states to do some work with Park Service while I filmed. Our driver was named Boro. He spoke no English and the scientists spoke no Mongolian. This was their first time in Mongolia. We had a very hard communicating but Boro was fluent in drawing pictures and so were we.

After 7 hours on the road, we stopped in Erdenet for lunch at a Russian restaurant. The menu was all in Russian. One of the scientists named Joe tried drawing a chicken on a napkin to order. I tried a similar tactic. He ended up with chicken and I ended up with what I hope was beef.  


We arrived in Khuvsgul after 15 hours on the road. It was great to be back. We were there in time for the Naadam Festival. This consisted of horse races, wrestling, archery competitions and consuming copious amounts of airag (fermented mare’s milk). I was befriended by the local governor the year prior because he liked my drones. He gave me unrestricted access to film everything during the festival including a seat in the VIP booth. A great honor.  


First was the horse race. These were children. Mostly 8 years old. The horses were practically wild. Not used as working horses and trained specifically for one purpose: to race.  


One of the horses was named Yosemite and had ties to the NGO I was with. I asked the child riding if I could put a GoPro on his helmet. He wasn’t too excited at the idea because he didn’t want to be slowed down but he eventually came around. One of the many items I forgot was my helmet mount. Frankly, it didn’t cross my mind to pack it and the Duct tape I had did the job perfectly.

The race was about 10 kilometers from one point to another. I was there for the start. Once the race began I followed them for a few kilometers with my phantom 4. I ended up retrieving my GoPro a few hours later.


From there we viewed the wrestling matches. These men ranged in size from 140 lbs to 250lbs. And these matches went on all day.

After a day at Naadam, we packed up our caravan and headed to our friend Tumursuk’s camp on the other side of lake Khuvsgul. It was a beautiful setting where he had created a sanctuary for marmots and red deer. Both of which are close to being on the endangered species list.


The next day we packed up and headed to Ulan-Uul in the Darkhad valley. There was a ranger station there where we would spend a few nights preparing and planning to head into the surrounding parks. It was 7 hours offroad with a stop to eat lunch. Once we arrived we spent the next 3 days planning, preparing, and enjoying the last semblance of civilization we would be see for a while.


On our last night we were surprised by a dinner the rangers put on. It was pressure cooked mutton and potatoes with bread. They call it horhog.

Once we left, the plan was constantly changing from hour to hour. Due to fear of weather exposure or lack of communication with rangers in the area. We arrived at Tengis Shishged Park and started to get our camp set up. We were right at the fork of where the two rivers met.

I was down at the river doing my laundry when I saw ripples on the water in the distance. Out of nowhere a wall of wind hit me. Within seconds there was thunder and I was being waved up to the plateau our tents were on. I ran up and found my tent flattened by the wind. I immediately got inside and started throwing all my cameras and electronics in my Pelican cases. I grabbed my raincoat and got out of the tent which went flat again. It was now hailing. We all ran into the ranger station which was a one room log cabin.


After a few hours, the storm cleared and I managed to get my equipment and tent back in order with the help of a few of the Mongolians who were with us, including my driver Boro. We later heard about this storm from others we met on the road. It had done some damage to a few gers and the reindeer herders’ tepees a hundred miles away. Nobody had seen weather like that before.


We spent the next week kicking around the Darkhad valley. Usually taking Lunches out of our Russian kitchen van.


We camped at a natural spring and at a small lake with the sound of wolves in the distance. Never once did the view cease to amaze.


Getting stuck during river crossings was the norm. This happened over and over but the Mongolians who were with us had getting stalled vehicles out of a river down to a science.


We went back to Ulan-Uul for a shower and to recharge before we headed into the area we had all come to see. The Horidal Saradig. Home of the Siberian Ibex.

We drove up the valley into a river bed. It was the bumpiest part of the trip. Constant river crossings and backtracking to find ways around fallen trees and debris.


The mountain pass was the worst part of the ride but the view was insane. I have never felt so small.


We arrived at a staging point and had to split up the group. One of the drivers had been convicted of poaching a few years prior and the rangers were not comfortable bringing him. We had to reorganize our bags and only bring the essentials. For me, this was a challenge as I was finally getting to film the subject of the documentary I was on the other side of the world to make. I opted to bring one change of clothes and all of my camera gear. I left the rest of my things at basecamp.

We packed 8 people and all of our gear into one Russian van and headed into the pristine zone.


Horidal Saradig: A pristine, unexplored region of Mongolia


Text and photographs by Jeff Colhoun

Horidal Saradig, Mongolia. The road was rough: a river bed full of soccer ball-sized rocks and gravel. We traversed back and forth for two hours, backtracking to find crossings. We stopped briefly to find high ground. We needed to contact the rangers we were meeting and all we had was a 2-way radio. For about an hour we waited but finally made contact. We now had our destination and headed that way.

The first ranger who greeted us had a horse, tent, and some basic provisions for himself. He was stationed at a lookout point where you could see argali, a species of endangered mountain sheep here in Mongolia similar to the California Bighorn Sheep.


Setting up camp and assembling gear, we took turns getting a glimpse of argali in the distance. At 10 kilometers away, they were very faint in our spotting scope but they were there. As we waited, more rangers started to ride in on their horses. I tried a few times to reach the argali with my Phantom 4. They were 3km out and 600 meters up on a peak. The range wasn’t an issue but the altitude limit was the limiting factor and I didn’t get the shot.  


After a night and a day we packed up and headed towards the next location. Two hours further into the protected area on a river wash, a few more rangers greeted us. There we unloaded the van and switched to horses. As I have never been a big equestrian and have also had a bad experience with a Mongolian horse, I opted to put my extra gear on my horse and walk. We had a 4-hour hike all uphill. The trail was non-existent. Permafrost with lichen on top soaked by water. Basically a bog.  


After a few miles with my drone trekker, I handed it off to one of the rangers who was on horseback. I was used to hiking trails so this boggy terrain was really taking it out of me. At this point, I started to realize the toll that sleeping in the backcountry for the last few weeks was really taking on me — both physically and mentally — but I knew what I had come to film was just over the mountain.


We got to the top and looked down into a lush green valley. We were the first westerners to see it. The lead ranger, Tumursukh, had been coming to this place since he was a child with his father. It was the most likely place we would encounter the Siberian Ibex.


As we unpacked the horses and started to set up camp Tumursukh got out his spotting scope. He wasted no time but we didn’t see anything on that day other than a few birds and a bit of rain.


Ragchaa began to cook us some meat. This meat had been salted a few days prior and had not been refrigerated. It was cooked on a stick over the fire and was served very rare. We were also surrounded by wild onions which made for a very interesting flavor.


I decided to go to bed before the sun went down (around 10 PM) knowing the next morning was likely the big day. I put two phantom batteries inside my sleeping bag with me so they wouldn’t be too cold to fly as soon as I woke up.


I was woken up by Simon. He had a cup of coffee for me and told me to get my drone ready — there was an ibex on the other side of the valley. I grabbed my P4 and began my preflight ritual. I could see the faint outline of the ibex through the spotting scope but there was no way to see it otherwise. He was 3 kilometers away across a windy gorge. If the drone went down, the party was over.


I took off and pointed the drone at a landmark I could see near where the Ibex was. I didn’t have time to wait for a GPS lock so I was flying in attitude mode (I almost always do). Without the comfort of knowing the drone would fly back if I lost signal, my hands were shaking. Simon kept his eyes on the scope guiding me in. After 3 minutes I was right on him. At first, the ibex didn’t know what to think but they are hunted by giant eagles that drag them off these cliffs so once I got close enough he darted. I followed him up and down the cliff side until my battery was at 30%. I flew back cautiously and once I landed a wave of relief fell over me. I had the footage I had come to get. The first close-up look at the Siberian ibex in its habitat. We spotted a few other groups on the other side of the valley and I got some other shots of them but nothing came close to the first flight and the excitement I felt.


We spent another night in the protected area but the next morning it was raining. We made our way out at 10 AM. Traversed the same way we came in and met up with the rest of our team where we left them. It was time to head back to lake Khovsgol before the long drive to Ulaanbaatar and then the flight home.

The entire trip was centered around getting this footage because it would be crucial in the documentary I was making about the men that patrol these lands. Tumursukh and his group of rangers are unlike any people I have worked with. Their drive and passion were inspiring. They do so much with so little and they do it because nobody else will. This is their home.


Historically, trains have shaped the geography of our planet. Today, the variety of adventures to be had via train is truly inspiring. From gourmet food and craft beer on the two-day Adelaide-Darwin run, to cruising to the Himalayas on India’s Kalka-Shimla, here are some of the world’s most spectacular train journeys.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

1. The Jacobite

Fort William — Mallaig, Scotland

 Glenfinnan ViaductHighland, United KingdomViaduct made famous by Harry Potter.

An impressive route by steam train through some of the Highland’s beautiful landscapes. Don’t miss the Glenfinnan viaduct, famous for being in the Harry Potter films.

 Invergarry CastleHighland, United KingdomThe castle was the seat of the Chiefs of the Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry, a power branch of the Clan Donald.

2. The Trans-Siberian Railway


Photo: Krystle Wright

Moscow — Vladivostok, Russia, Mongonlia, China

The Trans Siberian Railway is the ultimate rail journey, the longest in the world (and possibly the coldest if you go at the wrong time of year), a journey of almost mythical proportions that spans two continents while staying in a single country.

 The TranssiberianKhuzhir, RussiaMagic view over one of the must-do stops along The Transsiberean road #transsiberean #russia #trains

There are three routes that travelers can take to explore the Siberian expanse: The Moscow-to-Vladivostok route at over 9,000 km (6,000 miles), and two routes from Moscow to Beijing: one through Mongolia, taking six days and almost 8000km (5000 miles), or one which takes almost a week to complete and travels via Manchuria.

 Red SquareMoskva, RussiaShow off your ice skating skills on the main square of Moscow! #sport #winter #iceskate

Without leaving your seat, you pass through the end of Europe and cross almost the width of Asia, clattering your way across nearly a third of the globe.

3. Qinghai-Tibet Railway

Beijing — Lhasa, China

Here come the train. de FaceChoo Yong en 500px.com

Photo: facechooyong

This is the highest train journey in the world. Build over four years by 100,000 engineers, the route takes you 5,068m above sea level through permafrost and very thin air — oxygen outlets are available to combat altitude issues.

 Yamdrok Lake, TibetShannan Diqu, ChinaTravelling from Lhasa to Gyantse, tha Kamba Pass climbs 1000m on a long and winding road where the summit sits at 4,800m above sea level. The panoramic view that opens up at the top is nothing short of breathtaking. The spectacular Yamdrok Lake is one of 3 sacred lakes in Tibet and one of the most stunning sights I have ever witnessed. It is said that praying to the lake helps unearth the reincarnated soul of the Dalai Lama.

4. Kalka Shimla Railway

Kalka — Shimla, India

Riding into the sunrise de Sashank Rao en 500px.com

Photo: sashankrao

Known as the Kalka Shimla Railway, this narrow gauge railway takes you to the foothills of the Himalayas by way of 102 tunnels and 889 bridges. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 Jatoli shiv templeSolan, IndiaJatoli Shiv tample is the one of the famous holy places..considered as ASia’s highiest shiv temple…. #peacefull #environment…

5. Cusco-Machu Picchu, Peru

Cusco Train de Manuel Machuca S en 500px.com

Photo: manuelmachuca

Offering an alternative to hiking the Inca Trail, this route takes you to a station just 8km away fromt he ruins of Machu Picchu, passing the Andean foothills.

 Machu PicchuCusco, PeruGet here as early as possible and hike up from the bottom. It’s well worth it to see the fog burn off in front of the spectacular ruin. #ruin #hike

6. The Indian Pacific

Sydney — Perth, Australia

 Mrs Macquarie’s ChairSydney, AustraliaViews of Sydney, Australia from the Royal Botanic Garden. 🙋🏻‍♂️

The ultimate coast-to-coast journey, and one of the world’s longest railways, the Indian Pacific takes in mountains, deserts and ghost towns across the breadth of Australia.

 Sir James Mitchell ParkSouth Perth, AustraliaA beautiful view of Perth City Skyline

7. Train to the clouds

Salta — Polvorilla, Argentina

train to the clouds de Thomas Heinze en 500px.com

Photo: thomasheinze

This train takes you 4,200 meter above sea level by way of 29 bridges, 21 tunnels, 2 spirals and 2 zigzags, as well as offering a chance to see the magnificent La Polvoriila viaduct. Depending on the season, this route can be part-bus.

8. Eastern and Oriental Express

Bangkok — Singapore

 Bangkok Railway StationBangkok, ThailandIf you’re going to Nong Kai, Den Chai, Chiang Mai or other destinations, this is where you’d take the train. Remember not to bring alcohol onboard, it’s prohibited. #train

Few names conjure up images of luxury and indulgence like the Orient Express. This route takes you past the Bridge on the River Kwai and Penang.

Contrast de Louis Lefranc en 500px.com

Photo: pitaow

9. Tokaido Shinkansen

Tokyo — Kyoto, Japan

Fuji and Shinkansen 2 de Yokai Catchlight en 500px.com

Photo: yokai

Japan is famed for its high speed, reliable and comfortable bullet trains — or Shinkansen. One of the Tokaido routes from Tokyo to Kyoto allows specticular views of Mt. Fuji.

 Shinjuku Gyoen National GardenShinjuku-ku, JapanIf you’ve ever thought of going to Japan, experience the ultimate in Japanese culture. Sakura season was an acci-coincidence for my first trip to Japan. And the people and country leftnits mark in such a beautiful way. #japan #tokyo #sakura #cherryblossom

Don’t think, just travel!!

10. The Rocky Mountainer

Vancouver — Banff, Canada

Train out of Kamloops de Michael Bell en 500px.com

Photo: loomahpix

This journey is so visually impressive the trains have glass-doomed roofs. This trip takes you through the Canadian Rockies and allows you to pass through the famous Spiral Tunnels.

 Vermilion LakesImprovement District No. 9, CanadaLoved this spot near Banff!  It’s just a few minutes from downtown and you can drive right up to this pier. I went at sunset and got this view out over the lake. #banff

11. Glacier Express

St. Moritz — Zermatt, Swiss Alps

Taking almost eight hours to complete its journey, the Glacier Express has a reputation for being the slowest ‘express’ in the world – but it’s also one of the most beautiful. Linking the two mountain resorts of St. Moritz and Zermatt in the Swiss Alps, the journey covers 291 bridges and 91 tunnels.

 GornergratZermatt, Switzerland#hiking #sightseeing #snow

At its highest point, the Glacier Express reaches 2,033 meters (6,670 feet) in altitude at the Oberalp Pass as it travel through some of the most stunning mountain scenery Europe has to offer: alpine meadows, mountain streams, snow peaked mountains and glacial valleys.

12. The Flam Railway

Myrdal — Flam, Norway

Flam II de Andrew Cawa en 500px.com

Photo: andrewcawa

The Flam Railway runs 20km (12 miles) between Myrdal, at 865 meters (2838 feet) above sea level, down to the fjords of Flam. This is an incredible feat of engineering, one of the steepest non-cog railways in the world and Norway’s most spectacular tourist attraction.

 FlåmsbryggaFlåm, NorwayA fjord tour is a must when in Norway. #norwayinanutshell

With views over part of the world’s longest fjord – Sognefjord – as well as deep river valleys and airy peaks, this train seemingly clings to the side of the mountains in an unforgettable journey.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) Travel and Tourism and Competitiveness Report was recently published. It shows the most expensive and cheapest places to travel in the world. The report covers the role travel and tourism plays in economies, an analysis of the industry’s sustained growth, work being done to preserve and protect local communities and the environment, and more. One of the most interesting sections of the report was the information on the top countries in the world for price competitiveness.

Here are the 20 cheapest places to travel to right now, according to the WEF Report.

Editor’s note: These spots are all taken directly from travelstoke®, a new app from Matador that connects you with fellow travelers and locals, and helps you build trip itineraries with spots that integrate seamlessly into Google Maps and Uber. Download the app to add any of the spots below directly to your future trips.

1. Iran

 Zoroastrian Towers of SilenceYazd, Iran#Zoroastrian #dakhma or Tower of Silence on the outskirts of #Yazd in #Iran. Believing a dead body was unclean and would pollute the soil, the Zoroastrians placed bodies at the top of this tower and exposed to the sun and vultures instead of being buried in the ground.

2. Egypt

 Cairo EgyptAl Fagalah, EgyptOne of Thé most unforgetable times having an hour long trip on camel at desert near Pyramids was excellent #history#ancienttimes

3. Malaysia

 Perdana Botanical GardensKuala Lumpur, MalaysiaPetrona Towers, impressive skyscraper.

4. Algeria

Sahara Desert, Tassili N

Photo: Dmitry Pichugin

5. Indonesia

 Dusun BambuCihanjuang Rahayu, IndonesiaWonderful nature

6. Bhutan

 Uma ParoParo, BhutanThey will take a little rice to clean their eating hand and put it on the ground . Then will proceed to eat . All ending eating at the same time . Great to watch . Ceremony like ! # lunch time # Bhutan # outdoors # travel photography

7. Yemen

Rock Palace de Csilla Zelko en 500px.com

Photo: Csilla Zelko

8. Kazakhstan

Big Almaty lake on december. Water, ice, mountains and snow. de Roman Barelko en 500px.com

Photo: Roman Barelko

9. Tunisia

Shades of White. Sidi Bou Saïd. de Bérenger Zyla en 500px.com

Photo: Berenger Zyla

10. India

 CHANDNI CHOWKGhaziabad, IndiaThis is my favorite #market . So life you can get all you need. This market design by Jahannara, princesses of mugal empire, daughter of shah Jahan . #clothes #souvenirs #bargins #cheap-eats #coffee

11. Russia

 Moscow MetroMoskva, RussiaCheck out some metro stations of 1930s – 1950s for the bronze statues, mosaics and marble colonnades.

12. Qatar

City Center de Jurics Caba en 500px.com

Photo: Jurics Caba

13. Botswana

Elephant Herd close-up on Chobe river de Vincent Andrews en 500px.com

Photo: Vincent Andrews

14. Laos

 Patuxay MonumentVientiane, LaosCool war monument dedicated to the people who fought for independence from France. You can go to the top and have a great view of the city. #history

15. Mongolia

the Camel Centipede de Coolbiere. A. en 500px.com

Photo: Coolbiere

16. Guatemala

 AntiguaAntigua Guatemala, GuatemalaStreet vendors on their way to set up at the Market

17. Saudi Arabia

Infinite de Kareem Alahdab en 500px.com

Photo: Kareem Alahdad

18. Thailand

 Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)Bangkok, ThailandThis #temple build by porselen. Beautiful and shine temple. Must visit

19. Nepal

 BouddhatanathKathmandu, Nepal#temple #buddhism

20. Sri Lanka

 Seema MalakaColombo, Sri Lanka

Lonely Planet Mongolia (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Mongolia is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Watch wrestling, horse racing and archery at a Naadam Festival, explore dinosaur bones in the Gobi Desert, or stay local-style in a ger (traditional felt tent); all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Mongolia and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Mongolia Travel Guide:

Colour maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - culture, history, gers, spiritualism, cuisine, tribal Mongolia, Naadam Festival, wildlife, environment Over 40 maps Covers Ulaanbaatar, Dadal, Olgii, Tov, Ovorkhangai, Arkhangai, Selenge, Khovsgol, Khentii, Dornod, Sukhbaatar, Dundgov, Dornogov, Omnogov, Bayankhongor, Gov-Altai, Bayan-Olgii, Khovd, Uvs, Zavkhan and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Mongolia, our most comprehensive guide to Mongolia, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less travelled.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's China guide.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Andrew Osborn, Anna Kaminski and Daniel McCrohan.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveller community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travellers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

Mongolia - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Alan Sanders

Mongolia is landlocked between its neighbors China and Russia in the heart of Asia. For centuries after the disintegration of Genghis Khan’s empire it was ruled by one or the other, but in 1990 the Mongols embraced democracy. Now, after two centuries of Manchu stagnation and seventy years of Soviet communism, they are rebuilding their national heritage. Rarely in the news but making progress toward a market economy, this resource-rich but infrastructure-poor country is a land of pioneers, and its greatest asset is the Mongol people, who are friendly, cooperative, ambitious, and well educated. English is now the first foreign language and the country’s leaders are forging new partnerships with international investors. Travelers from across the world are drawn to the “land of blue sky” by its picturesque mountains and lakes, flower-carpeted steppes and stony deserts, home to the snow leopard, the wild horse and camel, and the Gobi bear. The broad pasturelands, with herds of grazing livestock, and the traditional lifestyle of the nomads contrast with the busy streets of the capital Ulan Bator, a bustling metropolis of over one million people, modern hotels, apartments, and shops, interspersed with Buddhist monasteries and temples, surrounded by crowded suburbs of traditional felt tents. Mongolia’s many attractions range from dinosaur skeletons and the remains of ancient civilizations to relics and reenactments of the Genghis Khan era, and the traditional sports of wrestling, archery, and horse-racing. Culture Smart! Mongolia provides rare insights into contemporary Mongolian society, and offers practical tips on what to expect and how to conduct yourself in order to get the most out of your visit. Despite the undeniable challenges posed by modernity, these warm, tough, adaptable, and hospitable people welcome visitors and are open to the world.


Peter Voss

Mongolia, "The Land of the Blue Sky", as it is called, is an amazing destination for traveling. Four times the size of Germany, it is the most sparsely populated land in the world. This coffee table book takes you on an exciting journey to the Mongolian shamans, reindeer-nomads, and eagle-hunters, presenting stunning landscapes of glaciers and deserts. It is the fifth coffee table book from Peter Voss, who is a multiple award-winning photographer.

Mongolia: Travels in the Untamed Land (Tauris Parke Paperbacks)

Jasper Becker

For seventy years Mongolia was all but closed to the west - a forbidden country, shrouded in darkness. Jasper Becker had long dreamed of exploring the sweeping land that lay just beyond China’s Great Wall and when communism disintegrated, he finally did. Setting out from Kublai Khan’s capital, Beijing, Becker was one of the first westerners to cross the border. Tracing the course of the Yellow River, he ventured deep into the heart of Mongolia, witnessing the birth of one of the world’s youngest democracies as well as the deep and tragic impact of the rules of Mao and Stalin on the Mongolian people.  

Unravelling the history of Mongolia which had for so long been obscured and distorted, Becker traces the rise and fall of the Mongols who emerged from the steppes to forge one of the greatest and most feared empires of all time under Genghis Khan and his successors; he examines the shattering, divisive years of communist rule and explores present-day Mongolia, where poverty and the encroachments of westernisation cause as much damage. He goes in search of the fragile remnants of Buddhism and shamanism; visits Tuva - the lost world of Central Asia - and searches for the tomb of Genghis Khan which has been guarded and hidden by the same family for generations. Listening to the pulse of Central Asian history, Becker adorns his narrative with the stories of past travellers, tyrannical rulers, nomads, monks, missionaries, Russian officials, Mongolian activists and the memories of everyday people to paint a moving and enlightening portrait of Mongolia, a country that against all the odds has survived since the days of Genghis Khan and continues to beat to its own rhythm.

Mongolia Geographic Map (English, French, Italian, German and Russian Edition)

Gizella Bassa

This folded tourist and road map of Mongolia features shaded-relief and elevation tinting. Major and minor roads are depicted along with railways, distance in kilometers, state boundaries, airports, historical sites, points of interest, tourist sites, and natural features. Includes index of placenames and inset of city of Ulaanbaatar. Legend in 7 languages: English, German, French, Italian, Russian, Mongolian, and Chinese. Scale is 1:2 million.

Sky Shamans of Mongolia: Meetings with Remarkable Healers

Kevin Turner

Part travelogue, part experiential spiritual memoir, Kevin Turner takes us to visit with authentic shamans in the steppes and urban centers of modern-day Mongolia. Along the way, the author, a practicing shaman himself, tells of spontaneous medical diagnoses, all-night shamanic ceremonies, and miraculous healings, all welling from a rich culture in which divination, soul-retrieval, and spirit depossession are a part of everyday life.   Shamanism, described in the 1950s by Mircea Eliade as "archaic techniques of ecstasy," is alive and well in Mongolia as a means of accessing "nonordinary realities" and the spirit world. After centuries of suppression by Buddhist and then Communist political powers, it is exploding in popularity in Mongolia. Turner gives compelling accounts of healings and rituals he witnesses among Darkhad, Buryat, and Khalkh shamans, and goes on to provide us with his insights into a universal shamanism, principles that lie at the heart of shamanic traditions worldwide. This astounding, inspiring book will appeal to shamans and shamanic therapists, students of Mongolian culture and comparative religion, and fans of off-grid travel memoirs.

Eagle Dreams: Searching for Legends in Wild Mongolia

Stephen Bodio

Mongolia is a vast country located between Siberia and China, and little-known to outsiders. As Mongolia had long been under Soviet rule, it was inaccessible to Westerners. That was until 1990, when Stephen J. Bodio began planning his trip.As a boy, Bodio was always fascinated with nature. When he saw an image in National Geographic of a Kazakh nomad, dressed in a long coat and wearing a fur hat, holding a huge eagle on his fist, his life was changed from then on. When Mongolia became independent in 1990, Bodio knew that his dream to see the eagle hunters from the picture in National Geographic

My Journey to Mongolia: A Reporter's Journal

Charles S Rice

My Journey to Mongolia: A Reporter’s Journal is a compilation of short sketches of incidents, usually written shortly after they occurred. They offer a glimpse of my 16 months backpacking across the Mongolian steppe training journalists -- where I met reindeer herders, feasted on sheep ears, bonded with Eagle hunters, drank fermented mare’s milk, hiked through a blizzard and awoke to an icy hotel room to discover my toothpaste had frozen. All along the way, I met some of the warmest people in the world in one of the coldest places on Earth.

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.


Violent crime occurs, even in daylight and on busy streets. Foreigners are increasingly the target of street crime, especially in Ulaanbaatar and other major cities and in tourist areas. Cases of assault and robbery significantly increase in the weeks leading up to major local holidays in Ulaanbaatar. After dark, stick to well-lighted busy streets and do not walk alone.

Passengers have been robbed, sometimes violently, by taxi drivers or by thieves waiting for them as they step out of a taxi. Use a reliable taxi company in Ulaanbaatar, as regular taxis (private cars without taxi signs) are unsafe. For a list of reliable companies, contact the Embassy of Canada in Ulaanbaatar.

Be particularly cautious in the area surrounding the State Department Store in Ulaanbaatar, where foreigners have been mugged. Beware of pickpockets.

Foreigners have also been robbed by individuals posing as police officers, particularly in the Sukhbaatar Square area. If approached, ask to see police credentials or offer to go to the police station. Exercise caution in crowded areas, including open-air markets, the central post office and the Gandan Monastery, as well as when using public transportation.

Individual travellers have been harassed at border crossings. Thefts occur frequently on trains between Mongolia and Russia.

Foreign companies have received threats of violence.


Demonstrations occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. Avoid all demonstrations and be vigilant in areas where there are large crowds and gatherings.


Traffic drives on the right. Road conditions are poor. Driving can be hazardous, especially in rural areas. Drivers have little regard for traffic regulations and do not follow safe driving practices. Accidents occur frequently. Access to rural areas can be hampered by heavy snowfalls during the winter months.

The use of public transportation and regular taxis is considered to be unsafe. Contact the Embassy of Canada for advice on reliable taxi services. Use licensed taxis equipped with meters, regardless of the distance of the journey. Make arrangements for taxi service through your hotel.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.


Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.


Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.


Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.


Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Tick-borne encephalitis

Tick-borne encephalitis is a viral disease that can cause swelling of the brain. It is spread to humans by the bite of an infected tick. Vaccination should be considered for those who may be exposed to tick bites (e.g., those spending time outdoors in wooded areas) while travelling in regions with risk of tick-borne encephalitis.


Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of vaccination is not required to enter this country.
  • Vaccination is not recommended.

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in East Asia, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A, leptospirosis, schistosomiasis and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in East Asia. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.


Insects and Illness

In some areas in Eastern Asia, certain insects carry and spread diseases like chikungunya, Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, leishmaniasis, Lyme disease, malaria, and tick-borne encephalitis.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.



There is no risk of malaria in this country.


Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in some areas in Eastern Asia, like avian influenza and rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care provider.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.

Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

The standard of medical care is low and local facilities are limited. A few hospitals in Ulaanbaatar cater to foreigners, but they suffer from a shortage of safe medicine and reliable medical staff. Leave immediately for Beijing, China, where high-quality medical treatment can be obtained, if you are suffering from any illness or injury that could be life threatening.

Health tips

Air pollution is acute, especially in heavily industrialized areas. You may also experience altitude sickness. Be aware of the dangers of hypothermia as temperatures can drop to minus 35 to 40 degrees Celsius in winter.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.


An International Driving Permit is required.


The currency is the tugrug (MNT). U.S. dollars and credit cards are accepted in hotels and some restaurants, mainly in Ulaanbaatar. U.S. dollar traveller's cheques are accepted at some hotels and can be converted at several banks. Carry local currency, especially in rural areas.


Mongolia is located in an active seismic zone.

There is a short rainy season from mid-July to mid-September. Dust storms occur between May and June.

Mongolia is subject to extreme temperatures (from minus 35 to 40 degrees Celsius in the winter to plus 35 degrees Celsius in the summer).