Printable travel guide for Mongolia
Travel Guide

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Basic Facts

Official Country Name: Capital: Ulaan Baataar Population: 2,5 Million (around 1 Million are living in the capital with it's suburbs) ; 85% of the Population are mongolian people, the other people are ethnic groups, people from Kasachstan, Russia, China,.... Telephone Code: 00971 Time Zone: GMT - 6 (western) GMT-7 (central) Area: 1,566 Million km Language(s):main language is mongilian language, of course,... the older genration also learned russian in school, the jounger generation is learning english in school Ethnic Groups:Durwut, Bajat, Buriat, Daringana, Dsachtschin, Turgut, Öölt, Oirat Highest Mountain: A 4200 meters peak near Hovd President/Head of State: Enhbataar Government: democratic, at the moment the kommunist party is the strongest Currency: Tugrik (bank note,s if you once will get a coin you have realy good luck, because people almost never get them) Exchange Rate: US$1=1200 Tugrik ; 1 Euro=1550 Tugrik Health Risks:no special ones, don't drink water from the public water supply or cook it before. in the winter you can catch a cold very easy, because of the wind, so dress yourself very warm... if you don't have enough warm winterclothes you will find them on the black market (naranthul zach) - Climate is very rough - -20°C in the winter, +40 during summertime Electricity: 220V, in the capital yes, on the countryside no Weights & Measures: Meters, Kilograms Country Name in other languages: Mongolei (German) Монгол Улс (Mongolian)

Attractions and Things to See and Do

Ulan Baatar: -Gandan Tempel, tibetian style, very nice and calm atmosphere and especially at the weekend full with mongolian people who go for praying... entrance to the main temple is 1000 Tugrik for foreigners, there's a big buddhasttue inside, that has been robbed in the sowjettimes and is rebuild now...... - old summer palace...also caled Bogd-Khan-Museum, the buildings are almost not renovated, there are a lot of tankas to see, nice to go

Maps

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Off the Beaten Path and Insider Tips

Some useful hints for a longer trip to the countyside and the bigger cities.
You may find accomodation at Hovd Hotel in Hovd city (3000 T) and at the Basteau hotel (5000 T)in Bayan Olgii, and the Ayanchin Hotel in Bayanhongor (8000 T) . The other cites have no good hotels or they are totally overpriced, but no warm water. So bring your tent with you and do some camping. All aimag capitals have public hot showers, 20 minutes for 900 T. To be in the wilderness a nice 3-day trip is of concern: Ulan Bataar-Murun, continue to Tossontsengel or Jargalant. There you have a 3 days walk (100 km) to Uliastai or the track to Uliastai for hichhiking. If something happens to you - accept it. Have some money with you, learn this damned crazy language and make friends with the people. A digital camera is a good thing for showing pictures, the people enjoy it very much. For the long trips bring a cell phone with you, arrange a money deposit in your guesthouse in UB and make some preparations if you need that money. HAve also a credit card with you, all aimag capitals have bank companies who allow withdrawals in Tugrik with any Visa or American Express card.

Suggested Itineraries

1 Day Go to Terelj nature reserve or to Mandzhir monastery. For only a day stay go to Sainhand war memorial, have a nice look to UB and on the way back visit the Bogd Gegen Museum. This museum is the residency of the state chiefs and the former leaders of Mongolia. , 1 Week, Visit Lake Hovsgol, it is 24 hours (direct way) or 2 days by public transport. 2 Weeks Make the 10 day trip with a group to Gobi desert, it is really worth seeing it. 1 Month The round trip: Lake Hovsgol, Bus trip to Uliastai, Hovd, stay a week in Bayan Olgii - mountain climbing, visit the Tsengel Sum..... back to Hovd, Altai Hot, Bayanhongor, UB (rather 6 than 4 weeks) needed longer go to the Heartford institute near London, make this 500 Euro english teacher exam. This entitles you to teach in UB at the Heartford institute or anywhere else in the country. Also they have settlements all over the world, so a work permit is not a problem. Actually work permits are only agreed to specialists - language teachers included. In UB they salary is 500 US$ a month, this is enough to survive and rent a room for a longer time or to pay the tuition fee at UB university for mongolian courses at university level. US citizens can become peace corps members and stay one or 2 years in Mongolia. Or go as a volunteer and help local families for various periods.

Transport

Getting there and away, Getting around

Border crossings
You can cross the border by any transport means (but not by feet) at Erlian/Samiin Uud at the south and Ulan Ude in the north. There are some other border crossings, but mostly you need special permits to get there and a second permit to cross the border as a foreigher to China and Russia. In Bayan Olgii there is a bus connection to Almaty in Kasakhstan, but until now it is not clear if a Non-resident of these countries can cross the border to China, for making it to Almaty.

Getting there by air:

international flights
Aeroflot has a daily connection to Moscow, Miat flies 2 times a week to Berlin, Korean Air at least once a week to Seoul and China air some times a week to Beijing. If you speak some mongolian you may try out the special discounts of miat.mn, which are offered only in mongolian language. Nevertheless you can book it.

domestic flights
You have at least 2 times a week regular flight connections from Ulan Bataar to the Aimag capitals: Bayanhongor, Khovd, Bayan Olgii, Altai, Dalanzadgad and to some other cities. The tickets can be obtained at one of the many ticket agencies.


Train

In Mongolia you have daily trains leaving to the northern and to the southern border, stopping at every smaller station. There is a west track from UB to Erdenet, on a daily basis. Other destinations can be reached by train but only one or two days a week and these destinations are some smaller side tracks from the main track. The actual schedule can be checked at the train station of Ulan Bataar.

International trains
Two times a week you have a direct connection to Beijing, and nearly daily connection to Irkutsk. 2 times a week there is the train to Moscow. Tickets to China must be bought in advance, and often they are sold out. In that case you may try the tourist wagon or a bus connection which is also available. The train to Russia are easier to get. In Irkutsk are passing by several trains for Moscow or Vladivostok. In summertimes there some extra tourist wagons (for China ) which will end in Erlian, the customs and passport procedure is done in the train.

Bus
You may hire a bus with a group for reasonable prices in one of the countless guesthouses situated in the inner city. So you may get a first impression of the countryside. For example the Terelj trip which you can do at one or two days with the possibility to spend a night in a nomads tent, a Ger. There are also lot of other ininaries, mostly heading to the south for 5, 7 or 10 days. Other trips aren't offered, if you plan such a trip you have to pay the bus as an individial.

Mongolia has also a kind of public transport system. But don't expect a precise schedule, air conditioned luxury busses and any kind of comfort. At the western end of the Peace avenue you find countless small 4x4 busses to most of the aimag centers and some of the bigger cities. Usually the busses have a far destination like Khovd or Bayan Olgii, but in fact they do only one city a day. If some passengers leave in a city you may have to wait until the bus is full again, and this can last for some hours up to some days. Specially at the remote cities like Altai or Uliastai you may have to wait longer. Also be aware that you may count 11 passenger seats, but 20 passengers.
The most frequented road to the west is UB - Arvaikheer - Uliastai - Khovd - Bayan Olgii. In summer 2007 the average price for a day's trip was 18.000 Tugrik, but this may depend on the fuel price and the distance. At least you should be able to read the cyrillic destination to find the right bus. IMO the overland bus travel is the best way to meet people, because nearly all Mongolians travels that way. There is also a south route to the west, but much less frequented: UB - Bayanhongor - Altai - Khovd - Bayan Olgii.
The third frequented destination is Murun, for passengers going to Lake Khovsgol. This destination can also be reached over Erdenet. From these Aimag centers or important cities you may find jeeps or busses to the smaller cities nearby, but to do a rare trip like Murun-Uliastai you need great luck. In general the driver stop frequently for having a meal or a small rest.

Car
By law is nearly impossible to borrow a car, and without a residence in Mongolia you can not buy and register an used car for yourself. If you have brought a car, be aware of the street condition, specially in winter and springtime. But it's a good idea to think about it, because you can sell later such an used car in UB at good prices.
For overland travel you should consider this:
There are only some roads which could be driven by street cars. The main road from the north to the south. Should be paved completely, and streets within a circle of 100 km around UB are paved. A new road head for Kharhorin (Karakorum) to UB and a construction for Bayanhongor is in progress. Also the road to Arvaiheer is not too bad.
Everything else requires a jeep and a lot of driving and mechanics skills. Nowadays GPS becomes more common, and can be a great help for orientation inside of the country

Motorcycle
This is possible, if you bring your own bike. For remote trips you should bring only the best, you need also aditional fuel tanks, and spare parts because a great part of the country is wilderness. Take special care because the fuel quality is leaded at 75 octane. In some stations you may get super fuel at 92 octan, and some machines need a reprogramming of the electronics to be able to consume such kind of fuel. Unleaded fuel is available only in UB. Fuel stations are very rare on the countryside, and you cannot expect any kind of technical help. That must be considered, specially of having a range of 500 km at least. But running out of fuel is not end of the trip, several truck or jeep drivers will sell you some litres if you are in an emergency.

Boat
It is possible to do some canooing on the greater lakes, but so long Mongolia hasn't any great rivers exept the one river which feeds the lake Khovsgol there is no boat transport.


Hitchhiking
You may try this, but be aware that between the comfort in a drivers cabin shared only with the driver and a seat?stand?place? at the back is a great difference. E.g. fuel trucks will go everywhere into the country, but they are very slow on bad road conditions. Can be very funny, or very exhausting.

Bicycle
Probably the greatest challenge - bicycle trips to the countryside. Near the state theatre is the 7 summits store which offers all you need, at a good quality, at western prices or more. Although mountain bikes can be bought on any bigger market you cannot just buy a bicycle - without spare parts you may get into trouble very fast. On the countryside spare parts can be obtained only by taking apart one new bike at the aimag or sum capital markets.... and there you can also having fixed holes in tyre tubes. After the end of the paved roady you may make 30 - 50 km a day, maybe more. Provisions are available only in the cities, otherwise you have to depend on the hospitality of the families which you will meet on the countryside. In the southern part of the country water provisions are important because settlements of people (for water) are very rare, and it could happen that you need two days from one water source to another.
So a bike, a trip and the equipment must be chosen by great care, and you have to be in a top condition.

Accommodation

If you do not want to stay with other HC members, or noone is available, here is what other members suggest. Hostels Hotels Camping Other Options There are several guesthouses and hotels in Ulan Baatar. The price for a guesthouse is always between 3,50 and 5 US Dollar a night. The nicest guesthouse I got to know here is Idres guesthouse. The have two buildiungs, one near the main bus terminal and one in the center (if you stand infront of the department store go right behind the department store, than turn left an go the small way, the second house is the house where Idres Guesthouse is, third floor). People of Idres Guesthouse are all one big familiy and they are so friendly and will help you as much as possible. Also if you're not staying there it's just nice to go there if you want to ask something. One night at Idre's costs 3,50$. They also have a homepage with information about accomodation, visa, trips etc.: www.idrehouse.url.mn Another central Guesthouse, where people are friendly is UB Guesthouse, it's 4 $ included breakfast.... but i would prefere Idres! Another exellent place to stay is Daka guest housse, e-mail: dakaa1379@yahoo.com and tel 976-21-252390 They have 2 to 4 beds in each room, wiuth lots of space and they serve exellent breakfasts and can give lots of advices on travel In the summer you can do camping everywhere... just take a tent with you or rent a tent at a guesthouse. I went to the countryside in the winter and it's also possible to stay at a jurte of people for a nigth or two..... because it's just about hospitality, you just can knock at a jurte and people would invite you for tea, something to eat and you can also ask if you can stay for the night... it's theire culture. but don't forget to be kind and nice and show resepct to the culture, so it'll stay like this!

some hotels , Summer 2007
You find in Khovd the Khovd Hotel which offers accomodation at 3000 Tugrik a night. This is in the center city, near the state theatre building.
In Bayan Ulgii there is the Duman Hotel (lux rooms at 12.000 Tugrik) and the Basteau Hotel, with rooms at 5000 Tugriks. Both are located near the concert hall in the center city. The Basteau is also mentioned in the Lonely Planet. At summer times you can also find a tourist ger camp between middle of June until September.
In Altai hot there is the Altai Hotel near the market, and if you speak some mongolian you can demand the non-tourist price of 12.000 for a half lux room (with shower and toilet) and 8000 for basic comfort.
In Bayanhongor you find the Ayanchin Hotel and two others at the east end of the main road. The Ayanchin offers a basic room at 8000 and a full lux room (with hot water) for 15.000

Food and Drinks and Local Specialties

Restaurants, Supermarkets, Street Food, ... There are several restaurants in Ulan Bbatar. You can eat mongolian food, but I can not recommand any place, because I'm vegetrain and mongolian food is nothing for vegetarian people.... but the mongolian milktee is very nice, it's called suetechai, it's tea with milk and salt and very nice and it costs between 80 and 100 Tugrik. the potatoe salat is one of the best i ever ate and also the carrotsalat (with lost of garlic) is very special! There are also several other Asian restaurants in Ulan baatra, a lot of korean and chinese food. There is one realy nice chinese restaurant next to the flower center (near the tuerkish embassy). The have an english menue, it's cheap there and the food tastes like real chinese food- very good. You can sit in small cabins there, a realy nice atmosphere.

Local specialities
The national drink is airag, it is made of mares milk, preferably white mare because they are supposed to give the best milk.
It has about the same alcohol content as beer and is drinken in the same way. The smell is dough and the taste is different from different places, but anyway sour youghurtlike.

The story of the milk
Every day the nomads milk their cows. At first they boil the milk for a while in the big wook like pan that is an optional tool in every ger. When the milk is boiled they drink from it.
The rest is putted aside for some 12 hours to become dried cream. This is used as bread spread, sometimes with sugar. And a delicios dessert is made by mixing the cream with flour and sugar and fry it.
Now they heat up the cream, mix it with som old yoghurt and put it away for some time again. This is how they get new youghurt and it is a mild and nice one. Eat it with some sugar or wild berries.
Again, the youghurt is boiled until most of the water is gone. They put it in a bag of cloth and place something heavy on top to squeeze out the rest of the water. The yoghyrt is now a solid, sour tasting piece that is sliced with thread. It has become sour milk curd.
Finally it is dryed to stone hard in the sun. The dryed milk curd. This one is almost impossible to bite. If you dip in your milk tea it will become a little bit better but still quite strange.

Money and Costs

Actually (june 2007) lot of banks in UB and the aimag capitals Hovd, Bayan Olgii and Uliastai change Dollar, Euro and most common to Tugrik currency. Also you can withdraw local money using a Visa card. In UB lot of banks have a 24 hour service. ATM machines are unknown outside of UB. Be sur you change Money befor heading to countyside, In Ulan Bataar you can change any currency, Mainly, Euros,Chinese Yuans, Russian Rubles, Swiss Francs and Dollars. Credit card are accepted in bank counters at Hovd and Bayan Olgii, but nowhere else. Pay always in local currency and in cash
costs
Dorm bed in a guesthouse: ca 4 dollar

Visa and Documents and Embassies

Who needs a visa? How to get it? Embassies & Consulates, of the country abroad and in the country

Mongolian Embassy in Berlin

Special for people living in Germany: there are some Visa agencies in Berlin, who arrange your Visa for 18-40 euros, and the 30 day Visa fee for Shengen citizens (EU+Switzerland) is 35 Euro, visa are issued usually within a week, sameday service is availabel for +75. It's better do do this with an agency because there are no honorary consuls in the other cities.

Extension: if you wanna stay longer than 30 days it's mostly possible to get an extension if you have evidence that you may leave in time, e.G. return flight ticket or train ticket. This is done in the naturalization and immigration office and costs 3 US$ a day of extension. The extension procedure needs a handwritten application in english, 2 passport photos (can be obtained at place), a completed form, and a phone number. This procedure takes mostly 3-4 working days.

An other way is getting an official invitation, but this can be done only if you know some people in Mongolia or by the foreign affairs office of your country.

Visa for leaving Mongolia Russian embassy
This is said to be the hardest place in the world to get a russian visa. The only organizations in Mongolia that can write invitations is Legend tours and aeroflot, and the rumor says that the invitation letter has to be in original.
If you already have an invitation letter it is a little bit easier. The embassy is on peace ave, not far away from State department store. The opening hours for visa application is 14.00-15.00, but you´d better start queing at 13 to be sure to get there.
In 2006 the price for a tourist visa for swedish citicens was 53 dollar. If you go through Legend tours it will probably be the double.

In 2007 a new transit visa with a duration of 10 days was introduced. For this you need only a precise travel plan, but now it'S possible to do the UB->Moscow trip by train on a transit visa. The invitation is actually less difficult to get: book a hotel in Moscow, which is allowd to issue an invitation (beginning at 60$ a day), and you get it by email. This was at least accepted as a printout in 2006 and 2007.

Chinese Visa are easy to obtain in UB, but require some days of processing and additional fees. You won't have problems when you apply for not more than 30 days, being a Shengen citizen or american, and if you have a basic travel plan. You must enter China within 90 days.

Borders and Customs

Post and Communications and Internet

Post, Telephone, Fax, Internet Access ... There is one postoffice in Ulan Baatar, it's on the peace avenue. You can buy postcards there, envelops,.... a stamp for a postcard to europe is 400 Tugrik (plus 60 Tugrik Tax) and a stamp for a letter 500 Tugrik (plus tax). If you're going to live in mongolia you should know, that the streets in general ahve no name, so you can't recive letters at your homeadress, but your friends can send them to the postoffice to psot restante. Internet: there are several internetcafes in Ulan Baatar.... sometimes very slow, but o.k.,... one hour costs between 600 and 800 Tugrik. Telephone: on the other side of the department store on the right corner is the cheapest palce for international phone calls... sometimes it can happen that the connection breaks down, but in general it's o.k. there are also international calling cards to buy at the postoffice and special phoneboxes for this, but my cards never worked, I never found out what I did wrong.

Questions and Answers or Forum

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Hospitality Club Meetings

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Travelogues

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Photos

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Activities and Sports

Nightlife and Entertainment

Bars

Some cool bars are on the south side of the Suhbataar Place. At the right side of the national theatre there is you find the Irish Pub with some real irish beeres, in bottles but also they have Guinnes Draught.

On the opposite is Khan Bräu, where you can have a good meal, and of course some mongolian beers brewed by the Deutsches Reinheitsgebot, and also german beer.

Paraleel to the Peace Avenue in east direction you find the Radio Club, where are often TV transmissions from football, formula 1 and of course wrestling. One draught beer of Borgio brand has a price of 1700 tugrik. You can also eat there, but at nighttime tables must be reserved.

200 meters on the east side is also the Night Club, a mixture of a disco and pub, foreigners mostly don't pay entry fee of 5000 T.

Cafes

One cool café is directly at the neighbourhood of Khaan Bräu.

Discos

The best known Disco is the UB palace at the west end of the city - international music, international guests, and for a drink you have to calculate 5 Euro/6 US$.... but the hottest dancefloor you can find in UB. Has several dancefloors, and closes at 3 or 4 am.

Some Discos are located at the northeast end of the Sukhbataar place, and if you follow the street heading to the north you may find dozens of smaller clubs. Just ask somebody 'disco club khaan?' and you cannot miss the next club.

Cinemas

One big cinema is situated in the middle of the city, 1000 m in the northwest of Sukhbataar place. But movies are mostly in mongolian, or simultan translated, you may also hear the original movie sound.

Population and People

Culture and Conduct or Local Customs

On the internet and in the Lonely Planet it is listed a lot of rules for how to behave in a ger. I found some of them wrong, some less important and some very true. Here is what I found out my self:

sleep with the head to the altar and the feet to the door.
recieve bowls with both hands.
Give a knife with the handle toward the reciever
Dont sit on the threshold
Dont put dishes on someones bed
When offered food and drinks, taste some, if ever so little, and then leave it if you dont want more.

ovoo
An ovoo is a pile of stones or branches, often with blue scarfes. If you walk clockwise around it 3 times, and throw a stone each round, you can make a wish or a pray for each stone.

snuffbottle
Men might offer you a snuff bottle. Take the bottle in one hand, use the other to get some snuff out with the little spoon that is atached to the lid and put it between your thomb and first finger on the hand that is holding the bottle. Then snuff it into your nose. It is like incense.

Language and Useful Phrases

English
Many mongolians try to learn it and some know it to a comunicable level.
Russian
Most people know some basic russian. Some speak it fluently, but dont take it for granted.
other
Japanese, Korean and chinese is also common.

Events and Holidays

Festivals, Sports, Concerts, Public Holidays...

Climate and When to Go

Geography

Environment and Flora and Fauna

Dangers and Warnings

Dont walk alone at night, too many foreigners have been violenty attacked since the begining of 2005. (like myself) Most of the poorer expats that dont have security at theyr home or body guards, have been agressed violently at least once while in Mongolia. And if you go to Markets, hide your valuables in a money belt undwer your clothes, and avoid wearing a handbag. Pick pocketing and Crime is a serius problem here, but you can avoid those if you prepare yourself. You can rent a safe on a daily basis in some Banks.

Tourist Traps

The big tourist trap is to spend most of your time in the car...Mongolia is so big, and most tourists dont realise it!!!

If you anyway decide to take a car trip around the coutry, at least let it take double as much time as suggested. Of course it will be double expensive too, but you will see more than the interior of the car.
Do more and longer stops and drive less each day, or drive every second day and do some hiking or resting every second day.

Health

If there is somewhere where you really should take a rabies shoot before you go it is in Mongolia. For some strange reason some health centres doesnt advice to do it, but I would really recomend it everyone that is going to the countryside. With so many dogs, and so bad transportsystem it is very likely that you get bitten by a dog and cant get to a hospital in 24 hours. The shoot will give you more time.
If an angry dog runs after you, shout at it, throw things on it, kick it, hit it with a stick, do anything you need to get it away. Sound cruel, but hopefully it will leave you as soon it understand that you are the master.

History

When I was in Mongolia I learned that the Mongolian horse came as far as Iceland, but no longer. Therefore the Icelandic and mongolian horses are very close related and look very similar.
Since Iceland is an isolated island the horse was preserved here and still have the same properties as it had for long time ago. Including the famous walk tölt.
The mongolian horse was inbreeded and therefore most of them cant do this anymore, but still you can find some rare horses that do it.
The thought came to me that Mongolia and Iceland is very similar in the way they are to their horses. They play a big role in both cultures.

The black death in Europe came from Gingis Khan and his warriors. Still there is small breaks out of the plague in the country side in Mongolia. It is the rats and the marmots that carry the decease.

Government and Politics

Economy

GDP, GDP per head, Annual growth, inflation, Major Industries, Major trading partners...

Arts

Music, Literature, Theater, Movies ...

Media

Newspapers, Radio and TV, Magazines ...

Religion

Volunteer Opportunities and Work

Organized Tours

Daka can arrange a stay with a local familly, you stay in a Ger (yourt) next to the familly,(but you have to pay a little) and you can participate in theyr herders works, or ride a horse, or hike etc...The location of the familly is in a superb place,and the experience of staying with locals at theyr Yourt is a must!! it's 55 km from Ulan Bataar. It's much much better than to stay at a boring tourist camp !!! And real cheap too!!! Daka fone is 976-99 844 844 and e-mail dakaa1379@yahoo.com

What to Bring or Packing List

Shopping

The most interesting place to go to look for things is the black market, called naranthul zach. The minibusses leave on the main street on the ither side of the suchbaatrsquare at teh busstation.... just wait for the small busses and the man in the bus shoutig zach, zach, zach.... it's 200 or 300 Tugrik to get there. Entrance to the market is 50 Tugrik. You can find everything at this market.... also old nails, things to built a ger (jurte), clothes, teapots, whatever... . the market opens at 10 a.m.and closes at 6 p.m. .... but it's not worse to go before 11 a.m. if you're just interested in buying and not seeing how the people bring the suff and build up everything. the market is closed on tuesdays. Becarefull for your money! Especially at the weekend, when it's stucked with people! Realy, you wouldn't be the first person loosing the money purse...... so just take a bit of money and the best is, but it in your pocket and your hand around it!! A part with very expensive shops and a lot of stuff is also if you go out the west entrance of the Gandan Tempel to the next area, there is a big and very modern shopping street!

Books and Further Reading

Guidebooks, Travel, History and Politics
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Other Information

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External Links

Official Country Website:
Only add really valuable resources here. Also, please ask the webmaster of the site you link here to add a link back to the Hospitality Club. If the link exists, please add (L) behind the URL of the link.
GertoGer You travel from one nomadic family to the next. This is a good way to get close to their life and culture in a short time. Their tours last from two to nine days.
Stepperiders Horsetrips in the area close to UB. Runned by an english girl and her mongolian friends. I had a really good time staying there.

Offtopic Messages

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