Important information on how to organise “the Transsib after: the big Mongolian trip”

based on the trip made in August 2016

How did we start the preparation

We were taking a more than 2-week-long trip from Saint Petersburg to Baikal lake, finishing it by coming back to Irkutsk after around 4 days next to Baikal lake.

We knew that it is not going to be easy to get to know more about Mongolia without a little help, thus I contacted a hostel in Ulanbataar about whom I got the information that they organise different kind of trips all around the country for travellers. It was around 30 of us arriving from the Transsiberian train trip and we wanted to use our limited time in Mongolia the best possible way.

Golden Gobi organised the tours where we could visit and sleep with Nomadic families, ride camels and Mongolian horses and where we could take part in Mongolian barbecues.

You can request this tour by writing them to golden_gobi@yahoo.com, the name of the owner is Ogie.

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There are different trips with different length, it is very suggested to take the 4-5 day-long ones (otherwise you barely experience anything). They provide food, water and accommodation during the tours.

Important:

  • We went in August, which meant that you need to contact them much in advance because August is a peak period and we were a group of 30 people
  • There is a possibility to sleep in their hostel before and after this tour (in 2016 it was 12 USD/night/person in the dormitory). It is a very equipped hostel, they have awesome showers and toilets, we were extremely appreciating after two-three weeks on the train 🙂
  • The owners picked us up with a big bus from the station where the bus from Ulan Ude arrived. Let them know in advance if you are not arriving on time, due to higher waiting time at the border (more to come in another point after this)
  • They asked some deposit in 2016, but there is also a possibility to pay on spot (some participants can team up to send their part, so the transfer fee is also less) – it can be a great option if you also arrive from long time of travelling, so you don’t want to drag a lot of money with you
  • They also send invitation letter if needed for visa (in 2016 most of the nationalities needed visa)

Draft programme and prices – how was it in 2016?

3 days tour

Day Itinerary Stay
1 Drive to the Elsen Tasarkhai Semi Desert. The area has been protected since 1997, and it covers 46,900 hectares of Khogno Khan Mountain (280km west from Ulaanbaatar) and surrounding beautiful place. Khogno Khan Mountain is made of granites of Paleozoic age. Here you can enjoy the unique combination of Mongolian mountains, forests and Gobi type landscapes all in one location. The camel riding around the area. Nomadic family

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2 After horseback riding around the area drive to the Kharakhorum town, where developed Kharakhorum capital of Great Mongolian Empire in 13-th century, Explore Erdene Zuu Monastery Museum – First Biggest Buddhist Center in medieval ages and it was closed and badly damaged in1930’s. Also we will see turtle rock from the 13th century and the phallic rock. Ger Guesthouse

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3 Drive back to Ulanbataar B+L

4 days tour

Day Itinerary Stay
1 Drive to the Elsen Tasarkhai Semi Desert. The camel riding around the area. Nomadic family

B+L+D

2 After horseback riding around the area drive to the Kharakhorum town, where developed Kharakhorum capital of Great Mongolian Empire in 13-th century, Explore Erdene Zuu Monastery Museum – First Biggest Buddhist Center in medieval ages and it was closed and badly damaged in1930’s. Also we will see turtle rock from the 13th century and the phallic rock. Ger Guesthouse

B+L+D

3 Drive to Khogno Khan Mountain. The area has been protected since 1997, and it covers 46,900 hectares of Khogno Khan Mountain (280km west from Ulaanbaatar) and surrounding beautiful place. Khogno Khan Mountain is made of granites of Paleozoic age. Here you can enjoy the unique combination of Mongolian mountains, forests and Gobi type landscapes all in one location. Nomadic family

B+L+D

4 Drive to the Khustai Nuruu National Park where herds of wild horse Przevalskii are re-acclimatizing since 1991, Explore wild horses Takhi /Mongolian name/ in several enclosures, Visit natural museum displaying about wild horses and the national park area including flora and fauna. B+L

5 days tour

Day Itinerary Stay
1 Drive to the Elsen Tasarkhai Semi Desert. Then continue drive to Khogno Khan Natural Reserve. The area has been protected since 1997, and it covers 46,900 hectares of Khogno Khan Mountain (280km west from Ulaanbaatar) and surrounding beautiful place. Khogno Khan Mountain is made of granites of Paleozoic age. Here you can enjoy the unique combination of Mongolian mountains, forests and Gobi type landscapes all in one location. Camel riding. Nomadic family

B+L+D

2 Early in the morning start the tour to the Orkhon waterfall/valley.  The waterfall area was formed by a unique combination of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes about twenty thousand years ago. Surrounded by high mountain peaks with green forest tree and home of yaks. Ger

Guest house

B+L+D

3 Off driving. Free for your leisure and horse trekking. There are possibilities to try riding yaks as well. Nomadic family

B+L+D

4 After horseback riding around the area drive to the Kharakhorum town, where developed Kharakhorum capital of Great Mongolian Empire in 13-th century, Explore Erdene Zuu Monastery Museum – First Biggest Buddhist Center in medieval ages and it was closed and badly damaged in1930’s. Also we will see turtle rock from the 13th century and the phallic rock. You will stay outside of the Kharakhorum town. Nomadic family

B+L+D

5 Drive to the Khustai Nuruu National Park where herds of wild horse Przevalskii are re-acclimatizing since 1991, Explore wild horses Takhi /Mongolian name/ in several enclosures, Visit natural museum displaying about wild horses and the national park area including flora and fauna. Then continue drive back to Ulaanbaatar. B+L

The all inclusive package 5 days Central Mongolia tour was:

  • 20 people: US$314 per person
  • 30 people: US$255 per person
  • 35 people: US$272 per person

The all inclusive package 4 days Central Mongolia tour was:

  • 20 people: US$247 per person
  • 30 people: US$208 per person
  • 35 people: US$228 per person

The all inclusive package 3 days Central Mongolia tour was:

  • 20 people: US$188 per person
  • 30 people: US$156 per person
  • 35 people: US$170 per person

All inclusive package: It includes basically everything you need, excellent driver, petrol, car, professional English speaking guide, breakfast+lunch+dinner, 1.5L mineral water per person a day, entrance fees to the National Parks, horse and camel trekking, accommodation in Ger, camping (sleeping bags+linen+tents+rolled matts) & kitchen equipment’s. The tour guides are well experienced arranging meals for vegetarians as well.

The tours arranged aren’t luxury but they offer excellent quality of tour with professional certified guides and drivers.

*Price does not include personal hygiene, snacks, alcohol or soft drinks.

Visa

Russian visa

If you arrive from Russia, leave enough time for yourself with the visa. According to my best knowledge, Russian tourist visas cannot be extended, so be rather on the safe side wit the length. After leaving the Baikal lake, you still need at least around 2 days to leave Russia, even if you travel directly from Irkutsk to Ulan Ude and you take the bus as soon as you reach the city, so don’t forget to have a visa valid long enough to reach Mongolia safely.

No one will say anything if the Russian and Mongolian visas are overlapping, don’t worry. However, if your Russian visa is expiring, you will face quite some hours of interrogation, a huge fine and also the whole trip will be delayed.

Mongolian visa

You might need to ask for Mongolian visa as well. In 2016 some participants could ask for transit visa which was half price comparing to the tourist visa. The length of validity was different, obviously: the transit visa was valid for 7 days while tourist visa is valid for 30 days.

Please take into account where will you go after the trip, count at least 1 extra day after coming back to Ulaanbaatar from the tour etc. If you are going to China from Ulanbataar in a more adventurous way (bus/train), definitely take the longer visa! (The Mongolian border police didn’t seem any more light-hearted than their Russian colleagues, don’t stay in any country with expired visa!)

Chinese visa

If you may not have visa for instance for China, it was possible, however very difficult to obtain it in Ulanbataar, due to long queues and slow service, so if you can, arrange it in advance. 

There is also a possibility to get a 72-hour visa if you arrive by plane and you leave from the very same airport.

Money

At the border, some old ladies will board the bus to sell you cash for euro and dollar. They sell it for a bit higher price than the official exchange rate, however this can be a good option for you if you don’t want to withdraw money from ATM’s (we haven’t found any exchange offices on the way).

Obviously, nomadic people don’t really accept credit or debit cards during the tour, but you might want to buy things on the way.

How to reach Ulaanbaatar?

When you come back to Irkutsk from the Baikal lake, you will need to take the night train from Irkutsk to Ulan Ude. In Ulan Ude there is an early morning bus from the bus station to Ulaanbaatar.

In Ulan Ude you might have time to see the huge Lenin head statue, but try not to miss your bus, since there is only one per day (and if you miss the tour start in Ulaanbaatar, then you cannot join the others).

Train information:

From ИРКУТ ПАСС (IRKUTSK PAS) to  УЛАН УДЭ П (ULAN-UDE, RESPUBLIKA BURYATIYA, VOSTOCHNOSIBIRS, [2054785])

Departure at 16:08 Moscow time, arrival at 00:51 Moscow time. (Based on the trip in 2016, times might differ!)

Bus information:

We got some help from our Russian friends to get the Mongolian bus tickets, but on Tripadvisor there are some helpful information on this ticket.

This was my ticket back then:

And if you were wondering where your trip will start, they leave you with little doubt for sure at the bus station.

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And believe me, the sunsets in Mongolia are just breathtaking, even more beautiful than the sunrises.

DSC_0147Our first sunset after entering Mongolia

Ulaanbataar

After or before the trip starts, you might have some extra time to visit the city. The countryside is much more impressive, so if you have multiple extra days there, consider booking another tour.

Highlights of Ulaanbataar are the central square containing the Mongolian government, Gandantegchinlen Monastery and Zaishan Hill, from where you have a view over the city (last two both reachable by bus)

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In 2016 we went to a club, which was a strange, but very fun experience. One thing to watch out for is not to get scammed (for example pressing an extra 0 when you pay by card).

There are no single tickets on Ulaanbataar city buses – upon boarding you simply slip the correct amount of banknotes into the box next to the driver. This is possible due to the general absence of coins – in Mongolia only paper money is used.

There is a state shopping center near the hostel, if you want to buy souvenirs, it was actually a bit cheaper here than during the tour (e.g. the chess set), plus you can also pay by card.

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If you have one full day, you can also visit the huge Genghis Khan statue, but you need to ask the hostel whether they can arrange a minivan for you (then you shall get more people to fit in the minivan, thus it will be cheaper to rent it).