Preparing for Mongolia

DESTINATION

Ulaanbaatar
Gorkhi-Terelj National Park
Central Mongolia

ActivitY

2 Days: Environmental stewardship
8 Days: Landscape & culture tour


What volunteer work will we be doing?

Gorkhi-Terelj National Park Stewardship

Expanding on the impact of your financial contribution to the Terelj National Park, you get to roll up your sleeves to plant trees, install outdoor trash cans with park management staff, clean up trash in recreational areas, and discuss implementation ideas for environmental awareness educational programs with the Rotary Club of Khangarid from Ulaanbaatar. During the trek, we may be able to help with other community needs if time and conditions permit.

Equipment such as gloves, claws and bags for trash pickup, and tree planting tools are provided. Be prepared to dress according to any potential weather changes, including sun, rain, and wind; e.g. closed-toe shoes, sunglasses, hat, rain jacket, long pants, etc. Before starting the volunteer work, your Trip Leader will give a safety briefing highlighting the potential hazards on site.

Landscape & Culture Tour

As we traverse the Mongolian landscape via off-road vans (and horses!) and stay in traditional ger (yurts) with nomadic families, we will carry forward our principles of environmental stewardship by picking up trash on our surroundings and leading by example. Further, we’ll connect deeply with locals and immerse in their daily ways of life.

 

What does nomadic touring look like?

Transportation

You will have the opportunity to experience various forms of transportation in Mongolia. Our road trip tour will be in a classic Russian UAZ (УАЗ) camper vehicle, with side trips of horseback and/or camelback rides. As road/trail conditions can be bumpy, please bring remedies for motion sickness if you are susceptible.

A Typical Touring Day

Our program includes 6-8 days of touring the countryside over many kilometers across the country.

The following is a typical schedule on touring days (subject to vary based on conditions):

07:30 am Wake up, pack bags
08:00 am Breakfast
09:00 am Depart to next activity and lunch destination
12:00 pm Lunch, relax
01:00 pm Depart to next activity and evening destination
05:00 pm Tea time, settle into camp
07:00 pm Dinner, evening activities/relaxation

The fun doesn’t end when we settle into camp! There will be time to mingle with the locals, playing traditional cultural games and sports (including Mongolian wrestling, if you’re so inclined) and hiking nearby landscapes. Feel free to bring games, instruments, hobbies, speakers, etc. to share with your fellow trekkers and staff. And who knows, perhaps the people who will enjoy the entertainment the most will be the locals!

Our Guiding Staff

Our excellent team of local guides will be supporting us on the tour and working alongside us at our project sites. Each group will have an English speaking guide to lead the way and answer any questions you may have.

Accommodation and Showers

Accommodations are on a shared basis. In Ulaanbaatar, you will be staying in a guesthouse with shared bathrooms. During any trips around the country, you will be staying in a traditional Mongolian ger (yurt) with nomadic families. Individual ger are simple but always cozy and comfortable, usually featuring four to six wooden beds with warm blankets.

In the countryside with family homestays, expect simple facilities with traditional pit toilets and no showers. Please bring toilet paper and wash cloths (avoid disposable wipes, which produces more waste).

Laundry services are available only in Ulaanbaatar at the guesthouse for about $5 per basket.

Food and Water

Mutton, rice, and noodles form the basis of the Mongolian diet. However, the trail rations may include bread, vegetables, eggs, cheese, milk, and meat. Meals will be enjoyed in the comfort of the ger camps or homestays or setup outside, weather permitting. With homestays, you can even join in on the preparation and cooking with the local families on their coal stove-top and learn a new recipe or two!

If you have any special dietary restrictions or allergies, please let us know in the volunteer application form so that we can make adequate preparations for you. Note that lacto-ovo vegetarian diets are easy to accommodate, and while vegan, gluten-sensitive, or lactose-intolerant diets can also be accommodated, limited Mongolian familiarity may mean options are less creative than you might be used to.

Though all food is covered on the trip, we encourage you to bring snacks and comfort foods from home for variety. Alcohol is not included in the coverage, so BYOB.

We will be supplying mineral water from our vehicles during the project days and landscape/culture tour. The tap water in the cities is safe to drink, but mineral water is recommended.

Electricity and Internet

The voltage in Mongolia is 220 V and the plugs used are C or E. You will find limited opportunities to charge your batteries in the ger. Please come prepared by bringing a a universal plug adapter, headlamp/flashlight, extra camera batteries, portable battery bank, and/or portable solar panel. 

For cellular network service, if you choose to get a SIM card you will have pretty good coverage on some parts of the road.

WiFi is available in large cities, particularly in the guesthouse and some cafes.

Weather

Mongolia can experience four seasons in a day. With more than 260 sunny days a year, Mongolia is known as the “Land of the Blue Sky.”

Ulaanbaatar is considered the coldest capital city in the world. Temperatures can drastically start to drop below 0°C in late October, and cold biting temperature of to -30°C in January and February and remain below freezing till April. July to September is pleasant, but it can still turn cold.

The average monthly temperature and precipitation in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia:

Average min and max temperatures in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
 

What travel considerations should I be aware of?

Visa and Immunizations

If you are traveling from the USA or Canada, you do not need a visa if visiting for fewer than 90 days, but your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your date of arrival. For stays for more than 30 days, register with Mongolian Immigration within seven days of arrival.

View the full list of countries for visa requirements here.

Mongolia does not have any requirement by immigration or customs for proof of vaccinations when entering the country. Check with your local government body for health recommendations.

Money and Tipping

US Dollars are often accepted, especially in Ulaanbaatar, but it is also useful to carry some cash in the local currency—the Tugrik (MNT)—especially in small bills for taxi rides and going out. ATMs and money changers can be found at the airport and throughout Ulaanbaatar. However, there will not be many opportunities to take out or exchange money after leaving Ulaanbaatar. Please prepare accordingly if you plan on buying souvenirs or alcohol on the trip.

Try to always give money and tips with your right hand, not your left.

Trek Relief does not cover tips—this is up to your discretion. Tipping both your driver and guide for the landscape/culture tour is expected and is not included in the trip cost (up to your comfort level; about $4-10 USD per day per recipient is considered appropriate).

Note that tipping in restaurants, bars, and cafes is not expected (although likely to be welcome), and bargaining is not the cultural norm.

City Transport

Other than walking, a good way to get around Ulaanbaatar is via taxi. Simply stick your arm out on the side of the road to signal for a taxi ride. Ask for the price to your destination before you embark (expect to pay about 1,000 MNT per kilometer) and be prepared with small bills for payment.

Cultural Awareness

GREETINGS

Study some useful Mongolian phrases to get you started with basic greetings.

GER HOMESTAYS

It is courteous to enter into a family’s ger upon arrival and when invited to enjoy tea (or fermented mare’s milk!) and candy or cookies, and you can always share your snacks and beverages if you desire—Mongolians are big into gifts of food and practical supplies!

A typical ger layout is presented here. While inside, be sure to walk in a clockwise direction (from left to right upon entering and when exiting).

ATTIRE AND DISPLAYS OF AFFECTION

In general, dress modestly. When going out in Ulaanbaatar, you can expect to dress up as fashionably as you would back home.

Refrain from public displays of affection and always err on the side of conservative actions.

 

Are you equipped and ready?

Luggage and Logistics

As space is limited in the vehicles for each excursion (project events and landscape/culture tour), please consider carrying only what’s necessary for each tour and storing the remainder at the guest house in Ulaanbaatar (free, safe storage is provided through the reception).

Physical Activity Level

The physical activity level of our Mongolia trip is light, since most of the trip will be touring the country by vehicle and sometimes horse and/or camel. The tree planting and cleanup activities may be the most physically strenuous, but you will work at the level of physical effort you are most comfortable with, as there will be different types of tasks for all levels.

Packing List

To view our suggested packing list, please click here.

Going Out

If you decide to go out for a night on the town, be prepared to karaoke—Ulaanbaatar’s favorite nighttime activity!

For culturally rich experiences, there are live Mongolian opera concerts with traditional throat singing, sports stadiums for archery and wrestling competitions, and even adventurous all-you-can-eat buffets.