I’ve divided your Mongolian tour options into three categories: Guided, English speaking driver only, or “any driver will do.”
These come in all shapes and sizes. It’s possible to book online with a big, expensive tour operator, have an airport pickup, and stay in a tourist yurt camp, but this isn’t the best way to see the country. I recommend one of the many guesthouses in Ulaan Baatar. See my suggestions here. The Golden Gobi was a great resource for me and is one of my favorite guesthouses.
- Great food. If you’re a vegetarian God help you in Mongolia. You simply have to hire a guide to cook in this meat lover’s paradise.
- History, geological info, ect.
- There is a distance from the families. You’re more likely to stay in the guest ger rather than staying up with Mongolians drinking vodka, snorting snuff, and smoking their pipe.
- Less traditional food. This could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your pickyness.
- Less of a “head first” cultural experience.
English speaking driver
This is a great alternative that will get you out of U.B. to see some sights and stay with some great families. Keep in mind you are usually responsible for all of your drivers meals and possibly accomodation if it’s cold out.
- You always know where you’re going and what’s for dinner.
- You will definately be hanging out a lot with friendly, hospitable Mongolians.
- Cheap (Around $20 a day for car/gas/driver and usually 3,000-5000T a night)
- You might not always like what’s for dinner. You will be eating whatever the family is eating which is usually rice and meat or noodles and meat.
- Communication can still be a problem.
- Drivers might skimp on sights and offer no info.
“Any driver will do”
If you’re feeling adventurous, brush up on your Cyrillic alphabet and head to the Black Market and find a jeep or van.
- What a story you’ll have if you ever get back
- You’re picture drawing and miming skills will no doubt improve
- Probably the cheapest option if you’re not ripped off (have a local help negociate a price.)
- If you’re going into the country you will likely stay with the driver’s extended family.
- Every time you get in the car your destination is a surprise. How fun.
- You can learn Mongolian!
- Pretty much the inverse of all the pros!
I never hired a guide in my travels and had a blast with options 2 and 3, both of which you can read accounts of under this blog’s Mongolia category. I do know that I missed some nearby petroglyphs and deer stones while in Western Mongolia because we weren’t able to communicate with our driver, but the cultural experiences were priceless and I wouldn’t have done anything differently.
Hope this is helpful.
Tags: Eurasia: Marco Polo-in' it, Mongolia