How to travel Mongolia and enjoy horses, kumys and raw nature (2024)

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How to travel Mongolia and enjoy horses, kumys and raw nature (2024)

Mongolia is a large country with a well-developed tourism industry. In Ulaanbaatar you can get just about everything, and if you like to have your trip organised by local guides, just go to local hotels or places where many tourists gather and you’ll immediately be surrounded by tempting offers.
However, if you like to organise your trip yourself, I’d be happy to help you choose the most suitable one.

History, what’s happened in the country and the current state

Ancient Mongolia’s history dates to the third century BC, when the Xiongnu and other nomadic tribes rose to power.

In the year 1206, Genghis Khan came to power and united the warring tribes under the Great Mongol Empire. He was proclaimed as Genghis Khan (Chingis Haan), which means the ruler of all the tribes of Mongolia. Under Genghis Khan, the Mongol Empire expanded into Eastern Europe, and under his successors (including his grandson Kublai Khan), it expanded into all of China and Central Asia.

With an area of thirty-three million square kilometers (about thirteen million square miles), it became the largest contiguous empire in history.

Mongolian family camp
Mongolian family camp

Nowadays, Mongolia is a tourism-oriented country, taking advantage of it’s own rich history, ready to be experienced by curious visitors. Travel Mongolia is easy and we will take a look at how to do that effectively.

🛂 How to get a visa for Mongolia

Fortunately, after year 2019, Mongolia has become even more open to visitors. It now offers visa-free access to many countries valid for a 30 days.

List of the countries that are eligible for visa-free access

Czech Republic
Hong Kong SAR (China)
Lao People’s Democratic Republic
Macau SAR (China)
New Zealand
Republic of Korea
Russian Federation
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
United States of America

List of countries eligible for e-visa

Antigua and Barbuda
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Brunei Darussalam 
Cabo Verde
Central African Republic
Costa Rica
Côte d’Ivoire
Democratic Republic of the Congo
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Marshall Islands
Micronesia ( Federated States of)
North Macedonia
Papua New Guinea
Saint Kitts and Nevis
Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
San Marino
Sao Tome and Principe
Saudi Arabia
Sierra Leone
Solomon Islands
South Africa
South Sudan
Trinidad and Tobago
United Republic of Tanzania
Vatican City State
Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)

✈️ How to get to Mongolia

travel mongolia The green steppes of Mongolia
The green steppes of Mongolia

How to travel to Mongolia by air

Ulaanbaatar International Airport has many international flights to South Korea, Thailand, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, Russia and Turkey. If you are looking for the cheapest option, try flying in from Beijing.

How to travel Mongolia by land

Many independent travelers choose to enter Mongolia overland. This is, taking into consideration the Trans-Mongolian route, can be considered as the most convinient way how to enter the country.

Enter Mongolia from Russia

Traveling Mongolia by bus
Traveling Mongolia by bus

There are two popular options. By train or by minibus.

If you decide to travel by train, you can simply continue your journey from Ulan-Ude or Irkutsk. The disadvantage of such a trip is that you will have to wait for the border guards to check the whole train, which can take several painful hours, especially in hot weather.

Fortunately, there are minibuses that leave from Ulan-Ude and go directly to Ulaanbaator. The price is about the same, but they cross the border much faster.

Enter Mongolia from China

In China, you will cross the Zamiin-Uud border crossing. To reach the border, first go to the town of Hohhot, from where you can take a direct bus to the border town of Erenhot. From there, you can cross the border on foot and/or by train to Ulaanbaatar.

🎒 Independent travel in Mongolia

Independent travel in Mongolia is very possible, even encouraged, despite the many offers from local tour guides.

I feel to mention this, as for my taste, many local tour guides we’re not professional in many ways, see you, foregin tourist as a pure source of money.
They may offer you a tour package, trying to convince you that there is no public transportation in Mongolia and that you will surely get lost and waste a lot of time if you do not go with them.

While this may be true for some, it will not be true for most, and Mongolia is fully explorable on your own.

Mongolian family
Mongolian family

⛅ Best time to visit Mongolia

The best time to travel to Mongolia is between June and August, when the countryside is lush and verdant, and temperatures range from 18 to 30 °C. Mongolia has an extreme continental climate with widely varying temperatures due to its landlocked location.

Mongolia also has more than 250 sunny days per year, so a good pair of sunglasses can be handy.

How to travel to Mongolia in the winter

Unless you can tolerate extreme cold, with temperatures dropping below -30 °C, I don’t recommend visiting Mongolia in the winter.

Travel to Mongolia in Spring & Fall

The spring and fall months in Mongolia are usually quite cold and windy, with temperatures around 12 degrees Celsius. Unless you specifically want or need to travel during this time of year, it is recommended that you wait until summer to travel.

Summer trip to Mongolia

It’s the best time to visit Mongolia. Summer is also the start of the tourist season. If you visit Ulaanbaatar in the summer between 11-13 July, you will have the opportunity to experience the Mongolian festival and see live the three national Mongolian disciplines – wrestling, archery and horse riding.

My Top 5 experiences in Mongolia

1. Ulaanbaatar – a capital city of Mongolia

There is a square with a statue of Genghis Khan, many shopping malls, skyscrapers, the center of Mongolia. From the city, you can hike up a nearby hill with a circular monument with historical images of Mongolia and a nice view of the city. I recommend a quick visit especially before sunset. There are several great museums and great souvenir shops. I don’t usually visit them much, but these shops are worth a visit. Great selection of traditional Mongolian instruments at reasonable prices as well as museums that breathe history.

Mongolia ulaanbaatar at night
Mongolia Ulaanbaatar at night

The railway station is located further away from the center at position (GPS 47.908449, 106.883620).
Chinese Embassy (GPS 47.923346, 106.922735 – the exact location of the visa application office).
Russian Embassy (GPS 47.915665, 106.910204).

I’ve listed the GPS positions deliberately, because the whole of Ulaanbaatar has very chaotically arranged streets and addresses are basically missing. This also means, for example, that most of the mail that comes to Mongolia stays at the central post office and the owners go there regularly to pick it up.

2. Lake Khovsgol (Хөвсгөл Нуур БЦГ)

The second cleanest lake in the area, located at an altitude of 1,645 meters. It is necessary to pack warm clothes, as it is cold and sometimes snows even in the summer.
The surrounding area is also one of the best places for hiking, either on foot or on horseback. In the remote mountains around the lake, it is possible to see traditional Mongolian herds of reindeer. Reindeers also freely wander the forests.
There are many campsites around the lake, and you can stay in yurts for a fee. You can also camp, but be prepared with good winter equipment. You can also swim in the lake, the temperature is comparable to Lake Baikal, but the air is much cooler.
You can get to the lake by minibus from Dragoon Bus Station in Ulaanbaatar. Unfortunately, the minibuses don’t go directly to the lake, so you have to take a taxi or hitchhike from the town of Murun (Мөрөн). It’s about a 20-hour drive to Murun from from Ulaanbaator, but only 3 hours from Murun to the lake. Hitchhiking is not a problem, but be aware that in most cases it is not gonna be free.

I was in a tourist area about 30 km northwest of the settlement of Khatgal (Хатгал). It is possible to camp on the shore of the lake, buy basic groceries in a local shop or use the services of local yurt camps.

Lake Khovsgol, Mongolia
Lake Khovsgol, Mongolia

3. Terelj National Park (Тэрэлж)

Located just outside of Ulaanbaatar, about two hours by bus, it’s definitely worth a visit. Buses with the number XO:4 go to the park twice a day, in the morning (5:00) and in the evening (16:00) from here (GPS 47.915327, 106.897447).

The bus arrives at the settlement of Terelj, from where it departs at 8:00 and 19:00. The price is very reasonable (3 500 MNT).

It is even possible to plan a short visit by arriving in the evening, seeing the surroundings, sleeping in your tent or in a local yurt camp and leaving in the morning.

There are some interesting rock formations and valleys to see along the way, some directly from the bus during the trip. Here are a few interesting places:

A turtle shaped rock, also a bus stop (GPS N47.90848 E107.42380 )

Interesting rocks (GPS N47.92750 E107.42320)

Dinosaur (GPS N47.90315 E107.43837)

The park also has the largest statue, the Genghis Khan Monument. If you want to get there, you’ll have to get off the bus and take a taxi, hitchhike, or do a day hike.

Be sure to bring plenty of drinking water. There is no water in the park and very limited water at the campsites.

Mongolia travel tereij national park map
Tereij national park map in Mongolia

4. Kharkhorin (Хархорин)

The largest Buddhist temple in Mongolia, the UNESCO World Heritage Site and Museum of Buddhism is located here. There are also many interesting statues in the area, and the town itself is a starting point for other tourist or otherwise interesting places in the area.

Mongolian buddhism at kharkorin
Inside the Mongolian Buddhist Temple at Kharkhorin

It’s easy to get here by direct bus from Ulaanbaatar. On the way, you will pass through the so-called Little Gobi. It’s several desert dunes that the Mongolians have made accessible to tourists. You can ride camels, horses and so on. But when you get off the bus, you’ll have to wait for the next one.

5. Naadam festival (Наадам)

If you visit Ulaanbaatar during the summer between 11-13 July, you will have the opportunity to experience the Mongolian national festival and see the three national Mongolian disciplines – wrestling, archery and horse riding.

You can travel to the festival quite easily, by regular bus from the city centre. The bus runs every hour there and back and the ride is free.

Festival Naadam in Mongolia
Festival Naadam in Mongolia

💵 Prices, budget and costs in Mongolia

Mongolia is a cheap country, but the prices of the tour packages can add up to the final costs. However, if you are a careful budget traveler, you can make your trip cheap, similar to Russia or other neighboring countries.

Where to exchange your money

You can change money in a bank or at street vendors. It is also possible to change money at the hotel, but don’t expect good rates.

ATMs in Mongolia

There are a lot of ATM’s in Ulaanbaatar and any kind of Visa or Mastercard will work there.

How much does it cost to travel around Mongolia?

How much does it cost to eat and drink in Mongolia?

  • Breakfast in small local restaurant – 3700 MNT
  • Local meal at a restaurant – 16 000 MNT
  • Dining in a mid-range restaurant – 23 000 MNT

What is the cost of transportation in Mongolia?

  • One-way domestic flight – 220 USD
  • One-way international flight – 5000 USD
  • Taxi within cities – 1500 MNT per km
  • Taxi from the airport to city center – 150,000 MNT
  • Local bus within the city – 540 MNT
  • Local troleybus within the city – 330 MNT

What is the cost of accommodation in Mongolia?

Inside of the Ulaanbaatar

  • bed in the dormitory from – 7 USD
  • private room from – 20 USD

Countryside prices may vary

  • A night in yurt camp – from 22 USD for a bed and from 55 USD for a yurt for a night
  • Hotels from 33 USD for a night
travel mongolia inside a mongolian yurt
Inside a Mongolian Yurt

🚌 Getting around in Mongolia: transportation

How to get around Mongolia using public transportation

There is a popular stereotype that mongolia has no roads, no public transportation. It has. Both.

There is only one problem. Imagine a star with Ulaanbaatar at its center, and each of it’s rays are the roads. That’s the Mongolian road network. All roads lead to Uaanbaator, which means that if you want to go from one city to another, you will most likely have to cross the capital.

Fortunately, there is a fairly good public transportation system, consisting of various types of affordable minibuses, so traveling with them is no different than in the surrounding countries.

Travel Mongolia on a horse

Mongolia horses near yurts
Mongolia horses near yurt camp

Be aware that if you don’t know how to take care of the horse, you might one day find yourself alone in the steppe without a horse, as they are trained to return to their owners when they find an opportunity to do so.

Horse prices vary, but usually start at 200 usd.

Hitchhiking in Mongolia

Hitchhiking is easy in Mongolia, but you must be prepared to give money. You might get lucky and get a free ride, but don’t count on it.

ℹ Information about the country, the Mongolians and their culture

Mongolians are a very hospitable people, but this is usually only true of those who live outside of Ulaanbaatar.

Unfortunately, the capital is full of scammers who will try to sell you a tour package (which you don’t need) or simply rob you on the street. I feel the need to warn you.

Fortunately, people who come to Mongolia do not come to see the capital, but to experience the real Mongolia that lies beyond its borders.

Mongolian wedding
Mongolian wedding

There you can experience the true hospitality of the humble Mongolian people, who can invite you into their yurts and share a meal with you.

I had a fantastic month in Mongolia, where I met local people by coincidence, traveled around the country with them, slept in their yurts, and milked and rode horses with them.

🍲 Mongolian Kitchen

The cuisine of Mongolia is mainly based on dairy products, meat, and animal fats. The most common dish in the countryside is boiled mutton. Steamed meat-filled dumplings called buuz are popular in cities.

The traditional diet is influenced by Mongolia’s extreme continental climate. The use of vegetables and spices is very limited. Mongolian cuisine has also been influenced by Chinese and Russian cuisine due to geographical proximity and close historical ties with China and Russia.

Also, when traveling in Mongolia, you will be surely invited for a kumis, which is a fermented milk product traditionally made from mare’s milk. There are many variations of kumis, depending on the region. It can be a little alcoholic, but nothing to get you really drunk.

Mongolian Kumis stored in cow skin inside of the yurt
Mongolian Kumis stored in cow skin inside of the yurt

Vegetarian in Mongolia

In Ulaanbaatar, you will have no problem eating just about anything. Outside it can be tricky, but with some preparation you can do it.
I prepared my food for several days in advance in places where I could get some vegetables.

💻 Internet in Mongolia

Internet coverage in Mongolia is pretty good. VPN is not needed.

Mobile internet in Mongolia

Mobile internet in Mongolia is surprisingly fast, reliable and cheap. In fact, you may have a problem with water while camping, being far from the source, but you will still be covered with full 4G speed.

Wifi in Mongolia

Within Ulaanbaatar you will not have a problem to find a decent wifi, even for a work. Beware of fake hotspots.

Horse riding on the endless grass steppes of Mongolia
Horse riding on the endless grass steppes of Mongolia

Learn more 💬

Visit Countries page for more information about each country.

All my travel guides and articles for Mongolia

My travel guides for other countries in Asia







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