“Yaks, Yurts and Dancing Horses” Small Group! Aug 16-24, 2022
Seeking the extraordinary? Imagine a Kingdom of Singing Sand Dunes, Flaming Cliffs, throat singers, 2 humped camels and dinosaur eggs. Come follow the footsteps of where Marco Polo ventured 700 years ago on our new AFS expedition of a lifetime to Mongolia…titled the Safest Country in the World!
Mongolia is trending for travelers this year because it is so exotic and safe to visit. Maybe it’s the raw nature in the most expansive horizons on earth with diverse landscapes and brilliant star-studded skies. Maybe it’s for all of the fun to be had in this remote land of Genghis Khan. The intriguing country offers the coolest festivities, chock full of unique cultural traditions. Our past AFS group loved it. This time we enhanced it by including the dramatic Gobi Desert for you!! Together, we explore the best regions of their incomparable National Parks. Visit friendly nomadic families, ride the iconic Mongolian small horses, trek by camel, join the folklore dancing, pose with eagles, heck – you may even milk a yak!
After fun in the capital Ulaanbaatar, we fly up to the Gobi, “Mongolia’s Outback,” the world’s most northern desert – a vast landscape of sweeping dunes, sandstone cliffs and unique wildlife. Gobi is called the “Cemetery of Dinosaurs” after the world’s first dinosaur nest and eggs were discovered here in 1921. You’ll love “glamping” in our tented yurts at the Dream Gobi Camp! We move safari-style in our 8 thrilling jeeps with some fun rides on dromedaries over dunes.
With the pandemic, all things change. We rearranged things now to perfect this trip. Airfares are double cost in July. For your safety, we avoid the crowds of the annual July Nadaam Festival and have prepared a special fest for AFS with the locals. You’ll still see a dazzling spectacle of local cultural arts with throat singing, eagle calling, archery, children racing wild horses and more. Our local team says this brilliant smaller version will provide special interaction between the nomads and our small group. We even paid for an extra day for you to relax and explore.
Love the outdoors? This wild land of untouched beauty is called the “Great Wide Open” to experience true social distancing. So unspoiled, the nearest Starbucks is 2500 miles away. There are more horses than humans and a photographer’s dream. Instagram yourself with the funniest looking animals and their nomadic herders against breathtaking backdrops of incredible star-filled skies. August is the perfect time to visit. This is a total bucket list vacation for your “Bragging Rights” to prove you are a true global traveler. So affordable, no other company with the Gobi can compete. We include domestic air, 18 meals, and fine accommodations. No visas needed. Just bring some tips and laughter. I can’t wait to lead you and limit participants to 22, so this will sell out fast.
Come hear the cry of the eagle in a nomadic land of pure simplicity. Embrace your inner explorer to discover a delightful place like no other and let your dreams begin!
Click to read–> 10 REASONS TO VISIT MONGOLIA
- Small Naadam Country Festival that showcases parade, wrestling, archery, horse racing, anklebone shooting, folklore singing and dancing.
- Vultures Canyon in Yol Valley (South Gobi)
- Singing Sand Dunes of Khongoryn Els ( South Gobi)
- Flaming Cliffs of Bayanzag (South Gobi)
- Wild Horses ( Khustai Nuruu National Park)
- Chinggis Khan Statue Complex
- Visiting nomadic families
- Opportunities for camel and horse riding
Our Glorious AFS Itinerary
Land dates Aug 16-24 (Air dates Aug 14 or 15 – 24)
For many, Mongolia is the land of Genghis Khan, but it’s much more than that. Bordered by Russia in the north and by China from all three remaining sides, Mongolia is the world’s second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. With very little arable land but vast grasslands with snow-capped mountains in the north and the west and the famous Gobi Desert to the south, Mongolia is an exotic destination for travelers. Still, more than 30% of the population live a nomadic or semi-nomadic life in the yurts and ride horses. Majority of the population are of Mongol ethnicity and practice Tibetan Buddhism.
The trip commences in Ulaanbaatar-the capital city of Mongolia where almost half of the country’s population resides! Here, we join the rural version of the Naadam Festival. Naadam means ‘game’ and the festival showcases three popular traditional sports of Mongolia: wrestling, horse racing, and archery. We take an excursion to Khustain Nuruu National Park to see the wild horses called Przewalski horses. Wild horses were once extinct from the wild, but they were successfully reintroduced in the wild in 1992.
Next, we fly to the South Gobi where we hike the vultures’ canyon, the vast dunes, and the red flaming cliff where paleontologist Roy Chapman Andrews first found dinosaur fossils in 1922. We will also visit a nomad family and learn about their nomadic lifestyle and rent their double-humped camels and explore the magnificent area. Back in Ulaanbaatar, we take an excursion in the outskirt of the city and visit the gigantic Chinggis Khan Statue complex on the bank of Tuul River.
16AUG 2022 Arrive in Ulaanbaatar
After clearing immigration and custom, meet your guide and driver at the arrival gate and transfer to the hotel for check-in. (25 minutes). Free time to relax or explore this fabulous capital city said to be “sinfully fun” with many new venues from Foodie Tours to Ice Bars. So much to do. Visit the Llama Temple, Dinosaur Museum or Winter Palace. Shopping is excellent for cashmere, camel hair products, leather goods and cool local crafts.
Overnight in Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar
17 AUG Visit a Mongolian Nomadic family
Morning drive to Mongol Nomadic Ger camp (30 miles) . First, visit a Nomad family Today, we experience:
– Everyday life of traditional Mongolian families and herders in real life
– Making of dairy products and tasting.
– Demonstration of how a Mongolian herder family move from place to place over the year and use ox cart and camel freight
– Fastening and milking yaks, sheep, and goats
– Making of felt and tanning, dyeing, etc.
– Learning about the national musical instrument and folk songs
– horse shows
Enjoy the rural version of the Naadam Festival!
The second part of the day is for the Mongol Nomadic Naadam festival – a rural version of the National Naadam festival held in Ulaanbaatar.
On arrival in Mongol Nomadic Camp, the host welcomes the guests and lead them to the arena to join the festival. The event begins with a Mongolian song & horsehead fiddle performance- a Mongolian tradition. Then 16 strong wrestlers compete for 1st round of wrestling. Archery competition and ankle bone shooting competition will follow afterward. You will get true experience in archery and ankle bone shooting sports. Local artists perform Mongolian dances and national songs amidst the events.
The most interesting and the highlight of the event is horse racing. Young jockeys sing Giingoo – a special song or mantra for racing horses. Watch children ages 5 to 8 years old race thundering horses as locals cheer them on. The winners of the competitions will be awarded sheep and other traditional gifts of nomads. You have many opportunities to meet with wrestlers, jockeys, archers and take memorable photos.
Late afternoon, transfer back to your hotel in Ulaanbaatar. After a full-day adventure, get to know your fellow travelers at our welcome dinner.
Overnight Holiday Inn,
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
18 AUG Ulaanbaatar sightseeing
After breakfast, explore the local attractions of Ulaanbaatar. The first stop will be at the Gandan Monastery – the largest and most famous functioning monastery in Mongolia. Here, you may experience the monks in worship and see the impressive Golden Buddha Statue of Migjid Janraisig.
Next, visit Genghis Khan Square, in the central square of the city. The center of the square has an equestrian statue of Damdin Sükhbaatar, one of the leaders of Mongolia’s 1921 revolution, and the square was named after him from 2013 to 2016. The place also features monuments of Chinggis Khan and Ögedei Khan and Kublai Khan on the square’s north side and in front of the government palace called Saaral Ordon. Great photo opps here. On to visit the National Museum of Mongolia, located on the west side of the palace. The museum exhibits prehistory, pre-Mongol Empire history, Mongol Empire, Mongolia during the Qing rule. The museum also exhibits Tibetan treasures, ethnography and traditional life, and the twentieth-century history of Mongolia.
Wild horses in Hustai National Park! Afternoon, we travel to Hustai National Park (40 miles) and first have lunch in a ger (or yurt) camp, and then we proceed for exploration of the park, looking for the wild horses also called Przewalski’s horses. Locals call them “Takhi.” It became extinct in the wild in 1969 and, since 1992, has been successfully re-introduced in Hustai NP from zoos around the world. It is thrilling to see the breed of horses here unchanged since the time of Genghis Khan. Late afternoon, we transfer back to our hotel in Ulaanbaatar city (100 miles, 1.5 hours)
Overnight Holiday Inn,
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
19 AUG On to our adventure in the famous Gobi desert!
Flight to Dalanzagad Airport in South Gobi. (baggage weight will be limited on our small planes. Refer to AFS trip tips. You can leave things behind at the Holiday Inn.)
After an early morning breakfast, or possibly, they provide us the packed breakfast, we transfer to the airport in time for the flight to South Gobi. It’s one hour 30 minutes long flight. Upon arrival, meet your local drivers/guides in 4WD vehicles who will transfer to the amazing Dream Gobi Lodge. You’ll love this Glamping experience like no other. Our deluxe gers all have en suite bathrooms and all amenities.
Dream Gobi Lodge in Dalanzadgad
Visit Tugrugiin Shiree to see the fossils of the Fighting Dinosaurs
After lunch, proceed for exploration of Tugrugiin Shiree – known for the famous fossils of the “Fighting Dinosaurs,” discovered by Dr. Barsbold, the Mongolian-Polish joint expedition leader. The fossils contain the skeletal remains of a Protoceratops and Velociraptor locked in deadly combat. You can find dinosaur bones from the area. Several fossilized young dinosaurs in their eggs were found here.
Overnight in Overnight Dream Gobi Lodge, Deluxe en suite Ger Accommodation.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
20 AUG Moltsog Sand Dunes & The Flaming Cliffs
After breakfast, we travel to Moltsog Sand Dunes in our jeeps (20 miles, 45 minutes). This long dune is situated northeast of Flaming Cliffs. Surrounded by saxaul trees, Moltsog Sand Dunes are smaller than the Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes, but they are beautifully formed and provide a pleasant alternative. You can hike the dunes ridge and enjoy the views around or rent a horse to explore. This region is a haven for many wild animals.
Late afternoon is for the exploration of the famous Flaming Cliffs. The place was named as ‘Flaming Cliffs’ by Roy Chapman Andrews, an American explorer who explored the Mongolian Gobi Desert and found Asia’s first dinosaur skeleton and eggs. The red cliff gleams with sunlight and is visible from far away.
Take a short walk on the ridge of the cliff and look for the pieces of Dinosaur bones, then drive a little further to see why they call this place Bayanzag, which means “rich in saxaul shrubs.” Out here in this remote wilderness, you’ll see the spectacular blue sky’s that Mongolia is famous for. Each night in our camp, witness the incredible array of stars like you’ve never seen before!
Overnight in Overnight Dream Gobi Lodge, Deluxe en suite Ger Accommodation.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
After breakfast, travel to Gurvansaikhan National Park, situated in the lap of the Altai Mountains. On the way, we will stop to visit the local Natural History Museum for an insight into flora and fauna of the area. This valley is nestled deep within the hills and is a haven to get away from the desert heat. (Some areas of the valley are in the shade the huge blocks of ice don’t melt right away, and sometimes you can still seem them melting gradually in the summer.) The canyon is very wide at the entrance and narrows gradually into a remarkable gorge. We ’ll have the chance to see wild animals such as ibex and wild sheep and the vulture. You can walk on foot or take a horse ride to explore the canyon. Horse with the lead costs about $ 7 (Subject to change, negotiated on the spot).
Visit a camel herder family – optional
Next, visit a camel herder family in their yurt, locally called ‘ger ‘and learn about their nomadic lifestyle. The nomads are animal herders and move place to place throughout the year for better pasture and water for their animals. In winter, they often move closer to a mountain for shelter. In spring and summer, they move closer to a river for water and in autumn, they move up a mountain to collect hay. Most nomads move minimum four times a year, but if they have a lot of animals, they might move more than four times a year. You will be invited to visit their ger home, which contains pretty much everything, living area, kitchen, beds, etc. You will have the chance to try Hormog (fermented Mongolian camel milk), and watch them in their routine works. You can rent their double-humped Bactrian camel and go on an exploration of the dunes.
We return to the lodge for lunch, and we will take rest until late afternoon exploration.
Overnight in Overnight Dream Gobi Lodge, Deluxe en suite Ger Accommodation.
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
22 AUG Flight back to Ulaanbaatar and Chinggis Khan Statue Complex
Early morning breakfast and transfer to the airport (31 miles, 1.5 hours) and fly back to Ulaanbaatar. Excursion of Chinggis Khan Statue Complex
We meet our coach driver at the airport and proceed to the amazing Chinggis Khan Statue complex (41 miles, 1.5 or 2 hours). We can view the 131 feet tall statue of Great Chinggis Khan on horseback from far away. You can enter the statue from the chest of the horse and climb up to the head of the horse from where you will enjoy the panoramic view of the vast plain. Total Instagram area.
Return to Ulaanbaatar city late afternoon, and balance of the day is at leisure. Tonight we toast each other goodbye at our farewell dinner.
Overnight Holiday Inn,
Meals: Breakfast, lunch and dinner
23 AUG Free day to play!
A full day to relax and explore. Our guides will provide you options. The Naran Market and Gallery Mall our favorites for shoppers followed by the infamous pub crawls here. I’m going to visit the Children’s Palace orphanage. See the Beatles Square, National Park Ferris Wheel and Museum of Dinosaurs. Get spiritual at the Shaman center, Gadengin Monastery or Lama Temple. Visit the Railway Museum, Puzzle Museum and more.
24 AUG Departure day.
Depending on different flight departure times, morning is free in Ulaanbaatar for shopping or pursue your interests until departure transfer.
(Mongolian Cashmere: Cashmere is a leading industry of Mongolia, producing one-third of global supply. Cashmere is also the country’s largest export after minerals. Mongolia’s topography, the vast steppe, and the harsh weather conditions have created many unique cultural phenomena and cashmere is among one of them. Mongolia’s nomadic herders tend most of the goats that produce the cashmere wool. The goats grow long, fine fibers to protect themselves from the harsh cold weather and the herder’s hand comb the fibers and sell to the cashmere factory and so they are special. The cashmere from Mongolian goats is durable, softer and warmer than anything found on other goats around the world. It’s very rare that anyone who visits Mongolia would return without buying cashmere products. There are quite a few Cashmere outlets in the town. Gobi Cashmere Factory Outlet, Gobi Cashmere, Naadam, and State Department Store, locally known as ikh delguur are among the major places to buy cashmere products.)
ACCOMMODATION Your accommodation in Ulaanbaatar City will be in the Holiday Inn -a deluxe four-star hotel, centrally located and ensures most modern amenities and facilities. You have three nights in South Gobi where we overnight in ger camps. Your ‘ger’ will have an en suite bathroom with running hot and cold water.
TRIP MEALS As a rising capital city of Mongolia, there are many modern Italian, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Japanese, Latin American and Mongolian restaurants in Ulaanbaatar, where is available to be served western and eastern standard meals or traditional Mongolian cuisines. Most of the old style restaurants serve Russian food, and this type of food is common in the tourist camps in the countryside. Small local restaurants and cafes serve Mongolian food such as buuz and khuushuur (steamed and fried beef, mutton dumpling) and others. While in Ulaanbaatar, you will have a western style full buffet breakfast at your hotel, and lunch and dinner in tourist class restaurants in the town. While in the Gobi, we have limited choices, but they are adequate. Usually, breakfast includes bread with butter, cheese, jelly, eggs, pancakes, and cereals with milk. There also will be some fresh fruits. For lunch and dinners, you will have soup, some appetizers, rice items, noodles, dumplings, and chicken or pork or beef. There will also be vegetable dishes. If you have a special dietary requirement, please let your guide know in advance.
CLIMATE & WEATHER The weather in Aug is very mild in Ulaanbaatar, the perfect time to visit. Day time high may reach 22.7 °C (72.9 °F), and overnight low will be an of 11.2 °C (52.2 °F). The weather is normally dry with rain at times. The total monthly average is about 2 inches. In South Gobi, you can expect the day time temperature is reaching 80 °F, and at night it falls to 45 or 50 degrees. However, South Gobi has high relative humidity 95%, and so you can feel hot during the day time while morning and evening will be cool and even chilly sometimes.
Land Price: $2595 pp twin share includes your internal air! (Based on 22 participants) plus $85 is added to trip price on invoice to pre-paid gratuities for guides and drives.
Air: Wait to get air until after May 1 when routes open to ULN! Our land schedule may change slightly to best suit airline schedules
• 4-Nights Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar, 3-nights Dream Gobi Lodge Ger
• All transfers and sightseeing by private vehicle (Bus in Ulaanbaatar and 4WD Minivan in South Gobi-4 persons in one van)
• Three meals a day (Set menu).
• English speaking local certified guide
• Sightseeing admission tickets
• Drinking water (1.5 liters per day)
• Airfare Ulaanbaatar-South Gobi-Ulaanbaatar
TRIP DOES NOT INCLUDE
• International airfare
• Drinks, tipping, laundry, phone, internet usage per hotel/camp policy and other personal expenses.
• Optional camel and horse riding fees. (very reasonable)
From Lonely Planet –
Welcome to Mongolia
Rugged Mongolia is an adventure destination where travelers can experience nomadic culture and vast, untouched landscapes.
An Open Country
Mongolia existed in a Soviet bubble for most of the 20th century. Now a generation beyond the fall of communism, Mongolia has emerged as a young democracy with a promising economy based on mining, agriculture and tourism. Some revenue is being funneled back into improving tourist facilities, including a new international airport near Ulaanbaatar. Visas are relatively easy to acquire; a handful of nationalities won’t even require one. Competition among the tour operators has led to better services. Despite the warm welcome, travel can be rough at times, with only basic facilities in many areas.
Mongolian Wilderness Mongolians are fully aware of the unique beauty of their country. Ask locals and they will probably start gushing about the spectacular countryside, vast steppes, rugged mountains, clear lakes and abundant wildlife and livestock. Some areas are so remote you could drive a full day and see almost no signs of human habitation. It’s this true wilderness experience that many people find so appealing. City residents from Ulaanbaatar have also started to discover their own country and camping is now popular among urban locals. Protected areas cover almost a fifth of the country and the government is looking to increase that figure.
Nomad Hospitality Mongolia’s nomadic culture is famous – visitors can sleep in a herder’s ger (traditional felt yurt), help round up the sheep, ride horses and simply ‘get back to nature’. The legacy of Chinggis Khaan and resurgent nationalist pride sharpens the experience. A culture of tremendous hospitality makes locals more accessible. In a world beset by locks and gates, it’s refreshing to meet people willing to open their doors to strangers. When travelling in Mongolia, however, keep in mind that guests are expected to reciprocate any forms of generosity, so when visiting families, always have a ready supply of gifts for the kids.
Not Just Grass & Horses Once half nomadic, Mongolia is changing rapidly as its citizens flock to Ulaanbaatar and other big cities for work and study opportunities. The capital in particular is changing at a dizzying pace and many Mongolians have bought wholeheartedly into the global economy, capitalism and consumerism. Whether they are rural or urban, Mongolians take pride in their country’s democratic institutions of civic participation. Mongolia is eager to be part of the global community, sending its troops on peacekeeping missions around the globe and promoting itself as a country to host northeast Asian peace talks; visiting now puts you in the middle of these dramatic transformations.
Welcome to The Gobi The Gobi reveals itself in pockets of amazing scenery, bridged by vast stretches of desolation where smartphone signals die and silence saturates. It can be daunting to be this far out in such harsh conditions, but this is where desert foliage shimmers in greens and golds, and where Tibetan lamas etched ancient messages on red rock cliffs. You’ll watch horses romp and gazelles sprint, hear goats and sheep cry, and commiserate with camels huddling in fierce winds that gather and roll across the steppe. At night galaxies erupt on the domed sky. No wonder it’s one of Mongolia’s top-draw regions, promising colossal sand dunes, ice-filled canyons, dinosaur fossils, camel treks, and hospitable nomadic herders who will shower you with warmth, and more than a little milky tea. So choose one of those crisscrossed two-wheel tracks and follow it ever deeper into the mystery.
- Land prices per person twin share. Trip price based on a minimum number of participants.
- Single rooms limited with $ supplement. Cost varies. Email us for availability. AFS will find you a roommate.
- The earliest we present group air is 10 months prior. We’ll send email to ask who wants it. A minimum number of 12 is needed.
- Please review AFS Terms and Conditions, Heading Abroad with AFS, Covid Policy. Travel insurance is important nowadays. It’s rare, but we reserve the right to modify schedules, tour and hotels.
- Read Trip Tips on its own tab next itinerary for latest details.
Wait to get air until after May 1 when routes open to ULN! Our land schedule may change slightly to best suit airline schedules
Air – Depart USA on Aug 7 or 8-17 Land portion officially begins August 9 in Ulaanbaatar. Use Google flights to schedule your air. If you need assistance please call or text us at 770-432-8225. If we don’t answer immediately, please leave a message.
Holiday Inn Ulaanbaatar
- All prices are per person twin share. Single rooms limited per group and a single supplement applies. Cost set by hotel/cruiseline and vary considerably. AFS will find you a roommate match. All hotel rooms are “run of house.”
- Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS.
- Land – Price based on a minimum number of trip participants, as well as local currency exchange rates which can fluctuate.
- We write our itineraries over a year in advance. Though unlikely, we always reserve the right to modify schedules, tours and hotels if necessary.
- Group air – Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and the group is ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until the group air is set or we advise – though unlikely, airlines, times and dates can change!
AFS Trip Tips Mongolia
Prepare to be thrilled by our most unique destination yet as we delve into the great wide open! Here is a country where visitors can still see the past. Centuries of nomadic living have given Mongolians a natural bond with travelers and are famous for their hospitality. You’ll see an eyeful of beautiful wilderness to get photos of a lifetime and we’ve made this exceptionally fun! Our last group 46 raved about this trip and that was without the Gobi. We negotiated an amazing price to include the Gobi Desert experience to witness the soul of this vast country. You’ll love our Dream Gobi Camp and dune bashing by jeeps. Your camels will lend for great Instagramable photos.
IMPORTANT PAYMENT DATES
- FINAL PAYMENT DUE MAY 16, 2022. We prefer checks for Final Payment. Credit card fees are costly for a small company to absorb. While we build costs into smaller deposits, we incorporate a $60 credit card convenience fee as a line item on each invoice in order to defray processing costs. When paying by check, deduct this $60 amount.
Make your payment out to AFS or Adventures For Solo Travelers, 1907 Daniel Green Ct., Smyrna GA 30080. If you won a contest on a past trip and have a coupon, mail it in, and we’ll process it just like a payment made by check. You may review your balance, booking items, and profile after logging into www.afstravelers.com. You may check your outstanding balance at any time on your profile after login. Reminder emails will always be sent.
Your fearless GTL (Gracious Trip Leader, not a guide but liaison between our guides and group to ensure things run smoothly.) Suzy Davis
As a former flight attendant of 14 years with free travel, Suzy has logged over 100 different countries in her 6 tattered passports. She founded AFS in 1989 to share the world with others. For the first 10 years, she led ALL solo travel tours but now leads four or five each year. Her favorite group leads are to places outside the boundaries of normal comfort zones where one wouldn’t travel alone because she loves all the challenges. As a cultural ambassador, Suzy is fearless and loves to connect her groups with locals. Her enthusiasm, travel wisdom and patience are extraordinary. She says, “I deeply care that my tribe blends well and that each member is having Large Fun. My head is always churning with intuitive preemptive thoughts, and communicating these to our local guides. I make sure there is downtime for relaxation and provide suggestions for activities outside our itinerary.” Suzy is a former Miss Wisconsin and teacher with a passion for Travel Writing. In her free time, she does site inspections and travel shows abroad for future trip ideas. At home, she loves cooking foreign dishes and loving on her dog, Gracie. (Read more in her President’s Letter.) “At the end of trips, it is music to my ears when I get to hear – “Suzy, this solo Vacation exceeded my wildest expectations!”
ABOUT MONGOLIA- All tourists begin in the capital of Ulaanbaatar where 40% of the population resides. It’s a rapidly developing city where the East intersects the West. Lots of museums, pubs, shops, galleries, etc. (We changed your hotel here as with a better Trip Advisor rating.) The most popular countryside experience is in Terelj National Park where your gers are. Some say it’s like Yosemite with stunning rock formations, valleys and rivers. Don’t be startled by the number of stars in the sky here. Mongolia has become such a popular destination. There’s fierce competition for hotel rooms now, especially during the festival. This is a poor country with salaries averaging $100 per month. Mining, cashmere and tourism are the main industries. It is one of the only legitimate democracies in the whole of Asia. Visitors say there is a relentless sense of hospitality.
- Read the revised Heading Abroad with AFS, especially if you are new to AFS. Carefully read all new Covid rules below
- Ensure your passport is valid 6 months after return date with two blank pages. We recommend renewing your passport well ahead of any planned international travel. Take a photo of your passport to store in the cloud or bring a copy.
- To speed through US Customs download Mobile Passport. Look in your App Store for details.
- Notify bank and cc company of travel dates so they don’t block charges.
- No shots, no visas
- Be sure passport valid until December 2020
- Many countries now are eliminating Covid test and quarantine for vaccinated visitors. Don’t laminate vaccine card as some countries won’t accept it. You can take photo of both sides and store on phone or copy both sides and laminate the copy. This will ne be updated as needed. Check back.
- All airline Covid rules differ. It is imperative to read your airline rules to ensure a smooth departure! Click here for the latest info on PCR tests required to travel abroad. Failure to get the correct test may cause the airline to turn you away.
Fitness level – 2 (No trouble walking.)
Air – Wait to get air until after May 1 when routes open to ULN! Our land schedule may change slightly to best suit airline schedules. Check Google Flights or get individual rates from your hometown either with our friend Postak – firstname.lastname@example.org Prices high now but should drop soon. Airlines to ULN: Korean Airlines, Japan Airlines, United plus OM, Turkish Airlines, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines and more.
(If airfares are too costly by April 1, we all may want to consider moving entire trip a month later to August 2021 with no Naadam Festival to save you money as that week is the highest air rates of all. Will advise you if we see significant savings. Again everything is changing in this pandemic so we cannot provide the best answers until later. Please be patient.)
Transfers- We will have an airport transfer at a time that will accommodate most schedules. If your time doesn’t work out, taxis are cheap.
Meet Up With Group- On Day 1 a time will be set to meet the group at the Holiday Inn address: Sambuu St 24, Ulaanbaatar for a briefing. More on this later.
Baggage– . 1 carry-on bag& 1 medium suitcase not to exceed 30lbs – weigh on a bathroom scale. (Limit due to internal flights that’s15 kg. That’s plenty of stuff). Also, jeeps in Gobi can transfer large bags. Think light to ease your burden, not like you’re fleeing your homeland. You change hotel properties several times. This weight limit is set for our porterage and luggage vans. If you overpack by adding side pre-or post-trip luggage, we’ll help plan where to stow this excess luggage. You may be responsible for any overage charges. The new hard cases are difficult to fit in coach storage. Be sure to attach ID to both bags. Leave space for great souvenirs.
Packing – July is the warmest month to visit, but evenings get cool. Google weather a week before. Just casual clothing to layer. You will ride horses. Bring warm jacket or fleece. No hiking boots necessary. Just shorts, tees, jeans better and warm jacket because deserts are cold at night. A totally informal trip. Also bring a daypack, slippers for ger, mini flashlight, sunscreen, wide-brim hat.
Electric: – Bring Europe round 2 pin plug. Don’t forget a portable backup charger, cords, gadgets, etc. Cell phones and tablets do not need a converter; you only need an adapter plug. AFSers often leave charger cords in the room, so be sure to double-check your room before check out. All properties have hairdryers. 230 Volts and a converter is required if any electronic device does not fit with that voltage. Cellphones, tablets, etc do not need converters. 2 prong should fit all.
Money Matters – You will need some cash for personal tipping, meals, and shopping. $300 in cash should suffice. (Venmo may be convenient at home, but useless overseas, ATM may eat your card. Always bring some cash! ) Change currency arrival at airport, bank, or hotels or withdraw local currency from an ATM. Note -independent ATMs are risky due to skimmer scams. Safest ATMs are at airport and banks. Always shield your pin number when entering. Avoid using unless it’s an emergency.
- Currency is Tugrik Exchange Rate $1= 2700 Tugrik as of this writing
- Follow the link below to create a conversion cheat sheet
- Credit cards are far safer than using your debit card. I know $300 cash is plenty of money for a week for me. I convert half of it upon entry. I use my credit card
Avoid using an ATM unless it’s an emergency. If you must use an ATM, use them at airport or banks. Credit cards far safer than your debit card. I know $300 cash is plenty of money for a week for me. I convert half of it upon entry. I use my credit card for most purchases. Many cards now offer no foreign transaction fees.
Gratuities – (Prepaid)
It’s protocol to tip our local guides, assistants, porters, drivers and ground staff. Guidelines have increased globally, but around $12 to $18 per day should cover all for the trip. A $85 total will be added to your invoice. Please understand this is only the suggested minimum. For ease of distribution, your GTL will tip the different ground services for the entire group each day.
Tipping on own – If service is stellar, feel free to give more directly. All we tourists leave behind is our reputation. I personally carry a personal stash of US ones in an envelope to draw from as needed. Bell staff/porters – AFSers roll bags to their room. If you use a porter, please tip $2. Restaurants – 10%. For group lunches or dinners, please leave a dollar or two for waitstaff!
Google – Nadaan Festival: The Superbowl of Mongolia! Genghis Khan, South Gobi desert, Ulaanbaatar, Yol Valley, Flaming Cliffs, Hustai Nat Park and all itinerary sites.
Communication– Internet is available. With smartphones, be sure to check with your provider for rates and coverage for international phone plans before departure. Data Roaming rates can be expensive. To reach home – Texting, iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook messaging when using WIFI. Be cautious using public Wi-Fi without using VPN. Without VPN never open attachments or view financial or personal accounts on the Internet while abroad. Phone calls, text messages, and data usage of all kinds, it is crucial to understand that, unless you are connected to Wi-Fi, every use of your phone incurs a data toll. That means that viewing and downloading email, browsing the web, viewing social media, and mapping all incur data charges, as do applications that we sometimes assume to be “free,” such as Skype and WhatsApp. Unless you are connected to Wi-Fi, however, WhatsApp is using cellular data, so you are getting charged at your provider’s international roaming data rate. You can buy a SIM card or another option for affordable data in many countries abroad is Skyroam. All the data you want to use Bluetooth for to access your devices are for just $10 per day for 5 devices. See https://www.skyroam.com for details.
Get Smart: “Avoiding Hackers on Vacation,” Experts say! …Thieves not only want your money but also your hard-earned Frequent Flyer Points! Change passwords often. Check device security settings before you leave for your trip. Back up, update, and encrypt your devices and data using a virtual VPN. It’s worth the cost. In hotel rooms, hide iPods or laptops to avoid “evil maids” that want to clone your tech. Bottled water is always best abroad, as our gut isn’t accustomed to local tap water. Eat clean food and avoid street vendors. Pickpockets are everywhere now, especially at night. Never carry your passport outside of the room. It’s wise to grab a business card from the desk before heading out on own. To get back just show the card to a taxi driver- no memory or English needed.
Photography – Before taking pictures of locals, know it is polite to ask. Your AFS Private Facebook Group Page is a great way to share your best shots with each other. AFS loves photos with group participants (not typical churches, monuments, or any shot that looks like you pulled it off of the net, etc.) for our website. The best photos are ones that include a group member with a local, children, animals, or at iconic sites in the same frame!
Websites – Mongoliatourism.com, Bluesilktravel.com, Lonelyplanet/mongolia
Retail Therapy – Fine cashmere sweaters and throws and will products, organic skin products, silver bowls, leather goods, walk clothing, carpets, paintings, endless handicrafts and the world’s coolest hats! The last group filled their cases with cool stuff!
Dining– We’ll have a wide variety of choices both western and local cuisines. Local diet consist of dairy, meat and animal fats. (Yaks, goats, horses, camels, sheep.) Great stews and dumplings and noodles soups. Kefir. Russian influence with a lot of vodka. You’ll have delicious and diverse selection of western meals throughout.
Private Facebook Group Page The benefit of the Private FB Group Page is that you have an opportunity to introduce yourself to your fellow travelers before departure and share trip photos during and after the tour. Where can I find the FB link? In a departure from the past, the Private FB Group Page will be created when the Final Payment is due (about 3 months prior to the trip). The link will be emailed to you at that time – ask.
Accommodations –Please see the itinerary Hotel tab for details. Hotels can change, but it’s rare. You can Google these if you like, or you can use the hyperlinks provided on the itinerary on our website.
Holiday Inn -Ulaan, Dream Gobi Lodge & gers, then to fab Blue Sky Hotel in Ulaan.
Roomies – Single supplements have significantly increased – if available at all. Save money and buy yourself an awesome local gift. We all live alone, but save money when traveling by rooming together. Suzy spends a lot of time on roommate matching. 99% of our clients are wonderful and you’re only in your room to sleep at night. Note, kindness begets kindness.
Leisure Time – For your free time, it’s best to arrive and ask our local expert guides for suggestions. We notice many newer clients pre-plan many activities on the AFS trip well before they arrive, often with disappointing results. Our daily itineraries are pretty full, but there will be some free time. Expert travelers revel in the element of surprise in a new destination and allow the wind to blow them where it will. Use Google Maps on your phone to find everything nearby. For free days we like to use Viator.com
Amending tour pre-or post-trip or arranging private tours during free time. We often recognize this, as well as see AFSers on Facebook urging others to join them to countries before or after our trip. Stopovers are great to add, but understand AFS has nothing to do with this and is not responsible for the quality of these trips.
Emergency Contact – Text Terry 770-367-4909 or email us at https://www.afstravelers.com/contact-us/ and more contacts will be provided with your Final Docs email 2 weeks before departure. Your guide can handle all home for true Emergency. Do not expect to use your trip leader’s cell phone; you’ll need to use your own cell phone.
- At booking, we sent you our terms and conditions. Open the following link to review our terms again:
Optional Travel Insurance– If you would like the security of travel insurance and have a pre-existing condition (elderly parent, medical, etc.), you must purchase insurance within 15 days from your initial trip deposit in order to assure full coverage. The trip cost can be amended or adjusted as needed after your initial purchase (eg. like adding an air ticket cost later). You can buy travel insurance at any time, just know that there may be some possible limitations if purchased outside the 15 day period.
Click here to Purchase Travel Insurance online
Phone them at 888-885-7233 and give code “ADVGA02”
Click to learn about Travel Insurance 101. Or copy this link https://www.afstravelers.com/solo-travel-trip-insurance-101/
If you need assistance, I will email the form to you upon request.
Travel Psychology 101
Prepare for your departure joyfully with no contempt before investigation upon arrival. Please understand that whenever you travel, things are not like at home and changes may occur. Great trips work best for those with an open mind, flexible attitude and adventuresome spirit. If changes occur, embrace them with serendipity. Who knows?… The unexpected may prove to be a better experience. Adapt and go with the flow with a laid-back attitude.
Be spontaneous. Be tolerant of foreign cultures in respecting their centuries of traditions. Embrace the differences. Be curious, not shy. Smile – locals will sense your energy of kindness and kindness always begets kindness.(This goes for your roommate, too. Most of us are used to living on our own; but, have fun while being accommodating and patient when sharing a room with another fellow traveler).Our common goal is to experience different cultures, make new friends, get great photos, have large fun, and return home safely with memories worthy of recollection.
The best spirit of an Explorer requires the openness of a child – Suzy
“When traveling, remember that a foreign country isn’t designed to make you comfortable. It’s designed to make it’s own people comfortable.” – Clinton Fadiman
Please understand that things differ in foreign countries. The people are most hospitable here, yet travel abroad always requires an open mind, flexible attitude and adventurous spirit. We love intrepid tourists who are willing to embrace the unpredictability and exoticism of foreign lands. The purpose of this journey is to have fun, explore, get great photos, make new friends and return home safely with memories always worthy of recollection.
Book AFS with Confidence 2021– The health of our Travelers comes first. As the world slowly opens, we are dedicated to creating responsible adventures! All our trips are different, so specific plans in each region may be circumstantial. We work closely with our local suppliers to know the best practice in each country. That being said, we present a blanket procedure below to be followed on ALL AFS trips. Our local guides will brief you on arrival with the support of our Trip Leaders to ensure we follow local safety protocols. They are fully committed to aiding your well-being.
We will re-discover the world through more slow, easy and mindful travel. Our groups will be smaller. All clients must take the AFS pledge that they are Covid free and will follow all safety protocols. Booking travel now is complex because rules always change. Tour companies can’t become “health and safety experts” when policies are inconsistent. Even experts are in the dark at times with the changing patchwork of government laws, but we’ll do our best. This is a learning process for all of us and as we go, we will strive to make each step as safe and seamless as possible for you. Read all below on AFS detailed Terms & Conditions.
Thank you for booking! We are blown away by the support from all of you throughout this pandemic. It validates the trust and values AFS was built on over 30 years. As countries reopen, so will we. Travel is a shared experience. Together we press on and travel boldly. Below are new guidelines. We all must adapt and embrace any challenges with confidence for the freedom and privilege to travel.
As in life itself, travel comes with some inherent risk the minute we step out our door. Travel isn’t dangerous. Being irresponsible is. For your protection we want you to be proactive in following new health and safety protocols. They involve teamwork and personal responsibility, but they do not preclude you from having fun and enjoying your trip! Things constantly change and it’s a huge challenge for airlines, airports, hotels, cruises and tour companies. We will do our best to keep you up to date with any adjustments.
- Please understand we reserve the right to amend any tour activities if needed. To present responsible travel, we at AFS do our part: Our vetted suppliers uphold the highest standards under CDC guidelines. At present, some international airlines may require a negative Covid test within 96 to 72 hours of departure. Details later as they come. This may change as rules are always being revised. At present, you need RT-PCR test 72 to 94 hours prior to airline departure. By then, this rule may be eliminated. Don’t stress, just refer to this if you need it. I’ve done 4 free PCR test runs with no problems. Millions of passengers have gotten their PCR test to fly. You can too! Call your healthcare provider or Urgent Care near you. Or Google “free no cost Covid testing near me”. Most state and federal programs provide this. Or Google airport to see if Test is available there (JFK $75). Rural areas are more challenging. You may need to drive to an appointment in a nearby city. At present, it’s free at Walgreens and CVS. They will bill your insurance company of $119. (Best trick – if you say you may have been “exposed to a Covid person” or if you feel “symptoms” like fatigue or say CDC recommended, it must be free. Call or email to get appointment. Most are drive up. Schedule test within your 72 hours departure window, usually 3 days prior for email result needed in 24 hours. This way you still have a backup day in case you get a false positive. Bring printed copy. New mail in-home kits – CDC announced today you can bring to do there for return into USA. (We will have tests at our resort if you want.) Note, however, outbound airlines won’t accept this for departure. Don’t forget to bring your vaccine card if you have one.
- If you are in a high-risk group, it is suggested you do not travel.
- It is your responsibility to check the resources below as well as your airline requirements for travel. You may need to show proof of wellness note. Click to see CDC , WHO
- You may not travel if you have any symptoms such as sore throat, shortness of breath, fever and verify you have not been in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid in the last 14 days.
- Safety measures on a trip; frequent handwashing, (bring personal sanitizer), exercise social distancing and wear a mask when applicable.
- All provide trip cancellation (not from fear), trip interruption, added medical protection. Call them to understand coverage. We are not responsible for any additional cost to do to quarantine or illness
Helpful CV Resources– Below are helpful links to facts and stats for you to reference as you gear up for all your travel domestically and abroad.
- Facts about coronavirus-symptoms/transmission/precaution/treatment
- CDC entire situation summary
- US State Department Travel Advisories (Often old news)
- We at AFS assure you we will continue to offer you quality trips to countries where you will feel protected – countries that are going to extraordinary lengths now to provide a safe visit. Each destination is far less crowded than ever before and that means better personal attention. Planes are half full and we can trust our astute global suppliers when each country is clear to visit. We’re taking great precautions and encourage you to remain positive.
Our Pledge to You – Our global, vetted suppliers uphold the highest standards under new CDC guidelines.
- We ensure that heightened sanitation methods have been adopted in every place we visit and that all hotel properties and vehicles have passed cleanliness protocols.
- Our guides and drivers must test negative and pass stringent safety measures.
- Most of our groups will be limited to half the size of normal in the past.
- We are choosing destinations with wide-open spaces for physical distancing.
- Some private tours for groups of friends only can be arranged.
- We’ll monitor your trip closely and provide a 24/7 emergency number if your trip is disrupted.
- All clients must take the AFS pledge that they are COVID-free and will follow all the safety protocols.
- We relaxed booking conditions with most trip deposits at only $250 and final payment deadlines from 4 months out to 70 days before departure. This is a learning process for all of us as we go. We will strive to make each step as safe and seamless as possible for you!
Your Pledge to AFS – We ask you to assume personal responsibility to protect your health and the well-being of your fellow travelers, guides and locals.
- Read and print all updated Trip Tips on AFS website
- Get travel insurance with trip interruption
- Stay healthy with vitamin D and zinc
- Confirm within 14 days of departure but you have no symptoms of Covid nor being in close contact with anyone diagnosed with it.
- You agree to assume any risk of participating in trip activities, comply with applicable government, airline and health authorities.
- Exercise social distancing and local guides directions whenever possible.
- Sanitize your hands and phone throughout.
- Read more here – https://www.afstravelers.com/terms-and-conditions/
Rapid COVID-19 PCR Tests
- RT – PCR Test – This is PCR test with Rapid Test Results within 24 hours. Most urgent care places offer these. Read Covid news below.
Rules are changing daily! At this time, we must rely on each airlines policy. Read Covid rules at the top of airline website up to a week before departure. Every airline and country differs. 2 weeks prior, will send you final AFS departure letter with instructions specific to your trip. Please wait!
From Lonely Planet
Welcome to Mongolia
Rugged Mongolia is an adventure destination where travellers can experience nomadic culture and vast, untouched landscapes.
An Open Country
Mongolia existed in a Soviet bubble for most of the 20th century. Now a generation beyond the fall of communism, Mongolia has emerged as a young democracy with a promising economy based on mining, agriculture and tourism. Some revenue is being funnelled back into improving tourist facilities, including a new international airport near Ulaanbaatar. Visas are relatively easy to acquire; a handful of nationalities won’t even require one. Competition among the tour operators has led to better services. Despite the warm welcome, travel can be rough at times, with only basic facilities in many areas.
Mongolians are fully aware of the unique beauty of their country. Ask locals and they will probably start gushing about the spectacular countryside, vast steppes, rugged mountains, clear lakes and abundant wildlife and livestock. Some areas are so remote you could drive a full day and see almost no signs of human habitation. It’s this true wilderness experience that many people find so appealing. City residents from Ulaanbaatar have also started to discover their own country and camping is now popular among urban locals. Protected areas cover almost a fifth of the country and the government is looking to increase that figure.
Mongolia’s nomadic culture is famous – visitors can sleep in a herder’s ger (traditional felt yurt), help round up the sheep, ride horses and simply ‘get back to nature’. The legacy of Chinggis Khaan and resurgent nationalist pride sharpens the experience. A culture of tremendous hospitality makes locals more accessible. In a world beset by locks and gates, it’s refreshing to meet people willing to open their doors to strangers. When travelling in Mongolia, however, keep in mind that guests are expected to reciprocate any forms of generosity, so when visiting families, always have a ready supply of gifts for the kids.
Not Just Grass & Horses
Once half nomadic, Mongolia is changing rapidly as its citizens flock to Ulaanbaatar and other big cities for work and study opportunities. The capital in particular is changing at a dizzying pace and many Mongolians have bought wholeheartedly into the global economy, capitalism and consumerism. Whether they are rural or urban, Mongolians take pride in their country’s democratic institutions of civic participation. Mongolia is eager to be part of the global community, sending its troops on peacekeeping missions around the globe and promoting itself as a country to host northeast Asian peace talks; visiting now puts you in the middle of these dramatic transformations.
Welcome to The Gobi
The Gobi reveals itself in pockets of amazing scenery, bridged by vast stretches of desolation where smartphone signals die and silence saturates. It can be daunting to be this far out in such harsh conditions, but this is where desert foliage shimmers in greens and golds, and where Tibetan lamas etched ancient messages on red rock cliffs. You’ll watch horses romp and gazelles sprint, hear goats and sheep cry, and commiserate with camels huddling in fierce winds that gather and roll across the steppe. At night galaxies erupt on the domed sky.
No wonder it’s one of Mongolia’s top-draw regions, promising colossal sand dunes, ice-filled canyons, dinosaur fossils, camel treks, and hospitable nomadic herders who will shower you with warmth, and more than a little milky tea. So choose one of those criss-crossed two-wheel tracks and follow it ever deeper into the mystery.
Covid travel rules are mutating faster than the virus itself. To keep all groups up to date with the lasted information, we created a page that’s updated as needed. Set a reminder for yourself to check the Covid page 3 days before departure.