The following was written by our guest writer Mia Clarke of Invertpro. We hope you find her article and her tips on the 5 most important things to remember before visiting Mongolia most informative.
From picturesque landscapes and breathtaking natural scenery to unforgettable festivals and hospitable natives, there is more than one way to experience Mongolia. And though it does not feature prominently among the world’s most popular tourist destinations, this country that is tucked in between Russia and China is your go-to place if you are looking to explore untamed lands and step off the beaten paths.
But like any other tourist destination, you need adequate preparation before booking your next plane ticket, or you may be met by some unpleasant surprises in the course of your adventure.
➊ What are the Visa Requirements?
As is the case with most countries, most foreign tourists will require a visa in order to visit Mongolia. However, there are 22 countries whose nationals can enjoy visa-free visits that range from 30 – 90 days. It is important that you check whether you fall under any of these 22 visa-exempt countries before you apply for your visa to Mongolia.
For instance, Germans and Canadians can enter the country without any visa and stay for up to 30 days, while US citizens enjoy visa-free visits lasting up to 90 days. Visas can be applied at the country’s embassy, consulate or at the country’s main airport in Ulaanbaatar if you come from a country with no Mongolian consulate.
➋ Obey the Weather
By virtue of the country’s landscape, the weather is bound to be chilly more often than not, as throughout a lot of the county there are virtually no large landmarks such as mountains or trees to block the wind. Even worse is the fact that the weather is largely unpredictable.
On an average summer day, it can be very warm during the day but unforgivingly chilly and windy at night. Therefore, when planning a trip to the country, pack all manner of clothing as you may have to dress in layers.
➌ Learn a Few Rules to Get By
Like any other traditional society out there, Mongolian nomads have what they deem best cultural practices. Failure to observe these could land you in serious trouble with the locals, which is why it is paramount you acquaint yourself with them before exploring the country’s pristine villages.
For instance, it is against the norm to lean on the Ger walls. Also, while sitting, it is considered offensive to point your fingers in front. Touching a Mongolian on the head is also considered a taboo, as is declining foods or drinks offered to you. Another common tradition to observe is to use your right hand when accepting gifts.
➍ Prepare For the Food
As Mongolians are generally nomads, you might face a little difficulty if you are a vegetarian. Much of the food consists of goat, horse, mutton and dairy products. Also, the prevailing continental climate in the country makes it difficult for Mongolians to cultivate vegetables. However, the case is a little different in urban centers where you are likely to find both indigenous and exotic vegetable dishes.
Some of the most common dishes you will encounter included Buuz which is steamed dumplings that are filled with shredded lamb or beef, Khuushuur which is fried dumplings that are filled with lamb or beef. There is also the Khorkhog which is a Mongolian barbecue comprising of pieces of carrots, meat, potatoes and onions.
➎ When Should You Visit?
Mongolia is known to enjoy over 250 days’ worth of sunshine every year. However, this does not automatically translate into a warm climate. The country experiences extreme temperatures that cause major fluctuations in temperatures between winter and summer. The long and cold winters can experience temperatures as cold as 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, warmer summers that are experienced between July and August would be the best time to visit. The only drawback to visiting during this season is that it coincides with one of the country’s major festivals – the Naadam Festival. As such, you can expect tickets to be a little more expensive one in Ulaanbaatar city. Also, there are Golden Eagle Festivals in west Mongolia where you can join tours with Nomadic Trails: Golden Eagle Festival
Mongolia is like a gem of the Far East. Though it is not a country that appears among the top world’s famous tourist destinations, it boasts of great activities and pristine cultures that cannot be experienced anywhere else. Why not make it part of your next summer vacation plans?