Mongolia Holiday Essential Info Mongolia The Granular Detail Expectations Visas Shopping Culture Insurance Internet Donations Dietaries Sleeping Money Packing Photography Emergencies Weather Electricity Flights Safety Bathrooms Arriving Cycling Vaccinations Mongolia The Granular Detail Expectations Visas Shopping Culture Insurance Internet Donations Dietaries Sleeping Money Packing Photography Emergencies Weather Electricity Flights Safety Bathrooms Arriving Cycling Vaccinations Your expectations.. From Jess & Brett Jess is the Social Cycles representative in Mongolia. Having lived in Mongolia for over 14 years, British born Jess is passionate about responsible travel, local empowerment and community based tourism. These are her words of advice for you… Mongolia is frequently depicted as a pristine untouched wilderness where the traditional nomadic way of life still remains.Well. It is.And it isn’t.This is the 21st Century and there is a drive for modernity in Mongolia (the Mongolian flag itself represents progress and prosperity). Just as we carry smartphones, so do Mongolia’s rural population. The local people of Mongolia wish to develop economically and gain access to material possessions that we take for granted. As westerners, we typically have a more idealised or even romanticised view of the way of life in Mongolia. And that’s what we want to experience. But, Mongolians are not just divided between those who live in Ulaanbaatar and nomads. It’s not just about the minority groups of the Kazakhs or the Tsaatan either. To just want to experience the life of the traditional nomadic way of life is to ignore a majority of Mongolia’s population.For a start, although there is a Mongolian word for nomad (Нүүдэлчин – nuudelchin), Mongolian’s typically call themselves malchin (малчин) which translates as herder. Yes, approximately 40% of the population still practices some form of nomadism but, that can mean that a family moves twice a year and as little as 2km – all Mongolian herders / nomads have fixed pasture which they move to throughout the year and follow a regular pattern of movement.Mongolia’s herders are also under a lot of pressure. Yes, you want to experience their way of life but for them, their most important focus is looking after their livestock. The guidebooks mention the traditional hospitality of Mongolia’s nomads, but they don’t mention their daily workload and how this often means there is not time to welcome visiting guests with tea. Don’t travel to Mongolia expecting to sit each evening discussing with your hosts about their way of life as nomads. It just won’t happen.Guidebooks portray Mongolians as being warm and welcoming. They are. But although they are curious they are not typically that talkative (unless drunk!). They can also be stubborn, taciturn, reserved and very very indifferent. They also rarely wear a watch let alone work to an agenda.But you know what, it really is OK if you don’t get to drink tea with a nomad. After all, it’s not a competition to see who can have the most authentic of experiences. Yes, on your feedback, you will almost certainly comment that you will wish you had more interaction with the Mongolians that you met. But, they are not a tourist installation – we are dealing with real people living their lives. Just like us, Mongolians are under a lot of pressure including making ends meet, their workload and the daily stresses involved. Plans change.Mongolia is a country of contrasts. It is not an easy option. It is a country that will challenge you. It is a tough country and the local people have learnt to adapt to this tough way of life. Adventure travel is always a bit unpredictable due to the nature of the terrain and the experiences we seek. Sometimes, the forces of nature or a change in the dates of a festival will require some changes in the plan. Flight schedules may change at a moments notice, or muddy ground may make a route impassable.So. What do you do?Ditch your expectations based on what you’ve read and watched. Instead come with an open mind and be challenged and surprised. Mongolian culture is unique among Asian cultures and a large percentage of what you may believe about life in an Asian country does not apply here. There’s a hunger for knowledge and understanding that drives Mongolian society, and things are changing but remember that a lot of major changes have happened within just a couple generations. Be patient with Mongolia. While it works through the changes that are going to make it a better place, savour the gifts it offers and try to spend less time worrying about small issues that aren’t being met such as hot showers.The landscapes are immense and weathered and stark – but you will be shocked by the amount of rubbish. Really shocked. And saddened. Yes, there is still a traditional way of life but Mongolian’s also fully embrace modernity and the literacy rate hovers around 97% (yes, 97%). Yes, they can be welcoming but they really do not like displays of impatience, superiority, arrogance or anger and will make it known when they are not happy.But it is a country that will impact on you greatly. Of that there is no doubt. As well as packing the thermals, just make sure to bring an open mind and be challenged and surprised. Insurance Travel and medical insurance is mandatory for all Social Cycles clients. It is one of the most important criteria foranyone who travels and in the very unlikely event that an emergency occurs your insurance must deliver. What having an insurance policy actually means in practice if someone does get sick:• You can get 24-hour medical support from the insurance company doctors• If treatment or a hospital visit is required, the insurance company will ensure that this is at the best local facility• We would provide all necessary assistance (for example, sending someone with you to the hospital to help with any language difficulties). • You must be adequately insured for medical and health cover – in case of a sudden illness or injury. Your insurance policy should also cover 24-hour emergency service and assistance, hospital fees, lost, damaged or stolen property (we are not responsible for any loss or damage to personal belongings while on tour). Your insurance policy must cover any necessary extra travel (rejoining tour or repatriation) as well as curtailment and cancellation.• Insurance provided by standard credit cards does not always provide adequate cover and I suggest that you check your policy. If you do travel with insurance provided through a credit card, we will need details of the participating insurer, the insurance policy number and emergency contact telephone number. The Bank’s name and the credit card number will not be enough information.• You must satisfy yourself that your policy covers medical emergencies resulting from any/all of the activities that you propose to undertake during the course of your trip and you should request a full policy document from your insurer if one is not automatically provided.• If you are from the US and do not usually travel with insurance, you may wish to look at either www.travelexinsurance.com or www.travelguard.com• There is a space for your insurance details on your online Social Cycles Booking Form. However, if you have yet to arrange your insurance it is essential that before you begin your SC adventure you email to me the details of your travel insurance documentation.This must include:• The name of your insurance company• The 24-hour emergency assistance number• The policy number Your donations Your money. Your decision. Based on your experience. Countries NGOs Riders $ Donated so far These numbers change lives. Not only the lives of the beneficiaries involved, but the lives of the riders who have witnessed and learned the complexity of community development in foreign countries. This is your chance to speak to local experts as part of your adventure, as you cycle across the country and gain a true understanding of life outside the tourist bubble.We ask for a A$200 minimum commitment from all riders. The money is given directly to the NGOs that are chosen by you. All of it. No bank fees, no commissions. The group from every tour engage in a ‘Donation Debate’ on our last night together. We’ll discuss what impressed us, confused us and inspired us. As a group, we’ll make a decision as to how we’ll divide the total money. It’s your money and your experience. It can, and will, go to whatever NGO touched you the most. Money, budgeting and tipping MoneyThe local currency in Mongolia is Tögrög/Tugrik. It is not possible to obtain outside of Mongolia (there is an ATM at the train station and ATM and exchange facilities at the airport in Ulaan Baatar but rates for exchange are better in the city). A rough guide to exchange rates:One US Dollar ($) = 2000-2400 Tugrik / One GBP (£) = 2800-3300 Tugrik / One Euro (E) = 1900-2400 Tugrik USD, GBP, Euro, Yuan, Yen, and other major international currencies (particularly Asian ones), are all fine to bring to exchange in Ulaan Baatar (there are good currency exchanges close to the Ard Kino Square in UB – we can always take you on your city walking tour). In the countryside, we recommend using US Dollars only for exchange purposes or an ATM.Your foreign currency bills must be as new as possible (2009 or newer where possible) and clean and crisp – most currency exchanges and banks will not accept old, torn or faded bank notes. Neither can we!Banks and ATM’s are available within Ulaan Baatar (most credit and debit cards can be used at ATM’s). ATM’s areavailable in some small towns in the countryside but do not always work. Remember to inform your bank that you are travelling in Mongolia and when, so that you avoid any security blocks placed on your account.When travelling in the countryside you must have Mongolian currency. Try to have small notes (such as 100, 500, and 1000 Tugrik notes). US Dollars are the best foreign currency to travel with outside of Ulaan Baatar as this is the easiest currency to exchange in the small banks in the countryside. BudgetingIt is always difficult to suggest a suitable amount of spending money to bring with you as everyone is different – however, there is very little to pay for during your trip. If you really need a figure then on a 2-week trip, a budget of US$300pp should easily do, probably less if you are a couple or you don’t plan on purchasing many souvenirs or drinking much alcohol. I suggest bringing your debit /credit card so that if you do miss-calculate you can access extra funds through an ATM. It is always better to try to bring more money than you think you need in case of emergencies (and US dollars can be exchanged in banks in rural Mongolia).TippingEach member of the SC team receives a responsible but fair salary and none have to rely on receiving tips to supplement their income. In addition, we make sure that everyone who works with Social Cycles or helps us is fairly rewarded for their work and the service they provide. You will not need to tip the rural families you meet or stay with. At the end of the tour, if you wish to make a tip then thank you and I leave it at your own discretion – it is not compulsory but it is appreciated when given. If you would like to provide a tip, you will discover just how hard the drivers work, so a tip for the driver would be roughly equal to what you would give a trip assistant. As mentioned, it is not compulsory and if you give and how much you give is entirely up to you.Tipping is quite a new concept in Mongolia but when you’re in UB, you may like to keep some small change at hand for if you receive good service in a restaurant or in the hotel. In this circumstance, you may like to leave a small amount as a thank you (up to 10% is fine). Emergencies In case there is an emergency in Mongolia – it depends on the severity of the situation but this is a brief guide to our emergency plan that we put into action when an event requires it:• Deal with the on the ground situationIn case of an accident that requires administering of first aid at the scene, our staff are trained in basic emergency response techniques through the Mongolian Red Cross, and all trips carry basic first aid kits checked by the Mongolian Red Cross. We check, replenish and/or replace our kits on a regular basis.For relatively minor injuries including cuts, sprains, dehydration, fractures etc., local hospitals (if needed) will usually be able to provide adequate medical provision. In most instances you will be within 0-4 hours’ drive of a local hospital. Doctors here will probably not speak English, so your trip assistant would translate.• If the incident requires it, we contact the travel insurance company of those affected and also the relevant embassy. Contact the emergency contact listed on the booking form. This is why it is imperative that you have travel insurance. In case of an emergency, it is YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY that puts into action your evacuation plan. We contact your insurance company on your behalf and they take over the situation.• Emergency EvacuationOnly SOS Medica in Ulaanbaatar provide a helicopter evacuation service in Mongolia. SOS Medica are part of a chain of international private clinics. They provide a helicopter medical evacuation service in partnership with A-Jet Aviation, and have English-speaking local and international medical staff. We advise that you check with your insurance company that SOS Medica is on their list of approved service providers in case of an emergency that requires medical evacuation. If not, you can purchase extra cover locally through us. Please get in touch with Jess for details.• As well as our company insurances, we also have full Tour Operator and 24/7 Crisis Management insurance through Tasker and Partners – The Travel Risk Professionals. This covers us for the following situations:• Wrongful Detention or Kidnap• Accidental or Traumatic Death• Political Evacuation• Disappearance• Hi-jack• Terrorism• Violent Crime• Food Poisoning Outbreak Flights The following cities have direct flights to Mongolia, and all are major international transit hubs providing connections to many countries. The flight frequency does change based on season (below is the rough summer schedule for June to September. Winter schedules are often subject to reduced frequency and sometimes airlines remove routes depending on popularity).• Frankfurt MIAT fly direct 2 times per week.• Beijing MIAT and Air China both fly direct daily• Hong Kong MIAT fly direct 3-4 times per week• Istanbul Turkish Airlines fly ‘direct’ 3 times per week (refuelling en-route)• Moscow Aeroflot fly direct daily; MIAT fly direct 2 times per week with connections to/from Berlin as well• Seoul MIAT and Korean Air both fly direct daily• Tokyo MIAT fly direct 3-4 times per week Arrivals and Departures By Air On Arrival• Exit the plane and queue up at passport control counters marked ‘Foreign’. Usually there are 2 or 3 of them in operation. This will take up to 30 minutes, depending on your place in the queue.• Then proceed downstairs to collect your luggage (there is only 1 carousel) before exiting to the arrivals hall.• After collecting baggage, you may be asked by customs officials to screen your luggage in a machine before exiting and/or check your luggage tags against the corresponding labels that you were given when checking in, to make sure you have taken the correct bags.On Departure• Check-in 2 hrs prior to flight time is ample forall international flights• To avoid over-crowding, only passengers with a valid ticket are allowed into the check-in area.• There is no departure tax to pay (all taxes areincluded in ticket prices)• Fill in a departure card and hand in at passport control counters after going through security• There are shops and cafes in the departure area near the gates. Boarding announcements are made in English for all flights. Airport Transfer:On clearing customs and collecting your luggage, please look for a sign with Social Cycles on (not your name). Please do not leave the arrivals hall. If it is crowded, it may take you time to locate the sign. You will be transferred to your Ulaan Baatar accommodation and your transfer driver will provide you with your Welcome Pack. ATM and exchange facilities are available at the airport (mainly on the departures floor). If you booked a transfer and no-one is at the airport station to meet you it might be due to a delay in the traffic. Also, if your flight or train has arrived early then the transfer driver may not yet have arrived. In either circumstance, please just take a seat and wait a little while longer. You may be approached by someone offering you a taxi – don’t take it, just wait until you see someone with an SC sign. By Rail From/To China• Passengers travelling by train across the China/Mongolia order at Erlian/Zamyn-Ud should expect a delay of a few hours because of the need to change the bogies, as the railways use different gauges.• If coming from China, at the Chinese Border you will hand over passports and declaration forms (these are provided by attendants in advance), which are taken away and returned later.• You may or may not have the choice to stay on the train during bogie change. If you can, or have to, stay on the train, please note that the toilets will be locked.• If you can, or have to, leave the train this is for most people the preferred solution, but take a book/iPad/cards etc. You will be led into the station waiting room where there is access to toilets and usually a small convenience store may be open. Don’t count on it though.• After 2-3 hrs you will get back on the train and passports handed back. The train will move a short distance into Zamyn-Ud, the Mongolian border. Your passports will be taken again, and returned once checked.• You will finally be on the move again anytime between midnight and 2am, so do not expect unbroken sleep until then!From/To Russia• No need to change the bogies, but the border crossings can take longer – up to 6-7 hours combined.• Coming into Mongolia from Russia, you have to get off the train in Naushki whilst they uncouple carriages not going on to Mongolia. After passport checks, the train travels 30km to the Mongolian border town of Sukhbaatar.Train Station Transfer: On arrival into Ulaan Baatar, someone will be on the platform to meet you. Please look for a sign with Social Cycles on (not your name). Try to stand as close to your carriage as possible as the platform can be crowded and please do not leave the platform. You will be transferred to your Ulaan Baatar accommodation and your transfer driver will provide you with your Welcome Pack.If you booked a transfer and no-one is at the airport/train station to meet you it might be due to a delay in the traffic. Also, if your flight or train has arrived early then the transfer driver may not yet have arrived. In either circumstance, please just take a seat and wait a little while longer. You may be approached by someone offering you a taxi – don’t take it, just wait until you see someone with an SC sign. Obtaining a Visa • There are countries that are exempt from having to apply for a Mongolian visa. These countries include USA, Canada, Malaysia, Israel, Philippines, Cuba, Hong Kong and Singapore – but these countries do have rules and regulations associated with length of visit etc, so please check before travel.• A Mongolian visa must be applied for in advance – usually at any country’s Mongolian Embassy or Consulate (whether you are a citizen or resident of that country or not). If the country you are residing in does not have an embassy or consulate, then we can usually apply for a visa on arrival for you. Please get in touch for details.• It is not possible to apply for your visa more than three months prior to arrival.• A Mongolian tourist visa is usually valid for a stay of up to 30 days within six months from the date of issue but this does vary between nationalities.• If you require a Mongolian visa, we can issue you with a Letter of Support for your visa application once I have received your booking form. However, this is not always necessary.Visa Application Process• Obtaining a visa is a straightforward process, and usually very quick – especially if you are able to apply in person. Most embassies will return the visas within 2-3 days for a standard service, and most of them offer a same day express service.• Most embassies require minimal documentation – the 2-page application form; passport valid for at least 6 months after date of entry and with at least 1 blank page for the visa; fee payment; passport photo. Some embassies ask for additional documentation – such as a letter of invitation from your tour company (i.e. us) – so please check. We can usually help provide all additional documentation.• There is one standard application form worldwide. You can download this here For the Name and Address of Host Person or Organisation in Mongolia please fill in as follows:Gobi Gua Undur, No6, 59-B, Narnii Zam Street, 13th Region, 1st committee, Sukhbaatar Disctrict,, Ulaanbaatar, Tel: + 976 99744574Visa Extension• If your staying over 30 days in Mongolia you will have to visit Mongolian Immigration either to register or to get an extension (depending on your nationality). The regulations concerning this change frequently though so we will contact Mongolian Immigration before your arrival to check. We can help with this but unfortunately, it is not a free service. We will need you to hand over your passport to us if you want us to do the extension on your behalf.• This fee is set by Mongolian Immigration and there is a flat fee of around 27,000 MNT (2017) for the first week and then a small amount per day on top if extending over of 7 days – 3600 MNT per day (2017).• Immigration is only open Monday to Friday so factor this into your plans .Visa Service Companies (UK Only)If you are applying in the UK and unable to apply at the embassy in person, then there are two Mongolian Embassy- approved 3rd party companies who are licensed to apply on your behalf – simply follow instructions on their website,Send everything to them, and they process it for an extra fee.1. Real Russia – www.realrussia.co.uk – +44 (0) 20 7100 73702. OBT – www.obtuk.com – +44 (0) 20 7723 6999If you are travelling on to either Russia or China after your Social Cycles tour, please check very carefully the visarequirements for each country. They are known to be very stringent (China often requests proof of funds in the bankand onwards travel and a tourist visa for Russia usually has to be obtained from your home country). The UK basedvisa service agency Travcour has excellent details on the Mongolian, Chinese and Russian visa application on theirwebsite (www.travcour.com). Internet and local sim cards UB is covered by a 3G/4G network and some of the provincial towns do have 3G coverage. It is possible to buy a Sim card cheaply in Ulaan Baatar (if you need to connect to the net frequently then you can buy data as well). You can buy a sim card at the airport. There are two main providers- Unitel and Mobicom. Both of which will have packages designed for tourists, so just choose the package that suits your needs (amount of data). Make sure the data package has enough validity for the duration of your stay in Mongolia.However, as Mongolia still has a reputation of being off-the-beaten-track and remote (which it is – just with 3G) it provides a perfect excuse to say to your boss that you will be uncontactable during your trip. You will see internet cafes listed in guidebooks but unless you’re staying overnight in a town, we don’t stop to use them. Please accept that on your adventure you will live without Skype, email and Facebook- call it a digital detox!If you do decide to bring any technological equipment with you remember the road will be bumpy and dusty so make sure to protect it well. Internet cafes are available within Ulaan Baatar. Most hotels have Wi-Fi. Most cafes also have Wi-Fi connection. Dietary requirements We can cater for those with dietary requirements. However, you are responsible for giving us clear information in advance about your dietary needs so I can let you know in advance what to realistically expect. There is room on the booking form for you to write details. Just remember, you have booked on to a group trip and we are responsible for the meals for all guests.Vegetarian or Vegan?You will typically eat a lot of pulses and beans. These are hard for us to prepare so bring some form of protein supplement with you for the trip.Coeliac or Gluten Free?Breakfast is the most difficult meal for us to provide so I suggest bringing rice crackers with you. (They are hard to find in Mongolia). We can cater for you but your meals will be blander than you are used to. Just give us clear guidelines as to what you can and cannot eat and I can give you a rough idea as to what you can expect.Gastric Band?This will affect how we prepare breakfast, lunch and dinner. Please inform us on how your own regime for eating and drinking.You may like to bring a choice of cup-a-soups/instant soups with you. There is not a reliable supply yet in UB, and they are perfect for quick lunches on cold days. In addition, you may wish to think about bringing a choice of energy snacks with you.Supporting and Trying LocalWe try to take into account ‘food miles’ and encourage the SC team to purchase local seasonal produce en-route to help support each community we pass through. Yes, you may see a pineapple in one of the markets but we won’t necessarily buy it!Taking into consideration the time/season you are travelling, we provide an opportunity to try dishes from this simple yet delicious traditional cuisine. If you eat meat, we try to include a Mongolian barbecue on each trip. Packing suggestions Unfortunately Mongolia is not really a ‘pack-light’ kind of destination! Everyone’s packing style is different and we all have our own travel needs so these are only ideas and there will be gaps! These are merely suggestions and not ‘compulsory’ items. See the ‘weather’ section for details about the time of your trip. Practical Items• Money Belt/Pouch• A lock for your bag• Torch with spare batteries• Plastic/Ziploc bags• Penknife/Multi-tool• Travel mug (although we do provide cups)• Wash Cloth• Travel alarm clock• Travel plug adaptor (a European plug with two circular metal pins).• Ear plugs• Spare memory cards for your camera• Light-weight travel towels (towels are not provided at any accommodationoutside of UB)• Lip Balm/Moisturiser (Mongolia can have a very dry environment due to itsaltitude – available in UB)• Suncream and sunglasses (available in UB)• Binoculars – great for early morning wildlife spotting• Insect Repellent• Anti – Bacterial ‘Dry’ Soap• Laundry Soap/Travel Wash – biodegradable if possible• Pain Killers/Medication (for bad backs, headaches, muscle pulls, constipation etc). Generic antibiotic such as Amoxicillin• Wet Wipes (good for instant washes) • Travel Pillow• Eye/Sleep Mask• Please try and bring a reusable water bottle/water pouch Extras• We provide a simple foil mat per tent – we suggest you bring your own thermorest or something similar for extra comfort (including itineraries using family operated ger camps if you don’t like sleeping on hard beds)• You may also want to bring hiking poles• Yes! We do provide toilet paper – but if you prefer Aloe Vera or Extra Soft you may like to purchase your own supply!• Please note that in Mongolia it is difficult to obtain protective helmets of a reliable standard. If you take part in the optional activities of horse riding and would like to wear one, please bring your own.• You must make sure your sleeping bag and clothing is warm enough – do not underestimate Mongolia’s weather or the temperature. We recommend that your sleeping bag is of a good quality especially if you know you are a ‘cold’ sleeper’ (think about a comfortable rating of minus 5-10).. Consider bringing a silk sleeping bag liner as well. Clothing – think layers, think casual think practical.Dark colours are usually better than light so that dirt doesn’t show up somuch, but if you’re heading to the Gobi when it’s really hot some lightercolours may be preferable.Warm DaysLoose-fitting, lightweight cotton materials.Colder DaysThermal layers, fleece tops, jumpersInclement WeatherWater/windproof jacket (and waterproof trousers for trekking).Horse or Camel TrekkingSuitable trousers – not too loose as they will rubFor Your Feet• Comfortable sturdy worn-in walking boots/shoes• Sandals/flip flops for camp and inside the vans• Neoprene socks or sandals for river crossings on trekking itineraries(or, a horse will be available!)Additional Clothing Items• Swimming stuff (good for when washing)• Sun hat (essential for Gobi and bad hair days – available in UB)• Woolly Hat/Scarf/Gloves (yes! It can get this cold – available in UB)Concerned about being cold?• Hot Water Bottle• Hand Warmers• Down Jacket Weather One thing is for certain – you will have to pack for all eventualities – see our ‘What to Pack’ section. Unfortunately, Mongolia is not a ‘pack-light’ destination! Be prepared to be hot and cold. But, don’t let the weather be the one thing that puts you off coming to Mongolia in the winter. We’ll make sure you’re well prepared.Mongolia is one of the highest countries in the world, with the average altitude at 1580 metres above sea level. Known as the ‘Land of the Blue Sky’ it is known for its (on average) 260 days of blue sky per year – but these do not all occur in the summer months! The high central Asian mountain ranges protect the country against the humid air masses, which move in from the ocean creating an extreme continental climate with a temperature range to suit.Mongolian weather is known for its sharp fluctuations with warm, short summers and long, dry and very cold winters. The coldest months are December to February with some areas of the country dropping to as low as -50°C , with Ulaan Baatar often seeing temperatures of -35°C. In the summer, the Gobi frequently hits temperatures of 30°C+, whilst it’s colder the further north you go.Temperature AveragesThere’s not much point in detailing averages as if travelling between May and September, 4 seasons in 1 day is a distinct possibility, and 4 seasons during the trip is an absolute certainty. Anything is possible, from 30°C and no wind in May, to 15°C and snow in August. There are, however, some distinct benefits about this changeable climate as bad weather often passes very quickly.Summer Months OverviewIt is usually colder in the north and warmer in the south – as is to be expected.• May: Dry, windy, dusty and sunny with large fluctuations in temperature (Day 10-20°C; Night 0-10°C)• June: First half similar to May and then temperatures rise and fluctuate less with more cloud cover and some rain (Day 15-25°C; Night 10-15°C)• July: A mixed bag – very changeable with sunshine most days, but also cloud and rain (Day 15-30°C; Night 10-20°C)• August: First half similar to July, then it becomes a lot drier and sunnier, but colder at nights (Day 15-30°C; Night 0-15°C)• September : Dry, sunny, calm, chilly (Day 0-20°C; Night -5 to +5°C)Always good to know….• If you are travelling to Mongolia either side of summer, the landscapes will probably look very arid and parched – not the lush green in the photos. Also, in early spring herders and their livestock will be coming out of the long, hard and tiring winter period.• Mongolia is a country of approximately 63 million head of livestock (Dec 2016), of stream, rivers and lakes, of four distinct seasons and of changeable weather conditions. All these elements combined create a haven for insects. There is the chance you will come across flies and mosquitoes. It will not be at every location and mainly just for an hour or two – usually when the wind has died in the early evening. No major precautions are necessary – just bring insect repellent!• Although we know you don’t want it to, please accept that it may rain (and it is not our fault when it does rain☺ ). When it does, see it from the perspective of a Mongolian herder – rain is a blessing as it helps to rejuvenate the grasslands and bring fresh rich pasture. Safety & First Aid SafetyMongolia is a relatively safe country in which to travel. Most crime is opportunistic and common sense is always your best safeguard. I suggest that you exercise a reasonable degree of caution – be sensible (but not paranoid).Sorry, but we cannot accept responsibility for money, passports or other valuables left in safe deposit boxes in accommodation or money, passports or other valuables left in gers, tents or vehicles but each vehicle does have a lockable drawer.In the unlikely event that you are a victim of a crime, we will help you. However, if for any reason you need them, here are some useful contact details:– If your belongings are stolen, you should report it to the Pick- pocketing Department of the Police, phone +976-51-269 285. The police can provide a letter for insurance purposes.– If you are the victim of any other crime in Mongolia you should call the police on 102 or +976 102 from an international mobile phone. There should be someone available on this number who can speak to you in English. First Aid Medical facilities in Mongolia are basic. There are a couple of private international standard hospitals in Ulaan Baatar – but their facilities are expensive. You can Google search for Intermed, SOS Medica and Songdo.We assume you are in good health and have a sufficient level of fitness to complete your chosen tour. It is very important that any illness, disability or medical condition that you suffer or are recovering from, have been brought to our attention at the time of booking. Please make sure you have informed your insurance company of any existing conditions to provide adequate cover.If you are taking medication, please bring your own adequate supply, as you will probably not be able to obtain suitable medication en-route.Each vehicle has a basic first aid kit but you may also like to bring your own small medical supply for minor wounds etc. We are not permitted to administer medicine or drugs so if you suffer from a bad back, travel sickness, hay fever or headaches etc please bring your own supply of medicine. You may also want to consider including a generic antibiotic such Amoxicillin.Our trip assistants and drivers have yearly training and certification in basic first aid from the Mongolian Red Cross. Cycling details Of our 14 days in Mongolia, we’re on the bikes for up to 8 of them. The cycling routes are indicative only, as we stay with families that are nomadic, meaning the final destination for the day could be different for each tour. In addition to this, weather also plays a role in the amount we cycle on each of our riding days, as does the strength, size and physical capability of the group. As each Social Cycles tour is fully supported so there is an opportunity for riders to take a rest in the van. There are no prizes for cycling the whole way.Our goal is to exhibit the beauty of travelling Mongolia by bicycle. It is not to rack up thousands of kilometers. Therefore, our style is recreational and casual. We aim to cater for beginner to intermediate recreational cyclists, not professionals or Strava enthusiasts. See our FAQ on Social Cycles tours for more info on whether this is the right tour for you in regards to cycling. Day Three Drive on asphalt road out of Ulaanbaatar, turn off asphalt and this is where group will have first picnic lunch. After lunch, group cycle on dirt roads to Baga Gazriin Chuluu. These are quiet local jeep trails that connects small rural communities and seasonal pastures. There is not one defined route so the routing on this map is approximate. Day Four Road out of Baga Gazriin Chuluu is very rocky so we might have to drive a short distance until we’re on harder packed dirt road. There is an option for travelling in the vehicle if any group members feel tired etc, as the 4×4 will follow us the entire way. Total distance is approximately 75km with minor undulation along the way. We will arrive in the early afternoon. Day Five Numerous routes available … all typically on harder packed dirt road. Although marked on the map as a road … this is a quiet dirt track used by local families.Option for travelling in vehicle if any group members tired etc. Day Six Visit to the well project might be by vehicle depending on the well chosen by the NGO. The bike option is relaxed – cycling ger to ger. There is no official route. The distance depends on family location and what families visited. But, terrain is similar to Day Five. We cannot display a map as there is no official route for this. We’ll find out when we get there! Cycling is optional. Day Seven Two distances available (before or after Delgerkhaan). Possibly the second section is the most scenic. Option for travelling in vehicle if any group members tired etc. From Erdenesant, the rest of the way (90km) is on main asphalt road (group travel in tour vehicles). Day Eight The biking is flexible today,as you can use the bike to explore the region of Khogna Khan Nature Reserve, or perhaps swap the wheels for a camel and a sand dune trek! Day Ten The location of the family ger is not marked! However, is it approximately 25km one way with passes en-route. There are numerous route options available. The group return to Tsetserleg the same day (either by bike or vehicle – their choice). This makes today either a 25km or 50km cycling option. Day Eleven This is asphalt road so the group will transfer to the small community of Tsenher where they will ride to Khotont (and the asphalt road). An alternative is to ride from Tsetserleg to Tsenher the back route (dirt road) before then driving from Tsenher to Kharkhorin. There are many possible options here depending on the individuals in the group. Culture There are many customs and social rules that remain an inherent part of Mongolian life but they are so integratedinto everyday life that it can be hard for visitors to tell that they exist.It is not possible or even expected of you to know all the traditions of Mongolia. However, Mongolians are alwaysappreciative when a visitor takes the time to learn some of the rituals and customs. The following are to help youget a more welcome reception. They are only an informal guide. Ger Etiquette• Try not to lean against the central support columns of the ger or pass something between them as it may cause bad luck. The two central posts are said to support the ger like the husband and wife support the family and also represent the past, present and future.• Try not to whistle inside a ger as Mongolians believe this may bring a natural disaster – such as a very strong wind or heavy rain that causes flash floods. Mongols do ‘whistle for the wind’ in the summer outside, when a breeze helps to keep down the flies. They do no whistle in the winter or spring for fear it will bring storms.• Try not to walk in front of older people (respect for the elderly is always shown).• When passing a knife or scissors, always offer the handle never the blade.• Fire is sacred. Do not throw any rubbish directly into the fire as this is disrespectful to the fire. Put the rubbish into the fuel bin (the metal pan) in front of the fire. It will be saved to start the next fire and is transformed into fuel by its brief stop in the fuel bin. Avoid stamping out or putting water on the fire as well.• Try not to step on the threshold of the door or speak to someone across the threshold of the doorway. It is thought that the spirit of the house lives on the threshold and the threshold offers protection to the family.• It is not rude to come and go as you please in a ger. Even taking a short nap is considered perfectly acceptable.Outside the Ger• Try not to walk across an area where women are milking the animals as you may spook them.• Try not to step across any lines that animals are tied to.• Try not to step over the long wooden pole used as a lasso if it is lying on the ground. If you see a lasso or a wooden pole planted in the ground, avoid that area. This is a symbol for privacy by whoever planted it upright.• Remember that dogs are not pets. They are working dogs and often used for guarding the property.• When you see animals hobbled (either singularly or head to head with another), this is to act as a drag to stop them ranging (usually the herder has just bought a new animal and wants to make sure that it does not try to return to its old home).Within the Buddhist culture the head is an elevated part of the body in symbolic terms and the feet have accordingly lower status.• Try not to point your feet towards other people or important items such as the fire or family altar.• Sleep with your feet pointing towards the door.• Try not to put your feet on tables and chairs as it is considered impolite.• Try not to accidentally touch someone with your foot. The thinking behind this is that you have invaded their social space and you may become enemies. If you do touch someone’s foot you can balance this out by shaking that person’s hand so that they know you did not mean it.• Try not to touch a hat belonging to someone else. A hat should never be placed on the floor. A hat in an honoured possessions and a very personal item.Mongolian GreetingWhen Mongolians meet conversation begins with an enquiry about the wellness of the family, their livestock, the condition of the pasture or the grazing and also the weather. Only after quite some time is it appropriate to discuss other matters. The expected response to ‘How are You?’ (Sain baina Uu?) should always be ‘good’ (Sain) even if you are not feeling your best. Talking about bad things such as sickness is taken as a bad omen and should be avoided as much as possible.It is oddly redundant to say, ‘Sain bain uu?’ to the same person more than once in the same day.It is normal for Mongolians to not introduce friends they are with to the friends they meet. It is also normal for Mongolians to ask strangers where they come from and who their father is. However, they can be reserved if you try to ask them similar questions.When Visiting A FamilyMongolians often use gestures in the place of a verbal ‘thank you’. Mongolians use the right hand for all auspicious and respectful activity – using this hand to gesture and pass items. It is respectful to roll down the sleeves before taking or giving an item, or before being introduced to an older person. To show special respect one supports the right elbow with the left hand when passing an item. The use of both hands to offer or take something is acceptable.Not feeding a guest is considered a sign of rudeness and unfriendliness so please do accept when your host offers tea, food or dairy products. Not only should you accept it but you should also taste it (or pretend to by placing the rim of the cup to your lips) before placing it on the table.• Try to avoid standing up when drinking tea or other beverages. Ask permission before taking any photographs as well.• If you place food or cigarettes out on the table they will become communal property.• When drinking vodka Mongolians will often make a toast with the vodka in their first cup. You also can do this – having dipped the ring finger of your right hand into the cup, flick your finger to the four winds – this is offering a taste to the gods. You should always return the cup to the person who offered it to you.• On your departure you will always be encouraged to take a small item of food for the journey. Again, please show willing. You can always hand it to your driver or trip assistant once outside.Traditional CeremoniesIt is possible that whilst travelling through Mongolia you may come across one or more of these ceremonies. This is just a brief overview:Receiving The Snuff BottlePassing a snuff bottle is a formal occasion. Always accept it with your right hand and with an open palm. You may take a pinch of snuff or just sniff the bottle’s top. Before passing the bottle to another person, you should offer it back to its owner. Do not replace the cap firmly before passing the bottle back – simply leave it resting on top of the bottle, with the snuff blade inside.The Tea Offering CeremonyEvery morning after the sun has risen a member of the household (usually the grandmother or mother) makes a small offering of either salted milk tea or milk (milk is a symbol for goodness) to the sun and the spirits, hoping for protection, future happiness and wellbeing. This ceremony represents one of the core values of nomadic life. Shopping We do not arrange shopping tours. However, throughout your trip you will have the opportunity to explore the local markets and community shops we pass through when we stock up on food but this is purely optional and you will never be taken souvenir shopping. We do not accept or take commission!If you are looking to buy products local to Mongolia, you may be interested in woolen items made out of cashmere, camel or yak wool such as hats, scarves and jumpers. Hand-made felt products are popular for souvenirs and include items such as chessboards, children’s boots, slippers and place mats. There are some excellent leather products and traditional Mongolian boots are a worthwhile investment if you are looking for something a little different.In Mongolia there is very little bargaining as most prices are set – this includes local markets where you are unlikely to be charged very much more than the locals. When buying any antiques, you need to be careful about what you buy as some of it is illegal. Make sure the shop you buy it from can produce a certificate of authenticity, as well as a receipt, in case you are asked for it by customs. The same applies if you are thinking of purchasing rocks or stones – if checked at Immigration they will probably be confiscated (no matter the size). Sleeping Why do we choose the accommodation that we do?A major part of our philosophy is to support local and I believe that our style of travel has to be beneficial to all. This means we prefer to use Mongolian owned accommodation. We avoid tourist ger camps as well. They’re large. They’re impersonal. Do you really want to share your Mongolian experience with up to another 30 or 60 other westerners? They’re not as comfortable as you expect and you have to have all your meals inside the restaurant at a set time which doesn’t seem quite right in a county of herders.So, what ger accommodation do we use?As much as possible we use family operated ger camps. Rural families frequently offer accommodation as a way of supplementing their income and providing extra financial security for themselves. The circumstances and type of ger accommodation provided will change from family to family. Consider them as small rural businesses. Some accommodation is offered by herders (maybe one separate ger), some is offered by ‘retired’ herders who no longer migrate (two to four separate gers), some by families that live in small town communities and some by families that own small ger camp businesses (mini ger camps of between 7 to 10 gers). A Gentle ReminderThere WILL be times during your journey when the availability of certain amenities may be lacking – at family provided ger accommodation, in hotels and in tourist ger camps. The reasons for this can be varied – low season; high season; electricity and/or generator problems; remote locations; the simple fact that some amenities are only catered for between certain times of the day. Examples of this could be a ger camp having a lack of hot water, or only having hot water at certain times. Lighting in the evening at some places may be by candle-light, and electricity may not be available.InsulationAlthough during the winter months gers are well prepared and insulated for the freezing temperatures. At other times of year everything is a little more relaxed. There will typically be gaps between the ground and felt and canvas covering which lets lots of fresh air in. You’re probably used to an insulated house with central heating so there may be a substantial difference.If you’re travelling in the summer in the Gobi or an area of steppe with few trees, then there may not be a stove in your ger. Where there are stoves, they can be temperamental to light, can create a lot of smoke and do not always give out an even heat. Just ask for a demonstration! Also, dung does burn well but ask one of the SC team to help you as there’s a certain way of lighting a dung fire in a Mongolian stove so that it doesn’t smoke too much.BeddingBedding in family ger accommodation is often limited. Also, the bedding on tourist ger camps can be thin. Bring a sleeping bag. If you don’t have one, we can provide one. Just ask in advance.Beds / MattressesBeds will vary in comfort (very hard, very soft, too short, made from wood, made from metal. There are no memory foam mattresses – remember that a lot of rural Mongolians sleep on the floor. You may wish to bring a Thermorest or something similar to provide a little extra padding – there are more details in the Packing section. Photography Mongolians have encountered many filmmakers, photographers, authors and journalists and are savvy to the concept that some photographs are designed to produce products that yield profits, publications, or public material of some kind. Some Mongolians welcome participation in these kinds of projects while others are not interested. Most herders feel, understandably, that compensation is appropriate if the end- result is a profit-generating product. Please just be aware of this and if we feel it is a situation that requires a payment we will let you know.In recent years there has been a number of photography essays published about ‘Mongolia’s undiscovered tribes’. Its 2018. Mongolia, its land and all people, have been discovered. They weren’t lost actually. Another popular topic is the ‘hardness’ of the way of life – whether that be the climate, poverty or urbanisation. But Mongolians are extremely proud and resilient people and do not always like this portrayal of poverty.At the back of every ger is the family khoimor – the family altar. Some families have cameras on their phones but no way to print off the images and therefore few families have photographs. I have a rule that if you promise a photo then you must send the photo. I make it easy for you – email the image of the photo to me once you get home and I will print if off and will make sure the photos are delivered.Employ a degree of care and sensitivity when taking photographs – of people and inside temples and monasteries and in rural areas including villages and markets. Mongolians are proud people and some feel that they are being objectivised and degraded. Even if you think you are being discreet, ask first – it’s respectful. Just turn the table and think of what your own reaction would be in a similar circumstance. Electricity & Charging ElectricityElectricity is 220V, 50Hz. Standard sockets throughout the country accommodate the Type C European-style 2-pin plugs Please bring your own adapter as we do not provide these – there are more details in the What to Pack section further on.Recharging BatteriesOur vehicles do have a 220v charging point but please bring your own charging equipment such as a multi-plug charger (also bring a USB adaptor as well if required). It varies vehicle to vehicle, but typically charging works best when the vehicle is stationary rather than moving (it’s the potholes and bumps!). If you are wanting to charge laptops and tablets and phones and camera batteries we will ask you take it in turn so to not overload the charger / battery. Just be aware that problems do sometimes occur on the road with the charging equipment (dust!) and it cannot always be repaired en-route so please do not rely on being able to easily recharge your batteries and extra charged batteries! Bathrooms Rural Mongolians (town and country) do not have access to running water so most toilets are of the outside Asian style long-drop/squat toilet although a few will be ‘sit-down.’ The toilets are not there to disgust or challenge you. It’s daily life in ruralMongolia.Most of the larger tourist ger camps have facilities in a separate block (although at times mixed sex). Hotels typically havewestern style toilets but they may not be en-suite.A ‘Loo With A View’Each of our SC vehicles carries a toilet tent. We made them ourselves and they’re a simple design – but good enough to give you privacy. There’s no seat. You still have to squat. But we provide toilet paper and a small trowel. We dig a main hole and youcover what you’ve done using top soil with the trowel. When we leave, we cover in the hole entirely. We use these when camping and when a family doesn’t have a toilet.Toilets On The RoadWe provide a small trowel and plastic bags. You can either take the trowel and dig a small hole (in which you can leave the toilet paper and then re-cover with the soil) or place your toilet paper into the small bag and place the bag into the main rubbish. Do not burn the paper – arid conditions, a strong breeze and grassland do not make for a good mix! Although basic, the toilets will have some of the best views in Mongolia! Water and soap will always be available for hand washing.(If travelling in the cold months we do not provide the trowel as you would not be able to break the soil! However, if you do need to stop en-route, we ask that you place your toilet paper into a small bag and place the bag into the main rubbish.)Toilet Paper Do not leave any toilet paper blowing out over the countryside – it is detrimental to the land, the livestock and the wildlife. Also, it is not pleasant coming across old used toilet paper. Yes, others will have left it and you will come across it but lead by example and either bury it or place it in the rubbish. Do not leave and/or do not bury ‘wet wipes’ or sanitary items. Please place them in a plastic bag and place them in the main rubbish bag. Showers can be limited (again because of lack of running water). These shower houses are frequently a highlight for our clients! Where showers are available, they are listed in your itinerary. A ‘bowl wash’ is always available – please just ask your trip assistant for warm water and a bowl.LaundryLaundry is available by use of a bucket, some soap and warm water. There are a few days on the trip where you’ll have the time to do this, and allow the clothes to dry before we take off again.Hot WaterHot water is provided by the state power plant. Maintenance is carried out in the summer months and this leads to the hot water supply being turned off in each district of the city at various times. The dates are announced in advance but rarely correct. Be prepared for a cold shower regardless of if you’re at a guesthouse or the Ramada. However, you can always use the sauna at the Dream Hotel or the Gobi Complex. (Some of the international hotel chains such as the Shangri-La also have saunas). Vaccinations Please consult your doctor or local travel clinic for any required vaccinations – although there are no compulsory vaccinations, typhoid/tetanus/infectious hepatitis and polio are recommended. However, it is your responsibility to ensure that you obtain proper and detailed medical advice prior to travel.Details of recommended health requirements for Mongolia are available on www.traveldoctor.info andwww.mdtravelhealth.com, as together they highlight vaccinations recommended according to length and type of trip.Rabies – The chances of being bitten in Mongolia by animals that could carry rabies are relatively slim. This low risk,combined with cost and leadtime for pre-vaccination, and the fact that pre-bite vaccination only reduces the numberof post-bite vaccinations needed rather than preventing the contraction of the disease, mean that most people don’tbother.Encephalitis (Japanese and/or Tick-borne) – Only specifically recommended if going to remote regions in the heavilyforested regions of e.g. Khentii and Selenge province, which is unlikely. If in doubt, ask us. Share this adventure Share on facebook Facebook Share on whatsapp WhatsApp Share on twitter Twitter Share on linkedin LinkedIn Share on google Google+ Share on stumbleupon StumbleUpon Share on email Email Got a question? Get in touch Name Email Message Send Brett Seychell +61 479 108 222 [email protected] Hub, 696 Bourke St, Melbourne 3000 about us How we started Our purpose Your donations Responsible travel Meet the team NGO partners Private adventures Corporate teams Self guided destnations Cambodia Laos Iran Samoa Vietnam Mongolia Colombia connect Name Email Let's stay in touch Facebook Twitter Instagram Linkedin Youtube responsibletravel recommends Social Cycles Social Cycles Brett Seychell +61 479 108 222 [email protected] Hub, 696 Bourke St, Melbourne 3000 connect Facebook Twitter Instagram Linkedin Youtube Name Email Let's stay in touch!