Mongolia Solo Travel & Mongolia Backpacker Guide  

Mongolia as a Solo and Backpackers Destination:

Mongolia has only opened up to tourism in the last ten years, and it seems that only recently travellers have really thought of going there.  The country is a wonderful place for solo travellers to visit as it is a place of immense beauty and one of the most hospitable cultures in the world.  

People are quite used to seeing aid workers such as Peace Corp and VSO,
so most people won't be too surprised by seeing a foreign traveller by themself.  The concept of travelling for the sake of travelling, however, is relatively new to Mongolians, and many people will be pleasantly curious about you.

Learning some basic Mongolian or even Russian helps quite a lot, however many Mongolians will welcome you into their homes, offer you tea and food, and sit with you smiling for hours without either of you needing to say a word.  Be sure to bring some small gifts to give in return as without a doubt you will find yourself a guest in a
Mongolian's home at some point!

The infrastructure of the country is still rough, and getting around can be
a bit of a hassle.  Nearly all roads are unpaved throughout the country and no public buses run outside of Ulaan Baatar.  The best bet is to head to taxi ranks and join a van of people heading to, or in the direction of, your destination.  Although it is
difficult to get in to the countryside, it is well worth it, and you will be rewarded with breathtaking scenery and certainly meet wonderfully friendly and interesting rural families.

Accomodation for Solo Travellers:

In the main city in Mongolia, Ulaan Baatar, several hostels have recently opened up where you can get a bed for about US$2 or 2000 MN Tugriks.  These are a great way to meet other travellers as well as the many aid workers who pass through on their way through the city.  Another option if you are in the country for more than a couple weeks is to rent an apartment.

These are very inexpensive, only about US$30-70 a week, depending on the place. Check the English language newspapers such as the UB Post for ads.
While in the countryside accomodation is entirely camping or the hospitality of local people.  There are no campgrounds but you can pitch your tent anywhere as
long as you are a respectful distance from someone else's home (called gers or yurts).  

In small villages you will sometimes find cheap guesthouses, however most of Mongolia is nomadic, so settlements are few and far between.

Budget for Solo Travellers:

Mongolia is very inexpensive to travel in, although recent increases in tourism have begun to raise prices of transportation and accomodation in Ulaan Baatar. Rarely will accomodation cost more than US$5 for a hostel or guesthouse.  

When outside of the city and travelling in the countrysdie you will mainly be camping or staying with families, so costs will be nearly nil. If someone does invite you in as a guest, however, be sure to bring some gifts.  Usually a bottle of vodka or some rice and pens or pencils for kids are big hits.  

Food will cost about US$0.50 or 500 MN Tugriks for a basic Mongolian meal of meat
dumplings or meat with rice or noodles.  In traveller's restaurants good pizza or curries cost US3-5.  Beer is readily obtainable for under US$1, although vodka is the national drink and is very strong and cheap!  In the summer you can buy jugs of
Airag, a fermented mare's milk which tastes like fizzy yoghurt and is mildly alcoholic.  

Tips and Activities for Solo Travellers:

Travelling in Mongolia is very much about relaxing into a slow pace of life and taking things as they come.  Don't get overly stressed if the van you were told leaves for the Gobi Desert in twenty minutes only leaves in 4 hours.  This is just the way things work
and relaxing into it will significantly increase your enjoyment of the country.  

That said, a little bit of patience will be rewarded with dramatic scenery of
mountains, forests, and desert, as well as an immeasurealbe amount of hospitality from the Mongolian people.

Some things to do include:

Visiting the Erdene Monastary, one of the oldest Tibetan Buddhism Monastaries in the world

-Going out clubbing till the wee hours in Ulaan Baatar

-Camel trekking in the Gobi Desert

-Visiting the 'Black Market' in Ulaan Baatar, a huge marketplace of food, furniture, and gifts

-Stay with a Mongolian family and drink homemade Airag

-Head up north to hike around Lake Khovsgul, one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world and home to nomadic Reindeer herders

Overall Mongolia is a breathtaking country which has only recently been open to travellers.  Solo travellers will find themselves in a place with wonderful solitude as well as constant warmth and hospitality from the Mongolians.  It is a place not to
be missed and well-worth the occasional travel hassles due to its remoteness.  The rewards you receive are amazing!

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