ABOUT MONGOLIA

The country

Language

Currency

Climate

Festival and events

Environment, protected areas

Mongolian Fauna

Mongolian Flora

Jet lag

Mongolian Food

Visa

Security

Health

Accommodation

Equipment

 

The country:

Mongolia is located between Russia and China, 2 big neighbours who invaded the country one after the other.
Since the beginning of the 90’s, Mongolia has opened its doors to the outside World. That explains the recent and fast development of the country, and more and more visitors each year.
When Russians left, Mongolia turned its look to the rest of the world, and the new constitution written in 1992 has reinforced a new start for the country.
Mongolia is particularly interesting because of the variety of landscapes with steppes, of course, but also mountain ranges with eternal snow (Altaï and Khenty), Gobi deserts in the south, ancient volcanic mountains with craters and hot springs, and huge salted and pure water lakes, like Khövsgöl Lake called “the blue pearl of Mongolia”.
The steppe covers actually only 20% of the land.

Mongolia is also the birthplace of many ethnic groups. The 2 most important nowadays are the Khalkha, with 2 million people – about 80% of the Mongolian population – then come the Mongolian Kazakhs with more than 100 000 people, who live in the Altaï mountain range, western part of Mongolia.
One of the well known ethnic minorities is the Tsaatan, with 400 people left. They live in the northern part of the country, in Khövsgöl Province, at the border with Russia. They are reindeers’ herders, and live in a tepee, not a ger.

 

The total population in Mongolia is 2600 000 inhabitants, living on 1 565 000 km². But the growth rate is about 2,8% and the actual population is very young: more than half of it is under 30.

Mongolian culture and traditions have a lot of similarities across several ethnic groups. Nevertheless, Kazakhs are Muslim and live in a ger, Tsaatan shamanists and live in a tepee.
Mongolians are mainly Buddhist and many temples and monasteries were spread all over the country, just a few remain undestroyed.

The ger – symbol of Mongolian nomadic life – can be seen everywhere, even in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar.
The ger is the typical accommodation for nomads. Number, width an ornaments depends on the wealth of the family. It symbolizes the heat of universe, everyone is welcome to enter, following some “how to behave” rules.
The word “ger” is also used by townsmen to talk about their house.

Other symbol of Mongolia: the horse, essential in the culture (songs, tales…) and the History of the country. It is the pride of the Nomad, and represents a valuable property
Many usual expressions refer to the horse, like “going to see my horse” means go to the restrooms…

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Language:

Many different dialects exist but are close enough to be understood by almost all Mongolians.

Though, Kazakhs speak their own language, close to Turkish, and Uriankhaï people have a dialect close to Uyghur.
Due to the russian influence, Mongolians had to speak and write Russian. As a matter of fact, a whole generation does know Russian perfectly. Nowadays, young people learn english, turkish, german, french, instead of russian…

 

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Currency:

The Mongolian currency is the Tögrög (abbreviation:T or MNT). There is not any coins, just note of 20 000, 10 000, 5 000, 1 000, 500, 100, 50, 20 et 10 Tögrögs.
In 2007, 1$ US equals 1 164 T and 1€ equals 1 580 T.
You can exchange easily US dollars and euros in Ulaanbaatar; as well using international Visa Card, and MasterCard. There are many banks in the capital open 24/24 h.

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Climate:

Mongolia is on a high plateau and is the country with the most continental climate; it means very hot summer and very cold winter.
In summer time, temperatures can reach 35°C, with an average of 25°C. Even though annual rainfalls are mainly during June and July, they are mainly short showers. In the Gobi desert, it is common to have more than 45°C

In winter time, average temperatures are -24°C, but can go down easily to -40°C. In Khövsgöl province you can even reach -50°C. But the cold is very dry, much more comfortable than in other countries. Moreover, Mongolia is famous for the eternal blue sky and it is almost always sunny.
Spring and fall seasons are short and within a few days temperatures and weather can change drastically.
Springtime is very windy; it can be annoying in the countryside, especially in the gobi parts where windstorm can be very strong.

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Festival and events:

The main events are :

  1. the mongolian New Year - Tsagaan Sar – occurring at the first new moon of the spring (usually end of January or February) people celebrate the New year for one full week, by visiting families and friends.
  2. The Naadam, national day, the 11th of July. Mongolian go to see the 3 national sports tournaments: wrestling, horse races and archery. Celebration last 3 or 4 days, and the whole country breathes in rhythm with horses, especially raised and trained for this day.

 

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Environment, protected areas:

2/3rd of the population lives in the capital city. Others 5 or 6 towns contain between 3 to 5000 inhabitants.

The rest of the territory is dedicated to nomadic life and gers.

Many protected areas and national parks exist in each province. Nowadays 15% of the total territory is under a law, and authorities of provinces are willing to improve this percentage.

 

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Mongolian Fauna:

Mongolian fauna is widely diversified, because of the low population density. In another hand, hunting is a threat for many wild species like the wild goat or the snow leopard.
Depending on the region, you can find more than 138 mammals, and some of them listed on the red data book (endangered species).
The most common animals are wolves, foxes, deers, bears, antelopes, squirrels, marmots, wild pigs, hase…
In the Gobi provinces live the wild ass, gazelles, saïga antelopes, the Gobi bear and a few wild Bactrian camels.
The wild horse, called Prjevalski horse has been reintroduced in several protected areas.
In the Altai Mountains range, live the biggest sheep, called Argali, which weights more than 140kg and measures until 1,30m high; also the Ibex, a wild goat, a valuable prey for hunters.
The snow leopard is one of the most threatened species, and lives in Altaï regions.

More than 450 bird’s species have been listed, with 80 of them for sedentary birds.
Cranes and geese are spread all over the country, as well as birds of prey, like eagles, vultures, falcons, busards, milans…
Fishes are also abundant in rivers and lakes, although fishing activity attracting more an more people starts to have consequences on the population…
The most famous fish in Mongolia is the Taïmen, flesh-eating fish that can reaches 2m long!

 

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Mongolian Flora:

2800 species of plants have been listed in Mongolia, with more than 1/3 used for traditional medicine.
Many species are endemic like the gold of the Gobi called Saxaul.

Jet lag:

Mongolia is GMT + 8.
Western provinces (Bayan Ulgii) are GMT + 7.

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Mongolian Food:

Mongolian food is composed with meat.
For understandable reasons, like cold and nomadism, vegetables are not common and not diversified in the countryside. You can find in towns and especially in Ulaanbaatar lots of fruits and vegetables, coming from China or Russia.
In Ulaanbaatar, you can eat in chinese, european, indian, turkish restaurants…
In the countryside you can only eat local food like the famous “buuz”, king of dumplings, ‘khuushuur”, fried meat donuts, noodles dishes like Tsuivan and Puntuuz.

Dairy products are also the base of nutrition for Mongolians. But they usually don’t look and tastes like anything we know!

Cold climate and herding are some explanation to mongolian nutrition containing a lot of fat.

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Visa:

Depending on your country, you should contact the mongolian Embassy to check your obligations.
Our agency can provide you an invitation letter if needed.

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Security:

Mongolia is a safe country, even though the minor delinquency becomes more present in town.
We advice you to be careful with backpacks, cameras in all public places and especially in open air markets. Make a copy of your passport and put it in a safe place (your embassy, guesthouses with personal lockers…)

 

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Health:

No vaccine is required.
Take your personal pharmacy with some pills for digestion problems, in case you don’t get along with mongolian food.

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Accommodation:

In nomad settlement, rhythm and comfort are mongolian: elementary, rustic but efficient ! It will give you a chance to understand how people live and to share with them some unforgettable moments…

In tourist ger camps, gers are nicely set up, and you have a lot of facilities (howers, toilets, restaurant, small shops…)
You can ask to the staff to heat up you ger during the night, if provided blankets are not warm enough.
Local hotels are very basic and are not attractive. They can be a good solution to overnight if the weather is too bad to camp, for example.

 

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Equipment:

-           Out-door clothes
-           gloves and hat
-           rain coat (avoid K-Way material or any coat that might frightened horses while riding)
-           personal pharmacy.
-           Sun cream and sun glasses
-           spray or cream against mosquitoes
-           Wet tissues.
-           warm sleeping bag
-           2 pairs of shoes
-           backpack or travel bag in a waterproof big bag
-           enough batteries for the duration of your trip

 

You will be warmly welcome in any ger, no matter the wealth of the family, and the smile on their face is a gift they offer to you systematically.
Even though we pay fairly each family we work with, some gifts from you will be always appreciated, by adults and children, in return of their hospitality. You can make some useful gifts, other than alcohol or cigarettes. For example games for children, drawing tools, make up, specialties from your region, clothes, gloves, lights, binoculars…

 

To appreciate the country, landscapes and people, you have to forget about time, distances, and let you go and live in the rhythm of the steppe.
Our drivers and our guides are with you to make sure your journey will be a success; so give yourself the chance to live in Mongolia an unforgettable experience!

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