You will find many types of vehicles on Mongolian roads.
The most popular for short distances are horses. You can buy it at the beggining of your trip and sell it before departure.
You can also travel by a public transport - small buses. The bus leaves when it is full - very often there is no firm schedule.
Another option is to travel by taxi - with a driver. There are many types of cars - many of them not in a good condition ;)
I traveled by land from China to Mongolia. From Beijing I stopped in Datong on the way to the border. I took a bus to the Chinese border town and then a train on to Ulaanbatar.
Traveling in April, I found the guidebooks and local informants wrong on a number of occasions as to the availability of trains and buses. This may be less of a problem during the summer. Also taking a train "direct" from Beijing might be more convenient.
If anyone tries to look up the schedule, trains, berth availability on Express-3 Russian reservation system in 99% of cases nothing will come up for Ulan-Bator.
This is simply because a city is not the same thing as a station and the Express-3 reservation system is very picky.
Instead of trying all kind of combinations in Cyrillic to satisfy the Express-3 there is also a hidden numeric code assigned to every possible and impossible station all over Eurasia.
The code for Ulan Bator is 3100022
The code for Moscow Yaroslav station where the trains to U.B. do depart is by the way 2000002
It is no longer necessary to organise a guided tour before you come to Mongolia. Direct flights arrive from China, Russia, Japan and South Korea. I came to Mongolia from Japan via South Korea on a MIAT flight. I found the service to be of an international standard.
Korean Air also operates flights to Ulaan Baatar.
Continued from my Russian page...
We crossed the border to Mongolia at Nausjkij (Russia) and Suhe-Bator (Mongolia). We waited four hours at the border - but it might take much longer time. At the border all restrooms in the train were closed, but we could use the restrooms in the station building instead. A Russian official entered the train and informed us (in well-spoken English) about the procedure at the border. First the Russian passport authority collected all passports, later customs checked our cabin (and had a quick look at our luggage), and we got our passport back. We had absolutely no problems at the border.
From Moscow to Ulaanbaatar we were travelling with a Mongolian train. Suddenly there was a carpet on the carriage floor... and the restrooms had toilet paper and soap... The train had to arrive in Ulaanbaatar with style. The train arrived as scheduled in Ulaanbaatar, the Danish railway company could learn from their Mongolian colleagues...
When travelling from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing we passed through the Gobi Desert. Very hot and dusty! There was dust all over the cabin - and I will recommend you to bring a dust mask to keep the sand and dust out of you lungs.
Will continue on my China page...
The best way of getting around Mongolia, other than the traditional horse-back method, is to catch one of the ubiquitous UAZ minivans. There are lots that follow set routes, or you can hire your own with a driver from one of the hostels in UB.
Gingghis Khaan International Airport has a nice sound to it, but the reality is that it handles only a couple of international flights a day, mainly to Beijing, Seoul or Moscow. There is one lonely baggage carousel. But the lack of traffic means that passengers are processed quickly on arrival and departure. Currency exchange is basic. When old Cliffie was there they had run out of US dollars and were trying to cope with a few large Chinese notes and a small boxful of euro coins.
Normal cars are outnumbered by 4x4s in Ulaanbaatar. And the vehicle of choice is the Hummer. They come in different colours and configurations. Some, just arrived in the city, look dusty and well travelled. Others, like the two in the photo, have been washed and polished for a wedding. It must be fun to roll around the city in a yellow Hummer on your wedding day.
Getting to/from the airport in Ulaanbaatar is a little tricky if you decide to use public transport. It's a better option to take a "taxi" (basically a normal car) from outside the terminal. I took one driven by a young guy into the city centre for T10,000 (togrogs) on a rough looking road past dozens of American style billboards and some pretty rough looking places that doesn't give you the best first impression of the city.
If you're planning on heading out of Mongolia on a train via the Trans-Mongolian or Trans-Siberian Railway, then this is the place to come to in order to reserve a ticket NOT the main railway station. I took the train from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing and came here to get a ticket. The system in order to get a ticket is a bit weird and old fashioned which I will now explain. Firstly, don't go straight to the Beijing or Moscow counters (there are signs directing you the way). Instead, go to room 109. Here, a woman will check the availability on a computer and then write something down on a piece of paper for you. Take this to the counter of your choice where you can then pay (albeit eventually). The whole system is very archaic as I didn't know about "room 109" and so stood in line at the counter for 30 minutes before being told to go to the room first. Why everything can't be done at the counter (as they have a computer there), I don't know but now you know what to do. Anyway, my lovely soft-class sleeper ticket cost T133,150.
Ulaanbaatar's Chinggis Khaan International Airport, formerly known as Buyant Ukhaa Airport until it was renamed to celebrate the 800th anniversary of the establishment of a Mongolian State on December 21, 2005, is the only international hub within Mongolia. It's located about 18km to the south-west of the city and was reconstructed in 1990. Only MIAT (Mongolian Airlines), Air China, Aeroflot and Korean Air fly to Ulaanbaatar and it is also the country's hub for domestic flights with airlines such as Eznis, Aero Mongolia and, again, MIAT. The airport is fairly small and it is possible to change money at exchange desks or banks located on the upper floor.
I did a 12-day tour around Mongolia through a company called Black Ibex in one of their vehicles which was a 12-year old Toyota Landcruiser diesel. My driver, called Ganaa, was a very accomplished driver and certainly knew how to drive in Mongolian conditions. How he navigated without any road signs was beyond me, he just touched his head and said "GPS"! He actually let me drive for a short distance when we were on the edge of the Gobi desert so it was miles away from anyone else!
You'll see these all over Mongolia - transportation relics left over by the Russian's but still very popular today. They're built by a company called Uaz who produce a jeep and a minibus. They seem to be fairly reliable looking things given that their design dates back decades but they're both 4x4's, cheap and easy to maintain which is why they're still used. I spoke to a few tourists who were travelling in them and they seemed to be enjoying the experience. Me, I'll settle for a modern 4x4 any day (I did my tour in a 12-year old Toyota Landcruiser diesel which was actually older than many of the Russian vehicles).
Going to Mongolia: better plane or train from Bejing or from Moscow or from Irtkoursk see next chapter
LOOKING AROUND: rent a jeep is almost necessary as busses are slow and don't reach all the cities, and after it can be hard from thoses small administrative center to find a jeep to make a look around on the steppe. With a jeep you meet local people easilier and divide and taste their traditional way of life under the ger, and it's REALYY WORTH IT
WE RECOMMEND YOU STRONGLY MEJET WHO IS A WONDERFUL DRIVER (SEE PHOTO) E-mail: email@example.com
Mejet, for 90/95euro/day/jeep, will show you his marvellous country which he knows perfectly. You can be sure that almost every night will be spent in gers; he will pick you up on arrival and he can arrange your accomodations.
BE AWARE THAT MEJET RECEIVES A LOT OF REQUESTS,SO DON'T WAIT TOO LONG! and sometimes the jeeps are as hard to find as good drivers.
TIP: according your satisfaction and of course you aren't obliged!
RENT A JEEP: around 110 euro/day/jeep all included (petrol and driver) for 4 people plus the driver. If you rent a mini bus (van) enough for >6 p. The price is higher than for the jeep.
Sometimes the drivers are not well-versed in directions so they will make all kinds of excuses not to take you somewhere: the truth is that they don't know where you weant to go. So inquire beforehand and be sure they are familiar with all the places you want to go so you are not disappointed. Some drivers won't want you to sleep in yurts but instead insist you go to tourist camps.
With a good driver, taking a guide is not necessary, as a good driver can make you discover all you want to see.
Don't even think of renting a vehicule without a driver because no street lights and no road sign! GPS won't help you much, the drivers use their instincts and use landmarks such as mountains, forests, and in case of a problem they will ask the nomads who will welcome you with airak or milk salt tea
AFFITO JEEP: : circa 110€/g. tutto incluso (benzina e autista) per un 4X4 per 4 persone oltre all’autista. Se affittate un mini bus (van) può accogliere oltre 6 p. ma non può andare ovunque a causa delle piste in cattivo stato. Il prezzo del noleggio può essere superiore a quello di una jeep.
Con un buon autista la guida diventa superflua, perché un buon autista è in grado di farvi scoprire tutto quello che avete sempre sognato.
Non pensate a affittare un veicolo senza autista perché le piste non sono segnalate e non esistono cartelli! Il GPS non vi sarà di grande aiuto, gli autisti si orientano con le montagne, foreste… e chiedono, in caso di dubbio, ai nomadi che vi accoglieranno con una ciotola di airak o del te al latte salato! O prendete una guida con voi!
• ATTENZIONE: se fate un giro organizzato da una guest house perche avrà tendenza ad ottimizzare il tempo di trasporto rispetto alla qualità del circuito: giorni prefissati del circuito senza possibilità di allungare o accorciare il giro, percorso impossibile di modificare anche di solo pochi chilometri ; farsi sempre ben specificare che cosa include il prezzo, spesso un prezzo basso non include l’autista, il carburante o cambia in base al numero dei partecipanti facendo lievitare i prezzi quasi se non di più di un noleggio indipendente perchè se ad esempio vi si chiedono 40€ a p tutto incluso e che siete in 3 farà 120€ al giorno, quindi più caro che da uno onesto autista indipendente senza avere la libertà di comporre il vostro circuito e di decidere sempre durante il viaggio delle tappe! Se nel prezzo annunciato le tasse per i parchi nazionali non sono incluse non spenderete oltre 10€ per tutto il viaggio a persona. Attenzione se il cibo è incluso nel prezzo tanti turisti hanno raccontato di avere sofferto la fame, quindi prevedere di comperare qualche alimento! Se cibo non incluso, il quale è meglio per voi, spenderete ca 5
€/g/p quindi in nessun caso quello può giustificare alcuni prezzi dato più che nella steppa non ci sono ristoranti a 3 stelle!
FARE BENE I CALCOLI PRIMA DI PRENDERE UNA DECISIONE QUESTO PUÒ SALVARE IL VOSTRO BUDGET!!!
Quanto descritto può capitare con autista indipendenti che maggiorano i prezzi se siete meno di 2 ad esempio, tutto vale per fare soldi! Si raccomanda di sempre chiedere più volte che cosa include il prezzo annunciato e se prezzo a persona o a veicolo precisando il numero di partecipanti e dopo fate i vostri calcoli in merito!
Tante volte gli autisti non portano volentieri a dormire la sera nelle iurte dove si può condividere al vita nomade e fare incontri, questo è anche vero per le guest house e i tour operators come per i viaggi cari o non, vi faranno dormire sotto la vostra tenda non permettendovi di privilegiare il contatto con la natura e più di tutto con i nomadi. Se ora tante agenzie si sono aperte a UB è sempre ancora difficile reperirle o trovare quelle che corrispondono di più al vostro modo di viaggiare o di metterle in concorrenza o di poter semplicemente paragonare i servizi spesso anche per mancanza di tempo. Si raccomanda di fare alcune ricerche prima di partire per selezionare le agenzie/indipendenti che possono corrispondere ai vostri criteri senza impegno. Il problema che si incontra in alta stagione (luglio/agosto) è di dover pazientare più giorni per avere un autista valido o dovrebbe accorciare il vostro soggiorno nella steppa o accettare il primo autista trovato senza poter paragonare quindi si può solo che consigliare che se durante le ricerche trovate chi sembra fato per voi di riservarlo evitando magari dopo alcune disillusioni?
ALLA RICERCA DI UN AUTISTA?: vi raccomandiamo Mejet che fu un meraviglioso compagno di viaggio, sempre pronto ad aiutarci. Mejet per circa 90/95euro/giorno vi farà scoprire il suo bellissimo paese che conosce perfettamente. Con lui le notte dai nomadi sotto le iurte sono quasi sempre assicurate, può ospitarvi al vostro arrivo a U.B. e accogliervi all'aeroporto. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ATTENZIONE MEJET E MOLTO RICHIESTO? NON ASPETTATE TROPPO e a volte le jeep possono essere difficile a trovare e piu ancora i bravissimi autisti
MANCIA: secondo i servizi ricevuti e certo non obbligatoria
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