Black Ibex Tours a nightmare
I want to file a serious complaint against the Black Ibex travel company. I have photographs and emails to prove what I am going to tell you. Dates of travel – left July 7 returned July 18, 2011.
I have been in 43 countries all over the world and traveled with many many tour companies. Black Ibex was the worst I have ever traveled with. Here are some of my complaints:
• they endangered the lives of people on the tour
• they promised four star hotels and put me in dirty, smelly, two star hotel rooms
• the two guides were below standard.
• they lied to people on the tour rather than give them correct information which they thought would upset us
• they promised us air conditioned vehicles to travel through the Gobi Desert and did not provide them until I complained
• the private guide they promised me the final two days of my tour never showed up and I had to get my own guide from the hotel
• the driver to the airport was over 45 minutes late. By the time he arrived, after I called Black Ibex for help, I and my luggage was already loaded up in another car with an employee from the Israeli embassy who took me to catch my plane back to the USA
Bait and Switch Accommodation.
Two days before I was to leave for Mongolia, I got an email from Black Ibex advising me that I was being moved from the Baynagol Hotel to the Palace Hotel. I had been emailing the Baynagol for some time in order to plan sightseeing for myself from their hotel since I was staying an extra two days on my own. I got into the Palace Hotel after midnight and was taken by the Black Ibex guide to a room that smelled. The carpeting was filthy and paint was peeling off the walls. (see photos) I told the guide I had paid for a four star room and this was totally unacceptable. We went downstairs to the front desk where the guide did not speak in English so I could understand. (The woman she was speaking with spoke English.) The guide told me that there was no other room available in the entire hotel. I said, fine, I will take action against both Black Ibex and the hotel. After I said that, they changed their story and admitted there was another room. The guide took me to a smoking room (see photo). I had already told Black Ibex I could not tolerate smoke for medical reasons. I stayed in the filthy, dirty smelly room for one night. The following day I was transferred to a non-smoking room which was certainly not four star.
At the end of the trip, I was supposed to go back to the Palace Hotel. Instead I was taken to the Baynagol Hotel. This hotel is advertised as four star and has lovely photos on the Internet. Once again, I was taken to a two star room. Paint peeling off the walls and doors; cracked tile in the bathroom; a total of two, repeat two, hangers in the closet. (see photos)
The Baynagol has two towers – one is lovely and nice. The other one is cheap and dirty. I was put in the cheap and dirty tower. This was false advertising on the part of Black Ibex. I want money back from them.
Private Guide Cancelled; Driver to airport 40 minutes + late
I had arranged with Black Ibex for a private guide for the two days I was on my own in Ulaanbaatar. I have their email confirmation of this. When the tour was over on July 15, I asked the Black Ibex guide what time my private guide would be meeting me the next morning. She told me that no private guide would be coming for me at all. On the morning I was to leave for the USA, the Black Ibex driver was not there to take me to the airport. A guide from another company took pity on me and called the Black Ibex guide on her cell phone. First the Black Ibex guide hung up and we had to call back. Then the guide said she would call the front desk of the hotel. After waiting some 40 minutes, I was in tears. A group from Israel took pity on me and loaded my luggage and me into their van to go to the airport. As we were driving away, the Black Ibex driver shown up – now 45 minutes late.
Endangering my life and that of other tour members
On July 12 2011, the guide endangered my life and that of other tour members. We were scheduled to take a hike to see a “glacier.” I asked how long it was and what was the condition of the ground. I was told, along with the entire group, that the walk was 800 meters on a level surface. Not only did the “walk” take over one hour, it was over and around rocks, over water and on very dangerous ground. Two of the tour members fell. The previous year, the guide herself fell on this very walk and suffered a compound fracture. She lied to me and put my life in danger. I would not have attempted the hike had I known the conditions. As it was, I refused to walk to the end after my walking companion fell. We waited for the rest of the group.
Failure to Provide Air Conditioned Vehicle
On July 12 2011, half of the group got into a vehicle that we were promised was air-conditioned. There was no air conditioning. The driver rolled down the windows so that we were covered in sand and dirt. I demanded an air conditioned vehicle. The next day we did get an air conditioned vehicle. Apparently to save money, the driver consistently turned off the air conditioning and rolled down the windows. I was sitting in the front and when I put down the sun visor on my side of the vehicle, he slammed it up, again and again and again. I had to ask the guide to tell him to stop. He then became abusive to me. Needless to say, he did not get a tip from me.
The guide in the Gobi consistently told lies to the group. She cheerfully admitted to doing so on July 13, 2011. She said she did it to “make you feel better.” When tour members asked for estimates of how long to a bathroom or a cold drink, she lied to “make you feel good.”
On July 13, I declined to take the camel ride and I and another tour member took a vehicle to the Khongor Dunes. I had asked the guide specifically how long we would be there and she said, “Twenty minutes.” She lied. We were there, trapped, for almost two hours. I could not go back because the camel riders were joining us on the ride back. Had the guide not lied to me, I would have stayed in the Ger camp and read a book. Instead I was trapped in a vehicle for almost two hours.
If you search the Internet, you will find comments from others about Black Ibex guides. These include that they lack “in depth knowledge about Mongolia and the places we visited.” The guide on the first part of the trip gave no, repeat no, talks as we drove on the bus. She was so incompetent as a guide that she failed to tell members of the tour to being their passports to the airport for an internal, repeat internal, flight. The entire tour was held up for over three hours in the Ger because two members could not board the Air Mongolian, internal, flight. They had left their passports in the hotel. There were no briefings at all from one day to the next. Questions went unanswered. In Ulaanbaatar we stood around in the squire doing nothing until one member of the tour asked, “How long are we going to stand here doing nothing?”
Black Ibex engages in false advertising and bait and switch. The guides I had were incompetent. They tried to get out of providing us an air conditioned vehicle in the Gobi Desert until I protested . The rooms provided were not only not four star, they were dirty and cheap. My private guide never shown up and the driver to the airport was 45 minutes late.
I paid $4577 for this trip. I want some money back.
Update: black ibex told me that if I removed all negative comments about them, they would give me $500.00 back. Unconsciionable.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
On the train from Beijing, once over the border the restaurant car will have been changed from the Chinese one for a Mongolian one. If you're lucky, they may still accept smaller Chinese yuan notes, but if you go in there with no change, they'll offer to change it for Mongolian tugruk. DON'T accept - the rate will be approximately half what it should be; for example I only had a 100yuan note, and he told me the rate was 100T to 1Y, so offered 10000T in exchange. Luckily I'd already checked the exchange rates and knew that it should be closer to 200T to the yuan, and told him so! He wouldn't give me the correct rate, and I wasn't changing at his!Related to:
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Take a flashlight!
Power failures are common in Ulaanbaatar. The lights went out while old Cliffie was shopping in a department store. The lights went out while he was drinking in a bar. And, more dramatically, the lights went out as he entered his hotel late one night. He had to climb 11 floors in a pitchblack stairwell to get to his room. So don't forget to take a torch/flashlight when you go to Ulaanbaatar!
Traffic in UB gets very bad virtually any time of the day. Black spots include most of Peace Ave (the main east-west road through the city) and Chinggis Ave (which is the only road over the railway). It gets even worse when it rains as it took us a long time to do a short distance when it was raining. I was quite surprised by the standard of vehicles on the roads. Of course, there are loads of 4x4's around, some of them very posh like Porsche Cayenne’s, Range Rovers and BMW X5's, but there are also some expensive cars like a BMW M6, Mercedes S Classes and BMW 7 series. But most of the cars are small Korean Hyundai's or similar. One thing that was interesting to see was that there were more right hand drive cars than left hand ones. Most of the cars are straight Japanese imports which are cheaper to buy if they are right hand drive.
I had heard and read reports of many pick pocketing tails and backpack slashings before I went to UB and so was a little paranoid that something might happen to me whilst there. So to combat this I only took my small camera (albeit in my pocket) and a map wherever I went. There are certain off-the-beaten-track areas in the city which I would, personally, recommend not to venture in to. UB is a bit shabby and unloved and a one word summary of it would be "broken". It has an element of the "underworld" about it so be careful and try and not to take too much with you like bags or money etc.
Naadam - National Holiday
The biggest event of the Mongolian year for foreigners and locals alike is the Naadam Festival held during three days in July - normally 11th, 12th and 13th. During the three days, few restaurants and shops open and virtually no-one works so be warned.
In our team's experience, the horses were brought to us and we rode them. The horses themselves only listen to their owners' commands, which is fine, I guess. The problem was that two of the horse owners (or their helpers) were playing with us -- two of our women companions almost fell off their horses because the yelping sounds of the owners startled the horses they were on and/or it caused them to go on full gallop. Next time I try this, I would make sure that the owners/helpers know what we expect and that they should and shouldn't do.Related to:
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- Horse Riding
In our team's experience, the horses were brought to us and we rode them. The horses themselves only listen to their owners' commands, which is fine, I guess. The problem was that two of the horse owners (or their helpers) were playing with us -- two of our women companions almost fell off their horses because the yelping sounds of the owners startled the horses they were on and/or it caused them to go on full gallop. Next time I try this, I would make sure that the owners/helpers know what we expect and that they should and shouldn't do.
Pickpockets at the Black market
Beware of the very brazen pickpockets of the Black Market in Ulaanbataar, these guys work in teams and have very little finesse somtimes, for a laugh stick a low value note in an obvious pocket get your mates to do the same, and place your bets. And the lucky pickpocket gets his lunch.Related to:
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Vodka - the 2nd pest of Mongolia
When the Russians introduced the Mongolians to vodka, the Mongolians took to it like airag - in the same volume. They did not change their glasses' size.
The result is a deep abyss of alcoholism and drunkenness penetrating Mongolian society.
For travellers this may not have more effect than the occasional binge and drinking fun and party. It may also, however, include a drunk driver, lost days and changed schedules on the road, bureaucrats not attending to your file and issue, cutting yourself on broken glass and not getting to sleep at night because of a neighbouring ger brawl with ensuing fist fights etc. It can in fact be very annoying. The most visible thing is the tremendous littering. I think you can see the glittering of broken bottles along the roads of Mongolia from satellites.Related to:
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Pickpocketing at the Black Market
Tha Black Market, UB's main outdoor market place, might not be very black, but it certainly has its dark sides - pickpocketing being one of them.
Prepare yourself before going to this place, and only open a wallet that has an amount of money in it that you are able to part with. No valuables in pockets or backpack pockets etc. When you shop or trade here, people will throng around you and follow your bargaining and opening your wallet etc., mainly out of curiosity, I suppose, but I know and saw pickpocketeers. If people begin to follow you compulsively, you will know something is amiss - stare them down.Related to:
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Warning: Erdenebat Boris (Eric) – UB Mongolia
Be careful from closed a deal, like Car Rental or organized tour, with Erdenebat Boris (Eric) – UB Mongolia. According to my experience (and also my friends) he abrogative preliminary agreement regarding tour conditions. For example: Vehicle not same vehicle booking, Driver not English spiking, extra payment contrary to the agreement and so on. Mr. Erdenebat Boris (Eric) is a faker. I am warning you.Related to:
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Pickpockets in Ulaan Baatar
I can confirm that pickpockets are a menace in Sukbaatar Square and the surrounding streets.
I was attacked twice but managed to defend myself and my property. My partner and I were also pickpocked in the lift of the State Department Store while going up to the 6th floor. Use the stairs its safer. I attached chains connected with a digital padlock to my camera gear and carrying bags. This prevents losing your camera if the straps are cut. Light chain is easily available in any DIY outlet B&Q in the UK. They also use a mobbing technique where several people bar your way and your pockets are searched. Keep money under the instep of your foot in a plastic bag or use elastoplast to attach to your lower leg under trousers.Related to:
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I was told that Mongolians just set whatever price that they feel like for the day, and exchange money that way....This was true on the train where people will come on board in Russia, near the last stop before Mongolia to exchange Togrog for Ruble. I thought 30 Togrog for 1Ruble was a fair trade...it wasn't. When I arrived in the capital the rate was 50 to 1. Check the price if you can beofre you trade.
Sand In Your Eyes
At certain times of the year sandstorms are quite prevalent in Mongolia. The spring, which is when we travelled, is one of those times. Be prepared to run for shelter if you see a sandstorm appearing. The sand will get into every nook and cranny and infiltrate the delicate insides of your expensive camera equipment. We were in quite a few sandstorms and my favourite picture was the one I took in Dalanzadgad as we were setting off on our 12 hour drive to Sainshand, the line of telephone poles disappearing into the distance is such a great image.
They can be quite dangerous, especially if you're travelling in the midst of one. We almost went off a low cliff when our driver was watching a swirling sandstorm off to the left of our van, I thought we were goners as he slammed on the breaks to stop the van.Related to:
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