Solo Travel in Mongolia
Types of GatG – Culture GatG, Nature GatG, Train Journeys GatG
If you are considering travelling in Mongolia, below is my Mongolia travel guide to how to travel solo in Mongolia, including the best places to visit in Mongolia, where to stay, which tour company to use and how to get around. Find out how to get from the airport and the best places to travel in Mongolia alone.
All companies included have been recommended by solo female travellers and come with our Solo Female Friendly endorsement. Just choose the relevant section or read the full article for solo female travel Mongolia.
* Before you travel, check what paperwork or visas are required for Mongolia.
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- Solo Travel in Mongolia
- About Mongolia
- Things To Do in Ulaanbaatar
- Shopping in Ulaanbaatar
- Best Views of Ulaanbaatar City
- Things To Do in Mongolia
- Best Mongolia Tours
- Accommodation in Mongolia
- Travelling Around Mongolia
- Mongolia Airports
- Mongolia Insurance
- Best Time To Visit Mongolia
- Travelling Onwards
- Mongolia Facts
- Map of Mongolia
- Plan Your Mongolian Travel
Solo Travel in Mongolia
Solo travel in Mongolia can be a challenge. Outside of the tourism industry not many people speak English (they can speak Russian) so you will need some Mongolian phrases to help you get by. Mongolian can be a difficult language to learn but smiling and body language is definitely universal here.
There aren’t many westerners in Ulan Bator and the tourists that come generally spend time exploring the countryside outside of the country’s capital. Backpacking Mongolia isn’t that common so you may find yourself in the minority. The country is more for the intrepid solo looking for a cultural experience with the nomads. If you do spend time in the capital, a great networking place is Henneseys. The Blue Sky Hotel Ulaanbaatar is also a good place to meet others and is one of the nicest places in the city.
Mongolia’s appear to be proud people so don’t be surprised when asking them for directions if they send you the wrong way rather than saying no. They are very wary of Westerners due to the influx of mining companies who they believe are taking their resources without them seeing any benefits locally. It takes Mongolians a while to trust you so unless you’re there for a few weeks making friends may be difficult.
Venture out in the countryside and it’s a different story as the Mongolian nomads are very friendly and will welcome you into their gets (yurts) and culture.
Is Mongolia safe to travel alone? Yes but when exploring the city, avoid the riverbank where you’ll find drunk locals gathering. You can wear whatever you like in Mongolia; Mongolian women are so stylish and you’ll often see them walking around wearing tight dresses during the day. Just take good walking shoes to navigate the crumbling streets within the capital.
Mongolia is a challenging country, not just because of the language barrier but because of the harsh climate. But, if you like a challenge and want to experience Mongolian culture then it’s definitely an interesting country to visit whether you travel here with a Mongolian travel tours company or independently (see the group tour section below).
Mongolia is a landlocked country and bordered by Russia and China. It is the 18th largest country in the world and divided into 21 provinces. Called the ‘Land of The Blue Sky,' the country has 250 days of sunshine every year but it also has the World’s coldest capital, and a harsh climate with temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees celsius in the winter months.
Mongolia was once a strong empire led by Genghis Khan (one of the most famous Mongolians). Mongolians conquered more than 50 countries and united half of the populated world. After routing the Chinese army Mongolia proclaimed its independence on July 11 1921. Closely aligned with the Soviet Union, Communism ended in 1990 during the Mongolian Revolution which led to a new constitution.
The country has a divide of rich and poor with extreme temperatures and vast territory. The landscape is divided into different regional parts: Gobi and desert zones in the south, flat and steppe zones in the east, taiga and forest zones in the north, and highest rocky mountain ranges in the west.
Things To Do in Ulaanbaatar
Ulaanbaatar is the country’s capital where 45% of the country’s population live. It is a city of contrasts and has changed locations more than 20 times over the last 350 years. Surrounded by mountains, it resembles a European city with European restaurants, large department stores, designer shops and swanky bars.
But although the skyline is dotted with gers and towering skyscrapers, this cosmopolitan-looking city may look modern but there is a lack of order and structure.
The heart of the city is Sukhbataar Square where in 1924 Damdin Sükhbaatar stood and proclaimed the victory of the Revolution for Independence. A monument of him is pride of place in the square. Sukhbataar is a central point as a meeting place. Banks, headquarters and the National State Ballet surrounds the square which is the main hub for the city’s events.
Peace Avenue runs through the city centre and is the place for tourists with souvenir shopping, restaurants and the tourist information centre.
What To Do in Ulaanbaatar?
There are so many museums here from natural history to Mongol costumes, traditional medicine, military and even a postage and stamp museum. Amongst the most interesting museums are The National Museum of Mongolia which displays Mongolian history throughout the eras, and the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery showcasing both contemporary and modern paintings from the country’s artists.
Other places to visit in Ulaanbaatar are the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum which is one of the most important monuments here. Once home to Mongolia’s spiritual leader, this former winter residence is now a museum housing artefacts from Mongolia’s political and religious history between the 17th and 20th centuries. It was built by Russian architects between 1893 and 1906 and is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
The Gandan Buddhist Monastery is a Tibetan-style monastery established in 1835 by Mongolia’s highest reincarnated lama at the time. In the 1930’s the Communist government destroyed over 700 Mongolian monasteries and massacred more than 10,000 Buddhist monks. This monastery escaped this destruction and was restored in 1990, making it one of the places of interest in Mongolia.
As the largest functioning monastery it is home to more than 400 monks. Translated as ‘Great Place of Complete Joy’ to this day it is a token homage to traditional Mongolian culture and religion. One of the highlights is a 26 metre high statue of a Buddhist bodhisattva inside its grounds.
Fun Things To Do in Mongolia
No visit to Mongolia is complete without indulging in some of the country’s unique culture. Whether it’s the national sport of wrestling at the Wrestling Palace (a must see in Mongolia inside a pink coloured building shaped like a Mongolia traditional ger), or watch the Tumen Ekh Ensemble, an hour-long performance of Mongolian dance and music, and experience the gurgling sounds of traditional throat singing.
If you visit during the Naddam festival in July, Mongolian wrestling is one of the three nomadic sports included in the festival, along with archery and horse racing. It's one of the Mongolia tourist attractions. If you can understand some Russian, watch a theatre production at the National Academic Drama Theatre (a stunning red building) where you can buy tickets inside at the booking office.
Shopping in Ulaanbaatar
For souvenir shopping when you are visiting Ulaanbaatar, check out the State Department store which is the largest shop in the city and you’ll find a whole floor dedicated to souvenirs. You can buy all kinds of souvenirs from small dolls wearing traditional costumes for just £4.
Mongolian is well-known for its cashmere which keeps the locals incredibly warm during their harsh winters and there are a few cashmere shops in the city. Pick up a souvenir of the Mongolian script.
Narantuul market is one of the world’s largest open air museums with more than 250 vendors. The Bayanzurkh district is where the Narantuul market can be found. This market is the biggest in the capital where you can pick up anything from household goods to clothes. It isn’t the place to buy gifts but it is worth including on your Mongolia travel itinerary.
Best Views of Ulaanbaatar City
For the best views of the city take the Mongolia bus south of the city to Zaisan Hill, home to a giant Golden Buddha statue that stands 27 metres high, and the Zaisan Monument that was erected to honour the Soviet soldiers from WWII. This is one of the historical places in Mongolia and it’s from the memorial that you can see panoramic views of the capital.
The 500 steps are definitely worth climbing. If the thought of those steps are a bit too much, you can also get a great view from the Sky Lounge in Central Tower and see the giant face of Genghis Khan (one of the landmarks of Mongolia) etched within the hillside. The Blue Sky Hotel & Tower also offers great views and is one of the things to do in Ulaanbaatar at night which can be enjoyed with a cocktail or two.
Things To Do in Mongolia
Mongolia is a vast country so your time restraints will be a factor in how far into the country you can venture on your Mongolia vacation. Outside of the capital is where you can truly experience the hospitality of the Mongol people, away from the Mongolia tourism.
If you are unsure what to do in Mongolia, Gorkhi-Terelj National Park is just 80 km away from Ulaanbaatar and you can stay with a nomadic family who really look after you and will offer milk tea, Mongolian food (consisting of lamb or beef), and vodka to anyone who comes to their ger. The park is one of the tourist spots in Mongolia. It is home to rock formations and a beautiful place to hike and horse ride.
If you can only manage a day trip, the Genghis Khan Statue Complex is just a short drive out of the city (54 kms away) on the the bank of the Tuul River in Tsonjin Boldog. This is another of the famous landmarks in Mongolia and where the giant statue of their hero; Genghis Khan (or Chinggis Khan as he is known in Mongolia) is situated.
This 40 metre high statue is one of the famous landmarks in Mongolia and depicts the Mongolian hero on horseback and you can climb the steps onto the top of the horse’s head for an amazing view of the countryside and its nomadic gers.
On the south slope of Bogd Khan Mountain in Altai Tavan Bogd National Park (one of the country's beautiful places) are the ruins of Manzushir Monastery, a monastery destroyed by communists in 1937. Most of the temples are now covered with grass but there is a museum which shows the structure as it initially was. The whole area is ideal for nature girls about the globe with green woods, meadows and clear mountain streams.
Kharakhorum is the ancient Mongolian capital and was an important city on the Silk Road. It was once used as a base for Genghis Khan’s army and you can explore the ruins of Kharakhorum Museum, and visit the archaeological museum nearby.
Near the museum is Erdene Zuu, just outside the ancient capital’s walls. Mongolia’s first Buddhist monastery is also the largest and this impressive site is now a World Heritage Site. Built in the late 16th century, this active monastery is part of the cultural landscape of Orkhon Valley and is free to look around the grounds and its 108 stupas that line its walls. To enter the main temple you do need to pay for a guided tour.
Just 80 km east are the Elsen Tasarkhai sand dunes (the semi-Gobi desert) with dunes spreading across 80 kms. Here you can ride a Bactrian camel and experience the Mongolian steppes on a 4WD and off-road tour. The Flaming Cliffs (known as Byanazag) are also in the Gobi Desert. These red cliffs are stunning and are rich in dinosaur history. Some of the best sand dunes to see when you tour Mongolia are at Khongoryn Els.
One place to visit in the desert is Gurvan Saikhan National Park. This is the largest of the national parks in Mongolia. The largest attractions here are the Khongor Sand Dunes, Yol Valley, and Khermen Tsav, where you can see glaciers and Mongolian wildlife. Another national park is Khustain Nuruu National Park in Central Mongolia (also known as Hustai National Park), just two hours away the capital.
The Altai Mountain range covers territory in Mongolia, Russia, China and Kazakhstan and contains archaeological sites over thousands of years old. It is here that history girls about the globe should head to the Petroglyphic Complexes of the Mongolian Altai Mountains for rock carvings dating back to 11,000 BC. Here you will also find several lakes and a waterfall, amongst numerous glaciers.
Terkhiin Tsagaan is another lake to visit. Known as ‘White Lake,’ it is described as one of the most dazzling in the country. Surrounded by extinct volcanoes, the Natural Park is also home to the Khorgo Volcano, an extinct volcano providing a landscape of lava bubbles. It is far to travel though but once you get there you can stay in a traditional ger, and hike the place that the locals call ‘the basalt yurts.’
Mongolia has nominated many sights for the UNESCO World Heritage List including the Great Gobi Desert and Mongolia’s sacred mountains: Bogd Khan, Burkan Khaldun, and Otgon Tenger. One area definitely worthy of UNESCO World Heritage (and has been included) is the Uvs Lake – the largest saline lake in Mongolia – and Uvs nuur basin containing burial mounds and stone tablets from the Palaeolithic age.
Burial mounds are most commonly found widely scattered in Mongolia; most contain animal bones but some have human remains. This area is also home to more than 40 species of mammal including the snow leopard, wild boat, and Asiatic ibex, and you can reach here by plane at the Ulaangom airfield.
If you venture north, you may encounter the Mongolia reindeer herders. Located in the taiga area, a Siberian forest, is the home of the ‘Tsaatan,’ the reindeer herders. It can take days to get here and you can’t reach the camps without booking through a tour company that will also arrange your return flights to Moron.
Also in the north is the Amarbayasagalant Monastery, one of the largest Buddhist centres in the country, and the most authentic. The complex was built between 1727-1736 and has 28 temples. The monastery is 360 kms from the capital so you may want to stay in the nearby ger camp if you are venturing out this far.
When you visit Mongolia, the countryside is so different from the capital so do venture outside of Ulaanbaatar to experience the real Mongolia whether it's on a tour in Mongolia or independently. Travel to Mongolia for history, nature and a truly cultural experience.
Best Mongolia Tours
Traveling Mongolia can be a bit challenging so you may feel more comfortable with recommended Mongolian tour companies in a group. G Adventures is a responsible tour company that mainly caters towards budget travellers. Most tours have an average of 10 people and there is no upper age limit. Once you book your trip you pay extra for any excursions you want to do when you’re there.
Trips in Mongolia range from a 10 day Local Living Mongolia experiencing nomadic life, to a 19 day Trans-Mongolian Express beginning in St Petersburg and ending in Beijing. Discover Mongolia on a two week trip from £3299 or see the famous Naadam Festival over 15 days from £2149. I have personally used G Adventures and recommend them as a solo female friendly company.
Intrepid Travel is similar to G Adventures with an average of 12 people on each tour. Over 50% of people who book their trips are solo travellers. They tend to use hotels instead of hostels and have a more comfortable style of accommodation hence their trips to Mongolia can appear a bit more than G Adventures.
If you're unsure what to visit in Mongolia, taking a tour makes traveling in Mongolia much easier. Intrepid Mongolia tours range from 15 days to 23 days and include adventures such as Wild Mongolia – a 15 day tour staying with nomadic families and visiting ancient sites, or a Mongolian Expedition: experiencing the wilderness of the West on a two week trip from £2,597. Read our Intrepid Travel Reviews
Both tour companies offer some of the best Mongolia tours. With both tour companies you share a room with someone of the same gender or you can pay extra for your own room.
Ger to Ger Mongolia – If you are looking for a Mongolia local tour company, Ger to Ger is one of the best tour agencies in Mongolia and are officially certified as a NatGeo geotourism ambassador. Their ‘Live Like Local’ tours give you the chance to stay with nomadic families in their family ger camps, and experience the real side of Mongolia. The nomads become your own Mongolian tour guide. Their tours are for the adventurous, cultural Girl about the Globe who are open to the local culture.
I have personally taken a Mongolia tour package with them and spent 3 nights with 3 different families, travelling between them by motorbike, ox cart and horseback. It was an eye-opener to the Mongolian customs and traditions and I definitely recommend them as one of the best Mongolia tour companies.
Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide helps you to find top-rated tours and activities in Mongolia. Choose from a full-day sightseeing city tour in Ulaanbaatar, a Genghis Khan day tour to Terelj National Park or a camel ride in the Semi-Gobi desert. There are several Mongolia attractions and day trips to choose from and it’s really simple to use. Just check the reviews, price and availability then book online.
Accommodation in Mongolia
You’ll find all types of accommodation in Mongolia, no matter what your budget is for your Mongolia travels. From 3 to 5 star Mongolia hotels within the cities in Mongolia to guest houses and spas in the countryside.
If you are planning a trip to Mongolia you simply have to experience a night in a ger in a Mongolian camp. These white, round tents are the homes to nomads and are definitely an experience for the adventurous Girl about the Globe. If you do stay in a ger camp, wrap up warm for the evenings.
If you do choose budget accommodation be prepared that the amenities aren’t the same standard that you would find in other places in Asia. If you stay in an old Soviet hotel expect hot water to be turned off at certain times of the day.
There is also Airbnb which connects you to unique travel experiences and isn’t just limited to staying in a local’s spare room. You can save $20 off your first stay with this Airbnb link.
All of the accommodation in Mongolia below have been recommended by solo female travellers from our Girls about the Globe community and come with a Solo Female Friendly endorsement. For all other accommodation, click the link below.
If you plan to stay overnight in Terejl National Park this 5 star Mongolia hotel is directly in the park and comes complete with a gym, an indoor pool and sauna and a hot tub. There is a 24 hour front desk so you can check in late, free WiFi and currency exchange in case you forget to change your money.
If you want to embrace being alone in Mongolia, the region is perfect for nature Girls about the Globe and you can hike, cycle or even experience horse riding amongst the nature. The restaurant has a stunning view of the mountains and river and offers both Mongolian and Western cuisine.
Other hotel features include Mongolian cashmere blankets, a fireplace for the winter and air conditioning for the summer. Choose from a standard single or double room, a superior single or double room or a deluxe or river view suite. All rooms have private bathrooms.
- Prices start from £121 per night for a standard single room
- To book, check prices or availability for Terelj Hotel & Spa
If you prefer to stay in an Ulaanbaatar hotel, the Blue Sky Hotel is ideal. It is pricer than other accommodation in the capital but considering they have a swimming pool and a rooftop bar and restaurant, it is definitely worth splashing the cash to stay in some luxury.
The tallest building in the capital, the hotel overlooks Sukhbaatar Square and is steps away from the shops and restaurants. If you prefer to dine in, there’s a choice of Cantonese, Japanese and Korean food as well as Western dishes within an all day dining restaurant.
Each room has a flat-screen TV, a safe and a minibar so you can entertain yourself in the evening or visit the rooftop bar with great views of the Mongolia city. There is also a hairdryer and slippers too. There are a variety of different room types.
Choose from a deluxe double, a king room with a city view, an executive corner king with a 270 degree view or a deluxe suite with a panoramic view. You can even upgrade to an executive suite with views of the square.
- Prices start from £90 per night for a deluxe double room
- To book, check prices or availability for The Blue Sky Hotel and Tower
Tara Lodge is located in the capital near Peace Square. This welcoming guest house is really accommodating and just a 10 minute walk from the centre. The staff help you with anything you need such as getting around the city.
The beds are comfortable and there is a shared space where you can meet the other guests. The guest house is clean and colourful and breakfast is included within your rates. Choose from a double room or standard double and twin with private bathroom.
- Prices start from £25 per night for a double room with private bathroom.
- To book, check prices or availability for Tara Lodge
Located in the capital, just a short walk from the centre this guest house is great for budget Girls about the Globe. The staff are welcoming and provide great service. Reception is open 24 hours and they can arrange an airport shuttle for you as well as tours.
The building is spacious and there is a communal living room and a kitchen for cooking your own meals as well as free drinking water. The showers are good and you also get towels provided for you.
As well as dormitory rooms you can also upgrade to a private room. Choose from an 8 bed dormitory room, a standard twin or double room with a balcony. As Asian breakfast is also included in the rate.
- Prices start from £8 per night for a bed in an 8 bed mixed dorm
- To book, check prices or availability for Summit Guest House
Travelling Around Mongolia
Mongolia is a vast country and getting around Mongolia can be a bit of a challenge, depending on where you want to visit. Western Mongolia can be difficult to visit due to a lack of transport. The main railway connects north to south and connects with the Trans-Siberian Railway if you are planning on travelling in Mongolia from Russia or China.
Travelling Mongolia without a tour is possible. The 2nd and 3rd largest cities to visit in Mongolia are near Ulaanbaatar and can be reached on bus travel in Mongolia with private bus companies. If you are venturing out of the cities then minivans and shared jeeps are options to get around. If the idea of 12 hours overland is too much then consider flying internally. You may have to fly via Ulaanbaatar to another destination in Mongolia.
The best way to get around Ulaanbaatar is on foot. The streets are always busy with honking cars so I recommend walking instead as the capital is small enough to walk around. They have a very odd taxi system whereby any car driver can stop and take you to your destination then charge you for the ride.
My tip is to choose a licensed one if you’re by yourself and to write down the address unless you can speak Mongolian. For safety, there is now an English speaking taxi firm that you can call called Help Taxi Mongolia +976 9965 2371. When you are planning a trip to Mongolia, make a note of this taxi firm.
If you intend on driving in Mongolia and self-driving yourself to Mongolia cities, be warned that the distances are long. As pretty as it can be travelling through ever-changing landscapes, you will need to be prepared for hours of driving. The most common route is Ulaanbaatar to Terelj. Find out more here
Mongolia has 19 airports within the country. When you are travelling to Mongolia you will probably fly into Chinggis Khan Airport, the main international airport and where most flights to Mongolia arrive at. This is situated 18 kms away from the capital city and a new airport is being built this year (in 2019). The only way to get to and from Chinggis Khaan Airport is via taxi. Taxis take 13 minutes and cost approximately £6.
Mongolia Travel Insurance
Mongolia is a fascinating country to explore but travel insurance Mongolia is always recommended for any Mongolia trips to cover you for any travel delays, medical assistance and accidents.
I recommend True Traveller for UK and European residents, and World Nomads for U.S. and worldwide citizens for all trips to Mongolia. Both companies allow you to buy insurance when you are already on the road, and offer different plans depending on your needs including additional adventure cover.
Best Time To Visit Mongolia
It's a good idea to check what the climate is going to be when traveling Mongolia. Called the Land of the Eternal Blue Sky, Mongolia has 250 sunny days a year so you can be guaranteed sunshine during your trip. But Mongolia does have a harsh summer and equally harsh winter. Temperatures range from minus 30 degrees centigrade to plus 30 degrees in the summer in destinations such as Dalanzadgad.
The best time to visit Ulaanbaatar and the rest of the country, is just before the summer in June where the conditions are more moderate. The temperature can drop in the evening so pack a fleece just in case. The chart below shows the average maximum day temperatures for Ulaanbaatar from January to December.
Travelling Onwards (check visas before you travel)
Mongolia to China – If you are wondering, how do you get to Mongolia? You can take the Trans-Mongolian Railway from Beijing which takes 36 hours or you can fly into the country. Flights can sometimes be cancelled into and out of Mongolia due to the harsh climate so ensure that you leave yourself enough time to make the most out of your time there. I definitely recommend the Trans-Mongolian for traveling to Mongolia. It's such a unique way to arrive and I met others on the train.
Mongolia to Russia – The Bayan Tumen Rail line runs from the Russian border to Choibalsan in Eastern Mongolia.
Where can I go from here?
China (Bejing) – 2 hours
Russia (Moscow) – 6.5 hours
South Korea – 3.5 hours
Can I drink the water? It’s not recommended to drink the tap water. Buy bottled instead.
Is tipping expected? Yes. Tip 10% in restaurants and also your tour guide and drivers during your vacation in Mongolia.
Fixed price or barter? You can barter in the markets but generally everything else is a fixed price.
Any ATMs? Yes in Ulaanbaatar. Prices in the capital are quoted in US Dollars but outside of Ulaanbaatar you can only use local currency. Change your money in the capital before venturing into the countryside or look for a Khan Bank.
Which side of the road do they drive? On the right-hand side.
Good for vegetarians? The Mongolian diet is also heavier and the country isn’t that great for vegetarians, as meat is the staple diet. The Boardwalk is a themed restaurant which is a little pricer than other restaurants but the lasagne is huge and is nicer than ones I have tasted in Italy.
Korean food is really popular here too and each Korean restaurant I have eaten in has been good quality. The best bar has to be the cocktail bar in the Blue Sky Hotel & Tower which has very swanky cocktails.
Any seven wonders of the world? No.
Plan Your Mongolian Travel
If you are ready to solo travel Mongolia, here are some useful links to help you to plan your Mongolia trip, including airlines which fly there, vaccinations required and events and festivals.
Budget – £35 a day
Capital of Mongolia – Ulaanbaatar
Mongolia Population – 2.9 million
Language spoken – Mongolian, Kazakh.
Local Currency – Mongolian Tughrik
Do I need a Mongolia visa? If you are planning on visiting Mongolia on a British passport, you need to apply for a visa that allows you a stay of up to 30 days.
Did you know? Chinggis Khaan was given his name by a shaman leader.
Lingo – Useful Mongolian phrases
The Best Time to Go – June & July
Local Cost Guide (cost of living in Mongolia Ulaanbaatar)