Solo travel in Mongolia

Types of GatG – Culture GatG, Nature GatG, Train Journeys GatG

If you are considering travelling in Mongolia, below is our guide to how to travel solo in Mongolia as well as lots of practical information such as where to stay, which tour company to use and how to get around. Find out how to get from the airport and what to do in each place.

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.

Contents

Solo Travel in Mongolia

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.

If you do spend time in the capital, a great networking place is Henneseys. The Blue Sky Hotel & Tower 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.

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 on a group tour or independently. 

Things To Do in Mongolia

About Mongolia

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. 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

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 centre of the city and is the place for tourists with souvenir shopping, restaurants and the tourist information centre.

Solo Travel in Mongolia

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.

The Bogd Khaan Palace Museum 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.

Solo Travel in Mongolia

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.

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.

Solo Travel 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 (inside a pink coloured building shaped like a traditional Mongolia 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. 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.

Solo Travel in Mongolia

Shopping in Ulaanbaatar

For souvenir shopping, 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 visiting just to see.

Solo Travel in Mongolia

Best Views of Ulaanbaatar City

For the best views of the city take the 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. 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 etched within the hillside. The Blue Sky Hotel & Tower also offers great views which can be enjoyed with a cocktail or two.

Things To Do in Mongolia

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. Outside of the capital is where you can truly experience the hospitality of the Mongol people. If you are unsure what to do in Mongolia, 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, food and vodka to anyone who comes to their ger.

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 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 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.

Things To Do in Mongolia

On the south slope of Bogd Khan Mountain 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.

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.

Solo travel in Mongolia

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 for rock carvings dating back to 11,000 BC. Here you will also find several lakes and a waterfall, amongst numerous glaciers.

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.

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 or independently. 

Best Mongolia tours

Best Mongolia Tours

G Adventures

Mongolia can be a bit challenging so you may feel more comfortable 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.

Adventures 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. 

Click here for the full itineraries, prices, and start dates

Intrepid Travel

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 the trips can appear a bit more than G Adventures. Their 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.

With both tour companies you share a room with someone of the same gender or you can pay extra for your own room.

Click here for the full itineraries, prices and start dates

Ger to GerIf you are looking for a local tour company, Ger to Ger are officially certified a NatGeo geotourism ambassador. Their ‘Live Like Local’ tours give you the chance to stay with nomadic families and experience the real side of Mongolia. Their tours are for the adventurous, cultural Girl about the Globe who is open to the local culture. I have personally taken a tour 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.

* Click here for the full itineraries, tours and prices

Accommodation in Mongolia

Accommodation in Mongolia

You’ll find all types of accommodation in Mongolia no matter what your budget. From 3 to 5 star hotels within the cities 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. These white, round tents are the homes to nomads and are definitely an experience for the adventurous Girl about the Globe. Just 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 below have been recommended by solo female travellers from our Girls about the Globe community and come with a Solo Female Friendly endorsement. 

* To check prices and availability for all accommodation in Mongolia

Terejl National Park - Terelj Hotel & Spa

Terejl National Park – Terelj Hotel & Spa

If you plan to stay overnight in Terejl National Park this 5 star 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. The region is perfect for nature Girls about the Globe and you can hike, cycle or even horse ride amongst the nature. The restaurant has a stunning view of the mountains and river and offers both Mongolian and Western cuisine.

Rooms come with 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

Ulaanbaatar - The Blue Sky Hotel and Tower

Ulaanbaatar – The Blue Sky Hotel and Tower

If you prefer to stay in a 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 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.

Ulaanbaatar - Tara Lodge

Ulaanbaatar – Tara Lodge

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

Ulaanbaatar - Summit Guest House

Ulaanbaatar – Summit Guest House

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

Travelling Around Mongolia

Mongolia is a vast country. The Western part of the country is 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 onwards or are reaching Mongolia from Russia or China.

The 2nd and 3rd largest cities are near Ulaanbaatar and can be reached 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 +976 9965 2371.

Mongolia Airports

Mongolia has 19 airports within the country. Chinggis Khan is the main international airport. 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 Insurance

Mongolia is a fascinating country to explore but travel insurance is always recommended 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. 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.

* Check insurance cover and prices for True Traveller

 

Best Time To Visit 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 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.

Best Time To Visit Mongolia

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 train 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.

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

Mongolia Facts

  • Can I drink the water? It’s not recommended to drink the tap water. Buy bottled instead.
  • Is tipping expected? Yes. Top 10% in restaurants and also your tour guide and drivers.
  • 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.

Map of Mongolia

Plan Your Mongolian Travel

Budget – £35 a day

Capital – Ulaanbaatar

Population – 2.9 million

Language spoken – Mongolian, Kazakh.

Local Currency – Mongolian Tughrik

Do I need a Mongolia visa? Yes for a British passport. A visa allows you a stay of up to 30 days.

Vaccinations Required

Did you know? Chinggis Khaan was given his name by a shaman leader.

Lingo – Useful Mongolian phrases

Useful Info

Airlines to Mongolia

The Best Time to Go – June & July

Which Plug Do I Need?

UNESCO Sites in Mongolia

Events and Festivals in Mongolia

Local Cost Guide

Local Customs & Etiquette