I just had a solo trip to Mongolia. The trip lasted one month and consisted of many nights in tents, traversing the desert, and staying with the friendly locals. I wanted to show you from my view this undiscovered area of the world and some tips of solo traveling to Mongolia. Not many tourists visit this country and even fewer travel out of the bigger cities into the wilderness. This task is known as being quite difficult as unlike other parts of the world, big tourist companies have not taken over here yet. However, with the right preparation and willingness, you can discover this area all by yourself if you’re backpacking in Mongolia.
Traditionally, Mongolia has not been high on the list of destinations for tourists. However, tourism to the country is rising. This is mainly due to adventure travelers looking to explore its large untamed nature. These are the type of people who reject traditional tourist type destinations and instead want to go down the rough dirt paths. In fact, Mongolia hiking is the perfect destination for these type of people.
Mongolia is a large but not highly populated country. To help give you an idea, it is about 5 times bigger than Italy, but at the same time as about 50 times less people than Italy. In other words, in Italy there are about 190 people per square km, but in Mongolia there are only 1.3 people per square km.
Mongolia’s terrain and weather make it a very difficult area to live in. In fact, most of the country’s population lives in the capital city Ulaanbaatar. The population living there equals about 46% of all the people in the country. The rest of the country either has no one are is sparsely populated by nomadic people.
You can see the negative social outcomes of this harsh environment reflected in both the mortality rate and literacy rate. For example, in Mongolia 60 out of every 1,000 babies die when in Italy this number is only 8. In addition, around 20% of the population cannot read.
Mongolia only has two neighboring countries, China and Russia. In addition, it can be divided into 4 different regions based off of geography. In the north, it is the Taiga. This area is defined by forests and large lakes. In addition, you can find many different animals such as bears, wolves, deer, ect… here. In the west, there are the Altai Mountains. One of the amazing animals that you can see in this area is the Snow Leopard. In the south, there is the Gobi desert. Some of the main animal species here are wild camels and horses. The last region runs from the center of the country to the east. This area is the steppes and highlands of the country. This area’s primary animals include large mammals and marmots.
However, no one can talk about Mongolia without thinking about Genghis Khan. He created the largest empire that ever existed. But, I think his greatest influence was the idea of a nomadic culture. As such, even to this day, Mongolians appreciate the nomadic culture and the modern iteration of it in the backpacker.
Things To Know Before Going To Mongolia
Mongolia is not a dangerous place to visit; however, there are several things that are good to know before going.
- Get travel insurance that covers visiting hospitals as well as traveling back if you need to in case of medical emergencies. You never know what might happen, and it is good to have this just in case.
- Make sure to have some first aid supplies with you at all times. I always have some Imodium and other painkillers just in case.
- Make sure to get all of the proper vaccinations before leaving. This is especially important when visiting the more rural areas of the country. You can consult with your local doctor to find out exactly what you will need.
- Make sure to plan ahead of time. At least plan what season you will be visiting the country. Winter in Mongolia is not pleasant.
- Make sure to thoroughly go through the stuff that you are bring with you when traveling in Mongolia. Make sure to bring the proper things for the type of trip that you are planning.
- When going into the Gobi desert, make sure to bring a GPS!
Another way to explore Mongolia is the Trans-Siberian railroad. However, be warned that the trip is long, and you will be on a train for long periods of time. The train goes all the way from Moscow to Beijing.
Getting Around Mongolia
Getting around Mongolia is not the easiest due to the lack of good national infrastructure. In fact, it has less than 2000 kilometers of paved road and around 1800 kilometers of train track. Adventurous travelers will need a lot of patience when traveling in this country. The main railway line, an old fuel engine, goes from the north to the south of the country and allows travelers to get to Beijing, China, or Irkutsk, Russia. The cheapest way to travel around the country is by bus. However, be warned it is also the slowest and most uncomfortable way to travel around the country as well.
Mongolia is a great place for someone looking for adventure and is not afraid of a little bit of possible danger. However, there are a few things to keep in mind before going. First, make sure that you always drink water that has first been boiled. This means either buying only bottled water or using water purification tablets. In addition, don’t bring a wheeled suitcase to this country. It is better to get a 50 liter backpack. Also, remember that Ulaanbaatar is one of the coldest big cities in the world. Normally, the best season to visit the country, no matter where, is between the months of June and August.
In conclusion, it is important to note that whatever you decide to bring for your trip to Mongolia is highly dependent on what you will be doing, where you will be going, and when you will be there. Make sure to check out the 21 Provinces and Ajmag Mongol websites for more information.
The People You Will Meet And the Places To Stay In Mongolia
When traveling in the Gobi desert region of the country, I hardly encountered another traveling backpacker such as myself. However, don’t be worried. The locals are extremely hospitable, something that I saw firsthand. You will for sure see other backpackers while traveling in the country, especially in the more touristic areas.
Many times they are Westerners looking for a bit of adventure away from their stressful lives. During my travels in the country, I have encountered many interesting backpackers. For example, I met a bunch of Chinese people who were going to Khovd. I also met a nice French family, the Seban family, who had been traveling around Asia for 6 months as part of a journey to search for a new life. In addition, I have met many Germans and French people traveling around the country by both boats and bikes.