Best times to visit Mongolia
- During the Naadam festival
- During Tsagaan Sar, the Mongolian Lunar New Year
- During the Ice Festival and Golden Eagle Festival in the winter
- During the months of May, June, July, August, and September
Unlimited Wilderness With only 1.7 people per km², Mongolia has the lowest population density among all independent countries in the world, and it is this vast and majestic emptiness that is the country's enduring appeal, bringing the traveler, as it does, into a close communion with nature and its nomadic inhabitants.
Mongolia is nicknamed the "Land of Blue Skies," and with good reason: there are said to be about 250 sunny days throughout each year, so you will need good UV protection.
During winter, protect your eyes, and during summer, protect your skin. The weather is bitterly cold during the winter, dropping down to -40º in some parts. With many types of terrain--from desert to verdant mountains--the weather during the summer varies from region to region, but is generally hot. Outside of the Gobi desert, this time of year is marked with many rains in some areas, and it can become quite cool at night.
The ideal Mongolia travel season starts in May and hits its highest peak in July, during the Naadam holiday, and in August when the weather is most favorable for traveling. This is the best time if you like the culture and can bear the crowds of other tourists. It is not a good time if you want to get away from your busy lifestyle because you will experience traffic, busy schedules, waiting in lines, etc.
September is also a very good time to visit, and October is not too late to travel to Mongolia. It is still warm during the days but a bit chilly during the nights. In the autumn, Mongolia is not very crowded, and this is time for late-comers and last-minute, unplanned trips. You will get to sightsee, enjoy the culture, and taste mare's milk, a bitter and at first somewhat unpleasant drink, throughout the country. For visitors not afraid of cold or fermented mare's milk, traveling to Mongolia from November till the Lunar New Year is still an option. Winter tourism is a developing area of the Mongolian tourism industry. The most rewarding experience will be visiting the nomads, as this is the time when you will experience their culture first-hand during "Tsagaan Sar" or the traditional (Lunar) New Year celebration. The exact date varies every year and is set according to the lunar calendar. It usually takes place in late January or February. It should also be noted that the Mongolian New Year celebration lasts 3 days, and that the exact date does not usually correspond to the Chinese New Year. Winter travelers also have the opportunity to watch many cultural activities: singing, dancing, wrestling, and winter horse racing.
What to bring back
Because of the Russian and European influence, Mongolians like quality products. Unlike the inexpensive clothing, shoes and souvenirs you can find in China, Mongolian stores carry more expensive products, but of much higher quality.
Mongolian cashmere is of great quality and one of the finest in the world. Newer designs of Goat, Yak or Camel cashmere clothing are now much more trendy and appealingthan they were in the past, and make an excellent and useful souvenir to bring back. There are also blankets made of cashmere, as well as extremely warm socks and slippers.
Mongolia also produces excellent leather products, many of them hand-made. There are also many Buddhist items to bring back. Mongolia is famous for its copper mines, so copper products also make ideal souvenirs. Paintings by local artists are excellent buys in Mongolia, and have a unique Asian style.
Note that it is illegal to take antiques or fossils out of the country without a special permit. The huge open-air market, Narantuul ("The Black Market") in Ulaanbaatar offers the lowest prices on just about anything you could want. Be very careful of the many pickpockets and even attackers there. This can be a great place to get a good pair of riding boots. You can opt for a variety of Mongolian styles, from fancy to the more practical, or even get a good set of Russian style boots. Be aware that many "brand name" items may be counterfeits.
There are special “non-Mongol” prices for things – it’s a simple fact of life there. But as these are clearly artificially inflated, bargaining is also a very acceptable way to procure anything you’d like; and if the salesperson on your left won’t budge, the one on your right will.
Mongols like foreigner visitors and travelers, but people there are generally poor, especially in comparison with Westerners. Visitors should try to understand this from their perspective and avoid being perceived as “cheap” or ungenerous.
It's always a good idea to visit your travel nurse or doctor before your trip. Also get your physicals done and your dentist check up.
Take enough of prescription medications if you take prescription meds. Anti-diarrheal, Stomach relief, ibuprofen or Tylenol are good to take with you along with bug repellent sprays or ointments.
Following department of state link, http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/mongolia.html, has good information on disease and vaccinations if you may need one at the time of the travel.
Stay in touch
There are plenty of Internet cafés in the capital which allow you to use their computer for checking email or calling via Skype. Most Aimag Centers (Province Capitals) have an Internet Café in the post office.
It is possible to buy inexpensive cell phone SIM cards that can be used to call abroad and get text and data. Make sure your phone will work with the local providers, many phones are locked and will not work with other providers. Getting a signal can sometimes be difficult when traveling In the countryside, don't expect to be staying in contact with anyone.
The postal service is very slow and somewhat unreliable, most people have a PO Box if they want to get anything.