Mongolia is a landlocked country of mountains, steppe and desert stretching over an area of 1,566,500 sq km / 604,830 sq miles. It is bordered to the north by Russia, while China forms the border to the east, south and west. In the south the Gobi Desert covers more than a third of the country. Around 20% of the remainder is grassland steppe, and some 25%, principally the central, northern and western provinces, is classed as mountain forest steppe. Along the northern border is a large area of larch and pine forest which is essentially the southernmost reaches of Siberia. In central Mongolia the steppe rises to the Kangai mountain range with its highest peak reaching 3905m/12611ft. Mongolia's tallest mountain ranges are in the far west. The highest, Mount Khuiten at 4374m/14350ft is located on the border with both Russia and China and the western end of the in the Mongol Altai Tvanbogd. North of this range is a protected area known as the ‘Great Lakes Depression' covering an area of 39,000 sq km/15,000 sq miles. This is an area of snow capped mountains and large saltwater and freshwater lakes set in a desert landscape.
The time in Mongolia is GMT + 8 hours.
The Mongolian language has its roots in ancient Altaic or Turkic languages of Central Asian origin. It was originally written in an unusual, vertically arranged script borrowed from the Uighur. However, this script was replaced in 1941 by a version of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet. Mongolian people speak a dialect known as Khalkha, whilst other dialects of the language can be found in neighbouring regions of Russia and China. We recommend that you take a pocket phrase book and learn some basics such as common greetings. Speaking a few words of Mongolian will pay dividends in terms of the warm reaction you receive from the people you meet on your travels.
Mongolia is a land of extremes. Whilst winter temperatures can drop to minus 50°C / minus 58°F, summer daytime temperatures can rise to a pleasant 25°C / 77°F. Weather conditions are similar to the European Alps, with long periods of high pressure and stable conditions, followed by relatively brief storms. August usually sees the most favourable conditions, with daytime temperatures at basecamp of around 20°C / 77°F, falling to 0°C / 32°F at night. Weather in the mountains is variable and we are likely to encounter some rain and even snow.
The currency of Mongolia is the Togrog. For up to date exchange rates visit: www.xe.com
It is not necessary to purchase Mongolian currency outside the country. Your travel money should be carried in the form of cash in US dollars. Most local shops and bazaars accept only the Togrog or US$. Money can be exchanged at the airport on arrival and at your hotel in Ulaanbaatar.
A passport with at least six months validity is required. Visas are required by nationals of all countries in the European Union, and by nationals of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. US citizens do not require a visa if their intended stay is less than 3 months. All visas are valid for 3 months from the date of issue. The Mongolian Embassy responds fairly quickly to visa requests, however we do recommend that you allow at least 2 weeks to get your visa if applying by post. Up-to-date information on visa cost and visa application can be found on the KE website.
You should attend your own doctor and dentist for a check-up. Your doctor will have access to the most up to date information on the required vaccinations for the country you are visiting. In general we recommend vaccinations against the following: Polio, Tetanus, Typhoid, Hepatitis ‘A'. Malarial prophylaxis is not required. A very good online resource is the NHS travel website at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
Additional Sources of Information
Mongolia - Lonely Planet - Travel Survival Kit.
Edge of Blue Heaven. Benedict Allen.
The Lost Country: Mongolia Revealed. Jasper Becker.
In Search of Genghis Khan. Tim Sevrin.
Nomads and Commissars: Mongolia Revisited. Owen Lattimore.
Mongolian Phrasebook. Lonely Planet.