Your Financial Security

Eternal Landscapes may be a small company but I take your financial security seriously. You can make your booking with EL safe in the knowledge that we are Travel Trust Association bonded (our membership number is U8885), fully insured through Travel Risk Professionals (Tasker and Partners) and take your safety and welfare seriously.  Please just email me for more details.

We are also a registered Mongolian business (Gobi Gua Undur) with a membership of the Mongolian Tourism Association.

How much is the deposit, and when will I need to pay the balance?

In order to secure your place on a trip you need to pay a deposit of £400 / $600. The remainder will then be due approximately 4-6 weeks before the start of the trip. I will send you a reminder invoice prior to this. If booking on a trip within 4-6 weeks of departure, payment in full is required.

What happens if I can’t make it and need to cancel?

If you cannot come on the trip, let me know at least 8 weeks before the start, and I will refund the cost of the trip, less your deposit. If you can only give us between 4 weeks and 8 weeks notice you will lose 50% of the cost of the trip, and with less than 4 weeks notice I will, unfortunately, be unable to give a refund. If you have a good reason why you can’t make it, your own insurance should cover any loss. If you do have to cancel, I’m happy to hold your deposit so you can put it toward another EL trip for the following year.

How about if EL cancels the trip?

We won’t. All of our trips run with a minimum of two and this means there is more chance for the tour to run as I do not have to wait for high booking numbers. All of our trips can also be run for a minimum of one – just at a higher cost. I will always give an indication as to how the trip booking is going.

How much extra money will I need?

The local currency in Mongolia is Tögrög/Tugrik. It is not possible to obtain outside of Mongolia (there is an ATM at the train station and ATM and exchange  facilities at the airport in Ulaanbaatar but rates for exchange are better in the city). USD, GBP, Euro, Yuan, Yen, and other major international currencies (particularly Asian ones), are all fine to bring to exchange in Ulaanbaatar (there are excellent currency exchanges in the centre of UB – the location of these will be highlighted on the map of Ulaan Baatar you will receive in your Welcome Pack). In the countryside, we recommend using US Dollars only for exchange purposes or an ATM.

It is always difficult to suggest a suitable amount of spending money to bring with you as everyone is different – however, there is very little to pay for during your trip. If you really need a figure then on a 2-week trip, a budget of US$300pp should easily do, probably less if you are a couple or you don’t plan on purchasing many souvenirs or drinking much alcohol.

Just so you know, there are no hidden extras – we don’t ask for a local payment, or a kitty for food, entrance fees or tips. We provide drinking water, tea and coffee throughout the tour. We do not include alcohol, soft drinks or snacks. Your transfer from/to the airport/train station to the hotel is included in your tour price unless otherwise highlighted in your tour invoice.

For domestic flights, there is an allowance of between 15kg – 20kg per person (including hand luggage). You may need to pay airline baggage charges (about $4USD) for each kg over this.

What to Expect

In brief, we aim for local, fluid and flexible. Supporting local is at the heart of what we do and is central to each trip we offer. If you’re looking for a more luxurious style of travel then we may not be for you. It doesn’t mean we don’t genuinely care about you and your experience – we just don’t offer linen tablecloths and place settings at dinner. Often our guests are people who might normally travel independently, or have done in the past, and have trouble with the idea of an organised tour.

Mongolia is not necessarily the easy option – it is a tough country and the local people have learnt to adapt to this tough way of life. So, yes, travelling in Mongolia may be challenging for you at times. Tourism is still in its infancy so there is only a rudimentary tourist infrastructure in place. It’s actually quite refreshing.

Anyone in good health with normal, healthy fitness levels will enjoy an EL holiday although I ask that you make your own judgement according to your own fitness levels and general health.

You need to be flexible and patient. You must bring with you your willingness to participate and your sense of adventure and humour. Be responsible for yourself and use your common sense. You must also treat people the way you would wish to be treated.

If you have a known medical condition which could be a problem you will need to let us know before the trip.

What is our maximum group size?

Between a maximum of 4 and 6 depending on the style of trip. This is so that we can offer you as much as possible the freedom and flexibility of independent travel. It also helps to limit our impact on the local culture and environment. In addition, all our tours run with a minimum of two – this means there is more chance for the tour to run as I do not have to wait for high booking numbers.

Please don’t be worried about personalities within the group – I try hard to find the ‘right’ balance and remember there are free days which offer you the time to make your own Mongolian experience. Also, once at camp, you will be surrounded by space and have time to explore on your own.

We do offer tailor-made trips so if you would like your own personal experience of Mongolia we can provide this.

The Weather!

Mongolia has a bit of a reputation when it comes to its weather! There’s not much point in detailing averages as if travelling between May and September, four seasons in one day is a distinct possibility, and four seasons during the trip is an absolute certainty. Anything is possible, from 30°C and no wind in May, to 15°C and snow in August. You just have to accept that Mongolia is not a ‘pack light’ destination!

• Spring

If you are travelling to Mongolia in the spring, the landscapes will probably look very arid and parched – not the lush green in the photos. There can also be some wind storms. Livestock will be coming out of the long, hard and tiring winter period so animal treks are not always available in the early spring – it depends on the strength of the animals after the winter months.

• Summer and Autumn

May Dry, windy, dusty and sunny with large fluctuations in temperature (Day 10-20°C; Night 0-10°C)

June First half similar to May and then temperatures rise and fluctuate less with more cloud cover and some rain (Day 15-25°C; Night 10-15°C)

July A mixed bag – very changeable with sunshine most days, but also cloud and rain (Day 15-30°C; Night 10-20°C)

August First half similar to July, then it becomes a lot drier and sunnier, but colder at nights (Day 15-30°C; Night 0-15°C)

(July and August can be hot enough that you just have to throw yourself in a lake or river).

September Dry, sunny, calm, chilly (Day 0-20°C; Night –5 to +5°C)

• Winter

Long, dry and very cold. The coldest months are December to February with some areas going down further than –35.

Camping...and will there be mossies?

Simply the best way to experience Mongolia! Not all our trips include camping so check the individual itinerary.

We provide spacious VANGO tents. You share two people (same sex/friends travelling together/couples) to a tent. You will never be expected to share with someone of the opposite sex….unless you prefer to! For those of you travelling independently, where possible we do try to provide you with your own tent. However, this is not promised or guaranteed.

The tents are easy to put up and down and you will be expected to help each other in putting up and taking down the tents. However, one of the EL crew will always be happy to help.

We provide a thin insulating foil mat and a blanket per tent– I recommend that you bring a thermo-rest or something similar to add extra comfort.

If you have a favourite tent of your own, feel free to bring it along with you.

For all our camping trips, we provide a kitchen tent for rough weather or shade.

 

What about the bugs?

Mongolia is a country of approximately 80 million head of livestock, of stream, rivers and lakes, of four distinct seasons and of changeable weather conditions. All these elements combined create a haven for insects….so, there will be flies and mosquitoes. It depends whether you go early in the season or later, and how high up you are but you won’t be plagued by bugs at every location and mainly just for an hour or two – usually when the wind has died in the early evening. Where required we do the Mongolian thing and light a ‘utaa tavik’ – a smoke fire to help keep the insects away. No major precautions are necessary – just bring insect repellent!

Will I get to sleep in a ger and meet a nomadic family?

Will we get to stay in a ger?

As much as possible we use family operated ger camps. This is not a contrived experience, it is a business agreement – rural families frequently offer accommodation as a way of supplementing their income and providing extra financial security – especially important after recent severe winters that resulted in urban relocation. We cannot offer exclusivity at the ger camps but, none of us at EL like crowds of people so we work hard to make sure you also have peace and solitude. You do not get a private ger as an individual but one to share as an EL group.

In the words of Lynn McCaw – one of our 2014 clients ‘And do avoid the corporately owned “tourist ger camps” which is where most tour groups end up. They are ghettos with rigid rules, poor quality or phoney ger accommodation, and where you will end up listening to fellow westerners talking about their mortgages or about how they are going to “do” Bhutan next. Try to stay in the family run gers— that is the best way to understand the country and its people.’

Standards will vary and all we ask is that you respect that this is someone’s way of life and home and that they provide what they can in relation to their circumstances. (Beds will vary in comfort – most rural family members still traditionally sleep on the floor so don’t really understand the concept of double memory foam mattresses!).

I really want to experience the nomadic culture

And you will – not just as a one-time ‘tick-it-off-the-list –job-done’ way but as an immersive experience throughout the trip. You’ll probably drink tea with Ma’am and learn to make dumplings with Gaya. You may milk the yaks with the Tomorbat family and eat a Mongolian barbecue with Jargaa and Batbold in their kitchen.

Just remember these are real people with real lives to lead. We do not try to change Mongolians or their way of life for our/your own benefit or comfort. Please try and embrace (!) and enjoy any differences that you come across in Mongolia. Experiencing the differences is all part of your trip and makes it a more authentic and positive holiday for you.

Our Tour Vehicles

Will we be cramped inside the van like sardines in a can?

No. Unlike other companies that try and fit 5 or 6 clients in a van for maximum profits, our maximum is three (four only on short transfers or research trips). That means there’s plenty of space.

I have fallen in love with the mighty Furgon. Most of our guests retain a soft spot for this legendary vehicle as well. You may think you would prefer the luxury of a Japanese FWD but they are not suitable to our style of travel. Why? If they break down, then the trip’s basically over.

Please don’t think you’ll be permanently broken down on the side of the road with the Furgon. Not at all. Furgon’s are very reliable and capable 4×4’s with impressive off-road capability. It’s just that when there is an issue it’s amazing what our boys can do with a bag of random nuts and bolts and some duct tape. Even a plastic bag.

My drivers are supremely talented at the Mongolian skill of ‘mongolchlokh’ – improvising the Mongol way. It’s a joy to watch so if your vehicle does break down, don’t get angry. Instead, watch the drivers do what they do best – improvisation.

 With a high wheelbase, ample luggage space, and a sociable layout (expect forward and backward facing seats) and surround windows that make for comfortable travelling – the Furgon is perfect for the wild terrain of Mongolia.

Each driver privately owns each vehicle and as a result the interior and seat layout will differ from vehicle to vehicle. But, I provide a maintenance fund for each driver and they’re remarkably proud of their vans – both inside and out. Seat-belts will be available from late spring 2018 and our Furgons are fitted with grab handles in the passenger area. 

The Facilities

What about the toilets?

‘A loo with a view’!

During the day while travelling there is always somewhere to wander off to for a bit of privacy. At ger camps, you will typically be using Asian style long drop toilets, compost toilets or western style toilets – depending on the standard of ger accommodation. (Rural Mongolians (town and country) do not have access to running water so most toilets are of the outside Asian style long-drop/squat toilet although a few will be ‘sit-down.’). If you’re at a homestay with no toilet or camping then we dig a simple Asian-style squat toilet, with surround. You might like to practice squatting at home to strengthen your legs (as suggested by a few of our clients!)

The toilets are not there to disgust or challenge you. It’s daily life in rural Mongolia.

We provide toilet paper (but not the Aloe Vera option!)

Washing & Showers

Will there be the opportunity to wash (myself and my clothes too)?

Showers can be limited (because of the lack of infrastructure and running water. If you’re staying at tourist ger camps, most take their water supply from either a tank or deep well and are heated by solar). On all itineraries,  we also use the local town shower houses – the cubicles are clean, the water plentiful and hot. These shower houses are frequently a highlight for our clients! 

We provide washing bowls and soap powder to wash clothes if necessary. So please ask.  Just to be clear, there are no washing machines!

Will there only be mutton to eat?

I’m vegetarian….gluten free….a vegan….

We can provide for vegetarians and those with dietary requirements such as being gluten-free. We have also catered for vegans and for coeliacs. We are limited to what we can purchase but there’s still quite a bit of variety. But no, it won’t be the same as at home. Each of our Furgon vans has a small mobile kitchen and this allows us to provide more flexibility. 

Mutton! Why is there always mutton?

Because this is the main staple meat that’s available all year round. Often its the only meat available in the shops. When beef (or yak) is available we will purchase it. Meat will be tougher than you are used to as it is not ‘hung’ in Mongolia – from steppe to the plate. It’s fresh and delicious.

We also understand that you may be a meat eater but not want mutton every night – our meals tend to be based around a vegetarian main with a meat accompaniment.

Will I get to try the local food?!

Absolutely! I believe that getting a real ‘taste’ for Mongolia means sampling the local cuisine. We love drinking suutei tsai (Mongolian milk tea) with our host families. We also love homemade clotted cream (orom) with jam on fresh bread, wild forest berries on homemade yoghurt, or freshly fried mutton pancakes (khuurshuur) at a road side guanz (a cafe – sometimes in a ger). The local smoked fish and ‘hot rock’ goat (khorkhog) are also delicious.

Taking into consideration the time/season you are travelling, we provide those of you who wish an opportunity to try dishes from this simple yet delicious traditional cuisine.

 

Who does the cooking?

Each of our trips has a simple portable kitchen as it offers more freedom and flexibility. It also means we can have picnic lunches en-route so as we prepare them you can be exploring the local landscapes or sitting and taking in the view. we do stop off in one or two of the local guanz en-route as well as these are a great experience.

The only (potential!) down-side is that it’s not the same as a modern well-equipped kitchen. Also, it’s me and the trip assistants that prepare your meals and we’re not professional chefs.

But, we’re always trying out new menus and keep up to date by attending cookery classes at one of the restaurants in UB. As a gentle reminder, we do not have the chance to stock-up at western-style supermarkets. We buy as much fresh produce as possible but fresh fruit is not available daily. Therefore, there will be a change to your regular diet.

What drinks are Included?

What drinks are included?

We always provide drinking water, tea and coffee. Alcoholic and soft drinks are not included.

We do not provide bottled water. We take fresh drinking water from local town pumps. The water quality in Mongolia is excellent by world standards but for added security, we provide a Steripen and/or Lifesaver filter for those who wish to neutralise their water. If you want bottled water you must pay for it.

There are plenty of opportunities to stop in villages and towns en route to stock up on alcoholic drink supplies although choice in the countryside is more limited than in Ulaanbaatar. If you know you like a good red wine, or nice whisky, then visit a supermarket in UB before departure (we usually make a stop en-route out of the city).

Who will run the trip and do they expect a tip?

Who will run my trip?

Running your trip will be one of our great Mongolian driver / trip assistant teams. Your driver will be male and your trip assistant female.

None of my team are slick trained professionals. They are local people who have a local and real everyday experience of Mongolia. Having worked as a tour leader for over 14 years, I have a fairly good understanding of what experiences people are looking for in a trip. I run a training and development programme for my team based on my own personal experiences and feedback from our guests – past and present. We’re on hand but flexible….the idea being that you feel like you’re travelling with an informative friend.

My Drivers – ‘The Boys’

My drivers are extremely proud of their country and have grown up understanding the Mongolian roads. They are traditional men – the ‘strong and silent’ type but their presence will help to enhance your experience of Mongolia. Their English is limited but their role is to handle the Mongolian roads and not to converse fluently in a multitude of languages. They are expert mechanics, consummate drivers, know the countryside like the back of their hands (their head is their inbuilt GPS), very adept chefs (they LOVE Mongolian barbecue!) and all round great men!

 

My Trip Assistants – ‘The Girls’

Part of my business philosophy is to provide training and development opportunities to those who want the opportunity to work in tourism but who don’t have the professional qualifications to work for our larger competitors.

I am lucky enough to be in a position to run my own business and, as a female, it is important to me to use my skills and influence to improve the prospects for other women. That’s why all my trip assistants are women.

They’re not professional guides (but then I’m not either) and everything can take time but what’s the rush. Nor are they western educated fluent English speakers (although they have studied English to Mongolian university level).

If you want to discuss Mongolia’s economic policy then we’re probably not for you. But, if you want to spend time with someone who sincerely loves their home country, loves their job and genuinely care about you as our guests they we are for you. Yes, it may get frustrating for you at times but everyone needs to start somewhere and I’m proud to be able to provide that starting block.

‘My Girls’ are a mum of two, a librarian, a dedicated student, a journalist, an English teacher…. Pride runs deep in my girls and I have chosen them as they have a willingness to do right, a desire to learn and have a genuine love for and connection with their country. They sincerely care about you as our guests as well and are highly competitive at games of shagai (ankle bones), give great informal cookery lessons and are wicked at karaoke!

Will I have to tip them?

Each member of the EL team receives a responsible but fair salary and none have to rely on receiving tips to supplement their income. In addition, I make sure that everyone who works with EL or helps us is fairly rewarded for their work and the service they provide.

At the end of the tour, if you wish to make a tip then thank you and I leave it at your own discretion – it is not compulsory but it is appreciated when given. If you would like to provide a tip, you will discover just how hard the drivers work, so a tip for the driver would be roughly equal to what you would give a trip assistant. As mentioned, it is not compulsory and if you give and how much you give is entirely up to you.

Age ranges and nationalities

What sort of people come on trips with EL?

I think what’s key is people’s desire to experience Mongolia as authentically as possible.

Our youngest traveller has been 18 months and our oldest 84. We get slightly more solo travellers than couples. Males and females are split quite equally. As for nationalities – a broad spectrum including the UK, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, America, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Italian, Brazil and Israel. We don’t get many gap year students though – most of our travellers are between 20 to 65.

Altitude

Mostly we are travelling and 1300-2000m. Some trekking routes may go as high as around 3000m but this is not a daily occurrence.

Trekking

Our treks are not tests of endurance or competitive races. Naturally, there will be some challenges but they’re mainly about seeing the world from a different perspective, new horizons and the joy of the great outdoors.

All treks are arranged through the families we work with – rural families who herd their livestock in the region and know their home area like the back of their hands.

If you’re interested in one of our trekking itineraries, I will email out to you our detailed Trekking Checklist which explains in detail what you can expect. However….in brief….

Some treks have vehicle support and some don’t. Those that do, there is typically one pack animal for every 2 guest riders but we let the herder who is running the trek to make the final decision.

Robust saddle bags are provided, plus extra waterproof duffle-style bags are provided within to ensure certain things – rest mats, sleeping bags – remain dry under all circumstances. Plastic sheeting is also available to cover equipment whilst on the move and to shelter saddles and equipment at camp in times of inclement weather.

 

Horse Treks

If you’re on a horse trek, we do try to match your riding ability to the right horse. There will be plenty of opportunities to gallop, if you are confident but of course, we have a couple of rules relating to riding safely, particularly in ways that impact on other riders. We use the Russian style saddles that are available in Mongolia (not the wooden saddles that you may have seen the herders riding in photos which are as painful as they look!).

Horse and Camel Treks

We do not provide hard protective hats as there is not a good standard here in Mongolia. Check the small print of your travel insurance policy to see whether you are still covered in the event of an accident if not wearing a hat. We suggest that if you feel more comfortable riding in a hat, bring one along and wear it at least initially until you are familiar with your horse.

Safety

Mongolia is a relatively safe country in which to travel. Most crime is opportunistic and mainly in UB – pick-pockets especially. Common sense is always your best safeguard. I suggest that you exercise a reasonable degree of caution – be sensible (but not paranoid).

Mongolia is also a fairly healthy country to visit but ask a travel doctor about appropriate vaccinations, and what to take with you in the way of medicines.

I assume you are in good health and have a sufficient level of fitness to complete your chosen tour. It is very important that any illness, disability or medical condition that you suffer or are recovering from, have been brought to my attention at the time of booking.

What emergency back-up do you provide if something goes wrong?

We travel in remote areas, so we take your health and safety very seriously. Our trip assistants are medically trained, and will provide care to the best of their abilities until you are able to reach a hospital.

The Furgon is available if necessary. It is vital that you have your own travel insurance which includes repatriation. There are more details in our Pre Departure Guidelines.

What To Pack

Unfortunately, Mongolia is not a ‘pack-light’ sort of destination! There’s a detailed packing list in my Pre Departure Guidelines. However, you will need a sleeping bag – even if using ger accommodation. We do have a small supply you can rent for free (including a linen liner) but they are not expedition style so don’t have a temperature rating.

The PDG also provide info on the style of bag you should bring as well – rucksacks and duffle bags win over suitcases!


We Would Love To Hear From You!

Call: +44 (0) 7810280403     Mail: jess@eternal-landscapes.co.uk


 
If you’re in Ulaanbaatar why not pop into our office. We love receiving guests.
The kettle is always on.

Just call Enkhee to arrange +976 88931790.
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