Gift Ideas For When Travelling In Mongolia

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A lot of the traditions of Mongolia were made illegal during the Communist era. Even though since independence in the early 1990’s Mongolia has had to forge and reforge its identity, a lot of the banned older customs and social rules have returned and still remain an inherent part of 21st Century Mongolian life. However, some are so integrated into everyday life that it can be hard for visitors to tell that they exist. One tradition that most travellers come across and that remains at the core of rural life in Mongolia is ‘khoorog’ – the passing and receiving of the snuff bottle. Passing a snuff bottle is seen as a formal occasion. If given, always try to remember to accept it with your right hand and with an open palm. You may take a pinch of snuff or just sniff the bottle’s top. Before passing the bottle to another person, you should offer it back to its owner. Do not replace the cap firmly before passing the bottle back – simply leave it resting on top of the bottle, with the snuff blade inside. This great image was taken by our guest Egon Filter on our Untamed Mongolia – one of our Mongolian small group adventures.

Gift Ideas For When Travelling In Mongolia

Local Mongolians will not expect anything in return for their hospitality. However, it is perfectly appropriate to offer gifts when travelling in Mongolia as a small token of your appreciation. Gifts that are appreciated by rural families include both small tokens of friendship and also practical presents. Families in the remote areas of Mongolia rarely have stores nearby, are often on a tight budget, and they appreciate useful gifts. It is not necessary to bring large quantities – just a few items. You can also purchase items in Ulaanbaatar. One idea is to bring gifts that help to break the ice … which you can then give to the families when you leave.

  • We ask you to practise responsible gift-giving. In Mongolia, generations still live under one roof, even in more affluent households in Ulaanbaatar. Typically, Mongolians consider everyone under one roof as the family so it can be impertinent as a visitor to try to define everyone’s role. Rather than providing gifts for specific family members such as children, consider bringing a mix of gifts for different sexes and generations. Also, this is safer for any children within the household as giving gifts to children directly promotes a belief that all tourists are safe.
  •  When you hand over the gifts do not worry if the recipients place it to one side without making much of it, this is normal as they will typically only look at the gift once you depart.
  • Remember though that the gift must remain a symbol or a token. If you wish to offer multiple items or a more substantial gift then get in touch with us directly as there are many associations that we can point you towards and help you to arrange for that will best manage your gifts including the Buddhist NGO Asral. An alternative is the Uuliin Nuur community project. that we also work with and support.

Please do not bring, buy or give sweets. Families often live a long distance from any form of dental service and although you may think that one bag of sweets can’t hurt, you are just one of many visitors. Also, do not give vodka or money. (And yes, we are very aware that the local shops in Mongolia are full of sweets and vodka. And also that Mongolians give each other sweets, money and vodka as gifts. However, as guests to the country, we ask you to follow the guidelines for responsible gifting.


Here are some of our gift ideas for when travelling in Mongolia:

Ice Breakers

  • The card game UNO
  • Pack of cards (SNAP is a great language breaker)
  • Twister
  • Jigsaws
  • Snakes and Ladders

For Children

  • Frisbees
  • Balloons
  • Colouring books or notebooks with colouring pencils/pens 
  • Basketball
  • Mongolian language picture books
  • Hairbands, hair clips
  • Small toys, such as farm animals or model aeroplanes
  • Yo-yos
  • Pick-up sticks

Mongolian herder with balloon - balloons are a good gift ideas for when travelling to Mongolia

For Men

  • Small pocket knives/multi-tools
  • Handkerchiefs
  • Woolly hats or socks
  • Small torches (flashlight)  – battery or wind-up
  • Snuff or tobacco and rolling paper
  • Standard prescription reading glasses
  • Sunglasses

For Women

  • Small mirror
  • Sewing kits (scissors, sewing thread, needles)
  • Perfume samples (in bottles)
  • Headscarves/scarves
  • Moisturiser (face or hands)
  • Tapestry/embroidery kits
  • Standard prescription reading glasses
  • Sunglasses

In General

  • First aid kits
  • Standard prescription reading glasses
  • Sunglasses
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Loose tea from your home country (not tea that is too ‘flowery’ or scented)
  • Other gift ideas for when travelling to Mongolia include a couple of mementoes from home – great for starting conversations with Mongolian families. Items can include photos or postcards from where you live work well, such as photos of your family, your city or the countryside. Another good idea is videos on your cameras. Gifts to show and then to give could include decorated tea towels, coasters or keyrings.


If you would like to know a little more about our travel philosophy and the style of trips we run in Mongolia, please follow this link – 

Jess @ Eternal Landscapes

Jessica Brooks
Jessica Brooks
I’m Jess Brooks. I am the founder of Eternal Landscapes Mongolia - a registered Mongolian business and social travel enterprise that focuses on providing travellers with a real 21st Century insight into Mongolia. I have been based in Mongolia since 2006 and together with my beloved Mongolian team, we focus on tourism that makes a positive difference. I'm also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society - awarded for my work in Mongolia and a published guidebook author - having worked together with World Adventure Guides to produce a digital interactive guide to Mongolia.
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