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WINGS Birding Tours – Information

Mongolia

Tour Information

Note: The information presented here is an abbreviated version of our formal General Information for Tours to Mongolia. Its purpose is solely to give readers a sense of what might be involved if they take this tour. Although we do our best to make sure that what follows here is completely accurate, it should not be used as a replacement for the formal document which will be sent to all tour registrants, and whose content supersedes any information contained here.

TRAVEL TO MONGOLIA: This tour is organized by our British company, Sunbird, and starts and ends in Ulaan Bataar. Please keep the WINGS office apprised of your travel arrangements so that we can make sure that your travel schedule will mesh smoothly with the group schedule at the beginning and end of the tour. For an additional charge flights to Ulaan Bataar may also be available through our British company, Sunbird. Please contact the WINGS office if you are interested in pursuing this option.

ENTERING MONGOLIA: A valid passport is required for American visitors. No visa is required for Americans visiting for fewer than 90 days. Citizens of other countries should contact the Embassy of Mongolia at 2833 M Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007, telephone: (202) 333-7117 or www.mongolianembassy. At time of writing, for persons flying through China on the way to Mongolia, transit passengers staying in the transit lounge and moving on within 24 hours don’t need a Chinese Visa. Those who plan to re-enter from the Hong Kong or Macau Special Administrative Regions may require China visas and may need to obtain visas allowing multiple entries.

MAP AND COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can view maps of Mongolia in the University of Texas series here. You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information here, and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Mongolia here.

HEALTH: While no vaccinations are required to enter Mongolia, the Centers for Disease Control recommend the following routine vaccinations: Hepatitis A, typhoid and rabies, as well as being up to date on your routine vaccinations: Measles/mumps/rubella and diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus. Your doctor or health-care provider will determine what you will need depending on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of the country you will be visiting, and planned activities.

Biting insects can be very common, especially around the lakes. Insect repellent (preferably with a high percentage of diethyltoluamide, DEET) will provide adequate protection. You can review the latest CDC advisories here.

CLIMATE: The continental weather in Mongolia can be very mixed at this time of year and you need to dress accordingly. Generally it will be warm during the day, but it can be cold at night and in the early mornings. Cold weather can be expected at a few of the higher altitudes, and rain is also possible at almost any time. At night temperatures can drop below freezing. On previous tours, temperatures have ranged from 20° to 100°F.

ALTITUDE: We’ll be wandering around fairly flat open landscapes at altitudes often around 6,500 feet, with plenty of stops for birds. Most of our time will be spent above 4,000 feet, and Yolyn Am is at about 8,800 feet, high enough for some people to notice the altitude.

PACE OF TOUR: In order to reach the various habitats and birds of this vast country, there will be a fair amount of driving. After driving on poorly paved roads around the capital, we are unlikely to travel on anything other than dirt roads and sometimes bumpy and dusty desert tracks until the final few days of the tour. At other times we’ll cross dried up (in some cases not so dry) riverbeds, where many large boulders make the journey uncomfortable. We’ll be using vehicles admirably suited to the purpose and making frequent stops, but some discomfort is inevitable. Because of this, breakdowns, flat tires and getting stuck in sand happen frequently. Although this can appear frustrating at first, almost everybody in Mongolia (including our ground crew) are experts in these situations, and with so many birds to see, a half hour delay is often a good chance for more birding. There will be some strenuous walking, especially when searching for Black-billed Capercaillie and Altai Snowcock.

On most days our ground crew will first help the cook set up, then erect common shelters before erecting the group’s tents while we go birding nearby; however, in some situations (strong wind or rain), it may be necessary for us to help them. On those days when we are camping, the daily routine to some extent will revolve around the need to set and break camp. Most days will consist of an optional walk before breakfast; early mornings are not compulsory.

ACCOMMODATION: In Ulaan Baatar we will stay in a modern four-star hotel. Away from there we will either stay in yurt (or gers as they are called in Mongolia) camps or pitch our own camps. Gers are the traditional large round felt tents of the region, and the camps are almost like tented motels. Washing and toilet facilities at these camps are basic and consist of a separate toilet and shower building. Each camp also has its own restaurant where soft drinks and beer are usually available.

On other nights we’ll sleep in tents provided by the ground agents at camps which they will set up. A foam sleeping-mattress is provided, but please note that you will need to bring a sleeping bag which can keep you warm should night-time temperatures drop below freezing.Water is available for washing, but you should bring swimming trunks or costume to wear when showering. When camping in the remote regions, our crew will erect a “toilet tent”, which consists of a hole in the ground and “flushing’ with a spade and earth.

Our tents are two-person tents, accessed by crawling in. For those who are sharing accommodation, there is not much room for luggage with two people inside.

Most gers at our ger camps are large and roomy, especially compared to the tents, and usually contain two or three beds, a table, a chair, and a stove. They are large enough to walk around in, but care must be taken when entering, as the doors are low. If you are sharing, there will never be more than 2 people in a ger.

Each ger camp has a restaurant and toilets/showers. These vary in quality, ranging from “normal” shower blocks and sit-down toilets to pressurized containers that you hold while showering.

Single accommodation will not be available away from Ulaan Baatar.

FOOD: When we are traveling around the country, virtually all the food we eat will be carried from Ulaan Baatar by the ground agents. As such, many meals will rely on tinned and packet food. Breakfast will normally consist of juice, bread (possibly local flat dough cakes prepared by the cook), cheese, jam, and eggs. Other meals will be a variety of salads and cooked meals, especially soups and stews. Some snack items such as muesli bars and chocolate are well worth bringing along. There will be opportunities to try out local food and drink.

DRESS: Dress is informal throughout.

TRANSPORT: Transportation is by a small minibus suited to the rough terrain. There will be two internal flights. There are several long drives but these are broken by stops for birdwatching.

SMOKING: Smoking is not allowed in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists etc. If you are sharing a room with a non-smoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, we ask that you do so well away and downwind from the group if possible. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF WINGS AND SUNBIRD TOURS: Please take a moment to read the About WINGS Tours portion of our website. This section contains important information about how we conduct tours, e.g., what is included in the tour price, refund and cancellation policies, pace of the tours and other information that will help you prepare for the tour.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: A more complete General Information for Tours to Mongolia will be sent to each registrant on receipt of their booking. Final information with instructions for meeting the group, hotel addresses, etc., will be mailed about three weeks before trip departure. Other news will be communicated as necessary.

Updated: February 2014