Note: The information presented below has been extracted from our formal General Information for this tour. It covers topics we feel potential registrants may wish to consider before booking space. The complete General Information for this tour will be sent to all tour registrants and of course supplemental information, if needed, is available from the WINGS office.
ENTERING MONGOLIA: A valid passport is required for American citizens but 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 http://www.mongolianembassy.us.
Note: Travel via China - At time of writing, transit passengers staying in the transit lounge and moving on within 24 hours don’t need a Chinese Visa.
For flights transiting through other foreign countries, please refer to the U.S. State Department website: http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1765.html. or contact them at 202-663-1225.
COUNTRY INFORMATION: You can review the U.S. Department of State Country Specific Travel Information at http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/mongolia.html , and the CIA World Factbook background notes on Mongolia at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/mg.html.
PACE OF TOUR AND DAILY ROUTINE: There will be a lot of driving, on paved roads around the capital but then dirt roads/desert for the rest of the tour. Often we will follow desert tracks, which can be bumpy and dusty. At other times we will cross dried up (in some cases not so dry) riverbeds where many larger rocks may make the ride uncomfortable.
Breakdowns, flat tires and getting stuck in sand are possible. Although this can appear frustrating at first, almost everybody in Mongolia (including our ground crews – we travel with two vehicles) is expert in these situations and with so many birds to see, a half hour delay is often a good chance for more birding.
We will be wandering around fairly flat open landscapes, making plenty of stops for birds. When we set up our own camps, our ground crew first help the cook set up, then erect common shelters (toilet tent) before erecting the groups tents while we go birding nearby. Under 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.
HEALTH: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all travellers be up to date on routine vaccinations. These include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot. They further recommend that most travellers have protection against Hepatitis A and Typhoid.
Please contact your doctor four to six weeks in advance of your tour’s departure as some medications must be initiated weeks before the period of possible exposure.
The most current information about travellers’ health recommendations can be found on the CDC’s Travel Health website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.
Altitude: The average elevation of the tour is just under 5000 feet and we reach 6500 feet.
Insects: Biting insects can be very common, especially around the lakes. Insect repellent (preferably with a high percentage of diethyltoluamide – DEET) will provide adequate protection.
Drinking water: Tap water is not safe to drink in Mongolia but we will carry bottled water with us, or use boiled spring water for making tea and coffee.
Smoking: Smoking is prohibited in the vehicles or when the group is gathered for meals, checklists, etc. If you are sharing a room with a nonsmoker, please do not smoke in the room. If you smoke in the field, do so well away and downwind from the group. If any location where the group is gathered has a stricter policy than the WINGS policy, that stricter policy will prevail.
Food Allergies / Requirements: We cannot guarantee that all food allergies can be accommodated at every destination. Participants with significant food allergies or special dietary requirements should bring appropriate foods with them for those times when their needs cannot be met. Announced meal times are always approximate depending on how the day unfolds. Participants who need to eat according to a fixed schedule should bring supplemental food. Please contact the WINGS office if you have any questions.
CLIMATE: Weather in Mongolia can be very mixed at this time of year. Generally it will be warm during the day but can be cold – below freezing - at night and in the early mornings. During previous tours we have experienced temperatures ranging from 23 to 100 degrees. Cold weather can be expected at the higher altitudes, and rain is possible at almost any time.
ACCOMMODATION: In Ulaanbaatar we will stay in a modern three star hotel. Away from there we will either stay in yurt (or gers as they are called in Mongolia) camps or pitch our own tents.
Gers (pronounced like the English word ‘gear’) 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 will sleep in tents provided by the ground agents at camps which they will set. A foam sleeping-mattress is provided but if you prefer the luxury of your own camping mat please bring that with you. Bedding is provided in the form of sheets, blanket, pillow and duvet. If you wish to bring your own sleeping bag then you are more than welcome to do so.
Water is available for washing but you may wish to bring a swimsuit as the temperature of the lake at Boon Tsagaan Nuur is often quite pleasant. 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.
Tents: Our tents are two-man tents which you will be required to share if not paying the single room supplement. With two people inside the tent there isn’t much room for luggage. The tents are accessed by crawling in. We will take roomier tents with cot beds but these are not suitable in strong winds which have been known to send “secured” tents (and contents) rolling across the plains.
Ger Camps: At each of the ger camps those who have paid the single room supplement will have a ger to yourself. Most gers are large and roomy, especially compared to the tents and usually contain two or three beds, a table, chair and 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 then a ger is treated like one hotel room, so there will never be more than 2 people in a ger. Each ger camp has a restaurant and toilets/showers. These vary in quality and range from ‘normal’ shower blocks and sit down toilets to pressurized containers that you hold yourself while showering.
FOOD: Virtually all the food we eat will be carried from Ulaanbaatar by our ground crews, and as such many meals will rely on tinned and packet food. Breakfast will normally consist of juice, tea, coffee, bread (possibly local flat dough cakes prepared by the cook), muesli, cheese, jam and eggs. Other meals will be a variety of salads and cooked meals, especially soups and stews. The food is rremarkable given the limitations but you may want to bring your own snacks.
TRANSPORTATION: Transportation on paved roads near the capital is by standard coach. In the desert we use a four-wheel drive, high clearance bus. Our ground crew and driver are skilled at solving mechanical problems and getting us un-stuck. There will be two internal flights. There are many long drives but these are broken by stops for birdwatching. The leader will arrange a seating rotation. Participants should be able to ride in any seat in tour vehicles.
Updated: September 2014