Upon arriving in Ulan Bator we were very nervous about how to go about seeing the country. We knew public transportation was not simple and that it didn’t necessarily take you to the “sights” (only towns). We also knew tours were probably expensive but simple to arrange. We booked two nights at Sunpath Guesthouse to figure this conundrum out.
At Sunpath, we were quickly convinced into booking a tour for a number of reasons. First, Doljmaa (the owner) is a very good businesswoman, both making Mongolia sound tough to travel and her tours very economical. Second, everyone at the guesthouse (many budget travelers included) raved about the tours. Third, the price we paid was technically in our budget. The tour was amazing, just check out the blog posts for central, gobi and north. We had an amazing time. Our driver was hilarious and competent, while our guide was so well informed and helpful. We ended up spending $860 per person for 16 days. While not cheap, we found it well worth the money (everything included; transport, food, sleeping, activities, and English speaking guide). We saw so much and there was zero stress! If we could do it again we probably would have cut it short at the gobi and central. We didn’t have enough time to really see the north and after going there, this area seemed easier to set up transport in Murun or Khatgal. In our opinion, there is no better way to see the gobi and while the central is possible to see independently, we saw so much in the time that we had. There are many tour operators from UB. We never saw a deal advertised for better than we got, but I am sure a competent haggler could do better. Sunbathe and Lotus were cleaner than any guesthouse we saw or stayed in. We also stayed at UB guesthouse which was very welcoming, but just an older building (the tours were advertised for more as well). Please email us for any questions on Sunpath and tours from Ulan Bator.
Before leaving on our first tour, we booked some activities through Kazakh Tours in Ulgii and flights to Ulgii. Two lessons we learned after arriving in Ulgii. One, the bus from Ulan Bator to Ulgii is not bad. If you get the bus to Khovd first and then the minibus to Ulgii, you spend most of your time in a comfortable seat (it’s also only 45 hours, not the 72 hours often seen online and in books). So next time
we would bus it to save money. Second, setting up tours/treks in Ulgii is easier than we thought and you can haggle better from Ulgii. We paid $550 each for 14 days of activities with Kazakh Tours. This included everything, but food. For this, we got to go 8 days of trekking, 2 days of eagle festival (refunded for the second because of cancelation), 5 nights at Traveler’s Guesthouse and 3 days with an
eagle hunters family. Again, all transport, guides, border permits and sleeping included. Dosjan at Kazakh Tours is very knowledgable and helpful. We had a blast and felt very well taken care of. You can always wish for a little bit of a better deal and as stated above there were areas we thought we could save money, but we thought it was 110% worth the money. While in Ulgii, Dosjan put us up with his sister at Traveler’s Guesthouse. There is no other place worth staying in our opinions. She is very nice, the place is well kept and she can help you organize a budget way to see the area. Please email us or comment for questions on traveling Bayan-Ulgii.