Travel Tips in Mongolia
In the countryside:
- When you came upon a herd of animals don’t divide them. Wait until they have passed for go around.
- When the steppe has weak and sparse vegetation, try as much as possible to not make a new road or drive off the road.
- On the top of the pass that has a “high place” or “cairn” /pile of rock that may have sticks and Buddhist flags/ women may not get out of the car. This mountain and cairn has a spirit or is sacred.
- Don’t drink the water from a well that you may happen to come across. Not all wells have suitable drinking water.
- Do not urinate on the road.
- Do not wash your hand in a well or spring, do not put your filth in them.
- Don’t dump your dirty water into a well or spring.
- If there are animals at a well, give them water. Don’t leave without satisfying their thirst.
- If you come to a well, don’t leave without covering the well or some animals might fall in and die.
- Don’t urinate near or in a river, the water nymph, or water spirit will get furious.
- Don’t argue when traveling.
- When riding a horse, make sure it is well watered and fed.
- Clean up the place where you camp but don’t throw away the ashes without putting out the fire.
- If you have made a fire where you camped you may not leave the open fire without putting it out.
- Don’t return a diary products container empty. First wash well, wipe it out and put some kind of candy and return. An empty contain is a curse to the one returning it. You will be-come poor.
- When your trip is finished turn the motor off, it pollutes the environment.
- When you stop for the night and it is already dark, don’t turn on lights and play music loudly. All kinds of unwanted attentions might come to visit you.
- Don’t stay near a family or small town. Nosey people could make things uncomfortable.
- Don’t stay the night near a road, nosey people coming by might make it uncomfortable for you.
- Don’t stay night in the lowlands or a depression. Rain that falls in the day might flood that place at night.
Things to pay attention to when arriving and leaving a place with few yurts.
- Go slowly when you arrive at a family’s place. Someone with bad news comes quickly.
- It is prohibited to park your vehicle perpendicular across the family door. This is how a car comes that takes away someone who has passed away.
- Don’t step over a horse catching a pole, an old plastic container or a small whip like stick to herd the sheep and goats.
- When walking don’t step over but go around a horse catching pole and short whip to herd the sheep and goats.
- Don’t frighten the camels and horses that are tied up outside, when arriving at families place
- When arriving at a families place, call out, “hold the dog!” /in Mongolian Nokhoi khorio/ A yurt is a one-room-house so they may not be able to come and greet you right away. Give the residence some time to clean up a little.
- When entering the yurt, open the door with the left hand and bend down and step in with right foot without stepping on the threshold.
- It is strictly prohibited to step on the threshold of a home or a temple.
- You may not leave a household quickly. Someone might think you are fleering a dangerous situation or glance.
- When entering a family you should button your clothes and don’t show any bare skin. Surly you are not a crazy insane person but a modest person.
- I f there is a red cloth or cords tied to the two sides of the door or if there sticks laid on the ground in front of the door forming a kind of square with the door, then you are not permitted to enter.
- It’s forbidden to go in front of a families door . as much as possible go around the yurt in the direction of the sun.
- Don’t go into a yurt that has the roof cover pulled down over and covering the smoke hole.
In the Ger:
- The families heart /stove/ is unapproachable. You may not put anything in there. It is a holy place.
- Don’t point your feet towards the fire/stove/. The fire spirits will become angry.
- By no means should you wear anyone else’s hat.
- And don’t let anyone else wear your hat.
- It is not allowed to put your hat on the place where the idol are. And don’t lean against the wooden chest where the idols are.
- Don’t step over any bowls or plates that are placed on the floor. Walk around them.
- Don’t take any pictures of the family without their permission.
- Don’t drink all the fermented mares milk if it is served in a large wooden bowl. Leave a mouthful in the bowl.
- Don’t leave a ger without taking a bit from the plate of food. First reach with your right hand and touch the bottom edge of the dish the you may take a little bit of the food item. If you eat all of it then the custom of visitors has been violated and it gives a bad reputation.
- It is not permitted to refuse the cup of tea or vodka given to you by the lady of the house.
- If the man of the house offers you his snuff bottle you may not refuse it. But you are not required to use the tobacco , just sniff the bottle top.
- You may not point your feet towards the stove when you go to sleep.
- And when you sleep don’t point your feet towards the idol.
- As much as possible don’t leave any tea in your cup.
- Don’t go between the two support poles in the ger.
- Don not whistle in the ger.
- Don’t ever visit a family that has a mother who is breast feeding without bringing a gift. If she expects a gift her breast will hurt.
- Don’t hug the children they might get scared.
- Don’t say that the children are cute. The demons may attack the children.
- Don’t call a dead person by name. Say “the departed” , taliigaaach or burhan bolooch”.
When drinking Airag/Fermented mares milk/
- Tea or airag is given to everyone who visits a ger. You can’t refuse either of them or you will offend the hostess. It’s better not to go in the ger than to offend the hostess.
- A plate of something to eat is given to a visitor. First, reach with your right hand and touch the bottom edge of the dish, then you may take a little bit of the food item.
- Don’t drink all of the airag in the cup, it will offered to the next person. You may drink all of the tea in a cup.
- The first time you drink airag you will get some diarrhea but the next time you drink will be fine.
What to remember when staying at a families home:
You are not allowed to freely touch anything in the ger. The three main items are:
- The very large container that has the fermenting mares milk
When giving a gift:
When you visit a family first drink tea and eat food and then before you leave may give your gift. They won’t open it while you are there. The one who received the gift will open it after you leave.
Riding a horse:
No matter how wonderful it is to ride a horse please pay attentions to these items.
- A herdsmen doesn’t have calm horse.
- Always approach a horse from the correct side/horses left side/. Always mount and dismount on the left side of the horse.
- When riding use the whip softly on the hind-quarters. Don’t kick with your feet.
- When you ride don’t use strong smelling perfume or cologne. Don’t wear bright patterned clothes or clothes that flap around or noisy crinkly crackly clothes.
- Remember to let the horse see and get used to anything that might startle it. You may need to dismount and let a car or some animals pass or a wind blown bag go by etc. before you continue on.
Mongolia used to be a peaceful country. But now the good and bad things of globalism have come here. So it is better to be careful than to be brave. It is advised to not go alone in the forest or up a mountain or into the outskirt of Ulaanbaatar. It’s better to be careful of any new acquaintances you have made. It is advised to get a guide from a travel company. It might be expensive but it’s more important to be safe than save money. Or go other with a friend. An experienced person knows where to go. Don’t drink too much alcohol. If you drink too much the host may think you like to drink and then may give you more and more. Alcohol is not always good.
When hiring a driver or taxi:
It’s better ask the price per kilometer before you get in. Check the odometer when you get in and when the car arrives at your stop. It’s better to make a detailed contract of you will pay for the gas, food and drink, and where you will stop and who will be responsible for what.
When eating and drinking:
Although it is good consider the hostess feeling, it is good to be careful eating and drinking things you are not used to. Your health is more valuable than leaving a good impression.
Welcome to Mongolia!