Let me put this upfront. Traveling on a budget can be such a hassle in remote countries like Mongolia. Your options are strictly limited to pricey tour agencies, especially when searching through the web.
Personally, it took me nearly a month to establish contacts with local people and get in touch with some down-to-earth operators. In the end, my efforts paid off and I started gaining access to some more reasonable financial offers.
Having gone through this nightmare myself, I really want to help anyone planning to visit Mongolia with their research. Through this post, I will therefore share with you two of my trusted contacts in Mongolia. I can guarantee they can help you get the best customized tours at an unbeatable price for the local market.
But please don’t get me wrong… By no means is this a sponsored content. My intention is to meaningfully save you time and money, through my personal experience.
Windhorse Tours and Guest House
My first contact is Mrs. Uka Urnaa, a sweet lady and mother of a newborn baby at the time of my visit! Uka is running successfully a small local travel agency based in Ulaan Bator. Its name is “Windhorse Tours and Guest House”.
The Guest House itself is in fact her own home, converted into a cozy and comfortable space. Depending on your travel style, you can choose between a dorm and a private room. The whole place is immaculately clean, very well-located, and what’s more value for money! Uka is offering a delicious breakfast, snacks throughout the day, and cooking classes to anyone interested!
Apart from caring and hospitable, Uka is also extremely professional. Not to mention that her English is perfect, a rare find when in Mongolia. And last but not least, she knows her own country inside out!
I was in contact with her while customizing a private 6-day tour in Central Mongolia for three persons. Uka did an outstanding work with our itinerary in just a short period of time. Moreover, the price she gave us for an all-inclusive tour was the best we could have asked or wished for.
All-inclusive means that you are paying for: a private driver, a 4WD vehicle, petrol, an English speaking guide, three meals per day, entrance fees for National Parks and museums, accommodation in local Gers/Tourist camps, camel riding and horse riding.
Unfortunately, due to an unexpected incident, my travel buddies could not join our Trans-Mongolian trip. For that matter, I had no option but cancel the private tour with Uka. But even on this occasion, Uka welcomed me at her Guest House and offered as a workaround one of her group tours. Unluckily, none of those tours would align with my agenda…
During my stay at Windhorse Guest House, I interacted with plenty of other guests. They had all returned from different tours organized by Uka. You see, booking both your tour and accommodation through the same provider is a common practice in Mongolia.
Without exaggeration, everyone praised the whole organization and spoke with passion and enthusiasm about their experience. So, even if I cannot speak for myself, I am still pretty sure they were all fair with their evaluation!
Free Ulaanbataar Tour
Pretty desperate as I was, I reached out on another wonderful lady I had “met” through Couchsurfing. She immediately prompted me to get in touch with the administrators of “Free Ulaanbaatar Tour” through their Facebook Page.
“Free Ulaanbataar Tour” is basically a non-profit organization offering free walking tours around the capital. Yet, its team can bring you in contact with trustworthy local drivers who are eager to take you around Mongolia!
After joining forces with another two Polish Couchsurfers, “Free Ulaanbaatar Tour” organized a wonderful Central Mongolia trip for us. In three full days we visited: Erdene Zuu Monastery, Kharkhorin, Semi Gobi (Elsen Tasarhai), Khustai National Park, Terelj National Park, and Chingis Khan Statue.
Our tour was driver-led, meaning we did not have an English speaking guide with us. We also had to cook our own meals, but our driver provided us with both cooking and camping gear.
The tour was absolutely amazing and gave us the chance to experience first-hand the Mongolian nomadic life. We intentionally avoided the touristy ger camps and stayed with small local families instead.
Tulga, our private driver, was not only a great driver and photographer, but also a sweet and positive person. He was always smiling and never said no to any of our requests for unplanned detours or extra hiking stops.
At this point, I have to give extra credits to Tulga for literally going the extra mile on many occasions. Firstly for finding, at no extra cost, a more comfortable accommodation for us in order to avoid the harsh cold. And secondly, for exhaustively driving for too many kilometers per day, even if we had agreed on a shorter distance.
Tulga wanted to give us the opportunity to see as much of his beautiful country as possible! And it was thanks to him that we visited all these places that would normally fit in a 4-day itinerary.
This tour was probably the highlight of my Transiberian trip! And I cannot thank “Free Ulaanbaatar Tour” enough for making it happen!