Too many tourists return from the Gobi Desert with a negative experience. Mainly because most tour operators are only out for your Tugriks and nothing else. Luckily, there are a few good tour operators out there.
The Gobi Desert is a huge place with vast stretches of land filled with mostly nothing. And that is exactly why many people visit Mongolia, and in particular the Gobi Desert, every year.
This guide will help you plan your visit to the Gobi Desert.
There is more to the Gobi Desert than its emptiness. You will drive hundreds of kilometers to stay with authentic nomadic families, visit the green and sometimes frozen Yolan Am Valley, and be amazed by the sunset at the majestic Khongor Sand Dunes.
Choosing a tour operator
There are hundreds of tour operators in Ulaanbaatar. Most of them are actually hostels and guesthouses that do tours on the side. Or the other way around. We booked the 7-day Classis Gobi tour of Sunpath Mongolia Tour & Hostel and had an amazing experience.
Some good tour operators are:
Tour operator with a questionable reputation:
Be sure to check the latest reviews when looking into a tour operator. If you’re already in Ulaanbaatar, just ask around with other travelers.
You can save a few bucks by just hiring a driver and head in whatever direction you want him to go. Communication can be challenging because most of them don’t speak English.
But if you are adventurous, go for it! We met some people along the way who did exactly this and it worked out fine.“You don’t have to be rich to travel well.” ~ Eugene FodorClick To Tweet
Can I rent a car and explore the Gobi Desert alone?
This is not recommended! The risk of getting lost is high. Even our guide Belgutei, born and raised in the Gobi Desert, doesn’t dare such a venture.
Costs of a tour
We got in email contact with Doljmaa, the owner of Sunpath Mongolia Tour & Hostel, before we arrived in Mongolia and she gave us a great price for the 7- day Classic Gobi tour.
We ended up paying $ 805 for the two of us in total.
The only extras we paid was a tip for the crew at the end of our tour, and some snacks and beverages along the way.
So what is included in the price of the tour?
- Accommodation — You will stay with real nomadic families and will sleep in a shared ger. We shared our ger with just one other couple. Keep in mind that the beds are hard. Not just hard, but hard as concrete. There are usually no pillows so bring an inflatable one! Sleeping bags are provided because temperatures can plunge below zero at night. Yes, also inside the ger.
- Transportation — A breakdown is pretty likely. We were lucky though and had zero problems with our sturdy Russian UAZ-452 van. Nevertheless, the driver is a certified mechanic as well, just in case things go wrong.
- English speaking guide — Our guide Belgutei was well informed and told us a lot about Mongolian traditions and the Gobi Desert. And a really nice guy to hang around with for 7 days.
- Great food — All meals are included. And yes, you will eat a lot of fried noodles with mutton. But we even had our own cook with us who did a great job in preparing non-Mongolian dishes such as spaghetti, delicious sandwiches and vegetable soup. 1.5 liter of water per person a day is included as well. But they bring a lot more, so you can grab as many bottles as you like.
- No hidden fees — This is probably the most important one! Our tour was all inclusive. So no addition fees for camel riding, food, accommodation, etc.
Things to bring along
These are some items that you’ll want to bring with you when visiting the Gobi Desert. You will make one last stop at a large supermarket to buy groceries before you leave Ulaanbaatar.
- Flashlight or headlight
- Inflatable pillow
- Hat, cap or scarf
- Insect repellant
- Wet wipes
- Toilet paper
- First aid kit
- Bottle of vodka
- Entertainment (book, deck of cards or a guitar)
Questions and answers
Is it cold in the Gobi Desert?
Yes, it will be cold at night and you will need a sleeping bag to keep you warm. During the day it can get pretty warm though.
Can I buy snacks and other stuff in the Gobi Desert?
Yes, to our surprise there where a few small towns with some shops. They sell all the necessary goods such as snacks, alcohol, and toilet paper.
Can I have a shower along the way?
Yes, somewhere after three days you will sleep near a tourist camp. You can use their shower against a small fee.
Can I charge my electronic equipment?
No, the families usually don’t have electricity. Some do have solar panels to charge batteries for a light at night. Be sure to bring enough extra batteries for your camera. You will need them!
Visiting the Gobi Desert is an adventure of a lifetime! Go with a tour operator with a good reputation and you will have an amazing time. Enjoy!