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Although the cost of life in Mongolia isn't very elevated, it can be quite expensive to travel around. The budget you'll need will depend entirely on your style of travelling. In this article, we've outlined the average travel costs for transportation, excursion, food and accommodation in Mongolia.
The cost of public and private transportation
Public transportation in Mongolia is rather cheap. I didn't travel much by bus, but the ride from Terelj National Park to Ulaanbaatar for example, which is around 65 kilometers, cost less than 2 euros. The reason I didn't use many buses, though, is because there aren't many roads in Mongolia, so if you want to visit remote places, it will be difficult to get there by yourself. Also, the buses don't go very often, so make sure you plan ahead.
If you want to visit remote places, you have a few options:
- One, you can try and befriend a Mongolian person kind enough to show you around. You would be very lucky if this opportunity came your way, as Mongolians are a very hospitable people who would take great honor in showing you the best of their country. (Yes, I'm slightly jealous of the Belgian traveller I've met who'd found a Mongolian Couchsurfing host).
- Two, join a tour. You generally have several options to choose from, and especially in high season, there's tours leaving almost every day. The price will depend on the size of the group, but generally, the cheapest tour will set you back around 50 usd per person for a group of 6 people. It includes transportation, lodging, a guide, entrance tickets (if necessary), food and water. Considering you will hardly have extra costs, this is not excessively high, but it does add up when you go on a multi-day tour. We ended up paying 250 usd for a five-day tour of the Gobi desert, for example. Make sure you compare different organisations and negotiate.
- Three, you can rent a car and travel around by yourself. As it is not possible to rent a car without driver, so it won't be much cheaper than joining a tour.
Travel to Mongolia
If you travel from far, meaning transport by bus or train or not possible, you'll be looking at flying into Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. When I wanted to book my ticket, though, the tickets were very expensive, so I compared the prices of the surrounding airports and ended up booking a ticket from Brussels to Beijing, which was much cheaper at 388 EUR for a one-way flight, which I booked from the airline Aeroflot. This allowed me to visit a part of China before continuing my trip to Mongolia by train.
The cost of lodging in Ulaanbaatar
There are several hostels to choose from, most of which will cost you between 7 and 10 usd per night for a night in a dorm. Beware though that for Naadam Festival, the hostels get booked up quickly and prices will slightly rise.
The cost of dining out
It is not expensive to dine out in Mongolia. In the capital, you can eat (a lot) for less than 10 dollars, drinks included. Street food of course will even be even cheaper.
One thing that struck me when buying food in the supermarket, is how expensive fruit is. Everything else is relatively cheap, but for fruit you'll pay twice the European price. It is very likely, though, that you'll reach that point when you're missing healthy food so badly, that you would sell your soul for some nutritious vitamins.
Do you have questions? Did you experience something similar? Did you notice a mistake? Please share!