The resumption of cross-border travel and overwhelming demand for cheap international vacations amid the global crisis has inevitably led to a surge in popularity for numerous lesser-known countries that had historically been overlooked.
One of them, an Asian country with a complex recent History that has received limited attention, is now easing its visa rules with the sole aim of attracting Western visitors, who up until recently were subject to stricter border checks.
Mongolia is open for tourism, and they’re hoping Americans and Europeans will visit – here’s why you should consider going yourself:
Mongolia Drops Visa Restrictions For All Westerners
From Europe’s sunny Balkan peninsula, which can hardly be considered a hidden gem anymore, to Latin America’s colonial treasures, the list of up-and-coming destinations experiencing a much-needed revival is endless, but shown such strong a will to host foreigners as Mongolia has.
An intermediate nation bordered by the mega-powers of China and Russia, Mongolia is allowing foreign nationals from 34 Western countries to visit visa-free through December 2025 in a bold move set to boost international tourism.
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If you are a citizen from any of the countries below, you do not need a visa to travel to Mongolia for the time being as long as the visit does not exceed 30 days:
- All European Union citizens
- United Kingdom
- New Zealand
If you’re an American citizen, you already enjoy permanent visa-free access to Mongolia, which will continue being allowed once the exemption period for Europeans expires.
This enables you to remain in the country for 90 days, 60 days more than your EU, British, Aussie, and Kiwi counterparts.
Canadians are also included on Mongolia’s list of permanent visa exemptions, though they can not be present in Mongolia for longer than a month.
In a way, U.S. passport holders are privileged, as their passport is one of the strongest to hold in the world.
Besides easing visa requirements for Westerners, Mongolia has lifted all COVID-related entry requirements.
This means you are not required to disclose your vaccination status nor undergo testing prior to travel.
But seeing that it is so far away, flights are usually very expensive, and getting to the country will inevitably entail at least one stopover. Should you even go through the hassle?
What is in Mongolia anyway, and why should you care that visa restrictions are being dropped?
One Of The Most Unique, Awe-Inspiring Societies In The World
Occupying vast swathes of the Central Asian highland, Mongolia infamously became a satellite state under the Moscow sphere of influence during the Cold War.
After the fall of communism, however, it sought reintegration into the global scene.
A newly-formed democracy whose constitution was written only in 1992, it is a unique country in the sense that a significant percentage of the population is nomadic: instead of settling in cities, 30% of Mongolians are nomadic, a tradition that dates back centuries.
This means that one-quarter of Mongolian households move around the territory without a permanent base, often on horseback, crossing from North to South as the seasons change and looking for fresh pastures where they can farm.
The diverse topography Mongolia hosts provides a dramatic landscape for their mobile life.
Landlocked between the Siberian taiga and the Central Asian prairies and deserts, some of the most breathtaking natural sceneries are located within the country’s borders:
- The Gobi Desert, inhabited by rare animals, including the native Bactrian camels
- Altai Tavan Bogd National Park, site of the highest peak in Mongolia, on the tri-border with Russia and China
- The Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, home to rolling green hills and picturesque towns
- The Orkhon Valley, an area of lush green forests and lakes where herders and Mongolian nomads can be routinely spotted
- Lake Hovsgol, the largest freshwater lake in Mongolia and one of its most scenic postcards, bounded by alpine peaks and grasslands
A Bustling Capital And Flavorful Cuisine
Other than its impressive nature, this mysterious nation is famous for its bustling capital of Ulaanbaatar, a city originally founded as a monastic center for those professing the Buddhist faith in the 17th century and that has since risen to prominence as a financial hub in Central Asia.
Ulaanbaatar is also distinguished for being the coldest capital in the world, with temperatures plummeting to negative numbers over winter, and averaging 75°F over summer.
This is due to its high elevation, at 1350 meters above sea level.
Whether it’s the quaint countryside or the skyscraper-dotted Ulaanbaatar, one immaterial thing about Mongolia that sets it apart from the rest is its meat and dairy-heavy cuisine, every bit as flavorful as it is fulfilling.
Some of the most popular delicacies include mutton cooked with hot stones and boiling water, steamed meat dumplings – called ‘buuz’ – and ‘khorkhog’, the Mongolian version of a barbecue.
If you’re not big on meat, perhaps you’ll find Mongolia a challenging place to visit.
Of course, there should be more food variety and other dietary options in major urban centers, particularly in Ulaanbaatar, but we would advise you to keep your mind open and immerse yourself in the local culture and tradition.
Not Exactly Affordable For Tourists, But Worth A Shot
When it comes to affordability, there seems to be a general consensus on the internet that while Mongolia is relatively cheap for locals, costs can escalate quickly if you’re keen on experiencing the country thoroughly as a visitor (i.e. going off the beaten path and braving its wild nature).
Food, accommodation, and transportation may be incredibly affordable, with hearty meals costing not more than US$ 5 at mid-range restaurants, but some guided day tours will sell for more than a hundred dollars on GetYourGuide.
A 3-day tour of Central Mongolia will set you back by USD $399, though an overnight stay at the five-star Best Western Premier Tuushin in downtown Ulaanbaatar will hardly break the bank, averaging USD $138 for an overnight stay on Booking.com.
In other parts of Mongolia, however, where tourism is not as developed, accommodation prices can soar as options are more limited.
In sum, tourist activities can be pricey, but with a bit of research, there are some pretty good deals to be found here. In any case, the fascinating, under-visited Mongolia is so worth the extra few hundred bucks.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com