Traveling is Cheap

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So here’s the total amount of money I spent traveling around Mongolia for one month* This includes everything: transportation from “home” (Irkutsk) to Mongolia and back to “home”**, all transportation within Mongolia (going from northern Mongolia to Ulaanbaatar, Lake Khuvsgul, Gorkhi Terelj National Park, to the Gobi Desert, many places in between and back to Ulaanbaatar and the north); all food, all accommodation, horse riding, motorcycle and quad riding, seeing beautiful mountains, hills, boulders and lakes, a trip to the Khongor Sand Dunes, the Yolin Am Canyon, Mukhart Shivert and White Stupa. Plus much more :)

Grand total= $323

Here’s the breakdown (in USD):

Transportation:
$38

    • We mostly hitchhiked, which is free, but we also paid for a bus, train, taxi, or a dead sheep van here or there. Clearly, public transportation is cheap in Mongolia. Read my blogs and do the math yourself if you don’t believe me! :P

Food/drinks/groceries:

$84

    • What’s in the magical bag of groceries that cost less than $10 almost every time and lasted for so many days? If you want to make your money last long, you can’t be too picky with what you eat. Don’t buy pesto if you’re not in Italy, don’t buy fresh tuna fish if you’re not by the ocean. Figure out what the locals eat and go with that. We bought things like noodles, rice, bread, onions, cabbage, garlic, and other random grains and vegetables that I don’t know the name of ?. Some Russian products, like buckwheat, are also cheap in Mongolia. Less than $1 for a kilo, which makes 5 hearty and healthy meals for 2 people (100grams of any grain per person per meal is plenty). We also bought things like oats, dried fruit and nuts for breakfast and hiking. You can go with cheap nuts like pumpkin or sunflower seeds instead of your expensive almonds and hazelnuts. When we bought food to cook in a hostel, we often went for beetroot, since it’s super healthy and super cheap, but is heavy and takes a while to cook (meaning a waste of your camping gas).
    • Basically, we looked for cheap and healthy (plus long-lasting and light when hitching/hiking). I often buy stuff that I’m completely unfamiliar with just because it seems to fit the category. For example, we randomly found a big bag of dehydrated soy meat for about 50 cents. It was perfect- very light, full of protein, quick to cook, could be added to almost any meal and it didn’t need to be refrigerated. We even soaked it in water one day, put it on a stick and BBQed it on a fire like chicken. Delicious ?
    • We could have gone even cheaper if we wanted to, completely getting rid of anything unnecessary. Our bag of groceries sometimes included cookies or sweets, jams, juice, alcohol or spices. -None of that stuff was necessary and most of it is unhealthy but, what can I say, we had a lot of fun ? It’s up to you to figure out the right balance between funds, fun and necessities.

Accommodation:

$79

    • We paid for accommodation for 13 out of 30 nights. Accommodation ranged from 0 to 8 USD and included anything from camping to couchsurfing, to sleeping in family homes and yurts, in a train, Airbnb, hostels, motel-like yurts and cheap hotel rooms. You can see detailed examples in my previous blogs.

4WD Tour to the Gobi Desert:

$100

    • So we caved in and spent a third of our entire budget on a three day 4wd ride to the Khongor Sand Dunes in the Gobi Desert. It was worth it, but now that I know the situation better, I would prefer to try to hitch a lift to the dunes instead. I mentioned in this blog that we met a guy who managed to do that even in November. We also later found out that there are some buses that go further into the Gobi Desert to villages like Gurvantes, Servei, Noyon and Bulgan; so that could be another option for those who want to save some money and travel off the beaten path. I don’t have much information about those buses (besides the map below), but if you make it to the local Dalanzadgad bus station, I think you could figure it out ?.

Miscellaneous (shower, gas, souvenirs, speaker):

$22

    • There will always be some kind of extra stuff to buy. Here, again, it’s important to find that balance between funds, fun and necessities.

Total: $323

    • If we hadn’t paid for that Khongor Sand Dune tour, the total for the entire month would have been around $230.

Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip: