We did a 7 day tour from UB, with 4 days or so in the Gobi Desert.
We went to the flaming cliffs, singing sand dunes and eagle valley (or Bayanzag, Khongoryn Els and Yolyn Am). Each one is different, and all spectacular. We also did a horse/pony ride in Yolyn Am and a camel ride at Khongoryn Els.
We stayed in family gers along the way, food was included and whilst we were told it would be basic, it was plentiful and very good - we didn't go hungry and came home with most of the packs of noodles we left with. There were opportunities to stock up on water, soft drink and other snacks along the way as well.
Our driver was also out guide, no doubt part of the 'budget' experience we chose. Generally our days were spent driving in the morning, and activities in the afternoon. Some of the days we arrived earlier in the day, and had a few hours where we were left to amuse ourselves, wasn't too much of an issue as there were landscapes to explore.
The gers didn't have heating in the Gobi, I didn't find it too cold though. The gers tended to include a blanket and small pillow of sorts, but you needed to provide your own blanket. We also had mattresses at each location, of varying hardness, but we spoke to some people who did not have the luxury of a mattress so I won't complain about the lumpiness or hardness.
Overall I enjoyed the experience in the Gobi. The tour delivered on what we asked, it was a private budget tour because we wanted to experience the local way of life and I am happy we chose this.
On the tour itself, we went with Travel Gobi Mongolia (which I would give 3 stars, but I don't want that to impact on how I rate the Gobi Desert itself).
The car required some mechanical attention on day 2, our guide/driver managed this, while we were watching from within a diner/cafe. Once fixed, the car (land cruiser) was comfortable and we didn't have any issues. The food was good, we weren't hungry and it was included in the tour.
Ganzo very prompt to return emails, the driver called to let me know he was on the way to the hostel in the morning (good sign) and a pickup at the UB airport took us to our hostel at the end. There were some breakdowns in communication, with the tour schedule changing and basically the first day of the tour was dropped out, which was disappointing - we didn't know this until the driver told us our destination for the day. Our driver/guide was more driver than guide, we had a similar experience where he spent most of the time talking among friends/families, and he spent most of the time talking on his mobile when we were driving which wasn't very engaging. There wasn't much interaction with us, but then we weren't looking for heaps, but we did feel like he was just transporting us from one spot to the next. One night he didn't return to the camp, we woke to find no car and no driver, nice thing to wake up to. After a couple of hours (we were fed breakfast which was nice) he appeared. He also dropped us off at the ger in Dalanzadgad on the last night and then said he was heading back to UB but had made arrangements for a friend to take us to the airport the next morning....shame our flight was postponed and the poor lady we were staying with didn't speak english and had to call her sister to pass the message on to me. She was lovely, but we felt bad imposing on her for another day.
There were a few other small issues, but I can't complain that our budget tour meant we were well fed, had a bed each night and took us to the landmarks we wanted to go to. I'm not sure if the standard tours provide significant differences other than more comfortable beds/lodging, and if the guides provide more information or interest in their customers
But thats the tour experience, the landmarks within the Gobi were amazing.
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