Crossing the Gobi Desert on a visit to Mongolia is a trip you will remember. That said, you will need to prepare for the journey…
If you have decided to venture out into the Gobi Desert, remember that there is a more or less "classic" route It links the most pleasant stopovers and the largest towns
Generally you will go through Dalanzadgad, Sevrei, Bogd, Byankhongor… After that it is up to you to choose the places you want to visit. There is a canyon(Gyalaani), hot springs (Bayankhongor), fossilised trees (Tsagaan Tsavyn)... And many other surprises! It's up to you to organise yourself as you want
However, don't underestimate either the journey time or the extra time you may want to spend there! Allow at least a fortnight for the desert, even longer if you like to take your time.
You have two options: either go it alone, or hire a vehicle with a driver/guide.
If you choose to go without a guide, there are several important things to to think about. This information was given by Mongols who know the desert well.
- NEVER SET OUT ALONE - NEVER WITH JUST ONE JEEP You must always have at least two cars. If only to take turns getting each other out of the sand… And if one of the cars has a problem, the other can be used to get help!
- Take a GPS, and note down the coordinates of all towns, big and small, in a journal. Towns do not move, as opposed to nomads, who are often difficult to track down if you are not a native!
- Take extra supplies: water, food, petrol, warm clothing, tents… If you are sleeping in a tent or in the car, it can be very cold at night.
-There are "military" GPS beacons, which signal your position via satellite (no need for wifi!). This allows your nearest and dearest to know where you are. There is also an emergency "SOS" feature which alerts the military (I think). I had one of these on my trip and it is very useful!
But if you want to prevent mishaps, perhaps it is more sensible to take a guide …
There is another way to explore the Gobi Desert: go with a guide. You won't need to hire 2 vehicles, just one.
Both vehicles will be together: your driver will have his own jeep. You "hire both" for the length of time your want. Generally there is a fixed price per day, so the more people you are, the less it will cost per person.
Good departure points are Bulgan or Karakorum (or Kharkhorin). You can also book your excursion via a local agency from home. But make sure you fully understand the pricing system, (a "fixed" route makes it impossible to change it by a few kilometres or to stay for a few extra days), and try to travel in a group of several people to lower the costs.
Prices, can vary enormously, but mostly stay around £80 to £100 per day. Agency prices can be lower for more people. An independent agent will fix his price per day and per jeep, so the more people in the car, the lower the price.
It is up to you to do the calculations to find what suits you the best. So you are now ready, have fun!