The seventh edition of Lonely Planet Mongolia recommends that people taking photos of Mongolians should offer to repay the favour by printing the photos out and snail mailing it to them.

The concept of repaying the favour seems fair enough, but the mention of a hard copy and snail mail seems more suitable to a bye gone era (page 123 quotes archeologist Jamsranjav Bayarsaikhan recommending bringing a Polaroid camera, which I think are no longer manufactured).

Yes, I'm aware that many Mongolians are nomadic, but I would have thought that'd mean they'd be more likely to prefer electronic copy.

Should I offer to, and be prepared for, printing out and mailing photos?

  • Voting as subjective - not every Mongolian person is the same, and some might not prefer it (they may even (gasp) use Facebook)
    – Mark Mayo
    Jun 3 '15 at 5:15
  • Or quite possibly VK. Jun 3 '15 at 5:45
  • 1
    Both Polaroid cameras and film are still produced. Jun 3 '15 at 9:01
  • Keep in mind LP guides are a couple of years out of date, as it takes that long from research to sitting on your book store shelf. And revised issues may still have suggestions from the first edition as the authors don't always double check everything
    – user13044
    Jun 3 '15 at 14:07
  • I think this is a fair question, if hard to answer. Outside of the few cities, the nomadic lifestyle still means access to electricity is limited for many. On the steppes, many will have a phone, but not many will have a smartphone with easy internet access.
    – MastaBaba
    Jun 3 '15 at 15:06

I can't comment on Mongolia but people generally love receiving hard copy photos if you can provide them.

On one trip I took a small portable printer capable of 6 x 4 prints. (HP Photosmart). 1.2 kg - more if rechargeable battery fitted + paper + ink - so some commitment involved. This takes some effort and weight and volume (probably 2kg all up with supplies) so will depend on your travel mode and circumstances.

People are utterly delighted to receive such photos - and it means the uncertainty of electronic contacts not working subsequently is reduced.


One of my fond memories is in the form of a hard copy photo of me with a family in China. I was wandering through a small shopping area taking photos and one of my subjects took me by the arm and led me back to his shop. He had a small photo booth wedged unseen into one corner and arranged himself and me and his wife and child in the booth for a photo. It is still on a wall photoboard here about 6 years later - the only hard copy photo I ever received from anyone on my travels and a great memory - despite there having been no "event" involved other than that somebody went out of their way to make me feel welcome.

  • Great advice, for anyone thinking of doing that Polaroid have a new small digital printer that may be easier to transport: Polaroid Zip
    – SpaceDog
    Jun 4 '15 at 3:06
  • Have you met nomads, or only non-nomadic people? Jun 8 '15 at 4:36
  • @AndrewGrimm Strictly I'd have to say only non-nomads. But "best case" (and not often) has been rural people in locations well removed from urban centres. I don't think I've met people who would not appreciate hard copies if given, even though most had the ability to make them. ie even when not a necessity its nice if easily achieved. ... Jun 8 '15 at 7:54
  • @AndrewGrimm In one situation the location had been chosen by a businessman specifically because it was functionally isolated from urban life for the majority of the people there. Only a bit over an hours drive from a significant city but income, life style and social expectations were such that for most it was a world away from 'ours'. [This allowed him to pay them about nothing and expect them to work EVERY day :-(, but, that's another tale]. Jun 8 '15 at 7:54

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