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I understand that guided tours offer a lot that unguided tours don't. I don't have to worry about choosing destinations, activities, booking accommodation, the language barrier, and the like. And that you can organize something with a company well in advance, unlike (I assume) booking with a solo tour guide.

However, I'm a bit surprised at the quoted cost for guided tours in Mongolia. They seem to be one, two, or a couple of hundred US dollars per day, not only for solo but also group tours. (Here's one example, slightly more expensive than others, but not an outlier, and a search on tour radar). This doesn't seem to happen only with foreign-based tourism companies, but also locally based ones. Some of these prices seem comparable to what I pay in developed countries for a group tour to ski resorts or with Contiki.

Is this normal? Is it because of the expenses incurred during a trip, such as paying for staff, petrol, and accommodation, or just the overhead that such companies have (sunk costs, administration, profit, etc.) for a low volume market?

If I'm booking a solo guided tour (with an English speaking guide and an experienced driver, presumably two separate people) which drives to a couple of different locations, and involves some sight-seeing and a couple of riding sessions, has meals provided, and provides some nights at a tourist ger, and some with a local nomadic family, is there much in the way of optional extras that can be meaningfully removed? (I could ask the tour company itself, but I'd like to make sure it'd be even worthwhile asking before doing so)

Some information about the costs of guided tours in general, whether it's in Mongolia or in other countries, would be appreciated.

  • I mean - I don't know if it's an answer to your question, but it seems completely reasonable. "One or two thousand a week." Nobody would be getting rich off that. Basically you get the guide(s), horses, camping/B&Bs, equipment and so on right? A quick way to estimate the economics of such businesses: consider, it's unlikely they'd get more than say 100-200 paying customers a year. So, the business only grosses couple hundred K a year .. nothing. (BTW - how beautiful are those horses eh?) – Fattie Jun 2 '16 at 13:09
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If you want a private guided tour (just for yourself and/or a very small group), the price doesn't seem all that unreasonable. Consider the cost of just the fuel alone: Distances in Mongolia are large and you'll be driving for a good chunk of each day, often over rough unpaved roads in vehicles optimized for rough travel and not for gas mileage. Add on top of that the use of the car itself, the fees of the driver and the presumably English-speaking guide, accommodations, food, activities, and of course markup for the tour company.

If, on the other hand, it's not a private tour and you're ok being a part of a group of about 6 people, it's definitely possible to find tours that are much cheaper. When I was in Mongolia in 2012 I took a 3-day tour, complete with yurt accommodation, horse-riding, camel-riding, many interesting stops along the way, all entrance fees to attractions included, etc. I don't remember the exact price, but "a couple of hundred dollars per day" was definitely way out of my budget at the time, I think it was closer to a couple of hundred dollars for the 3 days.

These cheaper tours can be arranged through pretty much any tourist guesthouse in UB. The biggest problem I found with these tours is time, not money. The shorter and most popular tours leave often, about every 2 days in peak season, but some of the more interesting and longer tours are only available rarely, or once they can put together a full group, and so if you don't have the luxury of time to wait around for a tour, you may have to pre-book before arriving in Mongolia and pay the higher price - but then you'll be guaranteed a specific date. If you don't pre-book, definitely check for tours at multiple guesthouses, not just your own.

I also remember coming across some sort of non-profit organization that was arranging tours where you stay with real nomadic families off the beaten tourist track - basically, more authentic experience, I think they were doing this to help some of the poorer rural communities. May be something worth checking out.

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It all depends on what the tours include in the price and how large your group is. That said, I remember clearly that tours booked while outside of Mongolia are typically vastly more expensive than tours booked when in Mongolia.

It's been a while, but a decade or so ago I toured the Mongolian countryside for perhaps a good 10 days, in a small group of 5 or perhaps 6 people, in a Russian van (a YAZ, I think). We had a driver and a guide and mostly slept in tents.

I was living in Mongolia at the time, so we had an easier time finding an outfit and guides that weren't charging an arm and a leg, but I can't imagine we paid much more than a 100 USD per day for the whole group (so perhaps up to some 200 USD per person for the whole trip). But, this was a while ago and Mongolia definitely has changed.

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