How to Plan a Trip to the Tsaatan Community

How to Plan the Trip:

When booking independent travel to the Taiga, you should organize your trip through the TCVC, which is owned and operated by the local community. It is located in Tsagaan Nuur, which is the last village that you can get to by road before you enter the Taiga. Some travelers like to visit the Tsaatan at Khovsgol Lake, which is far easier to access, however, we would recommend against this. The land near the lake isn’t suitable for reindeer and by supporting unsustainable tourism in the Khovsgol Lake area, you will be indirectly harming the reindeer herds and the Tsaatan people’s ability to pass on their unique lifestyle to future generations. 

1. One of the most important things to do first is to hire a translator if you cannot understand Mongolian because the TCVC (Tsaatan Community and Visitors Center) workers and the Tsaatan community cannot speak any English. We found our translator on Couchsurfing.com by posting a question asking if anyone in the area knew of any translators. We highly recommend our translator – Akjol. You can reach out to her via Facebook – akjol.nurtugan

2. Call the TCVC to let them know which dates you intend to visit the Tsaatan community and which dates you will stay at the TCVC.  Borkhuu is in charge of the TCVC and you can reach him at 9472 2500. The TCVC is approximately an 8 hour horse ride from the Taiga, which is where the Tsaatan community live. You will most likely require accommodation at the TCVC before making your way to the Taiga.

3. If you are arriving in Ulaanbaatar, you will need to arrange for transportation from Ulaanbaatar to Mörön. There are two options. 

Option 1: Take a bus from Ulaanbaatar Dragon Bus Center to Mörön. Buses leave daily at 8 a.m., 3 p.m., and 6 p.m.

Option 2: Hire a driver. We hired Bat-erdene and his number is 8603 3898. This option took about 12 hours to reach Mörön, including a short break for lunch and other toilet breaks.

4. When in Mörön you will need to obtain your border permit and arrange for transportation to Tsagaan Nuur, which is where the TCVC is located. You can also purchase food and any other items you may need for your stay with the Tsaatan at the market in Mörön. The market is closed on Mondays.

Border Permit – You can only obtain this during weekdays before 1 p.m. and you can get it within a few hours. The place to get the border permit is located here:

Find the police station and to the right of the police station, you will find it.

A soldier came from the side of the gate to deal with our translator.

You will need:

  1. Spare A4 paper. Use clean A4 paper, not paper written on the back of something. (When we went, we were told that they ran out of application forms, so we had to write our own.)
  2. Photocopy of Mongolian ID card if you are Mongolian
  3. Photocopy of passport
  4. Photocopy of Mongolian entry stamp in your passport

The guy in the photocopy store can help you write the application.

Photocopy store is on the ground floor, to the right of the restaurant.

Enter through here:

Here is the exact location:

Photocopies were 2000 MNT for 3 items.

You have to write the application in Mongolian on the A4 paper. You need to write where you will be going (West Taiga or East Taiga if known). You need names, dates, and location. We had ours rejected because a) we didn’t mention we were visiting the Tsaatan by horse and b) the handwriting wasn’t clear enough. They also normally want the driver’s information too, so it’s better to get the driver before the permission.

Here is our final application:

Here is our border permit:

Transportation to Tsagaan Nuur – You can go to the market area the day that you arrive and ask the drivers there for prices. Getting a driver is hard as it’s a bit of a racket. 30,000 MNT for Mongolians and 50,000 MNT for foreigners seems like the going rate. The car ride should take about 12 hours. 

What To Bring:

  • Waterproof gloves (the handle on the horse saddle will hurt your hands)
  • Poncho 
  • Sunglasses 
  • Jacket
  • Sweater
  • Waterproof boots
  • Thick waterproof pants (the horse walks into lots of bushes/trees/mud/rivers)
  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Portable gas stove (a stove is provided in the guest teepee, but it takes a long time to cook anything on it)
  • Hat with a light
  • Extra sheets or something to put between your body and the blankets provided for you by the Tsaatan (We were told that the blankets are rarely washed. Also, the blankets may not always be provided.)
  • Sleeping bag or something else soft to sleep on (the bed in the guest teepee is made of logs)
  • Pillow
  • Knife
  • Diarrhea medicine
  • Bottled water (The Tsaatan use water from the stream and boil it, but it doesn’t seem that clean)
  • Wet wipes for your face (you won’t have access to a shower)
  • Money (for souvenirs, guest teepee, tax for horse and/or car crossing the bridge both ways)
  • Sunscreen
  • Battery pack (to charge your electronics)
  • Motion sickness medicine
  • Optional: Present (The elder of the Tsaatan community suggested bringing backpacks for the children.)

Costs:

Private car from Ulaanbaatar Dragon Bus Center to Mörön (total cost for three people is listed)96,000 MNT
Accommodation in Mörön for 1 night (1 private room with private bathroom and breakfast included)50,000 MNT
Groceries for 7 meals (total cost for three people is listed)48,400 MNT
Thin rain jacket purchased in Mörön (optional)5,000 MNT
Riding boots purchased in Mörön (optional)70,000 MNT
2 sleeping bags purchased in Mörön (optional)45,000 MNT
Hat with strap purchased in Mörön (optional)9,000 MNT
Photocopies made in Mörön2,000 MNT
Shared car from Mörön to Tsagaan Nuur (per person price is listed)50,000 MNT
Shower in Tsagaan Nuur (optional)3,000 MNT
Tax for horse crossing the bridge going to the Taiga (per horse cost)1,000 MNT
Reindeer ride per person (optional)15,000 MNT
Guest Teepee accommodation per person per night (optional – you can bring your own tent)15,000 MNT
Tax for horse crossing the bridge coming back from the Taiga (per horse cost)1,000 MNT
Tax for car crossing the bridge (optional – if you choose to ride the horse the entire time, then you don’t have to pay this)6,000 MNT
Car from mid-way point to TCVC (optional – you can choose to ride the horses for only half the distance and hire a car for the first part of the journey)25,000 MNT
5 horses for 3 days270,000 MNT
Accommodation at TCVC per person for 1 night10,000 MNT
1 TCVC guide to accompany you to the Taiga for 3 Days54,000 MNT

Tips:

  • Dress warmly for the horse ride since it gets quite cold.
  • Ramen is better than bread because bread gets stale.

  • Bread is good for the horse ride when you can’t cook.

  • Don’t feel pressured to buy riding boots. Everyone in Murun said to buy boots because riding a horse will hurt your calves, but it actually doesn’t hurt.
  • Hire an extra guide if you think you may need to have your horse led. Each guide can only lead one horse with a person on it.
  • There is no public transportation available from Tsagaan Nuur to Lake Khovsgol. You will need to hire a private driver if you would like to go between the two. An alternative would be to visit Lake Khovsgol from Mörön, which is a 40 minute drive.

Comments

  1. […] This is our diary of the time that we visited the Tsaatan people in the taiga (forested area) near Tsagaanuur. If you want to visit yourself, you should check out our how to page here. […]

  2. […] In the last diary entry, we described how we crossed the Taiga to find the Tsaatan (also known as Dukha) people in the forested hills neighbouring Siberia. If you missed it, you can read about our epic horse ride here. If you would like to visit yourself, please visit our how to article here. […]

  3. hello Will and Sarah,

    you guys wont understand how much i appreciated i saw your posts about this Taiga journey!

    i plan to visit Taiga this November, but all the information from the guide book and blog is so contradiction, and so much information is outdated.

    i tried to reach TCVC but the number is not working anymore, and ppl dont recommend tour operators in Murun. (and i asked few of them, looks like they are not interested in helping solo traveller who wants to work with TCVC)

    and yes, English translator is all i need so far actually, but its soooo difficult to find one, i will try to contact Akjol Nurtugan.

    may i know i have to pay her how much per day approximately ?

    good luck to your journeys!

    cheers,

    Ed

    1. Hi Ed,

      It’s great that you’re visiting the Taiga independently. It’s a shame it’s so difficult with the lack of information online.

      When Akjol came with us, she had taken some time off her full time job to go with us as she has not transitioned to being a full time interpreter yet. We can ask her if she’s free again or if she knows a friend willing to do it. When Akjol came with us, it was her first time visiting the region and she was happy to forego some of her normal fees to get to know the area better first, so we don’t know how much she would charge normally.

      We’ll get back in contact you via your email provided or your Instagram (we just saw your comment).

      P.S. When you said you couldn’t reach the TCVC, we’re guessing that you are talking about the English-speaking number listed on the TCVC website, correct? If you are talking about the number we listed on our blog, sometimes the number was busy, so you may have to try a few times, but of course the TCVC does not speak any English so you’ll need your translator first.

      Thanks,

      Will and Sarah

      1. hi Will and Sarah,

        glad to receive your feedback!

        im in touch with Akjol already! she is so kind and humble, so i told her you and Sarah were sooooo lucky for having her as translator!

        unfortunately, she got job already! she is not able to go with me this time, lol.
        but she said she will ask around, and im doing the same like you on CS.

        hmmmmmm…i never thought it could be so hard to find a “English” translator in Murun area. im not looking for someone who speak language from Mars.

        anyway, thank you again!

        keep in touch!
        😀

        ED

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