Travelling to Mongolia and Kazakhstan in a Post-Pandemic World

07 May 2020
zavkhan blog article 01 02

Let's have a look at what you need to consider when it comes time to book your dream riding trip in a post-covid world.

Whether it’s this year or next, eventually border restrictions will be relaxed, and we will be able to travel again. Unfortunately, it won’t be as simple as everything returning to normal. Most commentators agree that international travel is likely to be rather different from what has come before.

In this blog we will look at issues you will need to consider such as visas,  flights, and your safety. You can also enjoy some photos from recent trips.

Will I still be able to travel Visa-free?

The brief window of visa-free travel to Kazakhstan and Mongolia for some of us is closing, at least for the near future. Kazakhstan has ended its visa-free regime until November 2020. You will still be able to get a visa but will need to show a negative virus test result within the last 48 hours. This requires having a test done just before going to pick up your passport. 

Mongolia hasn’t announced such measures yet, but you can expect it to come. It doesn’t mean you can’t get a visa, but be aware it may take longer, with more hoops to jump through.

Mongolians who are currently under self-quarantine are required by law to use an app that allows officials to track their movements. They are forbidden to turn off their phone and will be punished if they leave their home. In line with many other countries, you may well be required to allow your movements within Mongolia to be tracked, on arrival.

Is my health at risk if I travel?

The risk of actually catching covid-19 and getting seriously ill while riding in Mongolia is perhaps the least of your worries. As mentioned in our most recent newsletter, Mongolia, in particular, is almost infection-free, and on track to get rid of the virus completely. Considering that it is one of the least densely populated places on earth, social distancing is easy (not so much in the capital Ulaanbaatar, but you won’t be riding there anyway).

The real danger, of course, comes when funnelling through an airport and squeezing on to a plane, along with the masses. If you thought the endless queuing and security checks currently in place were frustrating, that’s sure to get worse. But if it helps to reduce the chances of finding yourself sitting next to an infected person, you will put up with it. This recent Washington Post article discusses sanitizing aircraft cabin air – let’s hope it improves.

You will almost certainly need to confirm your health status before boarding a flight and on arrival at immigration. At the very least this will involve a temperature scan. Rapid blood testing is already happening at Dubai airport, despite concerns over accuracy and what happens as a result of the test. Eventually, you may require confirmation that you have been vaccinated (expect 12 to 18 months or more before that happens).

In the unlikely event that you do catch covid-19 in a country such as Mongolia, you need to consider how you would get treated. For our trips, we require you to have travel insurance, so you can get private medical care, and evacuation home. But that is less likely to be an option now (see below).  

Think of the health of local people too

If you do manage to reach somewhere remote and virus-free like Katon-Karagay in Kazakhstan, you could be a danger to the locals. No one wants to be responsible for causing an outbreak. In Mongolia, everyone knows about the infamous patient zero, a French visitor (at least they’re not calling it the ‘French virus’). Just another reason to make sure you are healthy before travelling.

Some important questions

Will I be free to travel within-country?
Am I going to be quarantined on my return home?
Will I still be welcome?
Will there be flights?
What about insurance?

To finish on a brighter note...

The points discussed above paint a slightly gloomy view of travel to Mongolia and Kazakhstan in future (well, international travel in general). Is there a brighter side?

If the era of jetting across the world to lie on a beach at a resort for a few days is over, I for one will not lament it. I can picture a world where international travel involves fewer, longer trips, to far-flung, isolated destinations. Where travellers seek a more meaningful, immersive experience in the local culture. 

All while riding a horse, of course!

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