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Calling All Air Travel Ninjas!

Submitted by on September 7, 2010 – 10:11 am3 Comments

One of the areas of travel planning that I have relatively little experience in is airline ticket booking.  In the past, I have typically just gone to Kayak or CheapoAir and bought the cheapest non-insane ticket I could find.  However, The Mongolian Experiment is a bit more complicated than that.  Flying to the proverbial middle of nowhere is never cheap, and flights to Mongolia are few and far between.  Most route through Seoul, Tokyo, or Beijing, but are still wallet-crushingly expensive despite having lengthy layovers (I once saw a DC-Mongolia flight with a total travel time of 42hrs!) and tend to range between $1800-$2400.  Given that I’m trying to keep the budget for this trip as low as possible while still keeping things sane, I’m feeling a bit lost.  But, you can help.

Earn a spot on the Contributors page!

I suspect that I should be able to game the system a little bit for cheaper tickets, but I’m not entirely sure how.  Should I look at buying separate tickets from DC-Seoul and then Seoul-Ulaanbaatar based on the idea that tickets to Korea will probably be cheaper?  Should I look at a RTW ticket and make a stop in Moscow/Stockholm/Paris on the way home?  I have some idea of where to start, but I know that there are plenty of folks out there who know a hell of a lot more about booking air travel than I do.  If you’d like to earn yourself a spot on the Contributors page for this project, leave a comment below with any advice you have for trying to buy tickets to Mongolia. Provide me with a solid idea and I’ll provide you with your very own Contributor badge, as well as bragging rights that you helped this project come to fruition.

[Photo by Emily Wu]


  • […] #travel RT @driftingfocus: RT @mongolexprmnt: Calling All Air Travel Ninjas! I’m freaking out! Too many standing so close to me… germs! I need to travel in my own […]

  • et says:

    No advice on buying a ticket to Mongolia, but since air travel doesn’t always go as planned I prefer to buy the whole trip w one agent/airline. That way if you miss a connection they will still help you. With multiple carriers each stop is a “final” destination – even if your trip ultimately is longer.

  • Susan Fox says:

    I use Air Bridge, the same agency the scientists I work with use. They are a Mongol-owned business with an office in Denver. Here’s the url:

    Call them on the phone. The staff speaks good English.

    Mongolia is not even remotely “the middle of nowhere” in terms of air travel, believe me. Compared to Central Asia and most of Africa, it’s trivial to get there. There are direct flights in most days from Moscow, Frankfurt, Beijing, Seoul.

    If you are starting from D.C. then you would probably be routed through Moscow. So…D.C.-Moscow, Moscow-UB.

    For me, starting from the West Coast, San Francisco to Seoul is 10-12 hours depending on which direction I am flying. Faster coming east with the jet stream on our tail. Seoul to Ulaanbaatar is less than 3 hours.

    Korean Air flies in and out at night to cut the chances of delays due to wind and bad weather in UB, but their flights cost more.

    DON’T go through Beijing, even though the flight itself is cheaper. As an American, you will require a double-entry visa (around $300 three years ago) and probably a hotel room for an overnight stay, plus cab fare to and from the airport since, at least the last time I went that way, one couldn’t fly on through to UB the same day.

    Seoul is the best way to go if you don’t have a direct flight via Frankfurt or Moscow. I think you will have to suck it up and plan on paying $1800-$2400. But it depends also on when you go. Flights seem to fill up faster and cost more during the short summer tourist season and early July, just before Naadam is the busiest time.

    Feel free to contact me with any questions.